Saturday, March 08, 2003

There is something that I really, truly, don't understand about people who are opposed to war with Iraq. To say we should not start a war requires one to accept the palpably false pretense that we have not been engaged in a war for the past 12 years. In March of 1991 we signed an armistice--not, mind you a peace treaty, which as a matter of law is an entirely different thing--that has been violated more or less every day since by the Iraqi armed forces. Not a week has gone by, but that we have been forced by aggressive Iraqi action to drop bombs or shoot missiles or even occassionally use cannons at some target. No one, not one single person that I have heard or read who opposes the war has acknowledged the fact that we have never in fact stopped being at war with Iraq, owing entirely to that nation's actions.

Tom quoted from the DC cardinal the other day, talking about the Cardinal's metaphor of a man with a knife in his pocket. Now, forgetting the dramatic oversimplification of this metaphor (since we cannot know even if the knife is in his pocket, let alone aimed at our throats, until we are in fact bleeding from a severed carotid artery), it denies absolutely the very critical fact that, as both a legal and a moral matter, WE HAVE BEEN AT WAR FOR 12 YEARS, and it was not a war of our starting or our choosing. But we have certainly, if we continue at the status quo pace, been at an unjust war, for we have manifestly not been fighting to win, which is a requirement of just war teachings. The paradox is, now that we are prepared to fight to a just victory, the naysayers have come out to decry that action, where they have largely been silent until very recently.

The other major problem I have with Cardinal McCarrick's comments is that he uttered another statement that is untrue on its face. "War is always a disaster." History does not support that statement, and every sinew in my body rejects it. In the 1930s, when the Germans were considering the remilitarization of the Rhineland, there was much discussion of what to do if the French opposed this by military force. The Germans in command actually had orders to turn around and go home if so much as a single armed Frenchman blocked the road. But the French supposed that war is always a disaster, and allowed the Germans to violate international law and their express obligations under the Versailles treaty. The history of Europe would be very different had someone stood up to the Germans. But war is always a disaster.

The Kurds in 1991 heeded our call to rid Iraq of its dictator, but we decided that war is always a disaster. The Rwandans needed American and European help a few years after that, but war is always a disaster. In October of 2001, the people of Afghanistan stood in need of our help, and we of theirs. For once, we fought, and war did not indeed prove to be a disaster. There are innocent people in Afghanistan dead today who might be alive but for that war, but many more would be so without it.

Pardon me (for this violates my Lenten attempt to reform my language) but it is manifest BULLSHIT that war is always a disaster. That is the sort of thing that only cowards and wimps can believe, and it is precisely the sort of thing that Satan wants us in our comfortable suburbs and our nice cars and our 401k plans to believe. FAILING TO FIGHT has been every bit as disastrous as fighting at many identifiable points in history. "War is always a disaster" is exactly the sort of thing Orwell had in mind when he lumped the pacifists in with the fascists in 1940. War is sometimes a disaster; but cowardice: always.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

The other day, I did something very strange. I actually spoke--with my VOICE--to another blogger. It was really weird. Steven's voice was supposed to be a baritone!
It's snowing here in the Northeast. How unusual.
Seriously: why would anyone search for the term "faking NFP"? I mean, really, what on earth is the point of THAT?
But I did promise a wine review...

The Kairos Guy Recommends....

Actually, in the case of this week's wine, I only partially recommend. Louis Latour 2000 Pinot Noir is pleasant but uninspiring. The ruby color is pleasing, but a shade or two lighter than one expects, and positively inhaling over the glass results in only a vaguely "red wine" smell--not at all the bouquet one looks for. It's best attribute is its ripe fruitiness: it tastes like Pinot Noir grapes, and it has a little bit of earthiness, and that flavor wine people call "blackberry undertones," which really does taste a little like blackberries once you discover it. Its tannins (the thing in cheap Cabernet that makes your mouth pucker like Sylvester the Cat eating a box of alum) are not overwhelming, but they also are weak enough that this wine wouldn't hold up in the bottle for more than another year or so. If I were using the Wine Spectator 100 point scale, I don't think I would give this more than an 83.
So, where have I been?

Well, first I was on vacation, then I kind of accidentally took a new job. Well, it's not really a job, in the sense that I am technically a contractor, and made it clear that my first priority was the family, and now that I have the new computer, I can work from home 2-3 days/week, and I kind of go when I want, and come home when I want. And the money is pretty good, especially considering the flexibility. What am I doing? I'm editing content for a book and website that is intended to help teachers use film in the classroom. On the whole, I'm pretty excited, but it has kind of killed my short term plan of cooking classes and housework while I polish some pieces for publication. But in another month the pace should slow down again and I should be able to get back to blogging more frequently, and get caught up on lying around.
From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Has anyone told you "Hey, you've got something on your forehead" yet today? Why not?
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.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Jesica Santillan. For the people of Pawtucket, those hurt in roof collapses, and the families of the men killed at the Staten Island explosion. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. 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 the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Salve Regina

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.


Hail holy queen, mother of mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve,
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate
your eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this, our exile,
Show us the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
This has been rattling around inside my head for a while now:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
--George Orwell

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Does this mean I can take down all my plastic sheeting and throw away the duct tape?
Happy Natal Day to Tiernan Francis Kairos Guy, born 5:30pm this day in 1997. I can't figure out how my little 8lb 14oz, 21.5 inch pimento loaf got to be more than 4 feet tall, skiing and playing baseball more competently than his father. Weird.

UPDATE: I failed to note earlier that his first act in this life, after crying, was to pee on every single clean towel in the delivery room. I don't know why you wanted to know that, but I wanted to tell you.
The Kairos Guy recommends....

A new feature here at Kairos (and occasionaly at the cookbook, perhaps) will be wine recommendations. I'm hoping in my freelance writing career to add "wine writer" to the repertoire, so I'm going to start practicing here. (I will try to avoid too much wine snot jargon, but it's really not possible to describe a bottle without at least a few jargon words.)

This week, I'm recommending Brancott Vineyards (NZ) 2001 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I know, I know--recommending New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is about as risky as betting on the (evil) Yankees to make the (f---ing) Playoffs. But, this one is very light and crisp, with a nice finish, and a pleasant acidity that stops at your esophagus, and it is about $10/bottle in most places. They also offer a 2001 Reserve for about $15 that is really outstanding, but it is harder to come by.
[Sorry for any typos below. Too much of a rush this am to go back and fix them. Just take the "white out" out of your drawer and fix them on your monitor yourself.]
Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, go together like a ....

Reader Diane writes in response to my transitive/intransitive love comments: What about the question, "Have I loved you?"? I was raised by 2 people with one of the world's best marriages - and each day their question of "Have I loved you?" ensured that the standard proclamation "I love you" became something much more. It wasn't enough to love eachother the way we each wanted to give love, but to search for how that person wanted/needed to be loved. It focused on the recipient, asking, "Have you felt loved?". I know that it can make an extraordinary difference in a marriage.

I sort of agree. Actually, I think I agree totally with the point, but it needs some comment.

"I" is the enemy of "we" in a marriage, and "we" is the purpose of a marriage. This may be why the first year or two is so very, very hard for some people. People who get married and then decide to "self-actualize" (not at all what Diane was saying) don't seem to understand that it is in the marriage that they will be "self-actualized." A marriage, or a Christian one at any rate (and, I suspect a Jewish one, as well) is not something one has or does part of the time, when one feels benevolently for some set of hours in the day. The Marriage is what you become. No more "me", no more "you". Only "us".

Now, of course few of us are capable of committing ourselves as fully to "us" as we are to "me". (The Kairos Guy himself has been known to struggle with this on very rare occasions.) And I oversimplify the problem, by omitting the question of children from the "us." (But I am writing this with a recently married friend, and one considering engagement, in mind, so oversimplification is necessary for this stage. Baby steps. {Get it? "Baby steps"? Ha ha! I slay me!!}) So, to the extent that asking "have I loved you" reminds me that I have been more focused on the half of us that resides in my body, I am totally and completely in favor. But, though I am quite sure Diane's parents didn't mean or do this, to the extent it leads to "Yes I have. What a fine fellow I am for it, too" it misses the point of marriage by as wide a margin as "Have you loved me today?"

The thought, "My wife is in the way of what I want to do," in a perfect marriage would lead to the realization, "Good. Because it is not what I want to do that matters, but what we want to do." It is very much akin to the Christian notion of humility: the object isn't to debase oneself, but to forget oneself. "Will it be best for me to accept the promotion? Of course. Will it be best for us? Perhaps not." If you take the approach of debasing, all you do is weaken the whole, the "one flesh" that a marriage is.

In a marriage properly done, that old cliche about "the whole being greater than the sum of the parts" becomes understandable and literally true. By myself, I can only be in one place at one time. Married, I can, in a sense, bilocate. And don't try to tell me that's true of people who are just dating, too. When was the last time your girlfriend was able to represent you at a funeral while you went to a soccer game? There are many, many other was in which this sort of thing manifests itself. But--and here's the real kicker--they only work when you really do take the humility and the "we/us" not "me/you" approach to marriage. When you maintain "I" as the locus of yourself, everyone around you knows it, and the bilocation and "whole greater than sum" part doesn't work. You can't ask your wife to attend to your unpleasant duty while you do the pleasant one and have anyone else accept it, unless they know that you and she would have switched places in a second if that had been the better way to arrange it. They will know you didn't arrange things for the best of all concerned, but only for yourself.

This has ranged pretty far from "have I loved you," which I think a fine and commendable way to end a day, particularly in trying times, and particularly if you are honest enough with yourself to realize that even on the very best day of your marriage the answer probably is, "Not enough."
All creatures of our God and King

(Words by St. Francis of Assisi, which is also the name of the Parish in Braintree in which I was baptized)

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Refrain

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Refrain

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

Refrain

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

Refrain

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Refrain

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Refrain
Fred Rogers, RIP

Honestly, I never liked the "Mister Rogers" show, and would only watch it under duress (which is really kind of ironic, if you give it a moment's thought). But I'm still sorry to hear he has died, and will offer a prayer for him.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Jesica Santillan. For the people of Pawtucket, those hurt in roof collapses, and the families of the men killed at the Staten Island explosion. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. 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 the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Have I sent you to Operation Uplink yet? You can spend a few bucks, and buy a serviceman overseas, or even far from home within the states, a calling card. With several hundred thousand troops deployed around Central Asia and the Middle East, most of whom earn less than the guy who scrubs the toilets in your office building, there's plenty of need?
As you no doubt recall, it was common, in the months following 9/11, to hear people remark, "Everything changed." The date became something of a particle, in the grammatical sense, as teenagers use "like." "After 9/11, I believe I'll have the steak and cheese," is almost the sort of non sequitur one heard. It became so much of a cliche to speak of 9/11 and "things changing" that a lot of writers began to suspect it was all poppycock.

The value of 9/11--if one can use so inappropriate a word in such a context--lay in its ability to throw the mundane and the obvious into sharply contrasting relief. Few people, for a brief moment, had any difficulty whatsoever telling right from wrong. The feckless and the facile among our public figures looked feckless and facile. Susan Sarandon and Mike Farrell were getting invitations to events to raise money for firemen, not debates about war on Face the Nation. People were kind to each other on the highways, realizing that driving like a selfish bastard almost inevitably meant becoming a selfish bastard in other parts of life. Humor, when it apeared at all, was gentler with each other, though more brutal toward our enemies. Indeed, for a time, one could use the word "enemy" without irony: the only two sides to the conflict with terror were "right" and "wrong." Moral imbeciles like Robert Fisk still appeared occasionally on NPR, but the self-parody was obvious.

Millions of people who had not been inside a Church in years went, and stayed, and found the consolation they were seeking. The materialists will explain this as mere superstition, as evidenced by the fact that most of those who did so have stopped going. This is certainly possible. But it is at least as probable that the jarring nature of 9/11 briefly woke them from their stupor, but as life returned to "normal" (Is there a color on the scale for that? Is there a Code: Gray?), the conditioned responses of a lifetime of complacency dulled the clarity, as the immediacy of child-rearing dulls the remembrance of the pains of birth.

It seems perfectly true that "everything changed on 9/11." But now, even with duct tape and plastic sheeting, and friends in the Gulf wanting either to fight or come home, it feels like almost all of it has changed back.
"The Old Hundredth"

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Jesica Santillan. For the people of Pawtucket, those hurt in roof collapses, and the families of the men killed at the Staten Island explosion. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. 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 the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

From the front of the official Boston Red Sox website

John Burkett started out red-hot last season, winning his first seven decisions, but the dog days of summer caught up with the veteran right-hander and he finished 13-8. The prideful, confident competitor doesn't see any reason why he won't bounce back in 2003.

I'm guessing (hoping) that the author of this doesn't know what "prideful" means. Because, if he does, he should find another line of work besides "team flack." Why do people try to go for the $0.50 word, when the $0.05 word will do just as well--or even better?

Monday, February 24, 2003

Make sure to keep checking the cookbook. Tom K and Kat Lively are keeping things active. Soon I hope to add a few nice, simple things of my own.
Fr. Jim's Sunday homily speaks to me. If you don't mind the frequent beating of the Confessional drum I do, it will speak to you, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The other important thing about Grammar and "love"

When one means "I have love for you" (instead of "I love you"), the indirect object of that love stays indirect. The "love" only exists by reference to the lover. In other words, though it also refers to another, that other is important only insofar as it allows the lover to think he is bigger than himself. "Daisy" in the Great Gatsby is the best known exemplar of this sort of love. Her real existence actually interferes with Gatsby's self-referential having of love for her.

On the other hand, active loving that takes a direct object modifies the object, and exists even after the lover stops. It is love whose self-referential nature is limited only to the fact that the lover must act at least once. Having acted, the action's effects continue independent of the lover, and the other is forever marked.

Not surprisingly, this is the kind of love we are called to. It is the love that pulls us out of ourselves, and even causes us to be in one sense irrelevant. But the Christian paradox continues, because in transcending ourselves, by literally going outside ourselves, we guarantee at least a part of us--the love--a kind of immortality. If our love alters someone in even the tiniest way, the ripples of that continue into the future forever.
An observation, having occured to the author on one of the planes home from Calgary

[Poll question: Should I use all-Georgian and Victorian titles such as the one above from now on?]

Looking around the plane at the bored flight attendents demonstrating to almost universally inattentive passengers the relevant "safety features of the Airbus A319," ("Keeping in mind that the closest exit"--two fingered-, two-handed-point to the back of the plane--"may be behind you"), I realized that many of the passengers would have paid much closer attention if the flight attendents had waited until we were airborne and experiencing "a little moderate turbulence" to explain the "safety features."

I have decided to take that observation as the basis for approving of how much we have seen of Tom Ridge and duct tape during the present Code: Orange.
If you like, you can join me in what has ceased to be a novena, continuing as it has longer than nine days. (Note to my Official Fact Checker: how does one do a novena until some indefinite event comes true?) It is to Patrick, "that most versatile of saints," as I heard him referred to wonderfully in a novel recently, and Mary, the two most usually invoked saints in the other country of which I am a citizen.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.


It's cheaper than duct tape and plastic sheeting, and certanly at least as effective. (Also, note to Kathy the Carmelite: though, ironically, Alberta might have had less need of duct tape, it probably would have been much easier to obtain.) Start the day with that, a prayer handing the coming day over to Christ, and an act of contrition and, really, what can they do to you?
Sunday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Jesica Santillan. For the people of Pawtucket, those hurt in roof collapses, and the families of the men killed at the Staten Island explosion. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. 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 the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Very early Sunday morning we are heading for a long-planned vacation in Alberta. No more blogging until I'm back, probably a week from Monday. Be safe, be sane, and be good.
Learning in War-Time
A sermon preached by C.S. Lewis at Oxford in 1939

". . . I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have "chosen" a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature. . .

War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right. All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us knows. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul . . . we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon. But if we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still."
Saddam Bans Import, Production of WMD

Oh, well, in THAT case....
Special Intention

The Best Man from our wedding called from the West Coast last night. He heads to the Persian Gulf Region in a very short time, to a place well-known to Saddam but that he couldn't say to me. (Even though, since I read newspapers, I know full well where it is. Security is a weird, weird thing in government.) He has two worries: his plane getting shot down as it tries to land; and getting "slimed." I love the bravado in calling a chemical or biological attack on his person "sliming," but I wish to God that weren't on his mind as a serious possibility. (Ask all the idiot "human shields" who deny Saddam is a threat what their plans are when the slime starts flying. Probably the Iraqis will blow them up themselves, and then place the casing from a cruise missile at the scene, as they did in 1991.)

To make matters worse (in a small, but irritating way) he is due to be promoted to Major next week, but will not get the cameraderie and ceremony that is his due because he will not be with his current unit. The Inflexible Bureaucracy denies a brave young man, with a wife and two smal children, one small measure of comfort and recognition, even as he goes off to what is surely one of the most prominent terror and military targets in the world.

Please keep "Holmie" (as he is universally and ironically known, he being as WASPy as WASPy get) in your prayers. His wife Pam, and children Katie and Colin, too. They are only one family out of hundreds of thousands being disrupted and potentially destroyed, and all the families need prayers. But if you would toss in a small extra for the Holmes family, I'd appreciate it.

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.
Mr. Grammar Strikes

English is an impressively flexible language, it is true, but it is sadly weakest at the point of human strength. It ought to be possible, without sounding like a pedant, to distinguish between transitive and intransitive love. A lot of conversations would be very much simpler. A lot of times, one says, "I love you," but really means by it, "I have love for you,"--the intransitive notion, where the verb takes an indirect object. At the same time, the other, hearing the transitive "I actively love you," does not believe it. And, when the imperative form comes to us in the Gospel "Love one another," we allow ourselves to think what it really means is "Have love for one another."

Having love for someone is a fine and noble thing, and not always easy to do, as I noted about Osama the other day. Actively loving someone--that is, doing by your actions love--is very much harder. Hardest of all is confusing the one for the other.
There is also nothing quite like making a real sincere effort at doing Christianity in your heart for easing the anxieties that so quickly pile up.
There is nothing like the 23rd Psalm early on a Code Orange day...

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

On a Catholic terror-related note

Riding the subway home from my consulting gig this afternoon, I glanced up from my book. My eyes happened to come to rest on a discarded newspaper, with a picture of Osama on the open page. "Evil motherf---er," I thought to myself, and started back to my book. But duty called itself to mind, and I paused to consider what exactly it means, as a Christian, to hope for my enemy's good--as it were, to love my enemy.

It obviously starts with ritual pronunciations about hoping he'll see the light, etc., etc., but it can't end there. And I know I'm not doing a very good job, because I positively relish the probability that the evil psychotic is going to roast in hell for all eternity, along with the cruel, heartless men who do his bidding.

It’s fine to want him to be punished. If he sees Christ’s light, he ought to want that for himself. Indeed, handing himself over for punishment would be one of the only ways he could demonstrate to his temporal judges that he had in fact truly seen the light. But relishing the punishment, rather than seeing it as necessary corrective, is plainly out of bounds. It’s no good, either, saying he’s the devil, or a servant of the devil. For, so far as I understand these things, we’re supposed to hope for *his* eventual conversion, too.

A danger I encounter in dealing with somewhat more ordinary malefactors—the people I silently or verbally curse when I’m driving (which is an occupational hazard of driving in the Boston area)—is then to make excuses for them as I forgive them for irritating me by their selfishness. I’m not sure it’s good practice to justify the sins of others before forgiving them. But even if it is when we are talking about the guy who almost causes an accident, it absolutely has to be proscribed when we are talking about mass murderers. Perhaps there are excuses for speeding and changing lanes in a dangerous manner; there can be none for objective evil. Empathy with a mass murderer is a dangerous thing to seek, in any case. So no route to hoping for his good lies on this path.

There’s a remark in some CS Lewis book—possibly Letters to Malcolm?—that has always disturbed me. Lewis recounts talking to a priest of some kind who had met Hitler before the war. Someone asked him what he thought of Hitler, how he found him to be. “Like any other man,” came the reply. “That is, like Christ.” I rebelled at this for months after I first saw it, finding it vapid, foolish, fatuous, if not in fact directly evil. But with time I have come to find it Holy.

My mind and my heart both rebel at finding anything of Christ in Osama, or anything of Osama in Christ. But the instinct to do so is there. I am obviously far less holy than the priest who saw Christ in Hitler, but I am trying.

So, Osama, I’m sorry I thought to call you an evil motherf---er. And however improbable it seems, I hope you realize that what you are doing is as evil as evil gets. It won’t be too late, until the last Daisy Cutter falls, for you to turn it around. Fortunately for you and for me, God is great, and he can forgive all, if we but ask sincerely.
Anti-Aircraft Missiles Deployed Around Washington (washingtonpost.com) The U.S. military has deployed jeep-mounted Stinger anti-aircraft missiles around the nation's capital in an increased alert against possible terrorist attack, defense officials said on Wednesday.

I have heard numerous news reports about this, and seen several articles. Not a single one of them notes the really ominous purpose: those missiles are there to shoot down commandeered civilian airliners, passengers and all.

I completely understand this, but God help us.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I also want to add that the papers keep calling what the Red Sox are doing "closer by committee." I think this is a misnomer. "Closer by committee" says to me that you are using the same strategy as other teams, except you're never sure which guy is going to pitch the 9th. The Red Sox are not looking for a closer. They are looking for the best way to finish games. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Nothing original to say, this morning. But I did want to note that Amy Welborn has decided not to delete her entire blog, nor to stop entirely. She will be linking mainly to her own articles, plus I'm guessing a few other things, on Mondays. (Blogging is like very slow, very aggravating crack cocaine. Trust me on this one.)
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Amy Welborn and her Dad, who is having surgery. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. 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 the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, February 10, 2003

My loss is your gain.

Less Kathy the Carmelite in my comments boxes means more K the C for you to enjoy. Go visit Gospel M*I*N*E*F*I*E*L*D.
Something I wrote in the wee hours of the morning, after spending several hours working on "Henry V" for my new job

The Homeland Security threat level stands tonight at Orange--a fearsome level indeed--and I struggle with the decency of prayer. It is not that in general I find prayer during danger indecent. It is that my prayer life has been sadly in decline the last few months, and I wonder at the decency of restarting or regenerating it under such a threat. My resolve is to set such qualms aside, and marvel at a God that will have me even on such terms as these.

In any case, possibly danger is sent to remind us to pray (I will not say, to remind me to pray). Apposite that, it can be but little other than Pride that would say, "though I need Your help, I will not ask, lest you think me uncouth or ill-bred." My constancy is not all I could wish, but I cannot see it improving by a refusal to pray, in circumstances in which prayer is absolutely necessary. (Are there any others?)

"Henry V" and "Patton" have set my mind spinning over the value of war. I still believe that it will be to the good of Iraq, the US, and the world in general if that evil ------ in Baghdad is removed or put down. (And so much conversation about the war seems to assume that evil without ever considering it!) But Harry's eve of battle wanderings through the camp, and Patton's decrial of "push-button warfare" offer me little comfort and much in the way of doubt, confusion and anxiety. And so, child that I am, all too willing to venture out alone in the sunshine, run home to other's skirts at the sound of approaching thunder. I will pray.

How close will the lightning strike, I wonder?
Do you ever get the feeling the Scriptures are talking just to you?

Hiatus over. At the risk of making me sound (or more probably, revealing me to be) tremendously egotistical, St. Paul yesterday made it clear that I gots to go on.

But blogging will be less frequent than it might have otherwise been. I seem to have agreed to a more or less full-time arrangment with a media company. But I still get to do the bulk of the work from home, and since I am a "consultant" they understand and expect that parental duties will come first. (There's laundry going even as I type.)