Tuesday, October 11, 2005


James begins by looking at our response to trials. He first states the general principle: we should find joy in our trials because they gain for us perserverence--but only if we pray for wisdom without doubting. So, we have to know how to negotiate our trials in specific ways, not just in general. We need light on how to find joy in this trial, not just trials in general. So, we need the gift of wisdom, which God gives generously.

I was recently involved in trying to promote the Church's pro life message in very difficult and somewhat antagonistic situation. My partner and I were simply stymied on how to proceed. Finally, it came to us that we should approach the Blessed Mother, the Seat of Wisdom in a novena of Rosary to find the correct path to proceed. With the gift of Wisdom that she will give us (her Son), we will be at peace and experience joy, even though our situation is difficult, because we will know we are on the right path, even if that path leads to the Cross.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I think I'm going to begin with the Letter of James, since it is one of my favorite books of the Bible and I've been wanting to reflect on it systematically for a while. It really feeds me, and as those of you who read my essay on the Life Principles web page know, it helps me understand some principles of good spirituality.

I want this to be a conversation. My own insights on any given passage may be limp, so if you have anything, please add it to the comments.

Also, you will need a bible in hand, unless you have it memorized. Not a bad plan, by the way.

One of the important things for me is that James seems to be a continuition of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition of proverbs. He seems to have a love for wisdom similar to the author of Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon. I often reflect on the Book of Wisdom. I read Proverbs with my son last spring, which was very fruitful.

James starts out by affirming his status as a "doulos"--slave--of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people today find "servant" language odious, esp. in light of such statements of Jesus as in the Gospel of John where he says, "I no longer call you servants, but friends."

I found it interesting the other day when talking with a student about kneeling at the consecration. She thought the gesture was too "subservient." I don't really know what is wrong with showing some subservience to God in worship, even if he is calling us to partake in the divine nature. I mean, "humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will life you up." Jesus calls us friends, but that is a gift, a grace, not something to be claimed as if somehow we now are established as worthy to approach God as an equal.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What book should I look at?

There are going to be four types of texts I look at on this blog. The first is Sacred Scripture, the second is the literature of the Catholic tradition, the third is the literature of the 19th and 20th century Catholic revival and the fourth is Church documents. I don't know quite where to begin. I've thought of reading the letter of James, or perhaps Pieper's Leisure as the Basis of Culture, or perhaps Gaudium et Spes on its 40th anniversary. So much to read and so little time!

I recently was at a seminar at Marquette in which we discussed Chapter Six of Chesterton's Orthodoxy. If I could live a life where I did that kind of thing regularly--even daily--I would be very satisfied.

The question that surfaced in the discussion was whether there was a fundamental duality that lay behind the various dualities that Chesterton pointed to as being extremes both of which Catholicism embraces, rather than finding the Greek middle. I suggested spirit/matter. We worked with that some, but I am not sure whether we agreed that it worked in all instances.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Classic Catholic Reborn

Beginning today Classic Catholic is reborn--and returns to its original purpose of exploring and promoting the classics of Catholic culture. So, this will not be as light and easy as it sometimes has been in the past or as some of my contributions to HMS Weblog were.

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2005


Not all service is at the third level of happiness. If you only engage in service on your own terms, instead of responding to the real evident needs of those around you (and if you are actively seeking to discover the real needs of those around you), then your service is only being engaged in for the sake of your own ego gratification, rather than for the real good of the other, a requirement for pursuing happiness on the third level.

George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life is the archetypal pursuer of happiness on the third level. Bedford Falls didn't appear to him to have much to offer in the way of making his own personal dreams come true. But (with the encouragement of his wise father), he chooses to respond to the real needs of those around him rather than pursue the ego gratification that his dreams of travel and success would give him.

What is a sign that you are stuck on the first or second level?

Recall that Fr. Spitzer's first level of happiness is physical pleasure and his second level is ego gratification.

The best sign of being stuck on the lower levels is ingratitude. If you are more likely to spontaneously complain that God is not being generous to you or responsive to your obvious needs rather than spontaneously giving thanks for all the generous and wonderful gifts God is showering upon you daily, hourly, by the minute, then you are stuck on level one or two. If the people God puts in your life daily seem to you to be either obstacles to your happiness or at least irrelevant, then you are seeking ego gratification. God never withholds opportunities for pursuing happiness on the third and fourth level (service and spiritual growth respectively). We are never at a loss for opportunities for service nor for spiritual growth and deepening our relationship with the Lord.

I think about this when I want to complain about something not being right in the Church or at the seminary. If something in the Church, such as an approved liturgical translation, is not gratifying me, then it is because I am seeking a lower level of gratification that God is offering me at this time.

The Schoenstatt movement has a wonderful saying: Mother takes perfect care. We are NEVER abandoned, even when we feel abandoned (as Jesus seems to have on the Cross).

Remember the Suscipe of St. Ignatius:

Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire
will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You
and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and
your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
Exercises, #234)

Or this prayer, also by St. Ignatius:

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to
give without counting the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and
not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for reward, except to know that I
am doing your will.


No, Kevin, not the animal.

Fr. Anthony Cirignani, our pastor at St. Anthony's, gave an excellent sermon on sloth this Sunday. (Maybe I should post this on Amy's website? Nah, I don't want to bother.) He mentioned that we mistakenly think that sloth means inactivity. In fact, especially in America we engage in frenetic activity because of sloth, because we are avoiding the real spiritual good that we ought to be pursuing such as service or spiritual exercise. So, hyperactivity and sloth can go together. I think that was Pascals' point about diversion as well.

This fits in very well with Fr. Spitzer's Life Principles that I have been mentioning a lot lately. He makes the point that pursuing happiness on the higher levels, service and and spiritual growth, often requires more effort and gives us less immediate and intense personal gratification. We therefore prefer to stick at the lower levels of either pleasure or ego gratification. That is why, for instance, those who discover that ego gratification cannnot give long-term happiness often resort to the lowest level of seeking physical pleasure--drinking, watching t.v., pornography, rather than responding to the call of God to move to a higher level of service and pursuit of the absolute good, true, beautiful, love, being, etc..

St. Thomas describes sloth as "sadness about one's spiritual good, on account of the attendant bodily labor." This is precisely what prevents us from moving from the second level to the third, even when we know it is the right thing. We are resisting the suffering involved. We are sad and afraid.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A gift from God

What if God were to say to you, "I have been preparing a gift for you from eternity. It is precisely tailored to you needs at this moment. With the exception of my Son and His presence in the Eucharist, it is the greatest answer to all your innermost desires for a gift from me."?
Every person you encounter today is that gift. If you treat him any less than as a precious gift from God, if you don't seek to find within him a message of love and grace for you from God, you are committing a sin of sacrilege. It doesn't matter whether you like the person or not, are attracted to him, whether you find him to be ignorant, frustrating, a waste of your time, beneath contempt, your enemy, evil, or anything else. Fr. Spitzer points out that it is especially difficult to do this if we are stuck seeking happiness through ego gratification, because then we perceive other people as obstacles to our advancement in knowledge, power or prestige.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Are you a carrot, egg, or coffee?

Sounds like one of thos Quizilla quizzes, but it is not. I got this in an e-mail today. If you can get past the hokey factor, there is a pretty good message here.

Carrot, Egg, or Coffee??A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling.It seemed that just as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me, what do you see?""Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity ... boiling water.

Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water."Which are you?" she asked her daughter."When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"Think of this:

Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.You might want to send this message to those people who mean something to you; to those who have touched your life in one way or another; to those who make you smile when you really need it; to those who make you see the brighter side of things when you are really down; to those whose friendship you appreciate; to those who are so meaningful in your life.....I JUST DID

What is God up to, anyway?

You know, if where sin aboundeth, grace aboundeth all the more, why would we be surprised that we have the pope that we have?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Also from today's day of recollection

Fr. Krebs told the story of a a woman who was renowned for having personal conversations with the Lord. She was considered so holy and was so venerated among the people that she became a source of irritation for her bishop. To test her the bishop asked to to ask the Lord what the greatest sin of his most inner, hidden self was. On the date appointed she returned to the bishop. He asked her if she had asked the Lord what his greatest, most intimate sin was. She said, "Yes." He said, "So, what did the Lord say?" She said, "He said, 'the bishop's greatest interior sin? Tell the bishop I'm sorry, but I forgot.'"

We hold onto our sins long after the Lord has rendered them completely irrelevant.

The source of St. Thomas's erudition

During the day of recollection at the seminary today Fr. Donald Krebs of the Crookston diocese relates the statement by St. Thomas Aquinas that he learned more from 15 minutes a day on his knees before his crucified Lord than he ever did (or could) from all the erudite conversation with learned men he engaged in.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

See me also at HMS Weblog

For the next few days I will be a guest blogger over at my old home, HMS Webblog. We will be discussing in what way the Church is a family. I may still post here occasionally on other topics (my mind is swimming with topics, but my calendar is full of duties, so who knows when I will get to it?)

Monday, February 07, 2005


Attributed to C.S. Lewis: ""We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I generally don't want to be political on this blog, but this really means something to me:

Truth and Art

Rowan Williams paraphrasing Maritain: "The artist produces what his habits of perception permit, and those habits are moral and metaphysical as well as narrowly perceptual."

See http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/sermons_speeches/050120a.html.

Too bad Williams' own moral habit of perception does not exclude homosexuality.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The priority of the intangible

In preparation for a course on Life Principles I'm teaching I'm reading Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.'s book Healing the Culture. In it he discusses the four levels of happiness, beginning with the happiness that comes from externals (pleasure), the happiness that comes from success (ego gratification), the happiness that comes from doing something for another person without hope of payback, and finally the happiness that comes from absolute, perfect, unlimited truth, beauty, goodness, being and love, which, of course, can only be gotten by a gift from God.

Probably the most important point he makes is the distinction between tangibles and intangibles. People who choose to live at level one or two do not accept the reality and priority of intangibles over tangibles. They will not make the necessary sacrifice of immediate personal satisfaction to do what is right, even when they know it is right.

According to Fr. Spitzer, the sign of settling for (and being of necessity disappointed in) level two is self-pity. We keep whining about not having this or not getting that. We know that wise men say that doing X is a good thing, but what is the use of doing X since nothing good will come of it?

I, by the way, am an expert at this kind of whining.

Karol Wojtyla points out, similarly, that resentment comes from the loss of tangible rewards one would experience if one obeys the divine law about human sexuality. Only those who do not expect some kind of obvious, tangible reward from their actions are operating on level three or four. Of course, even level three will ultimately not satisfy, leading to its own frustration and the need to open oneself up to the absolute, which we call God.

Very good stuff, Life Principles. I highly recommend it.


Friday, January 28, 2005


I'm in the Memorial Union at UW-Madison with 388 junior high and high school students for the Wisconsin Junior Classical League Convention. First, it is wonderful to see such enthusiasm among young people for classical language and culture. Second, it is too bad that the organizers believe that one has to allow the kids to act like so-called typical high-school students in order for them to come. I thinking about the dance they have on Friday night plus the immodest behavior around the pool at the social. Plus the "spirit" competition which from what I can figure out has nothing to do with classical culture unless one thinks of the Celtic barbarians heading into battle. Maybe that is it.

Roman soldiers didn't act like that.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Restoration of Christian Culture

I've discovered a neat book called The Restoration of Christian Culture by John Senior, one of those guys that had that great books program of KU. I am a little wary because some of the material first appeared in the Remnant. Oh, well. I do like these quotes:

No matter what our expertise, no matter what we are by vocation or trade, we are
all lovers; and while only the experts in each field must know mathematics and
the sciences and other arts, everyone must be a poet in the ordinary way to
salvation. (p. 13)

What is Christian Culture? It is essentially the
Mass. That is not my or anyone's opinion or theory or wish but the central fact
of two thousand years of history. Christendom, what secularists call Western
Civilization, is the Mass and the paraphernalia which protect and facilitate it.
All architecture, art, political and social forms, economics, the way people
live and feel and think, music, literature--all these things when they are
right, are ways of fostering and protecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (pp.

I fear sometimes that conservatives, not just liberals, are like
the Pharisees--Catholics, but with a strong, unloving determination to be right;
whereas the Camino Real of Christ is a chivalric way, romantic, full of
fire and passion, riding on the pure, high-spirited horses of the self with
their glad, high-stepping knees and flaring nostrils, and us with jingling spurs
and the cry, "Mon joie!"--the battle cry of Roland and Olivier. (p. 18)

As the Old Law forbade the eating of all meat animals save ruminants, we
should forbid all criticism--which thrives by tearing the flesh of texts into
footnotes and appendices--in favor of an appreciative, ruminating savor of the
most ordinary, obvious verse. (pp. 19-20)

But then it is true, isn't it.
Music is deeper than having fun; there is something sad even about the merriest

Our Lord explains in the Parable of the Sower that the seed of
his love will only grow in a certain soil--and that is the soil of Christian
culture, which is the work of music in the wide sense, including as well as
tunes that are sung, art, literature, games, architectures--all so many
instruments in the orchestra which plays day and night the music of lovers; and
if it is disordered, then the love of Christ will not grow. IT is an obvious
matter of fact that here in the Unites States now, the Devil has seized these
instruments to play a danse macabre, a dance of death, especially
through what we call the "media', the television, radio, record, book, magazine
and newspaper industries. The restoration of culture, spiritually, morally,
physically, demands the cultivation of the soil in which the love of Christ can
grow, and that means we must, as they say, rethink priorities. (pp. 23-24)

[commenting on the Song of Songs, esp. the passage starting, "Arise,
make hast, my love, my beautiful one, and come"] I fear no girl will ever hear
that song again from some young man in the spring of her life whom she might
marry, or boy or girl, in the autumn, from Christ. (p. 24)

Friday, January 21, 2005


Having not read the books at length, I can't say whether the following is accurate, but I'm sure others will have an opinion:
"Furthermore, on a Christian note, the books tend to quip some good ethics
(like not staying up too late), and good morals (the children are law abiding
and obedient and courteous), in an attempt to be a sort of morality story out of
the Victorian era, however since the children's predeliction to follow the law
and obey their elders invariably brings on them greater misfortune and
maltreatment, the message is that the law and one's elders cannot be trusted.


God's forebearance

I get worked up over big and small offenses of others. I'm especially hard on liturgical abuse, which, to me, is sacriligious. Then I read Gospel passages like this:

"Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." (Mk. 3:28-29)

It seems that Jesus is pretty tolerant of our lack of reverence. Note, he says such sins will be forgiven. There is nothing conditional about it. It seems that the only sin that can really condemn you is this sin against the Holy Spirit. According to the footnote that is to attribute to the Devil what is actually from God. Hm.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


is a link to a webpage dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas hosted by Dr. Mark Johnson, the great moral theologian from Marquette University.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Scripture and Eucharistic Adoration

The more familiarity you have with the Word of God, Old and New Testament, the great your capacity to know the Word made Flesh present in the Blessed Sacrament. To practice adoration without meditation on the Scriptures is to practice an unbalanced piety. That is why the Liturgies of Word and Eucharist form one act of worship, not two, as some people seem to think (refering the Vatican II's "Two Tables").

Friday, January 14, 2005

Culture and wealth

A culture does not have to be wealthy or have political power to be virtuous. Wealth and power, in fact, don't help members of a community become virtuous. Discussion?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A great reading

"Quod ab alio oderis fieri tibi, vide ne tu aliquando alteri facias. Panem tuum cum esurientibus et egenis comede, et de vestimentis tuis nudos tege. Consilium semper a sapiente perquire. Omni tempore benedic Deum, et pete ab eo ut vias tuas diregat, et omnia consilia tua in ipso permaneant." (Tob. 4: 16-17, 19-20.)

A sure formula for happiness from today's morning prayer.

I should just ignore ICEL

I should just let the differences between the Latin and the ICEL paraphrase slide, but I guess I'm obsessive compulsive.

Here we go:

Gratias agamus Christo eumque semper laudemus, quia non dedignatur fratres vocare quos sanctificat. Ideo ei supplicemus:

Sanctifica fratres tuos, Domine.

Now for the English:

Let us give thanks to Christ and offer him continued praise, for he sanctifies us and calls us his brothers.

Lord, help your brothers grow in holiness.

Now, what would be a better translation of the second part? "because he does not think it unworthy to call 'brothers' those he sancfities. Therefore let us entreat him: Sanctify your brothers, Lord." The force of the "quia" is clarified by the "quos." The "and in the English completely deflates the deep sense of the "fratres...sancificat...sanctifica fratres."

I can see no ideological reason for so distorting a clause save that the paraphrasers are really too stupid to get the sense of the original. Either that or the paraphrasers don't really understand either Latin, English, or both.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Work, leisure and contemplation

Leisure (in the sense that Josef Pieper used it) is the basis of culture and man is made for contemplation. Mary chose the better part and it shall not be taken from her. But that does not mean that unstructured, self-directed time is the normal mode of existence for human beings on earth and that work is a (necessary) interruption of that leisure. First of all, work and contemplation are not contradictory. They only seem so in post-lapserian human existence. Second, even before the Fall work was the normal mode of human existence (tending the garden) and there would have still only been one day a week in which work was not enjoined.

I believe this is a fundamental error of my generation and those that have come later, to see work not as the normal lot of human kind that can and should be interrupted regularly for higher human aspirations, but to see leisure (in the sense of unstructured, self-directed time) as the norm and work as a regrettable interruption of that time.

We have been given six days to work and one way to dedicate wholly to the Lord. Not that our work is not dedicated to the Lord, but you know what I mean. I would say ordinarily that men, unless they have a distinct vocation to the contemplative life, ought to spend most of their day working, either at their occupation/profession or at home in their family. Recreation, a necessary part of human existence, should occupy only a small part of our day. Some days none at all except prayer time.

I think earlier generations knew this, plus those that are not as privileged as we Americans are.

On the other hand, I was raised in a household in which the man of the house worked his 40 hours, then considered the rest of his time personal recreation time, only to be interrupted for work when absolutely necessary. It has taken me years to overcome the habits that developed from this attitude. I still have to struggle against them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Particular devotion to Mary

Canon law stipulates that seminaries should promote "particular" devotion to Mary among seminarians. I don't know what the legal definition of "particular" is, but to me it means something like a personal devotion to the Blessed Mother that goes beyond the liturgical honors she receives from the Church. One should have a real, personal and warm affection for our Mother, just as one has for one's natural mother (assuming she's not a ogre).

I heard a homily recently (on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I believe) in which the priest spoke of the importance of Mary for him as symbol of this and symbol of that. Mary is no more a "symbol" than our own mother is a symbol. She is a universal concrete, as de Lubac says; that is, whe is really the real, personal mother of all people, especially of all members of the Church. So, we should spend personal time communicating with her and, as the great spiritualities encourage, consecrating ourselves to her.

Our family is heavily influenced by Schoenstatt spirituality, which has a particular pattern and form of consecration, but any Catholic ought to have some particular devotion of Mary.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Was Tolkien a saint?



I've prayed morning prayer for Epiphany for years in English. It finally took for me to read it in Latin to appreciate the significance of it:

Hodie caelesti sponso iuncta est Ecclesia, quoniam in Iordane lavit Christus eius crimina; currunt cum muneribus magi ad regales nuptias; et ex aqua facta vino laetantur convivae, alleluia.

I've always known that all three events were celebrated as "epiphanies" on this day, but it is the connection with the heavenly nuptials that is striking in this antiphon.