Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I think the cliche that best describes both the person who designed this, and me for using it, is "fiddling while Rome burns." But, in any case, though the Redskins can't beat the eagles these days, a 'Skins fan *can* beat an Eagles fan.
I changed a title below, because I thought of a better one. My blog. My rules.
Greg Popcak emailed me a haiku, because comments aren't working right now.

"What defines beauty?
There's a button on my belly.
I now gaze on it."
Haiku of the day

What defines beauty?
There’s a spot on my ceiling
That is watching me
Shall I compare thee to a kindergarten choir?

The discussion of beauty that I referenced earlier was at least in part started by a wide-ranging commentary/argument about the crummy nature of much modern liturgical music. I think I've made clear how much of it I dislike, and in some cases why.

But I disagree with many people who also dislike it that, barring heresy or other concrete problems with the lyrics, it is somehow worse to use music that is smarmy than to use Handel. Some of those arguing in favor of abandoning the cruddy stuff do so on grounds that are a little hard to summarize briefly, but I'll try. Basically, we must worship the Perfect with the best that we are capable of, and beauty, because it is something that is part of our being, is the best.

But I kind of think this misses the point. We are told to approach God as a small child. If you've been recently to a kindergarten singalong, as I unfortunately have, you know that there is very little going on there, musically speaking, that could be considered beautiful. The songs are cheesy, the kids are wild, the key is somewhat hypothetical, and the melody a mere asymptote. And yet, the parents are quite pleased with it, even when the kid who was on Star Search gets a pretty good solo, the other parents are all quite happy. No one begrudges the soloist (except the dad who beat up the little league coach for not starting his 4-year-old on the traveling T-Ball team) but likewise no one says "I really wish they had cut out the all crappy singing, so we could hear more of that Star Search kid!" even though, objectively, that kid blew the socks off all the other kids.

We are, comparatively speaking, much lower than kindergartners to our Father. If we are singing our little hearts out, I don't think He really cares whether we are singing the Alleluia Chorus or Be not Afraid, if we are singing hard and reverently.

CS Lewis uses the example of the child borrowing money from his father, to buy Dad a birthday present. The father winds up quite pleased with the whole thing, but only a fool would think the father was 6-pence the better at the end of the transaction. Liturgical music is money borrowed from Dad, and if we sing poor music we may not be borrowing enough, but if we sing it as best we can, I don't think Dad's appreciation of the gift is really going to be very much worse.
Much of my blogging time of alte has been spent in other people's comment boxes. In particular, if you are interested, there is a multi-party discussion going on between Tom of Disputations, Steven of Flos Carmeli, me, Kathy the Carmelite, and various and sundry others at the two blogs linked herein. There are posts and comments that go back and forth, and so the thread can be somewhat awkward to follow, but it is a really ripping discussion of the nature of beauty (and therefore of goodness) that I finally had to stop commenting on when my brain started to hurt. But for people who think no hair is so fine it can't be split a little more thinly, go take a peak. Start at Flos Carmeli, then go to Disputations, then take whatever medication will stop the spinning.
Mom has taken me to task for referring to Pinky and the Brain, which she doesn't get. They were genetically engineered lab mice who spent every night trying to take over the world. So, for Compuserve or AOL to "go all Pinky and the Brain" would be for those companies to try to take over the world.

She also thought I was being disrespectful of the Queen by not actually calling her "Queen Elizabeth." I wasn't. It was just an accidental omission. But to answer her question, which may be yours, as to what is wrong with a news item about her: nothing. But to have a scheduled, elective knee surgery be the Lead Story on a day when American forces head off to war seems to me not just a news item about the Queen of England. It demonstrates, again, an unhealthy fascination with the Royal Family. There is no other leader in the world, aside from the US President or Saddam Hussein, whose minor knee surgery would garner front page attention.

Like I said: I love the Queen, and God bless England for all time. But, there are more significant things going on right now, and if she weren't royalty, the editors at WBZ would have realized that.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Attention DC-area readers

I have a regular reader in the DC area who has fallen victim to corporate restructuring. He is a Human Resources specialist with 20-some years experience in the field, both for private companies and the federal government. If you, your firm, or anyone you know might have interest in a seasoned pro and fellow "parishioner" of St. Blog's, please drop me an email and I will forward his resume. HR, law office management, non-profits, and almost anything with some substantive societal value to it would likely be very welcome.
I will always love Elizabeth for having the Coldstream Guards play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the "changing of the guard" ceremony on September 12. It may sicken some of my ancestors and even a probable cousin or two in the very pro-IRA town of Newry, but for me it's England, Harry and St. George! after that.

But, still, didn't we fight a revolution sometime in the past so we didn't need to pay attention to stuff like "Queen Elizabeth Hospitalized"?
In the post immediately below, I noted that I would be doing something "for the indefinite future." When, exactly, is the future ever definite? I think a better Christian than I would banish the phrase "indefinite future" as a tautology.
Peter Nixon of Sursum Corda put me in mind of this hymn this morning. Yesterday, I learned that the second of my friends on active duty was heading for the Gulf. One is a helicopter pilot aboard the USS Iwo Jima (where Eric Johnson of Catholic Light's Marine brigade did its training a few months ago, and where he may wind up). The other is headed to the high tech USAF command post in Saudi Arabia. I will be frequently posting this hymn and the prayer from last week for the indefinite future.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
Let's see:
The former president had a bit of an honesty problem, and left office under something of a cloud.
The current president ran as an outsider, having been an undistinguished governor of a Southern state.
The federal government has added cabinet-level agencies and grown at a rate not seen in decades.
Investor confidence is extraordinarily low.
Gas prices are creeping up.
The economy after a multi-year "Go-go" boom, has had a very hard time staying out of a major bust.
War in the Middle East seems very likely, with the Syrians and Israelis looking down some very large gun barrels at each other.
The Korean peninsula threatens to lead to wide scale war.
France thinks the best way to deal with Middle Eastern despots is to stick its head in the sand and wag its collective finger at the US.
Bell bottoms and ugly plaids and browns are fashionable, along with blue eyeshadow and scruffy mens' haircuts.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is conclusive. The Seventies have returned.

The horror. The horror.

(For the record: if President Bush uses the word "malaise" in any way--other than by mistake as a condiment--I am taking advantage of my dual nationality to move to Ireland.)
In the mid-1980s, my Dad began a Compuserve subscription. Now, I freely admit that I liked Compuserve a fair amount. (Among other things, I got to email back and forth with a number of authors of my favorite comic books, and even met one or two of them at conventions.) [Ed. note: mock my geekiness. I dare you.] Compuserve, to borrow Ollie North's expression, was a neat idea.

I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined Compuserve, or anything like it, going all Pinky and the Brain on us. Heck, that's one of the main reasons, in the early 1990s, when I lived 15 minutes from AOL World Domination Headquarters, that I didn't bother following up on an interview opportunity. I confess to regretting that decision many, many times in the *late* 1990s, since most everyone who got a job there when I might have had by that time retired to their private Greek islands.

So, forgive me for a little schadenfreude this morning. It's good to see that, even if I was wrong for the better part of a decade, I turned out to be right after all. It's good to be right.
"Plogging"

Victor Lams is one seriously deranged individual. Go here to view his new creation, "plogging." (As bad as it is, if he ever chooses to combine it with this, we, collectively, will be just moments away from the Rapture.)

Friday, January 10, 2003

One of the great, great things about quitting my job is, I will be free to spend $10 at 2:05pm on April 11. Any curse-addicts out there care to join me in the bleachers that day?
I posted a variation on this in a comment on Not for Sheep, but then realized I wanted to develop the idea a bit. [Links are not working right at the moment. I've fixed it several ways without success. I will try again later.]

Many Catholics approach the Church with an attitude that “I am Catholic, but I retain free will. Therefore, I will reject what doesn’t suit me or my worldview.” I have certainly been there myself, although I never rejected anything solely because I didn’t like it. I studied the issue, and tried to find out why I didn’t like it, and if there were objections that could be honestly rendered that would put me into an honest kind of dissent.

To some extent, I am still there. I still have problems with some teachings, and no doubt always will. My efforts to dissent in a legitimate, honest way also have grown. I find the least dissenting manner to construe my disagreements, and I am very, very much more cautious about how and where I speak about them, as well.

But it is harder and harder to avoid moving more in the direction of the Church, in many ways. An honest look at the substance of many Church teachings leaves one wondering how one came to reject them. To summarize Church teachings on, say, birth control as "don't use it," is rather like describing William Shakespeare as an author. While it may be in an obtuse sort of way, it is completely useless in the sense of telling you anything important. You might, at the end of a lot of study, still come to the conclusion that you don't like Shakespeare, but you might also realize that what you formerly didn't like about Shakespeare was the way in which your sophomore English teacher made Shakespeare boring and inaccessible. Just so with many things about Catholicism that I used to want to reject. (not everything, but many things.) The really hard part comes when, having accepted something as true, you realize you still don't like it.

Payback in Judges (washingtonpost.com)

You have to hand it to President Bush and his judge-pickers.

They understand the power of the judiciary to shape American political life for years to come. They brazenly use their executive authority to fill the courts with their allies. Then they attack, attack and attack again when opposition senators dare invoke their own constitutional power to slow a juggernaut...


Riiiiight, EJ. The Republicans just discovered, completely on their own, that the unelected judiciary is a place where mischief can occur. And they surely are the only ones in Washington who have an agenda in that regard. And they started the whole fight. Gosh, if only a few Democrats could be found, willing to put some of *their* allies on the bench.

Thanks a lot, EJ. Now I have to go to Confession this week, because of the mortal sins I commit after reading your columns.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
Requiescat in Pacem

Will McDonough, Boston sportswriter. He was opinionated, and I often disliked his opinions. But I always read what he had to say, and I always had to think about it.
Fr. Jim Speaks

Fr. Jim has posted some thoughts on "how to think about Heaven," in response to the post here, below, and the comments on it. He has promised some further thoughts about the crypto-universalism that often appears to emanate from the Church fathers. (In fact, I would say that it is not an appearance, but a fact that it emanates.)

Kathy the Carmelite noted a part of the liturgy of the hours that appears also to endorse the notion of universalism. And, quite by accident this morning, I discovered something in Ignatius' "Spiritual Exercises":

THE FOURTH DAY--MEDITATION ON TWO STANDARDS

The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other of Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.

Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.

First Prelude. The First Prelude is the narrative. It will be here how Christ calls and wants all under His standard; and Lucifer, on the contrary, under his.


This obviously does not say all people will be brought under either standard. But my first reflection on this is, if Christ wills something for all eternity, sooner or later He will get what He wills.

(By the way, I would caution readers against undertaking the spiritual exercises by themselves. They are designed to be administered by a spiritual director. I did not link directly to them, because anyone who has some interest in them should find a Jesuit retreat center. They work best when they unfold as intended. If you have read the book as theory in advance, some of the power is diminished. Try the US Jesuit Conference for info on where to get an Ignatian retreat. And please ignore all the Jesuit haters in St. Blog's. There are plenty of bad Jesuits out there, but you never hear about the good ones: usually because they are too busy doing good things to promote themselves.)
There Is a Balm in Gilead

Refrain

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

Refrain

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Refrain
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

I don't know how it is for people who have achieved some form of holiness. But for myself, I find that almost every urge and impulse to do or not do something is wrong. If I find I don't want to pray for someone or something, 9 times out of 10, upon reflection I realize that I need to pray for that person or that thing. (The tenth, alas, comes all to often in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass: far, far too many of the ones I rebel at on first glance remain troubling after reflection.) If I find myself really wanting to do something, wanting in a state of near lust or gluttony, it usually turns out to have been the very worst thing I could have done at that moment. Likewise, when I have an urge to avoid something. (How often has a minor sniffle been turned into a potential dispensation from the Mass?)

If, like me, holiness is something to which you aspire but which you cannot claim even partially to have achieved, then, be like me, and do the opposite of whatever urges you are trying to talk yourself into following. After all, it hasn't worked for me.
This is an example of truth. Turn the sound down if you are at work. (Or, maybe turn it up, if you have a bunch of coworkers who need to hear it.)
Monday's post about Heaven, and my anxieties about it, has generated an interesting conversation, thanks to Kathy the Carmelite and Don Jim, St. Blog's Mafia priest, in the comments section. Take a gander if you missed it.
Just the Truth, Ma'am

Tom and I discuss this a lot, via email and such (when we are not abusing each other's football team choices): Very little modern argument is really about what is true and what is false. We have all of us acquired the nasty habit of assuming our own assertions and premises to be true and others' false a priori. And so, very little of a conversation is given over to the illumination of Truth itself. But, since an argument has to be about something (cf., "Argument"), we spend all of our time arguing about why the other guy is wrong. (CS Lewis termed it "Bulverism" in an eponymous essay.)

But, really, there is no question of greater importance in a conversation than, "Is it true?" People keep recommending to me "Bowling for Columbine," that movie by the notorious liar Michael Moore. I keep telling them I have no intention of seeing it, because it contains a number of known fabrications, falsehoods, and lies in it. (Among the problems: the title. Harris and Klebold were at one time reported to have gone bowling before going to school to commit murder, but better information came along to show that they had not done so. But still, the premise was too good to allow its falsity to get in the way.) And the response of people to that is shocking to me: "That may be true, but even so, the larger point he makes is so important, it is necessary for us to address the terrible problem of children and guns, and this movie helps us do that!" But, I ask in reply, if the movie contains fabrications and lies, how, in fact, do we know that there *is* a problem with children and guns? This is met with either hostility, malice, or pity (pity for such an ignorant creature as me, who plainly cannot see what is right in front of my face as self-evident truth).

Now, it would seem to me, if I were concerned with truth, as opposed to a priori conclusions, if I nevertheless believed there is an epidemic problem with children and guns, that the last thing I would do is lean on Michael Moore for support of that proposition, once it became clear that he is not a reliable source. I would, in fact, want to lead the charge in discrediting him, so that he cannot be used to abuse me and my position. I would say, "Oh, you can't rely on Moore's storytelling. He's entertaining, but not very scrupulous. A much better source on the subject, that demonstrates the problem very clearly, is 'X'."

But the truth no longer outs. Instead, we discredit the messenger, because we longer no how to discern the truth.

(Bonus points to those who can "spot the Bulverism" in this very essay.)
A prayer for vocations

For me, Alicia, Victor, Reynolds, Karl, and anyone else out there dealing with a present identity crisis.

Lord, let me know clearly
the work which you are calling me to do in life.
And grant me every grace I need to answer your call
with courage and love and lasting dedication to your will.

Amen.

(From "A Prayer Book for Catholic Families")
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

News You Can Use

St. Theresa of Avila is reported to have said that many more tears have been shed over prayers that were answered than prayers that went unheeded.

And the Spanish have a saying, sometimes used as a farewell or formal closing to a conversation, that I think I understand very well: May no new thing arise.

There is a definite relation between these two thoughts, if only I were smart enough to explain it.
The Cookbook has been updated. And Emily Stimpson promises some orthodox vegetarian recipes soon. Though I'm not sure that vegetarians aren't in violation of the Natural Law. After all, we care created in His image, and he plainly made us omnivores. Possibly there's a heresy in here somewhere...?
I found this at "Not for sheep." I wonder how Miss Collins, my high school religion teacher, would feel, knowing she can never be the first female Jesuit.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

It is a difficult thing to think about, far more so to say. But it is worth remembering: the probability that someone will attempt to kill you and me using a biological weapon in the next 10 years or so has to be considered as 100%.
Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million - MSN Money

I wonder what the cost of being a stay-at-home Dad will be? Doesn't seem to say anything about that option....

(The saddest thing about this article is that the first piece of "practical" advice for moms who are thinking about this is to examine their pre-nuptial agreements. I might suggest that people with pre-nups first examine their desire to get married and procreate. But that's just me.)
For the Men and Women of the Armed Forces

I am blessed to count a number of members of the different services among my dear friends. As they are called to active duty, or moved from the home front overseas, I offer the following prayer on their behalf. As my genius does not lie this way, I have borrowed heavily from the Third Army Chaplain, Col. Paul Harkins, and his famous prayer at Bastogne.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
A Little Logic is a Very Dangerous Thing

Jesus 'healed using cannabis'

"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil... and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ," Mr Bennett concludes.

Sounds like "Mr Bennett" has gotten a little too involved in his research, if you know what I mean. I am reminded of a similar "syllogism": When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to Heaven.
A Kairos standby for the hymn

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Okay, I think my modern-music/OCP-hating credentials are pretty well-known, and up to date (I got my membership card in the mail the other day, anyway). But to all those who hate the "sing in the first person as though you are God" style of music: it was invented by Psalmist. If you have a problem with it, and think it a modern invention, in keeping with our narcissistic times, well, you are going to have to take it up with David when you see him.
[rant] I know and like the blogs of nearly all the bloggers over at this new Caritas Unitas et Veritas blog. So, folks, please don't take this personally, ok? But, what the hell are you thinking? This is one of those conversations that drives me crazy, because it is so very, very inwardly focused. I approach my faith intellectually, too, but this is taking that too far.

Sorry. I'm sure plenty of people can (and do) find comparable critiques of my blog, but manage not to post them as rants. But any argument about the distinction between a "conservative with traditional leanings" and a "traditionalist with conservative leanings" is not likely to leave a lot of free time for handing out blankets and serving meals at the soup kitchen. [/rant]
This is for Reynolds

I don't know exactly what the answer is either.

Luke 12
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Do Not Worry

22Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[2] ? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters, and all
who have left this world in your friendship. There we hope to share in
your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see
you, our God, as you are.”


--from the third form of the Eucharistic Prayer, in masses for the dead

I never feel quite so far from Heaven as when I contemplate on what “Heaven” means. I know I want to get there, but so many descriptions of it leave me cold enough that the mere thought of Paradise can leave me in true, deep doubt.

The Catechism more or less punts on “what will heaven be like.” Starting in Sec. 1023, there are a few paragraphs about it, but it essentially says “we don’t really know, but expect a beatific vision of some kind, to some extent.” Some Catholics, in one of those unappealingly Catholic mannerisms, seem to take the absence of proof as proof of absence, and describe Heaven as pretty much only a beatific vision, anticipating a permanent situation where we spend all eternity just staring at God’s face. No offense, fellows, but this sounds like the sort of vision the kid who used to remind the teacher to assign homework over the vacation would dream up. (I’m sure some one or more of these folks will now take me to task.)

Others have debated the question of “sex” in Heaven. Now, some people seem to be discussing what is more properly called gender, others, sexuality and still others, sexual intercourse. (Peter Kreeft had an essay on this topic on his website not that long ago. It was good, but I wasn’t always clear which of these meanings he was referring to.) I don’t much care whether or not there is actual sexual congress in Heaven, but I have a hard time with the idea that the spiritual bond between man and wife that is the essential underpinning of Christian marriage just kind of evaporates after death. I hear “there is no marriage in Heaven” and shudder: then what’s it all for? Why all the hard work now?

At the same time, everything I can come up with for what I’d like Heaven to be is (how shall I put this delicately?) exceedingly lame. I’m trying to envision the moments that give me the greatest authentic pleasure now as foreshadowings, but am much too literal to get beyond them. So I think of the time I soloed an airplane, and then imagine that in Heaven I can fly an airplane any time I want. And then I wonder why I would want to fly an airplane in Heaven at all? I drink a mouthwateringly good glass of wine, and imagine the wine in Heaven will be infinitely better, and impossible to get a hangover from. Then I wonder who would need wine in Heaven? And so forth.

But I will tell you what really gets me, what really sends the doubt screeching in. (Read no further if you are not in the mood for doubts today.)

Humanity has always thought of the Devil (in whom I believe) as a fallen angel. Well, the angels—so very much greater a creation than Man—have been blessed since creation with the beatific vision. They, like we, have free will, and abused theirs in the presence of God, or at least some of them. As I understand death and resurrection for what the catechism calls “the elect,” when we die in Christ, we become most fully ourselves, which has to mean we retain our free will. Why, if a creature as great as an angel can abuse his will in the Presence of God, does dying in Christ mean we are really, fully, finally saved? If Heaven is a place where even an angel can abuse his freedom, well, what hope in the end is there for someone as mundane and venal as I?

The image I like best is in the Eucharistic prayer above. The line “when every tear will be wiped away” is from Revelation 7:17. (I looked it up.) That seems to me the essence of our struggle, the wiping away of tears. What we are called to do in this life is wipe away the tears of those we find around us who are sad: feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; consoling prisoners. All this amounts to very much the same thing. That is the image I can live with, the only thing that stops the terrible doubting from overwhelming me.

But, still I wonder.
This week's forecast

Look for blogging in the light to moderate range this week, as I spend a lot of time getting things at the office ready for my departure.

Friday, January 03, 2003

The Wages of Sin

Tom and I had a bet. I lost. Therefore, I must present a sonnet, in praise of the hated I-95 rival to my beloved, if utterly disappointing, Washington Redskins. Tom, it seems, in spite of all his saintly professions, prefers a team whose fans throw batteries (3rd item) and cheer for injuries to opponents. But that is his cross to bear, not mine, and I must praise the team, in keeping with my wager. I must also, soon enough, eat two cheesesteaks.

(The Bard, as always, is oh so helpful in such situations.)

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly express'd;
For I have sworn Eagles fair and so bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
A method to my blogness

I do a lot of blog drafting in my head at odd moments, in the car, in the shower, falling asleep, even walking to lunch. A few days ago, I was purchasing beer and wine for a party, thinking about the changes in my life over the past couple of years, going from being an apostate, to a newly-committed but uncertain Catholic, then to a blogger trying to explain myself and my religion in new ways, to an audience but also to myself. Usually, in these random musings, the first sentence or two of what later become a blog entry pop more or less unbidden into my consciousness, as happened that morning. "My religion and my life haven't fully accommodated themselves to each other just yet" was the thought that got me going, until another stopped the self-indulgent strain abruptly. "That's because there is no accommodation between them. There is only, in the end, total surrender of one to the other. Choose carefully." If it didn't make me sound very, very loony, I'd describe some of these thoughts more as voices. But who wants to admit they hear voices?
A very, very good post that everyone should read, at Telford Work's blog.
So, my plan

So, here's "the plan" I've been vaguely referring to for the past several months. 3 weeks from today, I get my last steady paycheck. I have quit my regular job in the hopes of, first, being more and better “Dad,” (and consequently, doing much more of the running of the household) and, second, making my living via the written word. (Insert ribald/obnoxious/rude comment here.)

My plan is to do some freelance writing and editing for a few folks I know who may be able to supply me with a couple of bucks here and there, while perhaps turning some of the kinds of things I do on this blog into articles for Catholic publications. I also have a couple of larger projects that have been on the back burner for quite a long time, which I hope to make significant headway on, if not finish before the next kneebiter arrives in the Kairos Guy household.

The plan evolved with the realization that, once you have more than one child, there is very little fiscal sense in being a two-earner family. One income goes essentially to pay the expenses of earning it, meanwhile depriving the children of proper parenting. If we could have managed things fiscally when the first lad came along, we would have had Mrs. K-G stay home far longer than she did.

My hope in the near term is to be able to continue living the college dorm life for a while, either at the place we are now, or at another school, for the next several years. Possibly, in that time I will also undertake to get some sort of graduate degree in theology or otherwise, but that is a decision for another day.

In the French Navy, during the age of sail, the command to tack the ship was given “a-Dieu va!” which I am led to understand means something like “we must chance it and trust to God.” It seems like good advice for a course change, and so we are following it.
O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Refrain

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Refrain

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Refrain
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Ben, his wife, his mother's recovery, and the repose of his father-in-law's soul. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

For Reynolds for courage, patience, and faith in the midst of a career setback.
I have added a food recipe at the St. Blog's Cookbook. Hopefully, some of the other members will be adding more food as well.
Catholic Idolatry

Until very recently, I was unaware of a tradition among some Catholics to leave the infant Jesus out of their Nativity scenes until after sundown on Christmas Eve. Other Catholics have raised a great hue and cry over the Pontiff adding a new set of mysteries to the praying of the Rosary. Still others hold the Latin Mass up as somehow truer and more valid that one said in the vulgar. Many Catholics pray before statues and relics of dead saints. The Society of St. Pius X, insofar as I understand it, appears to have replaced Jesus with a dead pope as the Messiah.

None of these things (except the last) necessarily is or causes idolatry. But all of them strike me as very, very dangerous when viewed as anything other than preference or habit. The Rosary is a great and wonderful thing, but a thing—a creation—it is and remains. Creation is subject to modification. A Nativity scene is a reminder, a physical thing, to bring focus in the Advent and Christmas seasons. Strangely enough, it even includes the representation of the giving of gifts which so many rigorists complain about. But the little wood or clay scene you place in your living room remains wood or clay.

It may well be true that the Tridentine Mass is a more beautiful and inspiring thing than the version now practiced (though I have never attended one). Indeed, I would bet it is, judging by the ugliness of some liturgies I have been present for. But the form of the liturgy is subject to modification by the bishops of the Church. The “right” form is not the one I prefer, but the one the Church offers me.

Statues of saints and relics of saints offer a visible, tangible reminder of God’s power in the world. But those things themselves are not the Power.

Anything that is a creation remains useful only while it reminds us of the Creator. The moment it takes on a value greater than that, it ceases to be useful and becomes harmful. If the Rosary has become for you something that cannot be defiled by even a Pope, then perhaps it is time to find a new devotion. If you find that prayers to St. Anthony or St. Francis or St. Suchandsome are answered only when you pray before that particular statue, the time has come to pray more directly to Jesus, and stop counting on the intercession of a piece of marble. If only the Latin and your knees at the altar rail give you satisfaction, it is time to find the Mass that has Sister Mary Guitar singing from the OCP hymnal, while people in street clothes place the host in your palm.

The same is true for any of 1000 other devotions or rituals or habits. Even the Catechism and Canon Law can come, in an undisciplined mind (and whose is fully disciplined?), to supplant the Creator of those things. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the Holy Spirit. Our minds, so ready for worship, are easily misled by our corrupt wills, and brought to worship that which is most convenient, instead of that which is most correct.
My one public New Year's resolution

I shall take no further notice of nihil obstat. It is not nice to pick on people with emotional problems. And don't bother leaving anymore comments nihil, because I will just be deleting them.
Hey, it's still Christmas until we get to Ordinary time...

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Refrain

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Ben, his wife, his mother's recovery, and the repose of his father-in-law's soul. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Friday, December 27, 2002

I'm not really blogging right now (in fact, I'll be far from the internet in a couple of hours) but I just HAD to point this out. It's seems Knee Hill Stand Off not only is pedantic, he isn't very clever. In this post, he accuses me of a broken link. Now, while I freely admit the link he refers to (in this post) is broken. But, it was no accident. and he appears not to have noticed. Heh heh. (Once again, typos in this post are deliberate.)

UPDATE: Ok, nihil obstat actually does have a sense of humor. That's actually pretty funny. However, my lawyers will be contacting him for identity theft. Now, if only he weren't so friendless that he had nothing better to do over the holidays. Unlike those of us who were with family and friends, and left the computer off for a while. (And, lest all of you worry, one of my new years' resolutions will be to ignore him and drop all this. So I have to get a few things in under the wire.)

Monday, December 23, 2002

I said no more blogging, then I went back on it. A conversation between me and the very hip, very discriminating EveTushnet about telling the kids about Santa. We disagree, but she gives me the last word. Which reminds me that the last time she came to Boston I had to welsh (I'm Irish; don't like the slander, sue me!) on my promise to buy her a beer, because Mrs. Kairos Guy had already made plans, then canceled them, by getting into the Emergency Room. So I still owe her a beer.
The five year old, watching tv with his Mom, just said "Sears is always bragging about its heaters and air conditioners!" Merry Christmas, and see you after the holidays.

Meanwhile, check out the "St. Blog's Cookbook." We have 5 or 6 team mebers, and the recipes are appearing daily. My own personal additions will be up soon.

All topys are, again, here to make nhiil obtast annoyed. Consider it the blog euqivalent of coal in the stokcing.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

I will be on my way to said nuptial day tomorrow, and do not expect to post much, asdie fromm a fwe tpoys to amuse nihil obstat. Merry Christmas, you pedant.
Late Intention

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Gary Spiering. Also, please keep Cheryl M in your prayers: Saturday is her nuptial day.
Only 190 of you have taken my Quiz. Get with it already. I am a little chargrined that "Zorak" of "E-Pression," whose taste in quizzes is notably promiscuous, either hasn't taken it, or did and doesn't care to announce the results.
Satire gets harder and harder

Proving once more that "Catholic" and "taste" have been mutually exclusive since the Reformation:



Not surprisingly, the football and baseball ones are sold out. But that weenie European sport "Futboll" is still available. Don't rush, though. I'm sure there will be plenty on the clearance rack round about Dec. 26th. available in the "figurines" section of Your Catholic Store.com.
Every parish has, at one time or another, published a cookbook. If you are a frequenter of Used Book Fairs or fleamarkets, you've probably run across several dozens of them. But (until now) St. Blog's has lacked one. So, I am therefore pleased to announce:

The St. Blog's Parish Cookbook.

I will be posting things I find in cooking magazines and the like there. But I would be very pleased to include your recipes, or to set you up to be able to post them yourself. If you are a St. Blog's blogger, commenter, or just plain frequent reader, and want to be able to post your favorites over there, drop me a line.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 1865

Among the many, many reasons I have never actually joined the Republican party, is this inestimable tendency of theirs to bring about their own destruction in stupid and creative ways. It long predates the present situation. (Think: Bull Moose Party.) The Reagan presidency may have fooled some into thinking it was a thing of the past, but those years can now best be seen as an anomaly. The 1994 Congressional election effectively re-elected Bill Clinton, by forcing Clinton to get serious about the deficit, and then allowing Clinton to take credit for it while Newt Gingrich fumed about having to sit in coach on Air Force One. And now we see it again. There are some cliches that are worth using, and "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 1865" could be the motto of the GOP.
Is it my imagination, or is the entire internet becoming one big, single site, owned entirely by Amazon.com?
Twice today I've heard the term "attachment parenting," which I had never, ever heard before. (Weird the way that often happens: something not only pops up in front of you, but screams at you.) Since I only think I know what it means, I can't comment. But if you know, and it's for you, then you might find this site interesting: And Then There Were Babies: baby slings, cloth diapers, nursing clothes, and more!
I mentioned a week or two ago that the Feds were pulling the funding on the Iranian version of "Radio Free Europe." OxBlog has an excellent critique of that asinine decision. I'm not surprised to learn it was a Clinton holdover who made it, but it happened on W's watch, and it is to his shame.
If there is a seem-head out there who can explain in 75 words or less the "Rule 5" draft, I'd appreciate it.
Here we go again

Please keep me and Mrs. Kairos Guy in your prayers, as the little stick had two stripes on it last night. Last time, we asked for prayers, but we were too general, and tried to keep things quiet. This time, though our non-praying friends aren't likely to hear any time soon, we're asking for help early from those who can offer it.
Why is it that, first, I keep getting pop-up ads that show nothing but bare midriff, and, second, that none of the women in the ads have "outies"? Is there some rule that only an "innie" is sexy? I'm pretty darn sure I didn't get that memo.
Be sure to visit Dappled Things over the next few days. First, you'll get less bile than you're finding here right now (and bile is never a good thing, especially in advent) but second, Fr. Jim is presenting "the Greater Ferias," the liturgical prayers specific to the last week of the Advent season. As I haven't been a regular attendee at daily Mass since Bishop Lennon was Fr. Lennon and I an altar boy, I'm not very familiar with them.
I have this theory that the Lee Ann Womack song "I hope you dance" is not actually a kind "farewell" to a lost love, but a Baptist curse. I fully admit, it's not a very good theory.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Ben, his wife, his mother's recovery, and the repose of his father-in-law's soul. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For 5th grade Mary, who is recovering. For R. A.'s son. For the children of Lawrence, MA. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Jerusalem, Lift Up Thy Voice

Jerusalem, lift up thy voice!
Daughter of Zion, now rejoice!
Thy King is come, Whose mighty hand
Henceforth shall reign o’er every land.

He comes to every tribe and race,
A Messenger of truth and grace:
With peace He comes from heaven above
On earth to found His realm of love.

In God’s eternal covenant,
He comes for our salvation sent.
The star of hope moves on before,
And hosts assemble to adore.

Let all the world with one accord
Now hail the coming of the Lord:
Praise to the Prince of heavenly birth
Who bringeth peace to all the earth.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

This was enjoyable, and very familiar, as a PWSE myself.
I have removed a post that was here, because I find that I regret having placed it. I wrote it in anger, then yielded to childishness in removing the worst parts but still letting it go up. It is not relevant that some will feel my anger justified. We are called to behave in keeping with the better angels of our natures, and I did not.
I went to ask.com and entered the question "How many people have been murdred by the government in Cuba?" The first response on the list? "
Cuba Travel with Havana Official Agency

We serve Americans! Official travel agency and tour operator for Cuba's Old Havana. Organize trips to Havana, Varadero, Trinidad and Santa Clara for individuals and groups

Cuba Travel with San Cristobal Travel Cuba - Travel to Cuba

Disgusting.
I got bitten by the baseball bug last year, and now I find myself reading the transactions section, discussing all these players I've never heard of. Only 115 days until Opening Day at Fenway, plus 160 games (more or less: ye shall not know the day or the hour) until another broken heart.
But, Tom, I'd much rather have a membership in this.
Tolkien expert Michael Regina takes questions on "The Two Towers."
.

But how does one get qualified as a "Tolkien Expert"? Does this mean I can get qualified as a "drunken stupor" expert?
Here are my abbreviated thoughts on the resignation of the Archbishop of Boston

I am, in essence, glad he is gone. Glad for him, glad for me, glad for the victims of priestly abuse, and glad for the whole Church in Boston. I do not know what to think of him, and fortunately need not resolve that question at all, for it is clearly, explicitly not my place. I can (and do) hope and pray that he finds peace and that his sins will be forgiven. Equally, I hope and pray that Boston will receive a new Bishop who is capable of healing the terrible wounds here. It ought to go without saying (but won't, since there are so many Pharisees running around these days) that the victims and their abusers equally continue to require my own and your prayers.

Now, here is what I expect of my fellow Catholics, within the Archdiocese:
1) If you followed the immoral and reprehensible advice of people who should know better and withheld your contributions, undo that practice immediately. If, as seems probable, you simply stuck the money back in your pocket, rather than giving it to some charity, you need to make up for money not given to someone. There are tired, poor, hungry and needy people who have gone unserved while you basked in self-righteousness. Make it up to them: it was never their fault.
2) Stop giving interviews to any chuckleheaded reporter who sticks a microphone in your face on Boston Common. It was never their business what you thought about the Cardinal. The selection of his replacement is not a horserace, nor yet an election, and "man on the street" interview merely demonstrate that you are as ignorant as most non-Catholics of these simple facts.
3) Pray. Right now. Pray at your computer, pray in your car, and stop at Church sometime soon to pray. And take advantage of the expanded schedule of Reconciliation that many parishes are offering during Advent. There is one every night this week in Medford: call any of the parishes there to find out where tonight's is.

Now here is what I expect of my fellow Catholics, without the Archdiocese:
1) Shut up.
2) Pray.
3) Attend to the planks in your own eyes for a while, and please leave us the hell alone. We have enough problems here, without all your whiny, snivelly, self-righteous blather. Really.
4) Never, ever again, under any circumstances, speak to me about the "cesspool" you think my Archdiocese is. The Archdiocese of Boston is my family, not yours. I doubt your family would look very much better under the same sort of scrutiny.

I did warn you last week it wouldn't do either of us very much good to speak about this, didn't I?
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Ben, his wife, his mother's recovery, and the repose of his father-in-law's soul. For the repose of the soul of Sue Pasco. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For 5th grade Mary, who is recovering. For R. A.'s son. For the children of Lawrence, MA. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Hark, the Glad Sound!

Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes,
The Savior promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

On Him the Spirit, largely poured,
Exerts His sacred fire;
Wisdom and might, and zeal and love,
His holy breast inspire.

He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes, from thickest films of vice
To clear the mental ray,
And on the eyes oppressed with night
To pour celestial day.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure;
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.

His silver trumpets publish loud
The jub’lee of the Lord
Our debts are all remitted now
Our heritage restored.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And Heav’n’s eternal arches ring
With Thy belovèd Name.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Somebody blogged Our Lady of the Enneagram many moons ago. I post it again as a public service. (You're welcome, Mom.)
Teen Dies After Imitating Stunt From MTV Show

"[M]any of Rouen’s friends had to watch the teen succumb to his injuries."

Actually, many of his "friends" had to stop him from doing the stunt in the first place. Too bad they were too busy watching "Jackass" to learn that.
Am I becoming a codgy old bore? I feel like I am, and that's not a good thing. I want to be one, some day, but not yet. But I have absolutely no patience with Catholic celebrities right now, even the very minor ones. Does that make me a bore?
This is a very nicely done story.
But I can tell you this much: the pastor of my parish at that time was the delightfully-named Father Deacon.
I find that my impulse to silence on the changing of bishops here in Boston was a good thing. Our new Apostolic Administrator is Bishop Richard Lennon, who was a priest in my childhood parish. I was an altar boy at many of the services he presided over, and my opinion of him must necessarily remain private. (But, lest anyone get the wrong idea, nothing untoward or scandalous is even remotely implied by that last statement.)
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sue Pasco. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For 5th grade Mary, who is recovering. For R. A.'s son. For the children of Lawrence, MA. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, December 16, 2002

On the way home from Church yesterday, the lad asked "Why did they crucify Jesus, Dad??" Try formulating an answer to that, suitable for a precocious 5 ("and three-quarters!!") year old while negotiating Massachusetts traffic and drivers on a Sunday afternoon. At least the Barely-Converted Heretic wasn't in the car, having gone to a funeral out-of-state.
Victor mused last week how much he likes the new Target commercials with Stevie Wonder in them. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I loathe the musical stylings of Stevie Wonder in his comments box, but more importantly, I have a question about his closing comment on them. He approved of the use of "Christmas" instead of "Holidays." (Though in such a PoMo fashion I can't tell how serious he was. The problem with PoMo fashions is, I'm not sure he knows either...)

I have spent the last several years getting irritated at the PC manner of replacing "Christmas" with "Holiday." It’s so stupid, because it’s perfectly obvious to all concerned that the only reason to have a “holiday” is “Christmas,” and I resent deliberate stupidity. (Last June, the Head of my Academy spoke warmly of lighting the “Non-denominational Winter Solstice Tree.” It’s pretty funny that she thinks a pagan ritual dating back at least to the Vikings and probably a lot older is “non-denominational,” especially with a few avowed pagans in attendance. And she’s a Harvard-trained anthropologist!) (And while we’re on the subject, why is it okay for my son to do “Hanukah” pictures at school, but not Christmas ones? Are American Jews so thoroughly secularized that there is no longer any but political significance to celebrating Hanukah? I’d like to introduce a few of my religious Jewish friends to anyone who answers “yes.”)

Anyway, as you can tell, I think Stupid People should pay large fines just for being Stupid. (As opposed to people not born so bright: they are usually very nice, or at least not willful.) But here, I wonder if I haven’t been backing the wrong horse.

12 years ago I wrote a story for my college Conservative paper titled “Merry Secular Holiday,” raising all the usual arguments decrying the crass commercialization of Christmas. (At last report 3 years ago, it was still on the fridge of a friend’s Catholic mother.) Upon reflection (not to mention at least a modest improvement in maturity) I think “Happy Holidays” a vast improvement over “Merry Christmas” in the mouths of people who do not comprehend, and do not care to comprehend, what Christmas actually means. If we are to commercialize “Christmas” out of all recognition, isn’t it better that we start calling it something else? Maybe then we can, by political correctness run amok, of all things, finally separate the orgy of spending and buying, and comparing outlays to receipts, from the day that is supposed to signify the liberation of us from all of that.

Ask yourself which is more offensive: that “the Gap” has told it’s employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or that “the Gap” ever connected what it does to the birth of the Savior in the first place?
Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sue Pasco. For 5th grade Mary, who is recovering. For R. A.'s son. For the children of Lawrence, MA. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Watchman, Tell Us of the Night

Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height,
See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes—it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
See, it bursts o’er all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
Lo! the Son of God is come!