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.