In Mystery


  

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

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“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; – no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in these matters…” St. Jerome

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This will be 7 quick takes on the fly, so to speak, since I’m going to try something I have never done.  That something is composing this post on the WordPress app, real time.  I like to edit and rewrite, and think posts over, but I have a reason for my madness.  The reason is the past week has been more than hectic due to being almost totally preoccupied with the band I joined back in January.  Last night was our semi-annual concert and the week came complete with a dress rehearsal on Wednesday night and the concert last night.  I think the whole thing went remarkably well, considering we have the entire range of musical skill levels, from rank beginner to 80 year old pro.  The point is, with weekly, sometimes twice weekly rehearsals since early January, I’m more than happy to get back into some sort of routine.

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On top of the hectic band schedule, we have had the most incredible week of weather in our fair city.  It has rained all week and yesterday we had a hailstorm of unique proportions.  I had the misfortune to have to have been out in it, and the hail was making such a noise hitting the car, even with the radio turned nearly all the way up, you couldn’t hear it.  The hail collected on the ground until it looked like two or three inches of snow, driving in it was like driving in a blizzard.  Even coming home from the concert, many of the streets looked like they were covered with snow, and this more than six hours later.  I’m a little worried about the roof on the house and will probably need to get it inspected.  Can’t wait to see what today brings since it’s supposed to keep raining until Sunday or Monday.

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To make matters worse, today I have to brave the bad weather and return the tux I rented to be all spiffily turned out for the concert.  I think for the next one I’ll just get a black suit and be done with it.

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A further cause for wonderment — we are expecting snow showers over the weekend.  Funny, I thought the last time I looked at the calendar, it said “May”.

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One thought that’s been noodling around in the back of my mind for the last week or two is the question of beauty in the liturgy.  From previous comments I’ve made, you may have guessed that I’m not totally impressed with what happened to the Liturgy after Vatican II, rather the opposite.  It seems the revisions made were with the express purpose of trivializing the Mass, I can think of no other way to put it.  No wonder many people say the liturgy isn’t doing much for them.  It’s true, on the one hand, the liturgy isn’t really about being entertainment or being interesting.  On the other hand, and this is the point I’ve been cogitating between moments overcome with stage fright, there is a role for beauty and transcendence to be had in worship.  This role may not be primarily, the worshipper has his or her own work to do as well, but I do believe the place for beauty, awe, is a necessary one.  

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Another thing rolling around in my little gray cells is the importance of books in relation to faith.  I guess another way to put it is the relation between reason and faith.  The trigger for this train of thought came when I saw a column, somewhere, I wish I could remember where, of seven “must read” books by Chesterton.  I thought the list interesting and wrote it down the list, do you agree?  

  • Autobiography (1936). 
  • Heretics (1905). 
  • Orthodoxy (1908).
  • The Dumb Ox: St Thomas Aquinas (1933). 
  • The Everlasting Man (1925). 
  • What’s Wrong with the World (1910).
  • Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906).


Bebop and Black Berets


  

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

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“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

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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

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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

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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.”

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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.  

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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. 

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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!

The End Point of Discipline


John Cassian

A 7 Quick Takes post as hosted at This Ain’t The Lyceum

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 “In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them.”

St. John Cassian

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Football season is over, or is it?  As we start the first day of spring, I feel like I’m being inundated with football news including the upcoming rookie draft, the free agency free for all, and now the veteran combine.  I miss the days when events came in their season, and left when out of season.  Just as I wouldn’t want turkey and stuffing every day of the year, I don’t want football every day of the year.  I guess it’s just become too big a business to be left alone in the off season.

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Do you realize it’s only four months until the Broncos open their 2015 training camp?

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Chesterton would say, I think, that he is a Christian because the teachings of Christianity ring true and provide the best explanation of what we can see happening in the world around us.  Every other proposed explanation of the way the world is constructed, the way people act, fails, often spectacularly.  Is that a good enough reason to say that a person should be a Christian?  I think, in The Everlasting Man, Chesterton accounts for the fact that much of what is found in the Bible is beyond our understanding by saying that, if you were looking for something written under the inspiration of God, that’s what you might expect.  In any case, I recognize for my part that there is, indeed, a good deal in the Bible I don’t understand.  But, as Mark Twain said, there’s enough in the Bible I do understand that I’m bothered by it.  Perhaps that’s as it should be too.

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I see my old denomination; the rather aptly named PCUSA (standing for Presbyterian Chuch USA) is taking further action to bring about its own destruction.  Their latest moves include approving same sex marriage to condoning abortion.  Since 1992, PCUSA has lost 37% of its members and the decline will only be accelerated with these latest moves.  One can’t help but wonder what they are thinking.

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Everywhere you look these days, doesn’t much matter the venue, you’ll see someone using a cell phone.  This happens even in Church, even in the most important business meetings being conducted by the supreme boss, both locations where you would think people would have enough common sense to show some respect.  I think, though, that the cell phone is a positive instrument for creating and putting on display for all to see, disrespect.  It used to be considered the height of disrespect to meet with someone, have them over to dinner or meet for lunch or a beer and such and sit there paying no attention to them by reading or by talking to someone else or writing a letter.  It just wasn’t done and was thought the height of rudeness.

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I am now out of ideas, and, for lack of anything more positive to contribute, I will sign off for this week.

You Deal with Brute Nature!




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“When we hear, ‘Your faith has saved you,’ we do not understand the Lord to say simply that they will be saved who have believed in whatever manner, even if works have not followed. To begin with, it was to the Jews alone that he spoke this phrase, who had lived in accord with the law and blamelessly and who had lacked only faith in the Lord.” – Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis or Miscellanies 

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We’ve had Friday the 13th’s two months in a row now and, so far, no dire consequences, even with me doing another post here on the old blog. 

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I HATE this Daylight Savings Time thing we all have to go through twice a year, this year has been especially brutal on the old body for some reason.  Besides, the whole project is based several fictions designed to cover up some nefarious plot by some government official somewhere back in time.  It was probably an experiment just to see who would be gullible enough to fall for the plan, never expecting anyone really would.  In any case, it’s time to wake up and get back to living in accord with nature.

What Daylight Saving Time isn’t is saving time.  Any cursory exercise of the mind will show that, for example in the case of my burgh in Colorado, we had 12 hours and 30 minutes of visible daylight on Sunday, the day of this year’s time change, and the setting of our clocks had no impact on that whatsoever.  Whether sunrise was at 6:21 AM or 7:21 AM makes no difference, actual sunset still occurs 11 hours and 37 minutes later either way.  The fiction of “saving time” is nonsense and it’s high time we do away with it.

There are other fictions associated with Daylight “Savings” Time proponents that should also be brought to light and carefully considered.  The argument that was made most often when I was young and the country first began to experiment seriously with the time change is that it helped farmers be more productive during planting season.  According to an article in the Washington Post on Sunday, that’s a flat out lie; farmers absolutely hate the idea of the time change; it means that the timing of harvesting and getting crops to market was screwed up.  And dairy farmers hate it because cows can’t read a clock and tend to stay on one schedule regardless of what Congress says.

Another argument being made, and this was the basis for the last time change legislation in Congress in 2005, is that it saves energy.  Once again, nonsense.  A study, in California of all places, showed that energy savings are negligible and, in fact, energy usage might actually have increased after DST was implemented each year, either for more driving or using more air conditioning.  

The argument that it is good for people and increases safety and health has also shown to be pure contrivance.  Studies have shown that, in people with mental health issues especially, suicide rates increase after these time changes.  Also, with the change in daily habits, there is an increase in cluster headaches from the disruption.

I just say, if DST is so good, why not leave it on all year round and be done with.  There, that’s my rant for the week.

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Thoreau once wrote, “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”  

Personally, I think he was nuts and I’m happy to report that my fair city has finally experienced a break in our dealings with “brute nature.”  The snow has stopped and (mostly) melted after a week of warm temperatures.  While it may be a real character builder to take any kind of walks through deep snows, it will  be quite pleasurable for me to sit on the back deck on Sunday, watch a couple of burgers grill on the barbi and maybe look for the first signs that the Robins are making their way back to Colorado for Spring. Life is good.

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The clarinet practice is proceeding a pace, even though my instructor has taken a couple of weeks off to head to Florida (the scoundrel).  It gives me a bit of time to try to catch up on some practice for the band.  At my stage of playing, it’s still somewhat overwhelming, not only the tempo at which most pieces are played, but also the sheer volume of music we’re playing.  Anyway, as I told the fellow who runs the band, “You get what you pay for!”  So, I’ll plug away and do the best I can and learn as much as I can; this ain’t the Boston Symphony.

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One of the blogs I most enjoy reading is David Warren’s “Essays in Idleness”, there’s always some fresh point of view on offer at his site.  Today, in a self-confessed attempt to gain attention from narrow gauge railroad fans, he writes about railway gauges.  He writes:

“George Stephenson, who did not design the first steam locomotive (that was the Cornishman, Richard Trevithick), did build the Liverpool and Manchester, which when it opened in 1830 was the world’s first inter-city railway. I believe he is credited with establishing the standard gauge, through his many early works; and that he was also on record expressing his regret. If he’d had it all to do again, he would have added an extra couple of inches to the space between the insides of the rails. There was a “sweet point” that he had slightly underestimated.
Thousands of lives might have been saved on unnecessary derailments of the fast steam trains, from a slightly wider gauge and the moderation of the railbed curves that would have necessitated. Ah well. One engineer copies another, and most of the world’s railways are now “1435 mm,” as most of the world likes to put it. (Which is to say, Stephenson rounded by one-tenth of a millimetre.)”

I have been thinking along similar lines recently, only not about railroad tracks but about eyeglasses.  On Wednesday, my dermatologist burned a“pre-cancerous” lesion off the bridge of my nose, one most probably caused by abrasion from my eyeglass frames.  That procedure surely smarted a good deal.  I got to thinking that eyeglasses, most particularly their frames, have been pretty much the same since old Ben Franklin came up with his first set of bifocals.  Surely by now, someone would have come up with a better, more comfortable design for things. Surely there’s some “sweet point” for eyeglass design that, over all these centuries has been missed, but all we have is one designer copying another and no innovation on the horizon.  Eyeglass engineers should be ashamed of themselves.

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That’s it for this week, I’m going to brush up on NFL free agency and the Broncos prospects for next season.  It’s sort of my penance for Lent.

This is a 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted at This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

Big with Wonder


image

A 7 Quick Takes post as hosted at the This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

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“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”
Thomas Aquinas

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I heard about this on Jenniful Fulwiler’s radio show on the Catholic Channel and thought I would share it – a list, from FOCUS of the 5 Best Free Catholic Apps. Much as I dislike overuse of electronic toys, there’s no avoiding the fact that many people use their phones and tablets for almost everything these days. So, might as well use them to help grow your faith. The five apps according to FOCUS are:

1) iBreviary, an app for praying the Liturgy of the Hours;
2) FOCUS Equip, an app for boosting you apologetics skills;
3) The Pope App, all about the Pope;
4) Mea Culpa, an app to help you make a better confession;
5) Truth & Life, an audio version of the RSV-CE version of the Bible, so you can listen to the Bible in the car or when when you’re out running, or whatever else.

You can find the list, and fuller explanations, HERE.

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However, that list wouldn’t be my recommend best free apps. For one thing, the Mea Culpa app is nowhere to be found on the Apple app venue. So, here’s my list of the five best free Catholic apps:

1. IBreviary
2. Laudate: this is an app that has the daily Mass readings, info on the saint of the day, and podcast reflections from Pope Benedict, and much more;
3. Universalis, daily readings, Catholic calendar, Liturgy of the Hours, and more;
4. Three Minute Retreat, a 3 minute Ignatian type retreat from Loyola Press;
5. Confession, an app to assist in confession and keep track of when you last confession was made.

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Work has intruded again this week, but I have managed to get a bit of a schedule in place and that helps with maintaining all my important commitments in retirement life. For example, this past Sunday, we attended a recital by the Ute Pass Chamber Players in Woodland Park and it was quite enjoyable. I’d never heard of the group but my clarinet instructor is a member and they were doing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, a beautiful piece, and I had to go hear it. They did a brilliant job and I’m very happy we were able to attend. I wish there were more groups like that in our area, but I guess the market just isn’t there..

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Lent is fast approaching and once again I’m having trouble realizing how fast time is passing. It seems like we just took down the Christmas tree. I can’t help but wonder if time seems to pass so much faster these days because of all the technology we make use of. I know, in my own field of accounting, the software and services available electronically, not to mention spreadsheets and databases, make it possible to do so much more, so much faster, than could have been done when I first began my career, it would have seemed impossible back then. When everything was done by hand, the days were lived at a noticeably slower pace and the sense of urgency to have things done NOW just wasn’t realistic. Are we better off?

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We’ve had some wonderful, mild weather for the last two or three weeks, with only one or two bouts of snow. After a rather rough November and December, it’s been a delight just to get outside with just a fleece jacket on my back, or without a jacket of any kind, and see the sun. Like all good things, however, we are soon to pay the price, with the predictors now calling for up to three inches of snow on Sunday night and through Monday.

The downside to all this cyclical weather is that the roads in our fair burgh are paying the price. Previously pitiful potholes are becoming monstrous, car swallowing chasms, and the city seems unable to make a dent in keeping pace with mother nature. Ahhhhhhh, springtime in the Rockies.

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Muhammed Ali once said, “Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.” It’s also golden when you can’t think of a 7th Quick Take. Until next week then.

Being Guarded and Preserved


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

St Irenaeus

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“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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’

As We See It Happening


St Athansius
St. Athanasius

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

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 It is right that creation should exist as he has made it and as we see it happening, because this is his will, which no one would deny. For if the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world rolled on in random fashion, one would be justified in disbelieving what we say. But if the world is founded on reason, wisdom and science, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its origin and order to none other than the Word of God. St. Athanasius

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I’ve been spending some time at the company I retired from, helping out on various and sundry projects.  It’s been fun, in it’s own way, but has taken time away from retirement and recreation.  While I’ve enjoyed being there, I’m quite happy to be more or less back to my normal routine, and back to blogging.

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Timothy, of the excellent Catholic Bibles blog, has taken on the challenge of using only one Bible, not one translation but one edition, for reading and prayer for 2015.  I think that’s a wonderful idea because it’s a demonstration of the Benedictine spirit of stability, something I struggle with daily.  I have a hard enough time sticking with one book to read through to it’s completion, much less one Bible translation, for more than a few days.

As far as Bibles go, I tend to read a passage in, say, the RSV version, and something makes me wonder how that passage might read in the NABRE version, and so I’m off.  I just learned about this experiment a few days ago and I’m tempted to try myself but I know I would fail within a week.  Besides, it’s already a week into the New Year, so it’s too late.  It will be interesting to see how Timothy does with his experiment and if he can last all year.

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There was an interesting piece by Anthony Esolen on the Crisis magazine website about last week, basically, the disappearance of Catholic culture.  One thing he talked about, something that might not seem very significant, is calendars that stores used to give out back in the day.  He writes,

 “I could recall the calendars that my grandmother got from De Rosa’s grocery store. They were Catholic calendars, with Sundays and holy days of obligation in red, names of the saints in black for their feast days, the emblem of a fish for each Friday and the weekdays of Lent, and the mysterious Latin word “Feria” for weekdays without a saint and outside of the great octaves. It was time, sanctified; to be replaced by time, blank.”

Growing up in Detroit, I remember those calendars being given out by stores and I knew, even as a Protestant, that most of the symbols and such used by the calendar makers, were there for Catholics.  I was impressed by that, us Protestants got no such special treatment and I, admittedly only vaguely, understood those symbols represented something important.  I think the absence of even something so small has had a tremendous role in diminishing the faith of Catholics over the years.  The sad thing is that Catholics don’t even know they should be missing these things.

He also offers an interesting explanation of how all this came about: “Intellectuals are the great image-smashers. Sometimes, when they fall victim to the virus of pride, they scorn anything that cannot be reduced to propositions comprehensible to their capacious three-gallon intellects. And things of the body resist that reduction. The Babe in the manger is not a theological proposition.”  In a way, the faith is far too simple for what Spiro Agnew once called “pointy headed intellectuals.”  It is frustrating.

The article is HERE.

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Sometimes I look around at this world we all now live in and I wonder if there hasn’t been a crazy pill introduced into the water supply of every nation in the West, especially in those used by those in intellectual circles.  Here’s just one example from an article in First Things last week about the latest trend in studying English:

 “At Stanford, literary scholar and marxist critic Franco Moretti proposes a radical plan for English departments: less reading, more computing. With an ocean of texts yet to be studied, literary-historians must, Moretti argues, adopt the methods of quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory.”

REALLY?  Can you explain to me why anyone with any sense would want to apply quantitative history study to The Brothers Karamazov?   The trend is called “post literacy”, I kid you not.  Surely, some time soon, the adults in the room are going to wake up and say ENOUGH.  Won’t they?

The article is here, and worth a read.  I think.

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I’ve made a great discovery over the last month or so, a quite useful little app that was promoted on some web site or other called “Pocket”.  With this app you can save copies of articles you stumble across but don’t have time to read, or that you’d just like to keep in a safe place for future reference.  I know, the whole world knows about Pocket, but it was a wondrous discovery for me, so I’m sharing it.

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This is a bit of a warning, there’s going to be a post next week that will be longer than any post I’ve done here so far; I just wanted to provide some brief explanation of what I hope I’m doing with it.

Simply put, I read Fr. James Schall’s book, Another Sort of Learning, again this January, as I have done every January for the last three or four years.  This year, I decided to write about it.  That’s not quite true, I began to draft a post about it roughly eighteen months ago and just never finished it.  Now I have and you’ll get to read it.  One of the best things about Another Sort of Learning, is that it has list upon list of really good books that one should read, some of them even appear on my Classic Catholic’s Reading List.  The result of all this is that I’ve set myself the goal of reading one of the books on Fr. Schall’s lists each month this year and writing about it here.  There, you’ve been warned.

The Man of a Single Book


imageA Seven Quick Takes post as hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler on her Conversion Diary blog. I am grateful for her generosity.

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“Beware the man of a single book.”
― St. Thomas Aquinas

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“We are confronted with atheists who claim that science, rather than faith, has sole claim to real knowledge. Atheism, they claim, is a more reasonable and informed position than faith. Faith is portrayed as superstition; something that stands purely above reason. We have faith, they say, because we prefer being faithful to being reasonable. Some atheists claim that people of faith would rather be told what to believe than to use intelligence to determine truth for themselves.”

That came from a article published this week on the Crisis web site, and reminded me how many people there are who are men of a single book.  I say this because, although they accuse people of faith of wanting to be told what to believe, the can’t seem to get that they aee the ones in that position.  Science is an extremely limited field of knowledge, it’s subject matter is only that which can be quantified and measured in some way.   People who think science the only source of knowledge are reading from a single book, they are getting only one side of the story.  They can’t even explain their own “faith” in science in those terms, since this faith isn’t something that can be explained by the scientific method.  Why stick to one book when you can have the whole library?

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Fall has arrived, even if it took a few days after the autumnal equinox to do so. Notwithstanding (I’ve been on the Thesaurus app again) the fairly warm days we’ve been enjoying, there’s a hint of chill in the morning air, sometimes more than a chill, and Halloween is fast approaching. Thoughts are already turning to Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. I worried, when planning retirement, that finding ways to fill the days might be a problem and that I’d end up hooked to the tube all day. So far, that is the least of my worries; there are even times when I think I’m far too busy and need to slow down. Imagine.

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Listening to Fox News on the radio, on the way to a workout yesterday, I heard some female celebrity asking for all kinds of criminal action against unknown hackers who posted immodest photos of her on the World Wide Web.

Such action may be justified, but I wonder when people will learn that if you don’t want such photos seen by the world, maybe you shouldn’t have them taken in the first place. Assuming that simply impossible, when will they learn that posting such photos anywhere on line in the same as having them appear on the front page of the New York Times? Nothing is secure on the web, just ask the NSA.

Perhaps these problems could have been avoided if people were once again taught the now terribly out of fashion virtue known as prudence, along with just a little temperance.

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The clarinet playing is progressing. For my lesson on Saturday I’m scheduled to play a duet with my instructor. I’m nervous about it even though there’s no reason to be, the piece will be played in a 10×10, throughly sound-proofed studio, carefully shut away from the world. Thank goodness. The piece itself is three lines from something by Schubert and is mostly pretty simple, 4/4 time, few register breaks, and mercifully short. The only complicating factor is that the notes in every measure but two are slurred. I’ve been struggling with it the last three days when I should be able to play it in my sleep. I guess the famous Yogi Berra was right when he said, “99% of the game is half mental.”

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I do most of my writing on an iPad. I do so because most laptops are far too heavy for me to use sitting on my lap; the weight does terrible things to my back. For the same reason, sitting at a desk for too long is also a questionable proposition. With my iPad, neatly enrobed in a one piece keyboard case, the whole thing weighing less than 2 pounds, the device can sit on my lap without problem for extended periods. It’s a convenient solution to my tech needs.

The reason I bring this up is to wonder if Apple is beginning to lose their way. Am I the only one who hates iOS 8? I keep getting an untraceable “Unable to Download Item” message, Apple has copied the much hated and always disappearing top-of-the-screen navigation bar from Google, and they moved around the Bookmark and Reading List icons, and made several other (non) improvements. I’m always reminded of those lines from Ecclesiastes when it comes to software upgrades, “vanity of vanities.” Just when things are working smoothly, someone has to come along and change it all. Ugh!

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Speaking of vanities, I just read that Microsoft is readying a new Windows 10 version that will include features from Windows 7, features like the Start button and the desktop screen that were “improved” right out of Windows 8. Makes sense, coming up with a new version that brings back the best of the old version. Ugh!

A Sorry Sort of Saint


A 7 Quick Takes Post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary

saint-francis-de-sales
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A saint who is sorry is a sorry sort of saint. St. Francis de Sales

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There was an interesting article in our local Catholic newspaper by a physicist who was also an Anglican priest before he came home to Rome. He writes about buying a new laptop and, first thing, being forced to sign up for a Microsoft “account”, an idea he found disgusting. His solution? Go out and buy the necessary parts and build himself a computer, one with a lot of memory, 1 Terrabyte of space on the hard drive, a generic operating system, and no connection to the internet. I have to say, I find the idea fascinating, given my near addiction to all things electronic. I can’t help but think people would be better off not being so connected to what purports to be the world.

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Browsing the web this week, I came across an interesting article on the Slate web site by someone named Michael Robbins, a review of a new book by Nick Spencer Atheists, The Origin of the Species. The book, it seems, takes the path already well trod by the likes of Richard Dawkins and other “evangelical atheists” and treats faith as belief in some primitive myth. Robbins does a pretty good job showing the poverty of that idea.

“What’s most galling about evangelical atheists is their epistemic arrogance—and their triumphalist tone: If religious belief is like belief in the Easter Bunny, as they like to say, shouldn’t they be less proud of themselves for seeing through it? [John] Gray put the matter starkly:

‘Driven to the margins of a culture in which science claims authority over all of human knowledge, [religious believers] have had to cultivate a capacity for doubt. In contrast, secular believers—held fast by the conventional wisdom of the time—are in the grip of unexamined dogmas.'”

The point I find most interesting is that such an article should appear in a venue like Slate, a left leaning web journal/magazine. A sign of hope that maybe there is the tiniest bit of awakening to new ideas among those on the left?

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My adventures with the clarinet continue after a frustrating week of life and death struggle over trivial matters. I had been making pretty good progress until I hit the challenge of playing, in tempo, a dotted quarter note followed by a half note, in two/four time. It blew my mind. However, come time for the lesson and I played all but one of the assigned exercises to my instructors satisfaction. He was of the opinion that the assignments he had given me to play were, in fact, far too easy for me and my frustration resulted from boredom, so he has upped the challenge for the coming week. Boredom won’t be a problem for the next several days and I should have kept my mouth shut.

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I can’t believe that in two weeks or less, NFL training camps will open, for me always a harbinger of fall. I know that idea isn’t completely reasonable but once football news starts hitting the headlines, it seems only a moment until the season opener, then the falling leaves, and then Halloween and All Saints Day. Time flies, it seems all the faster since I retired.

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We now have a humanitarian crisis developing all across the country and our borders are now virtually non-existent. One has to wonder why. From all I can gather, this is what was once known as a “man caused disaster” and perhaps it’s time that our leaders, rather than putting political gain first, a fault on both sides of the political spectrum, our leaders began to take on the challenge of governing.

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Jonathan Swift

 

Between Cowardice and Foolhardiness


m

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

 

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Courage stands in the middle between cowardice and foolhardiness; humility in the middle between arrogance and servility . Modesty is a mean between timidity and boldness. Dorotheos of Gaza

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I use the Trello app to create lists of books I plan to read, to buy, and also books I've read. Earlier this week, I stumbled across a reference to a couple of books and decided I would like very much to read them. I went right to the Amazon site but then, at the last minute and for some unknown reason, thought I'd better check my list of books read last year. They were both there. It was a little unnerving; I didn't know I had the books, much less that I'd read them so recently. I don't know if I should take that as a sign of aging or as a sign of having far too many books, more than I can keep track of. Putting a positive spin on the matter, I could just say that trying to buy a book I already had, a book recommend by trusted reviewers, was just affirmation of my good taste and leave it at that. Still, I'm glad I have that little Trello app.

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I've been struggling with a frustrating matter over the past couple of weeks. A large part of my being Catholic today is due to the influence of reading Merton's The Seven Story Mountain and one or two other of his books. Through him I learned of important elements of monastic spirituality, especially lectio divina, the practice of praying with Scripture. It was important to me that the Church had such a key place for Scripture in the prayer of the individual Christian. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and wondering if I shouldn't write a bit more on the topic but just can't bring myself to a decision, thence the frustration; I don't think I could do a very good job of it. I hate it when something like that happens!

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One result of the frustration is that I went back and read Merton's The Silent Life, a description of a monk's vocation and of the various forms of Benedictine monasticism as it existed in Merton's time. I may write a bit about it later, but the thing that struck me is how dated his description of the various Benedictine orders is. The book was written in the mid-1950s, not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, but since then the Camaldolese have become firmly established in the United States, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert has been formed, and many other notable developments have occurred. If you think monasticism is dead these days, just thinking of all the that's happened in such a short time will change your mind.

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The clarinet work is progressing nicely, although that too has been frustrating me this past 10 days. When you play the clarinet, your selection of a reed and ligature (the band that holds the reed in place) is critical. Not, perhaps, as critical as for an oboe, but still important, almost as important as the instrument itself. As my technique has improved, i.e., as I've been blowing harder (that's a technical term), I've been stressing the reeds and producing some terrible sounds at times. In truth, I didn't fully understand what the problem was but earlier this week my instructor asked me what number reed I was using. Turns out, I need a little stiffer reed, which has helped immensely and eliminated at least one source of frustration I've been having. At any rate, it is good to make progress in something.

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Foofaraw!! Did you know there was such a word? It means, a great fuss, uproar, over something very insignificant, like my efforts today. Actually, I love learning new and obscure words to spring on unsuspecting friends and relatives, inevitably impressing them with my great learning and sagacity. Beware.

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And I hope this little panegyric will not be offensive to their ears, since it has the advantage of being only designed for themselves. Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub , 1704

Amen to that.