Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, GKC

As brother Tim Jones points out, today is G. K. Chesterton's birthday. He gives eleven world-class things to do to celebrate the great man's entrance onto he world stage (I myself will do #'s 1 and 2, have no head for heights, so nix #3, will get out sword-cane [thank you, Linda and Chuck] and do #4, #5, will try #6 at a sports and a religion blog, #7's a cinch as is #8, #9 likewise [we need fresh, brown eggs pronto], #10 sounds most like fun, but Lady Athos may play harder to get this time, and #11 - I beg leave to substitute going to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and light a candle before the statue of Our Lady near the Grotto Church instead.)

And so, on this day of days for the fourth of our quartet of The League of the Bearded Catholics, I honor dear GKC with the following with a quote from him on a subject near and dear to my fiercely beating heart:

A MYSTICAL MATERIALISM marked Christianity from its birth; the very soul of it was a body. Among the stoical philosophies and oriental negations that were its first foes it fought fiercely and particularly for a supernatural freedom to cure concrete maladies by concrete substances. Hence the scattering of relics was everywhere like the scattering of seed. All who took their mission from the divine tragedy bore tangible fragments which became the germs of churches and cities.

St. Joseph carried the cup which held the wine of the Last Supper and the blood of the Crucifixion to that shrine in Avalon which we now call Glastonbury; and it became the heart of a whole universe of legends and romances, not only for Britain but for Europe. Throughout this tremendous and branching tradition it is called the Holy Grail. The vision of it was especially the reward of that ring of powerful paladins whom King Arthur feasted at a Round Table, a symbol of heroic comradeship such as was afterwards imitated or invented by medieval knighthood. Both the cup and the table are of vast importance emblematically in the psychology of the chivalric experiment.

The idea of a round table is not merely universality but equality. It has in it, modified of course, by other tendencies to differentiation, the same idea that exists in the very word "peers," as given to the knights of Charlemagne. In this Round Table is as Roman as the round arch, which might also serve as a type; for instead of being one barbaric rock merely rolled on the others, the king was rather the keystone of an arch.

But to this tradition of a level of dignity was added something unearthly that was from Rome, but not of it; the privilege that inverted all privileges; the glimpse of heaven which seemed almost as capricious as fairyland; the flying chalice which was veiled from the highest of all the heroes, and which appeared to one knight who was hardly more than a child.

Rightly or wrongly, this romance established Britain for after centuries as a country with a chivalrous past. Britain had been a mirror of universal knighthood. This fact, is of colossal import in all ensuing affairs, especially the affairs of barbarians.

- G. K. Chesterton, Short History of England

Friday, May 28, 2010

Good for the Goose

Rebecca Bynum of The New English Review puts it succinctly:

If we are going to influence the Muslim world at all, we have to use what pressure we can reasonably bring to bear. So until such time as Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Jain, Hindu and Buddhist temples are allowed to be built freely in Muslim lands, other faiths are free to proselytize, Muslims are completely free to leave Islam with out fear of retaliation and Christians, Jews, Hindus and all non-Muslims face no more persecution at the hands of Muslims, no more mosques should be built in America, as a matter both of fairness and in order to pressure Muslim countries to reform.

Then there is the further question of what is being taught in the mosques. In Nashville, one of our most prominent edu ca­tors on Islam, Professor Awadh A. Bin hazim, president of Olive Tree Education and who regularly teaches courses on Islam at Vanderbilt University, stated before a Vanderbilt audience in 2006 concerning the Muhammad cartoon controversy, “Islam is not some thing to ridicule” and “all Muslims” view the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad as a “provoca­tion.” He also stated that 99.9 percent of Muslims feel deeply offended by the cartoons even if they have not responded violently and that they do not share the value of freedom of speech as it is recognized in this country. It is clear Islam car­ries a deep scriptural animus towards Jews and that women are not considered the equal of men, certainly a bench mark of modern civilization.

So we must ask ourselves, do we want to aid and abet the spread of these ideas by allowing the unhindered building of mosques in America?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Learnin'

Wall painting from Pompeii, before 79 AD.

LiveScience reports that children who grow up in homes where books are plentiful go further in education than those whose homes have no or few books. Fancy that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saint Philip Neri and Johns Hopkins

"Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow."

"A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one."

My students had left the classroom yesterday afternoon and I was getting things ready for the substitute teacher who would be coming in this morning. I always write the name of the saint of the day above the schedule for the day on the white-board, so I looked it up. St. Philip Neri. My Confirmation saint's name.

What a great companion for today when I drive up to Johns Hopkins to see an oncological surgeon about a (possible) resection for my liver. I could not have asked for a nicer "coincidence" of Providence.

UPDATE: I will be having a liver resectioning in the next 2-3 weeks, and chemotherapy to follow. No sympathy, please. Prayers appreciated. Cheers

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our Lady Help of Christians

Battle of Lepanto (c. 1572) - Paolo Veronese

Today is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, which you can read all about here. You are, of course, well aware of G. K. Chesterton's epic poem commemorating the immense victory of Lepanto.

Be aware, gentle reader, that Our Lady also helps Christians in more personal battles, as I can - and do - attest.

Being a member of Corpus Christianum and practicing its Acta Militum, our organization recites a prayer of consecration to Our Lady this day, May 24th. I used with deep appreciation the The Militia Immaculata of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, unworthy though I am. I experienced immense power - dunamis - in so doing.

May God bless you and your consecration to Our Lady and her Lord.

Blunt Questions / Answers

For the record: Must-read and the wall that the junkyard dogs should run into regarding the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal here. [h/t: Francis Beckwith]

Insieme Con Il Papa

Leave it to young Andrew Cusack to bolster our spirits on this day after Pentecost. He shares an eye-witness report of one Hilary White who sauntered into St. Peter's Piazza not sure what to expect last Sunday (Ascension Sunday). What she found might be expressed as the reality of love.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BXVI - Affirming Our Christian Heritage

Carl Olson lifts up our Holy Father's inestimable reflections on the need to acclaim and affirm the cultural heritage that is still stamped on Western civilization:

"Modern culture, particularly in Europe, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and thus abandoning the extraordinary heritage aroused and inspired by Christian faith, which is the essential framework of the culture of Europe, and not only of Europe. The Christian roots of the continent are, in fact, made up not only of religious life and the witness of so many generation of believers, but also of the priceless cultural and artistic heritage which is the pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which Christian faith, in its various expressions, has entered into dialogue with culture and the arts.

"Today too these roots are alive and fruitful in East and West, and can in fact inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress in order to respond effectively to the numerous and sometimes crucial challenges that our Christian communities and societies have to face: first among them that of secularism, which not only impels us to ignore God and His designs, but ends up by denying the very dignity of human beings, in view of a society regulated only by selfish interests."

More here.

ευαγγέλιον - Lift High the Cross

Fr Barron on the power of the world - the Cross vs. the power of Our Lord's vindication - the Resurrection:

Steyn - I Wun's Deathly Euphemisms

Mark Steyn: One of Those Moments - The president has become the latest Western liberal to try to hammer Daniel Pearl’s box into a round hole.