Bebop and Black Berets


A 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted at the This Ain’t the Lyceum Blog.


“Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.”

St. Gregory Nazianzen


While reading the last issue of First Things magazine this week, I stumbled across a reference in one of R. R. Reno’s columns to a Catholic humor website, Eye on the Tiber.  It is worth a visit, although not all their pieces, IMHO, are strictly satire:

“Geneva, Switzerland–New guidelines set down by the international community during the fifth Geneva Convention this week has extensively defined the basic, spiritual wartime rights of the Church Militant by outlawing all Marty Haugen music used in and around war-zones. What is officially being called The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Parishioners in Times of Spiritual War has become the fifth convention establishing the standards on international law for the humanitarian treatment of spiritual war. “Our new resolution states that all Catholics who are in the process of spiritual warfare are to be treated humanely,” Said General of the Counsel Robert Durant at a press conference earlier this morning. “The following acts are to be henceforth prohibited: Violence to life and person, in particular, cruel treatment and torture by means of being made to listen to Gather Us In. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment such as asking parishioners to sing along to We Remember. And finally, all acts requiring parishioners to listen to said music during the reception of communion.”

I also noted this eye-catching headline : “BREAKING: Vatican To Posthumously Grant Henry VIII Annulment; Queen To Dissolve Church Of England”  And then there’s this bit of news that I missed from last year:  “Pope Francis Washes Feet Of Eight Men, One Woman, A Muslim, Ferret, And A Double Amputee”  What?  You can find it all HERE


A week or so ago, I came across yet another interesting article on the Crisis Magazine website, this time concerning the possible issuance of an encyclical on the environment from Pope Francis.  My original reaction on hearing such a document was in the offing was that it was about the worst idea I’d ever heard.  There seemed little that could be said, in the current political atmosphere concerning all things “green”, that wouldn’t be reinterpreted as support for the radical environmental agenda.   All I could envision was how such a document would be twisted and spun by those of leftist persuasion to suit their own purposes, and discredit Church teaching on creation into the bargain.  As the writer, John M. Grondowski notes:

“To put it mildly, the moral question of what to do with your empty Coke can is a consideration quite remote from the central doctrines of the faith. Because environmentalism has acquired a quasi-religious, often pantheistic, character in some circles, it seems imperative that any encyclical on the environment necessarily articulate a Christian perspective of the overall question, consistent with the Christian vision of man’s place in the universe as imago Dei, responsible for, part of, yet qualitatively different from all other creation.”

There is, though, a positive message that could be offered with an encyclical on the environment; the Church has much to offer from Tradition to further the conversation on the subject, especially as regards man as the imago dei, unique in all of creation.  So, there shoud be concern surrounding the issuance of any encyclical on the enviroment, as Grondowski writes:

“Clear articulation of an “integral theology” that sees man as part of creation but still a qualitatively different part of it is imperative. It needs to be explained, taught, and catechized. Absent that, this writer fears that the Church may often find herself co-opted into projects whose ultimate consequences are alien to a Catholic vision of a humane world. There will be a temptation—as in some strains of ecumenism—to shortcut the heavy lifting of addressing doctrinal disagreement by rushing towards the “practical” (e.g., something practical to do, like intercommunion, before we even agree on what the Eucharist is). Absent a common why we are doing what we are doing, the what may lead us where, in the end, we do not and should not want to go.”

You can read the entire piece, HERE


To continue that line of thought, and to offer an example of Church teaching concerning man as the imago dei, there is this quote from Pope St. John XXIII’s encyclical, Pacem in Terris

“9. Any well-regulated and productive association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual man is truly a person. His is a nature, that is, endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. 
10. When, furthermore, we consider man’s personal dignity from the standpoint of divine revelation, inevitably our estimate of it is incomparably increased. Men have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace has made them sons and friends of God, and heirs to eternal glory.”


Here in Colorado, spring is arriving early.  It’s not uncommon for us to have snowfall late into April, but we seem to be missing it this year.  While I welcome the sunny skies and warm temperatures, I keep reminding myself we need the moisture badly and I am almost, almost, tempted to pray for more snow.  One thing is for sure, you never know what to expect from one day to the next here in the Rockies.  


In the April issue of First Things, David Bentley Hart’s column was about a conversation he once shared with a Thomist friend of his concerning the topic of eschatology.  They weren’t considering the classic philosophical questions involved in the matter.  No, Hart was talking specifically about whether we will once again see our doggies and kitties after passing to the other side.  Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, believes we will, his Thomist friend, as might be expected, did not.  He describes the matter thus:

“The occasion of the exchange, incidentally, was a long and rather tediously circular conversation concerning Christian eschatology. My interlocutor was an adherent to a particularly colorless construal of the beatific vision, one that allows for no real participation of animal creation (except eminently, through us) in the final blessedness of the Kingdom; I, by contrast, hope to see puppies in paradise, and persevere in faith principally for that reason. On his side, all the arguments were drawn from Thomas and his expositors; on mine, they were drawn from Scripture; naturally, limited to the lesser source of authority, I was at a disadvantage.”

It’s interesting, though, that Hart’s position isn’t just based on some sentimental longing to see pets lost during his lifetime.  He offers the example of a Christian ethicist he knows who, in his concern to keep man in his proper order of creation as the imago dei, refuses to allow his children to display any concern or feeling for animal suffering or pain, or to believe that animals are capable of anything close to human emotions.  This, as with most truths stretched beyond their limits, is a gross distortion.  As Hart points out, compassion is better served when it is expanded rather than diminished.  Teaching a callous disregard for one aspect of creation can only lead to callousness the rest of it.  Not a good idea. 


Incidentally, I loved the way Hart described his partner in conversation as:

“. . . a young, ardently earnest Thomist . . . you know, one of those manualist neo-paleo-neo-Thomists of the baroque persuasion you run across ever more frequently these days, gathered in the murkier corners of coffee bars around candles in wine bottles, clad in black turtlenecks and berets, sipping espresso, smoking Gauloises, swaying to bebop, composing dithyrambic encomia to that ­absolutely gone, totally wild, starry-bright and vision-wracked, mad angelic daddy-cat Garrigou-Lagrange. . . .”  

I know it’s always a pain having to deal with those “manualist neo-paleo-neo-Thomists of the baroque persuasion” I constantly seem to meet up with in Starbucks these days.  It’s just annoying, the way they keep hanging around.  And don’t get me started on the bebop!


Being Guarded and Preserved

A 7 Quick Takes post hosted now by the This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

St Irenaeus


“True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy…”  St. Irenaeus


Of course, the big topic of conversation this past week has been “the call” sealing the final outcome of the Super Bowl.  Most people seemed to think it was at best a careless decision to call a pass play so close to the goal line.  I think it was in character for the Seahawks style of play, fast and loose, perhaps even over-confident.  If you think about the game they had with Green Bay and how they made that comeback seemingly at will, and how they were doing the same thing with New England until about the middle of the fourth quarter, you can see why the coaches wouldn’t have thought the play risky at all.  In any case, talk has already started about who plays in Super Bowl 50.  This too shall pass.


The hubbub over the last papal news conference has died down (I do wish he’d quit doing those things) and, at the moment, only the most conservative blogs are still hunting for Francis’ scalp.  I wish people wouldn’t get so wrapped up in the day to day goings on in Rome.  It’s good to keep reminding ourselves, over and over again, that these things just aren’t all that important.  It would be good to remember there is a rich, wonderful Tradition of true teaching in the Church that far outweighs anything Pope Francis might think or do; he is the odd man out, not Augustine or Aquinas or Teresa of Avila.  As St. Irenaeus said, the true teaching as been guarded and preserved for 2,000 years; what’s two years, or five or ten, compared to that?


There was a very interesting article on the Crisis magazine website earlier this week about the linear increase in IQ scores measured since the beginning of the year and the regular, not so linear, decrease in faith over the same period.  The gain in IQ is mostly the result of improved skill in abstract thinking. Here’s a quote:

 “The world is different for us; more abstract and theoretical, and it is becoming more so all the time as we live less amid things and more among pixelated representations of things. In the increasingly abstract anything is possible, the source of light is within and the horizon is boundless. We are becoming disembodied and therefore less receptive to a God who created the world and then entered into that world as flesh and blood. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” becomes the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence.”

And another:

 “The world of actual things and flesh and blood persons contained its own logic of being, where a child grew up seeing his dog which may or may not have been a good hunter, but regardless, in its particularity it was related to rabbits, which were not just representations of an abstract species, but actual fury beings and objects of primal wonder and excitement. We have lost this, and with it, our capacity for the one great relationship for which we were made.”

It is worth a read and can be found HERE.


And another from the excellent Crisis Magazine website, this one from yesterday by Dr. Regis Martin of Franciscan University of Steubenville.  It’s about silence, monastic silence.  If you’ve ever visited a monastery, even for a short time, the thing that you probably noticed first and foremost was the silence.  Most monasteries these days are like nowhere else on earth.  The noise we live in is an unrelenting, absolutely incessant, and we’re so used to it, the silence of a monastery often seems unbearable, especially to young, first time visitors.  Dr. Martin writes about this noise,

“One of the truly awful torments of modern life, from whose myriad aggressions no one is entirely safe, is noise. More and more, it fills the space that was once marked by that silence whose absence we seem increasingly not to notice.   Nor even, it seems, to mind, so accustomed have we grown to ever higher and more intrusive levels of din.   Indeed, so often are we in flight from silence, so quickly do we turn up the volume, that one might think the work of suppression part of a larger strategy to deflect the emptiness of our own lives.”

It’s sad that the opportunities to experience silence are becoming few and far between, especially with the closing of abbeys unable to attract many vocations.  You should read the entire article HERE.


Technology update:  As I’ve shared in the past, most of the writing I do for the blog, and nearly everything else, I do on my iPad.  Until November, I’d used the Apple Pages app as my word processing software but then switched to the newly free MS Word version.  I fully expected to switch back within a week or two but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well this free app works.  Pulling up a file originating from the iPad app in the PC version is flawless; with Pages, if you transferred a file to Word on a desktop machine, much of the formatting of the original file was lost.  Most of the features from the latest version of Word are available in the app, and it seems quite stable.  I don’t have the problem of losing file updates nearly as often as happened with the Pages app.  Sometimes, you do get more than you pay for.


The weather is Colorado has been crazy over the last week or so.  In the last 10 days we’ve had snow and extremely cold temperatures and clear skies with temperatures in the 60s, not all of it accurately predicted by the weather folks.  Their big miss on the New England blizzard has been in the news, along with the obligatory apologies has been big news.  What people forget is that seeing into the future is a uniquely difficult thing to do; how many of us have any real idea what will happen tomorrow, much less a week or 10 days from now.  Certainly not meteorologists.

It makes me wonder about all those dire “climate change” warnings and what that holds for the Earth’s future if we don’t do something now.  The very fact we’re now talking about climate change instead of global warming should tell you something about their reliability.  But regardless of the credibility of the doom and gloom crowd, it would be good to ask ourselves, in light of recent experience, how they can be so sure their predictions are accurate when weather forecasters, using the best models available, couldn’t predict what was coming even hours in advance.  I remain skeptical.  Just sayin’

A Language of Ineffable Words

Just a few short musings on Thanksgiving Friday

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An Athonite elder said: “A monk does not just study dogmas; he lives by them. When he reads the Holy Scripture or the patristic writings, he is not doing it to gain knowledge but to learn a language of ineffable words with which God speaks through one’s prayer. — Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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Sometimes I think there needs to be much more reading of Holy Scripture and the Fathers and much less of theology and philosophy. Even some Shakespeare now and then wouldn’t hurt at all.

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After I became Catholic, there were many writers that I loved to read that simply fell off my radar screen, C. S. Lewis being one of them. Just this week, I asked myself, why should that be? I couldn’t come up with an answer other than that he isn’t Catholic. This year, I’ve been studying Church history, mostly from the late Roman era through the Middle Ages. As part of that, I read C. S. Lewis’ last book, The Discarded Image, a very interesting introduction to the medieval world view. Other than that, I’ve read little or nothing of Lewis since I came into the Church. I regret this and hope to broaden my horizons in 2015.

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I saw an interesting column this week by Fr. Mark Pilon on The Catholic Thing site about the benefits of having a less visible papacy. He makes one interesting point arising from Pope Francis style that I think is easy to overlook, it harms ecumenical relations between east and west. Here is one quote:

“Let me explain . . ., beginning with the ecumenical. The eastern hierarchies have always had a grave concern – indeed, real fear – about papal dominance of the episcopal order. This fear only increased in the age of mass media and with a pope constantly taking to the airwaves and other media to express not only Church teaching, but his personal opinions on just about any subject.”

The problem is that Pope Francis is all too willing to give voice to his opinion on just about anything at any time. Such a public pope, as Fr. Pilon points out, distorts the true understanding of the relationship within the Church amongst all bishops. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not time to rethink the idea of Pope as celebrity. Here is the full article and it’s worth a read.



Error Dressed Elegantly

A 7 Quick Takes post, as hosted by Ms. Jennifer Fulwiler on her Conversion Diary blog

St. Irenaeus
St. Irenaeus

“Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.” St. Irenaeus

I always worry when I hear someone, be it the pope or a bishop or a priest, or a politician, say something that sounds good, oh so close to the truth, but somehow still managing to sound a bit off. I listened to a podcast this past week about C. S. Lewis and the speaker was pointing out that Lewis wrote about Satan being inaccurate, everything he said was close to the truth, but still a lie. It is Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and when someone tries to couch what they are say in pretty words, they deviate from the Way.  Beware.

I have to confess, I wasn’t going to do a post this week. I’ve been far to engaged in immersing myself in keeping up with events in the Church and in the nation. During the past week in the Catholic blog world, I’ve read every conceivable opinion about the goings-on in the Church, the whole gamut from, “Don’t worry, be happy” to “we’re entering the end times and the pope is the anti-Christ.” It’s enough to send oneto a depression without end. All of that coming from people who have no idea what tomorrow will bring, much less what will happen to the end of the age. I’ve decided to be much more selective in what I read.

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, I read just a little C. S. Lewis earlier this week, it was a selection from the Year With C.S. Lewis book. It was about sex in heaven, or rather the lack thereof, the biologic motivation being no longer present in the afterlife. I hadn’t read anything by him in a long time and I was reminded of a trait of his writing I especially love; in this instance, when Lewis writes about what heaven will be like, he seems to most often describe something delightfully unexpected, not at all in line with what most people assume will be the case. He offers a rather more literal picture of the glimpses we get from Scripture. We’ll have resurrected bodies, will live in utter joy, but that joy won’t involve physical things as we know them. We think of sex and the ultimate experience of joy here on earth and can’t picture how we could have even greater joy in heaven without it.

It’s here that another characteristic of Lewis’ writing comes in in the way he illustrates his points with descriptions of how children often react to things. A boy might think a chocolate bar offers him the greatest joy he’s ever known, but when told sex is an even greater one, and having no experience of it, might think to ask if people enjoy chocolate bars along with it. When told that doesn’t usually happen, his mind can’t grasp the possibilities. He thinks the chocolate is an indispensable element of the experience of joy. As great and wonderful as our ability to draw conclusions from our experience, when it comes to the things of God, those conclusions are bound to fall short.

A short update on my experience with the newly free MS Word app for iPad, it can’t beat Apple’s Pages offering. Having written a post for today in the Word app, only to watch it disappear in the ether, somewhere in the transition from my iPad to Dropbox, I’ve returned to using Pages. I have to admit, that loss was a contributing factor to my dropping the idea for posting anything at all today, but vanity won out.

I also saw an article, somewhere I can no longer remember, about U.S. bishops, those who might oppose the “reforms” being bandied about in the Church these days, being cowed by the demotion and exile of Cardinal Burke. The thought crossed my mind that, if they are utterly intimidated by such moves, we are in desperate need of some new pastors. I don’t think I believe such writings.


I should also offer a short explanation of the slight change in the title of the blog made a couple of weeks ago. One reason for the change is to get away from the guilt of stealing a title from Hillaire Belloc. Another is that, the new title is even more descriptive of my original intent for this adventure in cyberspace. That’s all there is to it. I know all you conspiracy theorists out there will be greatly disappointed.


Entrails Wrenched Asunder


God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.

(De catholicae ecclesiae unitate, 23) St. Cyrpian of Carthage.

Given what I wrote last week about the Synod, I think you have to wonder if the Church is in danger of having its entrails wrenched asunder. I’ve read several writers whom I admire, including Fathers Ray Blake and Dwight Longnecker, who make the point that, even if the Synod has changed nothing, was incapable of changing anything in Church teaching, it may have considerable impact on the ability of local bishops and priests to practice the Truth of the faith. Another way of looking at it, those who wound wrench the entails of the Church asunder may have won the war while losing the battle. I hope not. I’ve gone back and forth in terms of what I’m thinking about the Church over the last two weeks, and I do have hope for the very long term, but the short term may provide an unusually bumpy ride.

Today is the memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, founder of the Claretians.

“Our Lord has created persons for all states in life, and in all of them we see people who achieved sanctity by fulfilling their obligations well.”

I guess, with the titles of the posts for the last two weeks, you might think I’m beginning to come a bit unglued, becoming too preoccupied with blood and gore and such, and what with the world seeming to spin out of control, you could be excused for thinking so. But I promise, it’s mere coincidence. Besides, that’s what the Fathers wrote.

Please offer your prayers and condolences for the Canadian soldiers killed this week in two separate terrorist attacks. My mother was Canadian, born in Grimsby, Ontario, and her family roots go pretty deep there, so beyond the human tragedy of the events themselves, I understand the shock and sorrow so many Canadians must be feeling right now. Please keep the soldiers and the nation in your prayers.

We’re having a very mild fall without quite as much color as in past years. I’m guessing it’s because of the cool, wet, summer we enjoyed this year. There is now a semi-permanent layer of snow at the top of Pikes Peak, a sure sign of winter’s approach, and leaves have finally begun to drop. I’m looking forward to the change of season.

It’s been a tumultuous week, a seemingly busy, week that’s now coming to an end. I have had to force myself to slow down a bit; when, being retired, I’m feeling nearly as stressed and hurried as when I was working, I know it’s time to snap out of it. Thus, the end of this weekly post is at hand.


A 7 Quick Takes post hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler of the Conversion Diary blog.

To Be What I Already Am

A 7 Quick Takes post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.


“Brilliant and gorgeous day, bright sun, breeze making all the leaves and high brown grass shine. Singing of the wind in the cedars. Exultant day, in which a puddle in the pig lot shines like precious silver. Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself—and, if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”

That from Thomas Merton’s Journals provides an apt description of the outcome of the poll I posted last week, “be what I already am.”  It was, in fact, 2 to 1 (2 votes for no change, 1 vote for name change).  I think it’s for the best.


I believe M. Montaigne would also agree with the idea of accepting one’s current situation and one’s limitations in writing:

“There is nothing so contrary to my style, as a continued narrative, I so often interrupt and cut myself short in my writing for want of breath; I have neither composition nor explanation worth anything, and am ignorant, beyond a child, of the phrases and even the very words proper to express the most common things; and for that reason it is, that I have undertaken to say only what I can say, and have accommodated my subject to my strength.”


Speaking of “want of breath,” many years ago, hell, many decades ago, when I school, I played the clarinet.  I got quite good at it, if I do say so myself, and played in the school band and orchestra, and was even selected for the district band.  Eventually, early in high school, I dropped the thing completely and never looked back. I can’t tell you why and I’ve always wished I hadn’t.  For the last year or so, since retirement, I’ve had an itch to try to begin playing again.  Last week, I rented an instrument, got a basic instruction book, and am trying to arrange to take some lessons.  My own early efforts, though, are eye-opening; the ol’ licorice stick is much harder to play than I remembered.  When I first tried to play a note, nothing at all came out; I was astonished.  And when I finally did get where I could play a note or two, the sound was hardly Benny Goodman like.  So far, a humbling experience, but I will press on for a while and see how it goes.


ImageThe Air Force Academy graduation ceremony was on Wednesday, and this year we once again have the Thunderbirds in town for the traditional air show immediately after conclusion of the ceremony.  They didn’t perform last year due to the sequestration budget cuts, remember those?  And, once again, we had them fly over our house during practice runs on Monday and Tuesday.  It’s devilishly hard to get pictures of an F-16, flying at maybe 200 feet, or less, off the ground and doing perhaps 300 mph from the back deck, but here’s a shot I got of one of the “solos” on Monday.  Did I mention how loud they are?


One of the really great things about being Catholic is you have such a rich tradition of very good writing and good thinking to fall back on.  I can think of St. Augustine, St. Benedict, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Pope Benedict XVI, the list is endless.  I’ve been strongly tempted to do one of these 7 Quick Takes posts consisting only of quotes from Catholic thinkers and writers over the centuries.  Maybe I will within the next month or so.  You’ve been warned.


Fr. Schall had another really good column on the Catholic Thing website  this week.  He was pointing out the near universal misunderstanding of Pope Francis’ comment, “Who am I to judge?”, given on the plane trip back from Rio last year.  Fr. Schall writes,

“Pope Francis’s question occurred in and interview as he was returning from  World Youth Day in Rio. The pope referred to a gay person who ‘is searching for the Lord and has good will.’ In that context, one could say: ‘Who am I to judge?’ But what of one who does not ‘search’ or have ‘good will?’ “

I admit, I don’t think I’d ever heard the actual context of this remark, and it’s very important to understanding what the Pope was trying to say and that his remarks were not offered as a license or form of acceptance of living out SSA inclinations.  There’s a world of difference between what Pope Francis actually said and what the media said he said.  As a Presbyterian pastor I was knew was fond of saying, “Text out of context is pretext.”  An important lesson to learn and take to heart these days.


We are great fans of British mystery shows, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Inspector Lewis, Sherlock, and the other usual suspects are staples of our limited TV watching.  Lately, we’ve been focusing on Morse and Lewis and one thing that jumps out at me in the current go round is the amount of poetry and lines from great literature the characters are able to quote from memory.  It’s astonishing to me, you never see this, even in the best conversation, here in the States.  It reminds me of my father, born in Scotland, who used to surprise me, even fairly late in life, when he would quote an apropos line from some British poet or another.  He was by no means an educated man, yet he seemed to have learned prodigious amounts of poetry, as well as much of the Westminster Catechism, by heart.  Growing up, I’d get hammered every once in a while by that, by gum!  I may start trying to cultivate my own memory; maybe people will think I went to Oxford!


Don’t Holler ‘til You’re Stuck

Pope Paul VIGrowing up, when I began to complain about some imminent doom looming over my life, usually stemming from some horribly postponed homework assignment, my father would pipe up with the advice, delivered in his fading but still noticeable Glaswegian accent: “Don’t holler until you’re stuck”. In other words, calm down and worry when the worst actually happens, not before..

I bring this up because I've noticed the Catholic blog world heating up recently in the face of the upcoming Synod on the Family Pope Francis has called for October. Many are predicting doom and gloom based on, I believe, rather tenuous and questionable assumptions.

The fact is, we don’t know what to expect. The most recent news stories I can find date back to February of this year save for one story that Pope Paul VI will be beatified at the close of the synod and a story yesterday about a meeting with the press held by Cardinal Baldiserri, Secretary for the Synod of Bishops, about which see below. Very little that I can see has been formally announced as far as the agenda, goals, etc that Francis would like the synod to pursue, other than the infamous survey, whose results, as far as I know, haven't been released to the public. I do find some significance in the timing of Pope Paul’s beatification, since he is famous for issuing the encyclical Humane Vitae which strongly reaffirmed Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage and dignity of the human person. The encyclical was issued at a time when everyone expected Paul to “update” Church teachings on these issues. Very interesting. I also find interesting the handling of the LCWR in the statement issued concerning them by the CDF at the end of April; the sisters are not getting the treatment they expected from the Vatican after Pope Francis’ election. Also, very interesting.

Finally, Cardinal Baldiserri held a news conference earlier this week and had some important points to make, cautioning the press against jumping to conclusions. Here is a quote from a story on the Catholic News Agency site:

“Regarding the possibility for the synod of bishops of changing the doctrine of the Church,” Cardinal Baldisseri said, “I underscore that the First Vatican Council’s document ‘Dei Filius’ affirmed that ‘understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.’”

The cardinal then continued: “And I also remind you that John XXIII said in the inaugural speech of the Second Vatican Council that ‘authentic doctrine … should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.’”

If these statements are any indication, there's at least some of the bishops who understand that changing the doctrines of the Church can't be done in the name of finding “a deeper understanding”, and that studying a question is not the same as determining to change anything; it's study.

Forecasting is always a dangerous business, panic about some future event is even more futile, especially when based on assumptions, statements that may never have been made and other fantasies. Much can happen to change the expected course of events between now and October. Let’s everybody calm down and try not to holler before we’re stuck. Oh, and prayer is never a bad idea.


The Higher Activities of the Mind

A 7 Quick Takes on Friday Post


I’ve cleaned up the appearance of the blog by changing the theme, as you may notice. I like to keep things simple and uncluttered and that seems especially apt for the beginning of the Lenten season. I hope you like it.


I found this quote from Fr Schall’s column this week in The Catholic Thing. He’s writing about pleasures and those pleasures which are appropriate to being fully human, which to Fr Schall, means striving to know what’s real or what’s true and involves the hard work of thinking. Even the ancients recognized not everyone is up to that.

“The word, “pleasures,” is reserved for feeling with a physical manifestation – eating, drinking, seeing, touching, smelling, or hearing, that is, the senses, which are also constitutive parts of being human. Aristotle noticed that we are not just souls loosely attached to bodies. Rather, we are each one being in which the body is fashioned by the soul ultimately so that we can know. Socrates understood that all “creatures” enjoy being pleased and delighted. He suspected, however, that not everyone can or will “attain” the higher activities of the mind. He does not deny that everyone can, in some sense, think, but not all find it particularly “agreeable” or absorbing.”


The blogger, Jude-Marion, had a very good post on his blog today that helped me with some issues I’ve been dealing with over the last couple of months. The problem arising from the very rough treatment Pope Francis has been receiving from the blogosphere. I’ve read posts from some very conservative Catholics saying, in effect, that Francis was a heretic or out to destroy the Church. I don’t believe that although I do think much of his message is rather fuzzy and unfocused. Yet, what Jude-Marion was saying comes down to something by Pope Benedict in, if memory serves, his Introduction to Christianity — Christianity isn’t a religion of the book, it’s a religion of a person, one Person, Jesus Christ. Whatever goes on in the Church, whatever rules appear to be broken, they are only secondary to faith in Jesus. I find it all too easy at times to lose sight of that.


image“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen”

― Ephrem the Syrian


This Sunday marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, that ridiculous invention of governments designed to fool people into thinking they can change the movements of the sun. Would someone please, please start a movement to settle on one, and only one, method of timekeeping and leave it at that? Anyway, don’t forget to set your clocks up Saturday night before retiring.


“Nothing, how little so ever it be, if it is suffered for God’s sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God.” Thomas a Kempis


I wonder what would happen if someone only did 6 quick takes for one of these posts? Banishment to blogging limbo? Restriction of all blogging rights for a week? I don’t know, and don’t want to find out. I urge you, though, to investigate all the efforts of those honest bloggers who actually did 7 Quick Takes at Jennifer Fulwiler’s Conversion Diary blog. Have a good week and a blessed Lent.

Payback’s a B**ch!

Pope FrancisI’m beginning to like Pope Francis more every day.  Here’s what he said this morning about Satan and his works (from the Catholic News Agency):

Christians who buy into Satan’s temptation to live selfishly get swindled, while those who live life as a “gift” to others are immersed in love and the Church community, Pope Francis said.

“And, we must say, with Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!” the Pope emphasized as he contrasted the kind of selfish living that the devil promotes with the generous way of living Jesus exemplified.

Pope is asked to make priestly celibacy optional – Yahoo! News

The problem is, of course, that this lady is claiming that an ancient practice of the Church should be changed because it’s something “the world” no longer understands.  Perhaps it would be better to help the world understand that try to make the Church conform to whatever the world disapproves of; perhaps engaging more fully in the New Evangelization would be more helpful.  It could be pointed out that she may have a somewhat slanted view of the question?

Pope is asked to make priestly celibacy optional – Yahoo! News.

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