Thursday, December 31, 2009

God Rest His Soul

I'll be heading to the Midwest tomorrow for the express purpose of saying goodbye to my father, Cecil, who died today at the age of 90.

He was married at seventeen; a father at eighteen. He went to college full-time, worked simultaneously to support his growing family, and heard the call to the ordained ministry. Ordained an Evangelical United Brethren pastor, he became an United Methodist pastor when the two denominations merged in 1968.

He dutifully and lovingly brought up my sisters and brothers as Bible-believing Christians to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves. We memorized the names of the books of the (Protestant) Bible and scores of scripture passages, so that our cognizant minds were littered and haunted by Sacred Scripture. All five of us strayed, but all returned to faith in Jesus as Our Lord.

His devotion to God's Kingdom was unflagging; his willingness to preach the Gospel in season and out embarrassingly steadfast; his disagreement with my conversion to Catholicism tolerating and loving, if comprehending not. If anything, the virtues became more and more evident in his life the older and feebler he became.

He took us to cool places on camping vacations, like Yellowstone's Old Faithful (cf. photo above). He never earned more than $20,000 a year in all of his years, yet we never went without, never felt we were poor. He never was in debt.

He was part of what Brokaw called "the greatest generation." We will not see the likes of them - or him - again.

My Father + Requiescat in pace

Saturday Night Devotions - Right After Bath Time

I would appreciate your prayers for the repose of my father, Cecil. He lived to see the birth of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

Getting Real

For the Record: Representative Sue Myrick's Beyond Terrorism – The Whole Story.

Too: What Would Israel Do?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jacoby - Snooze Button Warning

Kudos to Gil Bailie for tipping me off to Jeff Jacoby's insights:
  • Terrorism isn't caused by poverty and ignorance. Abdulmutallab came from a wealthy and privileged family, and had studied at one of Britain's top universities. He wasn't trying to kill hundreds of Americans out of socioeconomic despair. Like the 9/11 hijackers and countless other jihadists, Abdulmutallab was motivated by ideological and religious fanaticism. The teachings of militant Islam may seem monstrous to outsiders, but that is no reason to doubt that their adherents genuinely believe them, or that by giving their lives for jihad they hope to change the world.
  • The global jihad is real. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was widely derided for initially insisting that Flight 253 wasn't blown up in mid-air because "the system worked" and "the whole process went very smoothly." Far more troubling, however, was her effort to downplay the suggestion that Abdulmutallab's attempted attack was "part of anything larger" -- this even after he had terrorist acknowledged his ties to al-Qaeda. Of course Abdulmutallab is part of something larger: He is part of the global jihad -- the relentless assault by Islamist radicals whose deadly serious goal is the submission of America and the West to Islamic law. If government officials like Napolitano cannot bring themselves to speak plainly about the jihadists' ambitions, how will they ever succeed in crushing them?
  • Terrorists can always adapt to new restrictions. After 9/11, knives and sharp metal objects were banned from carry-on luggage, so Richard Reid attempted to detonate a shoe bomb. Thereafter everyone's shoes were checked, so the 2006 Heathrow plotters planned to use liquid-based explosives. Now liquids are strictly limited, so Abdulmutallab smuggled PETN, an explosive powder, in his underwear. There is no physical constraint that determined jihadists cannot find a way to circumvent. Yet US airport security remains obstinately reactive -- focused on intercepting dangerous things, instead of intercepting dangerous people. Unwilling to incorporate ethnic and religious profiling in our air-travel security procedures, we have saddled ourselves with a mediocre security system that inconveniences everyone while protecting no one.
  • The Patriot Act was not a reckless overreaction. Security in a post 9/11 world has not come from pressing a "reset button," sending Guantanamo inmates off to Yemen, or refusing to use terms like "war on terrorism." It has come from stepped-up surveillance and stronger intelligence-gathering tools, and from working to pre-empt terror attacks in advance, rather than prosecuting them after the fact. Congress was not out of its mind when it enacted the Patriot Act in 2001, and the Bush administration was not trampling the Constitution when it deployed the expanded powers the law gave it: They were trying to prevent another 9/11 -- and they succeeded. President Obama has repeatedly and ostentatiously criticized his predecessor's approach. Perhaps it is not just a coincidence that Obama's first year in office has also seen an unprecedented surge in terrorist threats on US soil..MORE>>

St. Egwin

You say you’re not familiar with today’s saint? Chances are you aren’t—unless you’re especially informed about Benedictine bishops who established monasteries in medieval England.

Born of royal blood in the 7th century, Egwin entered a monastery and was enthusiastically received by royalty, clergy and the people as the bishop of Worcester, England. As a bishop he was known as a protector of orphans and the widowed and a fair judge. Who could argue with that?

His popularity didn’t hold up among members of the clergy, however. They saw him as overly strict, while he felt he was simply trying to correct abuses and impose appropriate disciplines. Bitter resentments arose, and Egwin made his way to Rome to present his case to Pope Constantine. The case against Egwin was examined and annulled.

Upon his return to England, he founded Evesham Abbey (dissolved by Henry VIII in1540), which became one of the great Benedictine houses of medieval England. It was dedicated to Mary, who had reportedly made it known to Egwin just where a church should be built in her honor.

He died at the abbey on December 30, in the year 717. Following his burial many miracles were attributed to him: The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the sick were healed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

6th Day of Christmas

27th Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage, 2009 - See more photos here

To the untrained eye, the world of humanity is divided into two groups. Group (1) is comprised of those who look back with nostalgia and attempt to conserve what is salvageable. They generally do not trust human judgment, even their own. These are called reactionary by group (2). The other group, group (2), are those who spurn the past and look forward with great hope in the power of humans to change things for the better. They are ready to jettison tradition and believe that if they can get group (1) out of the way, the world will soon take a turn for the better. They are usually called hubris-filled by group (1).

Group (1) will often take great nostalgic pride in country, land, and other human institutions (monarchy, democracy, etc.). Group (2), if one scratches deeply enough, will often be seen taking part in to be what René Girard calls "negative imitation;" that is, what one might sum up in the converse of the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side." In this case, group (2) thinks that whatever group (1) says, believes, thinks is wrong, bad, worthy of contempt and, therefore, must be stifled, suppressed, stymied and/or destroyed.

After a while, group (1) begins to imitate this belief of group (2), and the model/rival swirl of contempt becomes a hideous dance of death.

All of this is a shallow explanation of what René Girard correctly calls the problem of the doubles, or double bind. It is obvious when one isn't caught in such a doubling rivalry, but when one
IS - and every single one of us is susceptible to it at one time or another - there is not any extreme one will not go to prove, logically, coherently, incontrovertibly, that one's side is "right" and the other group "wrong". The most powerful PhDs occupy both sides of this dance of death, and use their considerable powers of ratiocination in the service of their side.

You have pegged the usual suspects here, haven't you? Of course you have. Group (1)'s nostalgia for past greatness and group (2)'s hope for the future in human community are not bad in and of themselves. However, both are hopeless and doomed to failure without help from outside, beyond, mere human torpitude .

The good news? I say this not as an immortal being who is above such human funny business, but as one who found his way to an Alternative (or, more mysteriously,
got found and was graciously hoisted toward the Alternative).

The Alternative is not made up of infallible individuals, but fallen persons like those comprising groups (1) and (2). There is "one, holy ... and apostolic" Body
not of human origin that continues to stride through human funny business and history worthy of all of our allegiance and honor and praise.

It and It alone produced all that we love most about the past. And if we look to times before Its founding (ancient Greece, etc.), we can be certain that Its Founder was sowing seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty there too.
Yes, I speak of the Catholic Church. If you love England, it is the noblest and most honorable of the "old religion" that made what you love possible (cf. Hilaire Belloc's works, as well as those, more recently, of Eamon Duffy). If you love the great holy days of the calendar, know that these, too, would not exist without the vibrant liturgy and sacramental grace of Mother Church's magisterium.

Everything else is downstream.
There is abundant life beyond the futility of group (1) and group (2). Christ our Lord has made It possible. And everything that you love most that those two sad try and fail to deliver already IS in the Church that Our Lord has promised to sustain until He comes again.

"Put not your trust in princes..."

Cusack - Chartres Pilgrimage

Young Andrew Cusack provides commentary and a photomontage of the 2009 Paris-Chartres pilgrimage back at Pentecost. I find it rousing to see so many young people taking part in this event. Enjoy.

5th Day of Christmas - Becket

Lighting Candles

One at a time.
You could call it something of a religious trifecta for Marjana Mair.

The soldier from Albany was among seven service members with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade who just six days before Christmas were confirmed as Catholics while serving in Iraq. 1st Lt. Mair was also baptized and received her first communion.

She was a Muslim for many years but wanted to become Catholic after studying the faith.

"I grew up (Muslim) for 18 years, but when I started studying (Catholicism) I found I related to it ... there was something beautiful about it and I wanted to be part of it," Mair said.

Welcome home.

Now, Try to Close It

"They should have seen this coming," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who had opposed extending benefits to gays. "It's a Pandora's box."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents

4th Day of Christmas

I don't ask you to watch this very long. It is embarrassing. It is akin to Genesis 11 and what happens to those proudly building the Tower of Babel, or the Belbury crew in That Hideous Strength. Discern for yourself.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family

The Holy Family (1506) - Michelangelo

Reflection for Feast of Holy Family Year C

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, DEC. 22, 2009 ( In the afterglow of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, inviting the faithful to reflect on the gift and mystery of life, and in particular the blessing of family.

[ ... ]

The words of Pope Paul VI spoken in Nazareth on Jan. 5, 1964, are a beautiful reflection on the mystery of Nazareth and of the Holy Family. His words inspire all of us to imitate God's family in their beautiful values of silence, family life and work.

He said: "Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ's life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God's Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning.

"And gradually we may even learn to imitate him. Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. [...]

"First we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset, as we are, by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God's inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God..More>>

3rd Day of Christmas

O Lady Fair the best of our race,
You among women were closest to Him
Who chose You His mother to be,
We cannot gainsay Your fullness of grace
Whose unholy desires must look to You grim
Yet hornéd and bestial You draw unto Thee

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No Hesitation in Legitimate Defense

"The Law" at New English Review's Iconoclast reports on the near-catastrophic terrorist attack on-board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 here.

Just as the Pope's body guards moved decisively and incisively once the "unbalanced" female attacker made her move Christmas Eve, as reported here, the hero of Flight 253, Jasper Schuringa, did not hesitate.

This is the essence of legitimate defense. No qualms, no double-mindedness, no rage; rather, an instantaneous knowing of how bad the consequences would be without doing the right thing.

Two last Must Reads from "The Law": Weapons of Musical Defense and Don't be a harbi!

Chivalry in the Meantimes

Though in the closet there stands a sword
And the coif and vambraces and mail are oiled
To stave the ravages of rust and time,
The chivalrous work for now is the word
When corruption reeks and honor is spoiled
And the Gospel ignored, our treasure sublime.


On this second day of Christmas, it is appropriate to bring you, gentle reader, Christmas is Not Negotiable II by Dr. Walid Phares. (Please don't ask the whereabouts of Christmas is Not Negotiable I; I haven't a clue.)

May comfort and joy be yours. But, keep your wits about you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The League of Bearded Catholics

With the apparent demise of The Blue Boar - it's been a dead stick since the catastrophic events surrounding the notorious Four Men's Feast - I lift a tankard to a new star in the night sky. Tim Jones of Old World Swine puts forth what looks to be a fine new effort. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The League of Bearded Catholics.

T(olkien)he L(ewis)eague of B(elloc)earded C(hesterton)atholics stretches the imagination somewhat since only one of the four actually grew a beard for any sustained amount of time (Belloc), but all four had beards to shave, and Lewis never was a Catholic. (NB: Fr Walter Hooper, Lewis's executive secretary is quoted in Joseph Pearce's book, C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, to the effect that if Lewis were still alive, in his opinion, Lewis would be a Catholic today with the suspect faith and morality in the Anglican communion.)

Check it out.

'We Need This Brave Man'

Amen. How'd you like to be his Guardian Angel?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Verbum caro factum est - The Word Made Flesh

Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Powerful Circles of Defrauders in Dante

I am reminded that according to C. S. Lewis's favorite poet, Dante Alighieri, usurers, counterfeiters, grafters, and other defrauding sinners have special punishments awaiting them in hell. Why do you suppose I recalled that piece of arcane information when I read this?

Grace is Revealed

Father James Schall, S. J. writes,

My favorite text from the Christmas Masses, which explains what it is about, is that Second Reading from the Midnight Mass, from Paul’s second chapter of Titus.

The text begins: “God’s grace has been revealed.” What startling words! Obviously, what is “revealed” refers to the Birth of Christ, not to some abstraction. What we see is not “grace,” but the Child in the manger. This “grace” that we now behold was not “revealed” before this moment. Something new has happened in our world.

What has this “grace” done? It made “salvation possible for the whole human race.” The event is not just for members of the family of Mary and Joseph, or even for Israel itself. How is it that we can say of this Child, as of no other child, that, because of Him, “salvation” for each of us, each human being, is now “possible?”

We are next taught something more sober. We are to “give up everything that does not lead to God.” Is there anything that does not “lead to God?” In principle, no. But we are to give up our ambitious “worldly” use of things that lead only to ourselves.

“We must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world.” Evidently, this living good lives is up to us. Even with grace, restraining ourselves, leading good lives is necessary.

So even with the coming of Christ, we are still waiting. For what? “We are waiting in hope for the blessings which will come with the Appearance for the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.”

This is the same Child of Jesus and Mary born in Bethlehem. He was to be called “Emmanuel,” that is, God with us. He was God with us.
Read all …

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Glazov - Denial re: Fort Hood

Jamie Glazov at City Journal:
Why the hard Left can’t accept the Islamic roots of Nidal Hasan’s shooting spree

As the United States prepares to try Nidal Malik Hasan for 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder at Fort Hood last month, few question the suspect’s guilt, but many disagree about his motives. Yet the evidence is now conclusive: the Fort Hood massacre was an act of Islamic terror. Before his shooting spree, Hasan told colleagues that non-Muslims were infidels condemned to hell and that they should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats. Hasan traded 18 e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida recruiter. On the morning of the massacre, he gave his neighbor a Koran as he was departing for the base, telling her that he was going to do “good work for God.” Wearing Pakistani garb, Hasan shouted “Allahu akbar” as he began firing at U.S. troops.

Despite the plentiful evidence, however, leftists refuse to accept Hasan’s Islamic inspiration...
Read more here.

Nativity Contra Mundum

Massacre of the Innocents - Peter Paul Rubens
I planned to write on the strange events coinciding this coming Christmas Eve, but did it for me:
... as you tuck in your children on Christmas Eve, touched by their innocent faces as they nod off to sleep, know that men have gathered in Congress much as Herod’s soldiers gathered in the night to take up their swords. If Congressmen vote the way of Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Capps, know that their actions will keep the blood flowing from millions more to come.

I urge all of us to pray, pray for our little ones and for all the childless moms that were misled and are weeping because their children are no more. The days are growing colder both in the hearts and minds on the hill. Congressmen, put aside Pelosi, put aside your seats, put aside your treasures and see to your souls. If you sign this health care bill complete with the abortion language that Pelosi and Capps lust after, then you will have consigned America to stoke the fires of hell itself.
Read all …

Keillor - Don't Mess with Christmas

Well. O. Kay. Garrison Keillor, buddy, there's hope for you yet:

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

Christmas does not need any improvements. It is a common ordinary experience that resists brilliant innovation. Just make some gingerbread persons and light three candles and sing softly in dim light about the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el and the radiant beams and the holly and the ivy, and you've got it. Too many people work too hard to make Christmas perfect, find the perfect gifts, get a turkey that reaches 100 percent of potential. Perfection is a goal of brilliant people and it is unnecessary where Christmas is concerned..Read all ...

The Student and Man with a Rosary

More than a hundred years ago, a man traveling in a train found himself seated next to someone who appeared to be a wealthy peasant with a rosary in his hands. “Sir,” the student addressed the old man, “do you still believe that old stud?”
“Yes,” the other replied, “I certainly do. What about you?”

The student burst out laughing. “I don’t believe that silly twattle. Follow my advice: throw your rosary out the window and learn what science has to say about it.”

“Science? … Maybe you could explain it to me?” replied the man humbly, tears welling in his eyes.

The student noticed the emotion on the face of his traveling companion and, to avoid hurting his feelings further, told him: “Please give me your address. I will send you some information.”

Then, glancing at the business card the man had taken out of his inside pocket, the young man fell silent. The card read: Louis Pasteur, Director, Science Research Institute, Paris

Arkes - Signs of Hope

For the record: Hadley Arkes at The Catholic Thing: A Grim Year – But Signs of Hope

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Deep inside the world's oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun -- at the exact moment of the winter solstice -- shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.

Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.

Lost and forgotten along with the civilization that built it, the site was been rediscovered in 1699. Excavation began in the late 1800s and continued in fits and starts, until it was undertaken in earnest in 1962. It was completed in 1975.
Seen as a tomb, the function of Newgrange in regards to the solstice wasn't known until 1967 -- and then by happenstance acting on a hunch. It was in December of 1967 that the astronomical alignment was witnessed and understood:

Michael O'Kelly drove from his home in Cork to Newgrange. Before the sun came up he was at the tomb, ready to test his theory.

'I was there entirely alone. Not a soul stood even on the road below. When I came into the tomb I knew there was a possibility of seeing the sunrise because the sky had been clear during the morning.'

He was, however, quite unprepared for what followed. As the first rays of the sun appeared above the ridge on the far bank of the River Boyne, a bright shaft of orange light struck directly through the roofbox into the heart of the tomb...
Read more here.

Extinct - Not

If you don't have enough to worry about, here is a nifty article on the size, dimensions, and "look" of the volcanic plume under Yellowstone's massive caldera.

Will in Italy

Timesonline's Richard Owens reports more evidence that the Bard of Avon was indeed a faithful son of the old Church here. It is becoming, one hopes, more common knowledge.

Upstate NY Scimitar Ghost Town

Dr. Paul Williams, writing at Family Security Matters, poses an interesting and disturbing question here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

St Nicholas of Myra

For those interested, learn more about Saint Nicholas of Myra here. And, for a questioning jolt of penitence, see this particular post.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rice - Angels in Parade

In of all places, Ann Rice writes in Parade Magazine today:
Angels are not a modern invention. And they may not be an invention at all. They come to us right out of the pages of the Bible, complete with their powerful wings. In the Book of Exodus, winged cherubim are carved on the Ark of the Covenant. And in the Book of Isaiah, the prophet sees the powerful winged seraphim singing before the throne of God.

A choir of angels sings to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And Jesus assures us that little children have their special guardian angels, while later on, in the garden of Gethsemane, an angel comes to comfort Jesus himself..More>>

United States of Carthage

I strong recommend to all readers that you visit the Four Mass'keteers blog and view Father Robert Barron's video on abortion and law in the United States.

You will see and hear in Fr Barron's presentation how the sacrificial mechanism of René Girard mimetic theory is alive and thriving in the silence surrounding the sacred space afforded abortion "health services" soon to become a mandate supported by each and every American at the behest of our president and the Democratic majority of our government.

If Carthage had included infant sacrifice as part of its "health care services" it would be no more heinous a moral catastrophe than what will soon become the law of the land in America. But our governmental leaders have no category for what Carthage did ostensibly for religious purposes. You see, we have "separation of church and state," with a huge prejudice against the Judeo-Christian prohibition of child sacrifice in favor of a woman's "choice" to kill her unborn child.

This is human sacrifice, as any Old Testament prophet would see and tell you in a heart beat.

But the mythological blinding effect of the sacred, anthropologically speaking, is not only ignoring the rights of unborn Americans, but self-righteously applauding the continuance and financial provisions for the same.

God have mercy on the once-great country of the United States of America. It will, by its own re-paganization, bring upon itself consequential judgment. The future will look upon it as it now looks upon the ruins of Carthage.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Scotland Yard - Mumbai in London

The Timesonline reports:
Officials now report an increase in “intelligence chatter” — communications captured by electronic eavesdropping agencies. One senior security adviser said the police warnings had intensified and become much more specific in the past fortnight.

“Before, there has been speculation. Now we are getting what appears to be a definite plot to carry out a firearms attack on London,” he said.

Earlier this year, police, military and intelligence services held an exercise in Kent to see whether they could defeat a commando raid in London by terrorists.

“The exercise brought out to those taking part that the capability doesn’t exist to deal with that situation should it arise,” said a military source.

Security sources said concerns had been raised by “chatter” on a prominent jihadist website two weeks ago.

One contributor suggested fighters could use automatic weapons to strike places such as nightclubs, sporting venues and Jewish centres.

In an online discussion hosted on December 2, another contributor invited suggestions for carrying out “guerrilla warfare” and proposed “a group of mujaheddin raid police stations and fire at them”.

Another said: “Make sure that all those at the location are of age, that there are no children and so on. Insist on the locations and times where no Muslims or children are to be expected.

“If machine guns are available, and explosive and expertise for [explosives] are not available, this is a good way ... The [Mumbai] operation is the ideal scenario for operations you are talking about.”
Read all ...

Stranger than Fiction

Father Sunil De Silva of the Archdiocese of Colombo, India, reports: Elephants Attack in Orissa Exactly - Exactly - One Year After Persecutions. Go figure. Who says they were alone?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


After the Deluge (1829) - Thomas Cole

Born of Hope

Of all the film projects surrounding the epic sub-creation of
J. R. R. Tolkien, my favorites are those still in production via, Kate Madison, Producer. These works of love are available solely on-line.

The latest, and best, Born of Hope, in words from the website is "a 60 minute Lord of the Rings inspired film being produced in the UK. A low budget production, the entire cast and crew are giving their services for no financial gain. The subject matter and quality has attracted people from around the world to join the team, even gaining support and interest from some of the original New Line Trilogy cast and crew members including Richard Taylor and the Oscar® winning team at Weta Workshop, New Zealand."

To view Born of Hope, go here. (Click on subtitles; the soundtrack is iffy.)

Of Minarets and Massacres

Of Minarets and Massacres 1

An Armenian woman mourns a child during the deportation of Armenians from Turkey circa 1915.

The surprise Swiss vote last month to ban new minarets triggered the expected gnashing of teeth from those who believe Islam, the least tolerant of faiths when administered by autocrats and absolute monarchs, should not only be tolerated, but encouraged.

"It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance," commented French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. "I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly." Commenters expressed similar thoughts on blogs—"Deeply ashamed to be Swiss," wrote Stephanie of Zurich—while voices sympathetic to the vote also quickly flooded the blogosphere. "Google 'Archdiocese of Mecca,'" one poster from Arizona acidly suggested.

Forgive me if I, too, do not weep that 57.5 percent of the Swiss, now hosts to a largely moderate Muslim population of Turks and former Yugoslavs, want to keep their country a quiet car among nations. I am still busy weeping for the Armenians, the first people in their corner of the world to officially adopt Christianity, almost eliminated from history due to regular massacres by the Muslim Turks among whom they lived for centuries.

Is bringing in the Armenian genocide too big a stretch when contemplating an electoral act about urban design rather than a state policy to implement ethnic cleansing? After all, the ban doesn't involve violence (so far), or suppression of religious worship (mosques remain OK). What is the appropriate context when reflecting on such a ban?

Read more …

Friday, December 18, 2009

Seiyo - 2 + 3 = 5.038

The next installment from the inimitable Takuan Seiyo's series, From Meccania to Atlantis - Part 13 (2): Harpo, Gekko, Barko, Sarko, Chapter 2: Barko = Fundamental Transformation

Qoheleth to Christ - The Need for Today

Monsignor Charles Pope, quoting from Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes chapter 12, gives A Biblical Meditation on Old Age. Don't look for any upbeat, "old age and death are a small thing" here. Qoheleth is the quintessential curmudgeon.

Michael Ward in his superb and important book on Lewis's
Chronicles of Narnia, Planet Narnia, explicates C. S. Lewis's use of medieval cosmology to understand not merely literary goings-on, but current events. Lewis would call Qoheleth's musings "saturnocentric" - an allusion to the oldest and farthest from the sun planet (in the cosmology of the Middle Ages): "astringent, stern, tough, unmerry, uncomfortable, unconciliatory, and serious."

But, for the follower of Christ, Qoheleth like Saturn, does not carry the final say-so. One might say that following the path of "progressive revelation," "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity" is neither the last word nor does it sit, ultimately, enthroned.

According to Ward, Lewis was "impatient with clerical bromides about death being a small thing." In
The Last Battle, Lewis not only gave Saturn full sway, killing off all the characters - including all of the Pevensie children (sans Susan who wasn't present), but Narnia itself draws to a close, with the last king of Narnia, Tirian, experiencing a searing abandonment and desolation. Aslan does not come. The young, final king experiences what Lewis called "The highest condition of the Human Will ...

... when, not seeing God, not seeming itself to grasp Him at all, it yet holds Him fast.

While not diminishing the pain and suffering of loss and death, Lewis objected to what he called "The Promethean Fallacy in Ethics" - a fallacy he found in every "good atheist"; namely, the criticism or defiance that such a person hurls at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos
is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind that cosmos which he recognizes as infinitelhy valuable and authoritative: for if mercy and justice were really only private whims of his own with no objective and impersonal roots, and if he realised this, he could not go on being indignant. The fact that he arraigns heaven itself for disregarding them means that at some level of his mind he knows they are enthroned in a higher heaven still ('De Futilitate', EC)
In Lewis's model of the universe, there is standing room for bleakness, but no throne. Saturn may visit, but may not usurp the crown. This is what lay behind Lewis's criticism of Eliot, Thackery, and others. Not that they lifted up the saturnine, but they did not go beyond it; for them, Qoheleth was the stopping place. For Lewis, "of Saturn we know more than enough, but who does not need to be reminded of Jove?" Or, as Ward says, "In The Last Battle, Lewis subjects his sub-creation to full Saturnine dominance, only for it to yield new Joviality. His work manifests 'the almost crushed (but for that very reason arch-active) imagination.'

While the Dwarfs are irremediably saturnocentric, carrying their prison with them - as frightening an affirmation of the freedom of will to reject Grace if ever there was one - the friends of Narnia rejoin and fly, run, and swim along the beam of "cosmic eucatastrophe" -
further in and higher up! - following Dante (Lewis's favorite poet) into Joy.

This is where we leave the dark Advent lands of Saturn, and Qoheleth, aiming ever for the realm of angelic voices, Love descending, the Word made flesh, the works of charity, of Resurrection and Ascension.

Jove: Lewis's medieval template for God's Kingdom woven through the Narnia Chronicles; the archetypal mask of the Spirit of Christ so absolutely needful today in the "saturnocentric" West.

And, of course, from a mortal perspective that is what this little book is all about, too.

Foxes Complain

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Modernism on the March

MODERNIST CITY PLANNING, and Modernist buildings within such city plans, were conceived by their makers as exercises in social engineering, not simply reorganising such functions as housing, work, recreation and traffic but systematically redefining the social basis for each. Their revolutionary building types and urban structures were meant to change existing forms of collective association and indeed personal habits, predicated on an absolute break with the past - the instrument of which would be the deliberate decontextualisation of the new environment.

By quite consciously obliterating what was familiar in an environment, and the employment of shock effects, a considerable repertoire of which was available through avant-garde art, the Modernists proposed to make the city strange, all with a view to creating a new type of urban public. Maximalising the corporate domain of the State, minimising the familial domain through changing the environmental conditions of residence and domestic organisation, health care and education, the aim was to impose a master-plan, comprehensive, State-sponsored, in which many features of the traditional city would become, quite simply, architecturally invisible and thus (it was hoped) socially irrelevant.

The comparison with the ecclesial realm is plain. The designing of Modernist churches for liturgies, in a spirit of hostility to the inherited liturgical and devotional practices of the Latin clergy and faithful is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the blueprint utopias of the secular city. (Emphases added)
- Aidan Nichols, O.P.

John of Salisbury & Natural Law

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2009 ( A 12th-century scholar has a lesson for today on what makes for fair and equal treatment in law, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope proposed today during the general audience the teaching of John of Salisbury, an English theologian and philosopher who served as bishop of Chartres, France, from 1176 until he died in 1180.

The Holy Father explained how John taught that "there also exists an objective and immutable truth, whose origin is God, accessible to human reason. This truth regards practical and social actions. This is a natural law, from which human laws and political and religious authority should take inspiration, so that they can promote the common good."

John said this law is characterized by "equity," or attributing to each person his rights.

"From here descend precepts that are legitimate for all peoples and which in no case can be abrogated," the Pope said, proposing that this teaching "is still today of great importance."

Growing distant

Benedict XVI contended that today we see the consequences of a lack of respect for natural law, as reason and liberty grow distant.

"In our times, in fact, above all in certain countries, we witness a worrying separation between reason, which has the task of discovering the ethical values linked to the dignity of the human person, and liberty, which has the responsibility of welcoming and promoting these values," he said.

The Pontiff proposed that the wisdom of John of Salisbury could speak to lawmakers of today: "Perhaps John of Salisbury would remind us today that only those laws are equitable that protect the sanctity of human life and reject the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and limitless genetic experimentation, those laws that respect the dignity of matrimony between a man and a woman, that are inspired in a correct secularity of state -- secularity that always includes the protection of religious liberty -- and that pursue subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level."

Read all …

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Thank You, Father

... that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants..." (Mtt 11, 25) From my friend and sister in Christ, Dawn Eden:
I have a friend who has a grandson, Brendan (12), who's been battling leukemia for several years. He also has Downs Syndrome. His mom and grandad both have email lists of prayer warriors and I am fortunate to be on them. So when Brendan has a crisis I get a prayer alert and updates about what they are going through. I've been amazed and edified at the courage of this young man and his family. But I've also been blown away by Brendan's incredible wisdom. I wish I were as spiritually smart as this little victim soul.

My friend sent an email last year sharing a comment Brendan made about why he's going through this on-going battle with cancer. He told his mother that he's helping Jesus with his suffering so that more people will get into heaven..Read all …


Say hello to my new, and first, granddaughter, Aaliyah Teresa. Welcome, dear heart. Welcome.

Once More into the Breach

Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She reviews Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany. By Cornelie Usborne. Berghahn Books. 284 pages. might conclude that the road to Hitler was paved with abortions. The Weimar Republic was a society committing suicide in slow motion. It could neither stop the killing of its unborn children nor control the degrading hedonism that accompanied this practice. In retrospect, one might call Weimar a very weak form of the culture of death, a preview of what now prevails in much of the Western world. It was so weak it easily caved in when confronted with a fiercer form of that same culture. For even under the Nazis the slaughter of the unborn continued. Hitler was gung-ho for eugenic abortion, and while he made abortion virtually inaccessible for German women of supposedly superior "stock," he legalized it and sometimes made it (along with sterilization) compulsory for women of what he called "inferior races." Thus did an enervated society cave in to a mad tyrant. Thus did Weimar's "cultures of abortion" usher in the Holocaust. Perhaps we should take warning..More>>
In The Killing Fields, there is a moment when Dith Pran, the trusty wingman of Sydney Schanberg, having escaped his captors stands dumbfounded, up to his ankles in decaying human flesh and bones: the mad, murderous violence of the Khmer Rouge.

In the same way, in the sane lucidity proffered by faith and reason of Mother Church, one comes to a moment of standing dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude of the abortuarial madness of today's global "civilization". It makes one want to throw in the towel, almost. And it certainly makes sense of stories like this.

But having faced my mortality (and yours), as well as the hope for the future of many young parents, one needs to sally forth - once more into the breach, as young King Hal admonished.

After all Domine, ad quen ibimus?

Just a Reminder

I am constantly updating my A Little Guide for Your Last Days blogsite as I find wonderful new offerings on the meaning of suffering, loss, death, and the last four things. I strongly recommend that you save its address under "Reality Check."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Sir Galahad - George Frederic Watts

Niqab Chic

How soon can we expect Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Nina Totenberg to be sporting such fetching outfits as these Saudi television mavens?

It's Called Christmas

Gratefully ripped off from friend, mentor, and great guy, Gil Bailie's Reflections on Faith and Culture:

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Over at the Four Mass'keteers, my brother-in-arms, Aramis, posts the fifth and final installment of Peter Robinson's interview of Rene Girard. Click here for access to all the installments of our latter-day John the Baptist, René Girard.

Our Lady, Our Mother

Before we get too far away from her feast day: Father Mark at Vultus Christi reminds all who are tempted to quail in the present darkness the words of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego: Am I not here who am your Mother?

God's Battalions

From The Catholic Thing, Brad Miner waxes poetic about Prof. Rodney Starks' new book, God's Battalions, the Crusades, and the separation of fact from fiction:

Enter historian Rodney Stark, riding my missing horse. His new book, God’s Battalions, is actually subtitled: The Case for the Crusades. And he makes the case! With admirable frankness and flair. He writes that the prevailing wisdom about the Crusades may indeed be that “an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalized, looted, and colonized a tolerant and peaceful Islam,” but Stark’s next words are telling:

“Not so.”

Professor Stark (Baylor University) emphasizes that the onset of hostilities between Christians and Muslims long pre-dated the Crusades. We too often forget that for six centuries after the Resurrection there was no Islam and much of northern Africa and what we now call the Middle East were Christian or pagan. But from the beginning of Muhammad’s public life – and especially after his death in 632 – his followers began making war on just about everybody, and within a century Islam had swallowed up most of that eastern territory and by 1095 – when the First Crusade left Europe for the Holy Land – the Byzantine Empire, Christendom’s eastern bastion, was in grave peril of conquest, which is why the emperor, Alexius Comnenus, wrote to Pope Urban II telling horror stories about Muslim atrocities against Christians and begging for military aid from Europe.

Islam, according to the historical record as Stark presents it, is a “religion of peace” mostly in the sense that it seeks to subdue and unify the people it conquers..More>>

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hentoff - Most 'Dangerous and Destructive'

For the record: Nat Hentoff's interview regarding America under the Last Self-Help Administration here.

St John of the Cross

John is a saint because his life was a heroic effort to live up to his name: “of the Cross.” The folly of the cross came to full realization in time. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34b) is the story of John’s life. The Paschal Mystery—through death to life—strongly marks John as reformer, mystic-poet and theologian-priest.
Ordained a Carmelite priest at 25 (1567), John met Teresa of Jesus (Avila--October 15) and like her vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God!

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into the Light. There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the Spiritual Canticle.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his Ascent to Mt. Carmel, as he named it in his prose masterpiece. As man-Christian-Carmelite, he experienced in himself this purifying ascent; as spiritual director, he sensed it in others; as psychologist-theologian, he described and analyzed it in his prose writings. His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. John is truly “of the Cross.” He died at 49—a life short, but full.

Thomas Merton said of John: "Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified."
In John's words:
"Never was fount so clear,
undimmed and bright;
From it alone, I know proceeds all light
although 'tis night."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Longer We Persist in Error

Reading René Girard's new book (in English), Battling to the End, one is left bemused and saddened at how all of the political, economic, ethnic, religious powers of our world are busily "crying out in loud voices, cover(ing) their ears" (Acts 7, 57) at the words that reveal the apocalyptic in their own actions while they, at the same time, point out the apocalyptic in their rivals' actions. Global warming! Health care reform power play! Global warming hoax! Tea party conspiracies!

It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn' (Mtt 11,16b-17a)

Girard reminds us that as we continue to try to re-mythologize and recognize our own violence less and less, "The longer we persist in our error, the stronger God's voice will emerge from the devastation."

These are sober words for Gaudete Sunday, but words of prophetic power that God's faithful people must continue to utter.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pray for Us - For the End of Abortion

Our Lady of Guadalupe


David C. Engerman writes:

In 1945, the United States faced a dire threat. The rising power of the Soviet Union and the spread of communism in Eastern Europe -- and, soon enough, worldwide -- represented a new enemy that imperiled postwar hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world. The United States was poorly equipped to comprehend, let alone respond to, this emerging global danger. The federal government had few experts who spoke Russian or had a deep knowledge of Russian history and culture; universities were barely better off. The field of Soviet studies emerged as a response and became the catalyst for a network of area studies programs that would soon follow.

Today, the United States faces a similar challenge in understanding the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Much like the Soviet Union, militant Islam represents not just an army but an idea -- and one that fights in novel and highly unorthodox ways..More>>