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!


Monday with Merton


The grace of Easter is a great silence, an immense tranquility and a clean taste in your soul. It is the taste of heaven, but not the heaven of some wild exaltation. The Easter vision is not riot and drunkenness of spirit, but a discovery of order above all order—a discovery of God and of all things in Him. This is a wine without intoxication, a joy that has no poison in it. It is life without death. Tasting it for a moment, we are briefly able to see and love all things according to their truth, to possess them in their substance hidden in God, beyond all sense. For desire clings to the vesture and accident of things, but charity possesses them in the simple depths of God.  

Thomas Merton, Journals.  

Monday with Merton


The power of the Easter Vigil liturgy in part stems from the fact that so many vestiges of primitive nature rites are included and sanctified in it. Mystery of fire and mystery of water. Mystery of spring: Ver sacrum. Fire, water and spring made sacred and meaningful theologically by the Resurrection of Christ, the new creation. Instead of stamping down the force of new life in us (and turning it into a dragon), let it be sweetened, sanctified and exalted, a figure of the life of the Spirit which is made present in our heart’s love by the Resurrection. One unquestionable improvement in the liturgy of Holy Week is the recovery of the more ancient tone for the singing of the Passion. It is splendidly austere and noble. Tremendously moving, like great tolling Flemish bells stirring whole populations in medieval cities, or like the stone sides of the Cistercian churches of the twelfth century which echoed to those tones. The chant was a mighty and living presence, binding us together in mystery. A great eloquence and sobriety that has almost been lost from the world but has been recovered. This eloquence, though, is stubborn, it is in man, it will not go. Christ preserves it, as He preserves us, from our own vulgarity.  

Thomas Merton, Journals

Monday with Merton


“To be at enmity with life is to have nothing to live for. To live forever without life is everlasting death: but it is a living and wakeful death without the consolation of forgetfulness. Now the very essence of this death is the absence of hope. The damned have confirmed themselves in the belief that they cannot hope in God.”

The End Point of Discipline

John Cassian

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


 “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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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

Monday with Merton

My soul is trying to awaken and discover again the beauty of penance. I am ashamed of having made so many confessions of my faults in the monastery with so little sorrow and so feeble a hope of doing better. I want to say, over and over again, that I am sorry. I do not know how I can go on living unless I convince you, Jesus, that I am really sorry. The psalms say this better than I ever could. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to begin to discover the psalms. I am sorry that I have not lived them.

 Journals, Thomas Merton 


You Deal with Brute Nature!


“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 


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Monday with Merton

“Therefore, if I trust in God’s grace I must also show confidence in the natural powers He has given me, not because they are my powers but because they are His gift. If I believe in God’s grace, I must also take account of my own free will, without which His grace would be poured out upon my soul to no purpose”

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

The Fathers on Friday

“It is dangerous for a man to try teaching before he is trained in the good life. A man whose house is about to fall down may invite travellers inside to refresh them, but instead they will be hurt in the collapse of the house. It is the same with teachers who have not carefully trained themselves in the good life; they destroy their hearers as well as themselves. Their mouth invites to salvation, their way of life leads to ruin.” 

― Benedicta WardThe Desert Fathers: 

A Belated Lenten Reading Program

We’re approaching the third Sunday of Lent and, therefore, are close to half way to Easter.  It’s long been a custom for Catholics, perhaps stemming from the practice St. Benedict outlined in his Rule, to step up their spiritual reading for Lent.  This spiritual reading is usually planned for some days before the season begins on Ash Wednesday.  If you’re like me, however, that doesn’t always happen; Ash Wednesday comes and goes and suddenly you find yourself getting little or no spiritual reading done at all.  Then, like all good procrastinators, you say to yourself, I’ll do better next year and give up on the idea altogether.  Shame on you, it’s never too late to set things right.

To assist all you procrastinators out there, I’ve come up with a list of five books that make good Lenten reading, in fact good reading, no matter if you start on time or not.  I’m not saying you should try to read all five books between now and Holy Saturday, but you might pick one, possibly two of them and start reading today.  Then, come Holy Saturday, you might have firmed up your spiritual reading habit and decide to read the other three or four books to finish the list.

What are these five little books?  Here’s the list.

  1. The Spiritual Combat, Lorenzo Scupoli
  2. This Tremendous Lover, Eugene Boylan
  3. In Silence with God, Benedict Baur
  4. Seasons of Celebration, Thomas Merton
  5. Bread in the Wilderness, Thomas Merton

Why these five books?  Well, I have a reason for selecting each of these books as candidates for a belated Lenten reading program, but I leave you with a challenge – after you’ve read the books on the list, tell me why you think I consider them candidates for reading during Lent, even if you start late.

Looking forward to hearing from you.