Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing and Logic for highschoolers!

Starting next week I will be teaching two online courses for Homeschool Connectioins

Logic   The emphasis on feelings and de-emphasis on proper, logical thinking has left many Americans prey to advertisers and demagogues. A training in logic can help a reader or listener see the truth and falsehood of statements made on the editorial page or on talk radio shows, so he can make proper judgments about important matters. This six-week course establishes the rudiments of formal logic—the construction and detection of valid syllogism and formal and informal fallacies. The emphasis will be on examples taken from popular media.

Writing for College: : What are the characteristics of excellent writing in the eyes of college professors? This course will use the rhetorical arts to help turn competent writing into impressive writing. What are the essential components of an excellent piece of nonfiction writing? How does one write a compelling introduction and conclusion? How does one argue effectively for one’s position? What are important mistakes to avoid? The course will work with previous writing samples of the students, as well as composition exercises, culminating in the writing of a short argumentative essay.

If you are interested in either of these courses for your highschoolers, go to the links provided above.

Friday, December 23, 2011

You can't argue with this

Frank Beckwith says: "[T]he number three can never be the reddest letter in the alphabet."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Preview of my dissertation

I just discovered that Marquette's library has a preview of my dissertation available online here. It is just the introduction.  If you want to read the whole thing you'll have to either purchase it (!) or go to Marquette's library or theology department.

Friday, December 09, 2011

St. John of Damascus makes an interesting point that I have never thought much about in An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book One, Chapter 1:
God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God's existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature. This creation, too, and its maintenance, and its government, proclaim the majesty of the Divine nature. Wisdom 13:5 Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour , seeking for nothing beyond these.
So, God reveals himself to us through nature, and therefore some knowledge of Him is available through philosophy. Philolosophy is good and useful for knowledge of God.

On the other hand, there is nothing in nature, and therefore philosophy, besides what is known to us through Revelation (Law, Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists). So, theoretically, for the believer philosophy is not necessary to have the fullest knowledge of God possible.

Yet, philosophy has the added value of helping us understand revelation better because it helps us make proper distinctions, detect dead ends, have a fuller, more precise understanding of concepts.So, while philosophy doesn't enhance our knowledge of God, it may de facto help us enhance our understanding of what we know.

A Penitential season

Advent is supposed to be a penitential season, yet I don't think of or do much  fasting or any of the things we usually associate, for instance, with Lent.  I know the eastern Churches fast during Advent (which, for them, starts on November 15). A question for you all: what makes Advent "penitential" for us besides going to the communal penance service and lighting the Advent wreath?  Watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas?" Anyone have any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Liturgia Horarum

I was digging around for an audio version of the Latin Liturgia Horarum and came up with this nice resource.  It is a handsome web page that presents the entire text of the office in a "book" format.  It also has audio files of the psalms and canticles. I would do a screen dump for you, but I don't know how!

I also found a web site that provides the Gregorian chant for the Sunday and Solemnity offices for the whole year.
Here you find free congregational booklets for the Liturgy of the Hours (Sunday Lauds, Vespers and Compline) in Latin and with Gregorian chant, according to the Ordo Cantus Officii (1983).

Friday, November 18, 2011

What is a Catholic, Liberal Education?

I just got three copies in the mail of the Nov. 2011 number of Homiletics and Pastoral Review.  On page 52 is an article I wrote with the above title. Unfortunately, it is not available online yet, although perhaps it will be when they go totally online in January. Meanwhile, check it out at your local theological library.

Why all this evil?

Evangelium Vitae begins with a laundry list of the every increasing social manifestation of a culture of death.  I think most people, including myself, see this as a call to action--a list of evils to be overcome by prayer and social action.  I wonder, though, whether the primary significance of all these enumerated evils is a call to care for the souls of those who are immersed in the culture of death.  Rather than treating them as enemies to be defeated, we may be called to work for the salvation of their souls.

John Paul II describes the condition of contemporary man as individually and socially caught up in a web of death that not only leads to the direct attacks on human life in this life, but also may lead to an eternal judgment that is a much worse disaster than any temporal evil they have perpetrated or one can imagine (and we are capable of imagining some really bad temporal evils).
24. It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness. 18 But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the "moral conscience" of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behaviour contrary to life, but also because it encourages the "culture of death", creating and consolidating actual "structures of sin" which go against life. The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as a result of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed "of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth" (1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city without him, "they became futile in their thinking" so that "their senseless minds were darkened" (1:21); "claiming to be wise, they became fools" (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and "they not only do them but approve those who practice them" (1:32). When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls "evil good and good evil" (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.
Is not our first concern always the final judgment of the sinner?  Is not our first call to be the bearer of God's mercy to the sinner?

We will be judged based not on whether we overthrew any particular temporal evil, but on whether we loved our enemies, blessed those who cursed us, were concerned about their eternal destiny.
Fr. Z. says, "All that which God has permitted to happen here and now, will be given reasons and explanations.  We will finally seeperfect  justice even behind what now is hidden and challenging."
Might not God reveal to us that He permitted an evil to continue (for us to "fail" in our efforts to stop abortion, for instance) so that the perpetrators could be saved?

I'm not saying ignore injustice. We have a basic duty to defend the innocent and the weak, including through legislation.  I am however, saying that the eternal death of one person, no matter how evil he has been, is infinitely worse than the temporal death of any number of individuals.  And you aren't going to save the sinner simply by stopping his sin.  It requires a change of heart.

"'I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Lk. 12:5)

For ourselves and for our enemies.

Responsible parenthood.

Humanae vitae (10) speak of paternitas consia.  It is often translated "responsible parenthood." Janet Smith wrote an article explaining that a better, although not perfect translation would be "conscious parenthood," based on the roots of the idea in Karol Wojtyla's wonderful book Love and Responsibility. It is an excellent article the emphasizes the interiority of our "responsibility" based on the recognition of persons.

Interestingly, in Evangelium vitae, John Paul II himself uses the phrase responsali paternitatis ac maternitatis, so he himself must sense the incompleteness of conscia, especially since Gaudium et spes speaks three times about "responsibility" in the section on marriage and family (47-51).

Also interesting, EV uses the phrase paternitatis ac maternitatis, rather than simply paternitas, like HV. This echoes GS's Coniuges autem, dignitate ac munere paternitatis et maternitatis ornati, officium educationis praesertim religiosae, quod ad ipsos imprimis spectat, diligenter adimplebunt.  "Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education."  John Paul II is reminding us that the office of fatherhood and the office of motherhood are not interchangeable. HV doesn't mention motherhood at all, interestingly.

On a final note, until I found it in EV, I've never until now made the connection between "Mater" and "materia." Matter and Mother. "Moreover, once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted. Nature itself, from being "mater" (mother), is now reduced to being "matter", and is subjected to every kind of manipulation" (EV 22). Hm.

Merriam-Webster says: 

Origin of MATTER

Middle English matere, from Anglo-French, from Latinmateria matter, physical substance, from mater

Monday, November 14, 2011

True Friendship

"Back in the 1940s and '50s and '60s, men believed that the best friends that you could have were the ones who would openly criticize your work and lay bare to you the mistakes and errors that you made, so that you might learn from them and correct them. In today's world, if someone criticizes your work openly, it has become fashionable to hate them for it. That is extremely foolish. You cannot learn from someone who always agrees with you; you can only learn in the fire of disputation and dialectic."  --Douglas Gresham in an interview in Columbia Magazine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A commentary on current events

This is not a current events blog, but I will say this.  You can apply it to whatever you want.

It is simply not going to work for you if you put any temporal value, no matter how good, above your moral duties, especially as it regards protecting the weak. That includes success, reputation, or even friendship. Not only will you get into trouble, but the weak will be trampled on.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The qualities of an excellent teacher

According to Bradley J. Birzer are "enthusiasm, wisdom and knowledge regarding their subject, and moral imagination." In this essay called "Liberal Education and Christian Humanism," Birzer quotes Dawson, Chesterton, Tolkien, and Kirk. I think this is the kind of "conservatism" I can most get behind.  I am so tired of the tedious influence of Ayn Rand on much American conservatism.  Both the Tea Party and the OWS people need to read more classical imaginative literature.  I think I'm going to go down to the Occupy Milwaukee site and start reading The Lord of the Rings out loud.

Or, perhaps better, The Divine Comedy. Especially The Inferno.

I would modify Birzer's last sentence a little, though. "The best teachers—armed only with enthusiasm, wisdom and knowledge regarding their subject, and moral imagination[, and a living wage]—understand that."

Non sumus angeli!

HT: Andrew Seeley

Monday, October 17, 2011

Speaking of liturgy

From the same web site, The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Romano Guardini!

A very nice introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours

At the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissioners web page.  It includes:

  • What Is Liturgy of the Hours?
  • The Daily Structure of the Hours
  • The Structure of Each of the Hours
  • Editions of the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Organization & Contents of Editions
  • The Liturgical Calendar & LOH
  • Roles in the Celebration of LOH

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

On the other hand....

...There is this Slate article noting the trend to debunk Evil in the name of neuroscience. HT Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Monday, October 03, 2011


This may be an indication of real cutlural progress, especially if one keeps some of the caveats mentioned in the article in mind, such as the usefulness of the category in court. I don't think, however, that one can so absolutely rule out Satanic influence in violent pyschopathic behavior. If you do you exclude a possible avenue for conversion for the person.

One "caveat," however, is useless: "Dr. Simon considers the notion of evil to be of no use to forensic psychiatry, in part because evil is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, shaped by political and cultural as well as religious values. The terrorists on Sept. 11 thought that they were serving God, he argues; those who kill people at abortion clinics also claim to be doing so." In both cases the actions are wrong, whether the perpetrators claim religious motivation or not.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Another quote of the century

One of the cool things about quoting others is you don't have to compose witty things yourself.

"What Europe suffered two hundred years ago was an attack on God. What we face today is an attack on man." --Ryan N.S. Topping, in First Things.

I would call this the "Quote of the Day..."

But, sadly, I think it is shaping up to be the quote of the century:

"In general, modern people chafe against revealed authority because they expect the outer life of institutions to be rendered serviceable to the psychological inner life of individuals." --Jennifer Ferrara, former Lutheran Minister, Catholic convert, in a 2004 Zenit interview.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Divine Office blog

Mark Shea points out this neato blog on the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). Although I don't usually do just link posts, as a strong promoter of the LotH, I'm inclined to publicize anyone who publicizes it.

If this woman is lazy, what does that make me. I shudder to think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Children and hard words

Some sage advice from Fr. Tim Finigan at The Hermeneutics of Continuity.
It is not a good idea to shield children from difficult words. Better that they know them and are fascinated by them and then learn more about them as they grow older.
He applies it to liturgy, but I think it is a good general principle for talking and especially reading to kids.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows

From today's liturgy:

Responsorium breve
R/. Per te salútem hauriámus, Virgo María.
V/. Ex vulnéribus Christi, Virgo María.
Glória Patri, ...
R/. Through you we drink from the wellsprings of salvation, O Blessed Virgin Mary.
V/. From the sacred wounds of Christ, O Blessed Virgin Mary.
Glory to the Father....

Monday, September 05, 2011

Chant settings for new translation

Courtesy Archdiocese of Boston. HT a friend on Facebook.  I don't know what the protocol is on HTing a Facebook friend, but I'll keep'm anonymous unless otherwise advised. It also has a lot of useful links.

Love and sexual attraction

Update to correct factual errors:

When I teach seminarians about SSA, I emphasize that the love between two men who engage in same sex activity may in fact be quite genuine. The problem is that the same sex activity undermines the love.

Two men are able to love each other deeply and genuinely and with great emotion.  This is a good thing established by God.  It is a great thing to recover this.

There is so much suspicion these days that men find it hard to show this kind of affection for each other.  I think that is why J.K. Rowling said she always thought Dumbledore was "gay" because of his obviously deep love for Grindelwald. I would say that the fact of the love does not mean that D. was "gay" or that he even had same sex attraction.  Now, I haven't read the books in which this is discussed, so maybe I'm off base.

At any rate, St. Leo the Great says in his sermon on the Beatitudes, "Even the most intimate bonds of friendship and the closest affinity of minds cannot truly lay claim to this peace if they are not in agreement 'with the will of God.' He's talking about the beatitude "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth."  How do we know the will of God?  Ask the Church. She knows. If she in her wisdom says that same sex activity is contrary to the good of the persons and society, then we know that our love cannot be expressed that way, whether it "feels" like "love" or not. We've got to learn to distinguish between affection for persons and sexual attraction.

Or, we can do what Johanan, son of Kareah did and ignore the words of the prophet Jeremiah and flee to Egypt with all the people of Judah (including Jeremiah and Baruch). Look where that got them!

Same is true of fornication, adultery, etc.  Whatever genuine love might be in these relationships, it is obliterated by the action that is contrary to God.

I know I harp on this, but the best analysis of all of this is in Love and Responsibility, by a Polish guy named Wojtyla.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


A friend on Facebook pointed to an essay by David Brooks on the Yiddish concept haimish. Exactly!

I have always lived and tried to live on the "haimish" side of things. This means, of course, that things aren't as "nice" as they would be if we tried to live the suburban dream. The things that worry so many of our friends, relatives and neighbors, such as the lawn, just don't bother us that much. (Creeping Charlies does bother me, but I'm not willing to pour chemicals all over the place to take care of it).

But we sure have a great time when we gather at table (which is often). I think we are the only family I know in the world who at least three sit-down meals a day. Let me tell you, if you spend that much time at the table you don't have nearly as much time to keep up the fineries in the house, much less keep up with the Joneses.

We also tend to prefer books over just about any luxury or finery you could name.

I'm also afraid that our way of life may make those who live on the other side of the "haimish line" uncomfortable when they visit us. I'm sad about that and sometimes wish I could do better in the "finery" area, but I apparently don't wish that hard enough to do something much about about it. I'll eventually fix that door, I'm sure. I fixed two this summer. Sort of.

Maybe I should put a sign up that says, "Haim sweet haim."

Monday, August 29, 2011

The importance of a mother

At least five very influential men in the 20th century loss their mothers at an early age, having a profound effect on them.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's mother died when he was 12. He was subsequently raised by Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory, in the shadow, so to speak, of the great Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman.
  • C.S. Lewis's mother died when he was 10. His unusual relationship with Mrs. Moore, the mother of a friend lost in WWI, perhaps can be partially attributed to his need for a mother.
  • Karol Wojtyla's mother died when he was eight. There is no doubt that this experience helped form Wojtyla's understanding of the importance of mothers not only in the natural life of men, but in our supernatural life, which, of course, is built upon our nature.
  • John Lennon's mother, Julia, died when he was 17.
  • Paul McCartney's mom, Mary, died when he was 14.
Paul and John's friendship owed something to the fact that they both had recently lost their mothers when they met. Both wrote songs about their mothers. John's "Julia" is said to be both about his mother and about Yoko Ono, whom he called "mother." McCartney wrote the very famous "Let It Be" about his mother, Mary. Whether there was an intentional reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I have know idea. McCartney said it is about his mom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The young set has a new social network/blog site called It gives us oldsters a look into the mind of the up and coming millenial faithful Catholic. I should also point out that my son, Nathaniel, is a contributor. See his August 22 post on chivalry, for instance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In New Hampshire Catholic Higher Education news...

The College of St. Mary Magdalen (formerly known as Magdalen College) has moved to join forces with the recently established Erasmus Institute of Liberal Arts, which was co-founded by Peter Sampo, who, many years ago founded Magdalen, then went on the found the other small Catholic liberal arts college (SCLAC, as my kids call them) in New Hampshire, The Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts. Among other things, this will give Magdalen a Rome Semester, three majors (philosophy, political science, and literature), and the Cowen program--a core sequence that involves all the students in the program in a common humanities sequence. That means freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors together studying common texts.

Here is the press release on the Magdalen web page.

Here is an article about the Erasmus Institute from the NCRegister.

My superpowers

Yesterday my children and I were having a discussion about what superpowers we would want. I said, "The superpowers I want are emotional equilibrium and stamina."

Stamina is self-explanatory. I am always in great admiration of those people, especially men, who have such energy for the tasks they are about that they never seem to fatigue, like I do so easily. I'm sure I'd get a lot more done, like they seem to, if I were like the energizer bunny. I think if I ate better and got more exercise, I could make some progress.

Emotional equilibrium required a bit more explanation. My daughter seemed to think I meant something like "lack of emotion." She (rightly) said she wouldn't want that. Nor do I.

Classical, the word for what I mean is apatheia, which one might think mean the same thing as the English word, "apathy." It doesn't, though. For ancient Stoics it meant something like "lack of strong emotions." It was a kind of indifference to what is going around you so as to be free to live a life completely ruled by reason. The emotions were seen as always the enemy of reason.

In Christian spirituality, it has come to mean that one's emotional life, no matter how intense, is completely at the service of and responsive to our rational and spiritual life. The emotions can, of course, be the enemy of reason. Some classic spiritual writers focused on this fact to the extent that they sound almost Stoic. I think some of the early desert fathers may have had something like the Stoic virtue in mind when they sought apatheia, but I don't think one can accuse some like St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross, who are undeniably spiritually advanced, of lacking in emotion. For them their rich emotional life was at the service of their intense love of God. See, for instance, Bernini's sculpture "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa."

The emotions are often like wild horses that need to be broken and tamed not so they can't run at all, but so they can run for the benefit of the spiritual soul. In fact, Gandalf's taming of Shadowfax is an excellent analogy of the proper Christian attitude towards the emotions.

Karol Wojtyla analyzes the essential role that emotions play in genuine love, especially in marriage, in Chapter Two of Love and Responsibility. The basic principle is "Mere intellectual recognition of another person's worth, however wholehearted, is not love" (p. 90). Our love is enriched by support from the emotions. The problem comes from depending on our emotions to dictate the strength and focus of our acts of love. Sympathy (primarily an emotional response) needs to be complemented and transformed by genuine friendship. And friendship needs to be bolstered by sympathy. "For a mere bilateral and reciprocal 'I want what is good for you', although it is the nucleus of friendship, remains so to speak suspended in a vacuum if it is deprived of the emotional warmth which sympathy supplies. Emotion is by itself no substitute for this 'I want what is good for you', but divorced from emotion that wish is cold and incommunicable" (p. 91).
If you haven't read Love and Responsibility, I would strongly suggest doing so, especially if you are a fan of the theology of the body. You're understanding of the theology will be enhanced considerably by knowledge of the underlying philosophical structure.

By the way, Google Books can sure be helpful if you don't feel like scrounging around in your garage to find your copy of a book when you want to quote it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Center for the Study of the Great Ideas

I just found out about the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, founded by Mortimer Adler and Max Weismann. Their mission:
The CENTER has two primary missions:

One, to help awaken citizens from their moral and intellectual slumbers and to help them understand why philosophy is everybody's business: the possibility of finding sound and practical answers to questions about the good life and good society. And philosophy's ability to answer the most basic normative questions, WHAT OUGHT WE SEEK IN LIFE? And HOW OUGHT WE SEEK IT?

Two, to promulgate the insights and ideals embedded in Dr. Adler's lifelong intellectual work in the fields of Philosophy, Liberal Education, Ethics and Politics. To continue functioning as THE resource for, access to, and the on-going interpretation of his work
I think their manifesto is quite interesting. It is immanentist when it comes to the role of civil society in the pursuit of happiness. I think Gaudium et Spes would disagree with this strongly:
The only standard we have for judging all of our social economic, and political institutions and arrangements as just or unjust, as good or bad, as better or worse, derives from our conception of the good life for man on earth, and from our conviction that, given certain external conditions, it is possible for men to make good lives for themselves by their own efforts.

There must be sufficient truth in moral philosophy to provide a rational basis for the efforts at social reform and improvement in which all men, regardless of their religious beliefs or disbeliefs, can join. Such common action for a better society presupposes that the measure of a good society consists in the degree to which it promotes the general welfare and serves the happiness of its people—this happiness being their earthly and temporal happiness, for there is no other ultimate end that the secular state can serve.
Late in life Adler became Catholic. I wonder if he modified his belief that "happiness being their earthly and temporal happiness, for there is no other ultimate end that the secular state can serve."

FYI to all commenters

I delete commercial "comments," even ones from non-profits, even ones from organizations I am sympathetic with. If you want me to mention something, contact me privately.

Mortimer Adler and a just economy

Through a convoluted series of links that began on Mark Shea's blog, although I can't figure out where, I came across this 1958 recording of a Mike Wallace interview with Mortimer Adler, the co-founder of the Great Books program at the University of Chicago and long-time editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica and The Great Books of Western Civilization. In it he discusses the necessity of broadening capital ownership in order to maintain a truly politically free society.

Any great bookie like me will always have a sense of sympathy with Adler. While not full-blown distributism, what he proposes does emphasize diffuse ownership of capital among the workers. What he says makes sense, although I don't know how to implement it. Apparently the Center for Economic and Social Justice does. It is called "Capital Homesteading." I asked an economist I know who tends to prefer a Scandinavian model of national economy what he thinks about the idea of capital homesteadning. I haven't heard back from him. I'll let you know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing and speaking

William Michael, of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy has the following to about writing:
Writing is really nothing more than setting down on paper what we would otherwise speak with our mouths. It would be impossible for a man to be a great speaker and a poor writer because all he needs to do is write down that which he would speak.
His main point is that knowledge of grammar, logic, and rhetoric should be enough to teach one to write. You don't need a separate course. I wonder, though, whether he overstates his case somewhat that there is no distinct art of writing that has its own rules. For instance, a well-written sentence isn't always as effective when spoken, as those who try to proclaim a literary translation of the Bible in liturgy have discovered.

Any opinions? Class, discuss!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pitching inside

When the Brewers play the Cards this season, there is a lot of tension to say the least. In the last series there was a well-publicized exchange of "inside pitching" involving Albert Pujolz and Ryan Braun. From what I heard, the Pujolz "inside" pitch wasn't intentional because the Brewers didn't want him on base at the time. On the other hand, Ryan Braun was hit squarely in the back, which seemed to some (like, you know, Bob Uecker), to be clearly intentional. La Russa says "Not intentional," though.

At any rate, the pitcher who hit Pujolz in the hand was clearly pitching him high and inside to spook him even if he wasn't trying to hit him.

My question: do you think pitching inside to move the batter back is ethical?

Are the sacraments magic?

One of the things that always irritated me was theologians who repeat the saying that, "the sacraments are not magic." They especially apply this to the Eucharist, emphasizing that the Consecration is not just a magic spell spoken by a magician to turn on substance into another with magical "powers," a talisman. The point seems to be that the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ is not physical (accessible to the empirical sciences), but sacramental. The effect on the average believer, however, whose intellect is formed by a rationalist/materialist educational system (even at Catholic schools) is that one should put the word "real" in "real presence" in quotation marks, since in our culture the empirical is the only really real thing.

When Pope Paul VI spoke in Mysterium Fidei of the "physical" presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theologians went wild. Of course, he wasn't referring to an empirical "physical" presence, but rather physis, or nature. The fact is, the Consecration is a transformation of one (created) substance into another (divine, hypostatically united created and uncreated) substance. And it is accomplished by the utterance of an authorized representative of God (and the action of the Holy Spirit, in other words, God himself).

Still, the apparent watering-down of the "real" in real presence has not been my only objection to this statement. It was also my belief that it is really not wrong to say that the Eucharist is "magic" in the sense that it is an occurrence that is mysterious and supernatural that transcends the empirical and even the limits of created humanity, so that no theory of "symbol," no matter how accurate, can adequately explain the real presence. The Eucharist is magic in the sense that it is a numinous event; it is an exercise of divine power in our midst (the divine power is the power of love and of the cross, not of magic rings).

What helps me clarify this meaning of the word "magic" is a recent essay by John C. Wright mentioned on Mark Shea's blog. In distinguishing magic from occult in fantasy literature, Wright writes:
What is magic? We all have moments in our lives, such as meeting our true love for the first time, or seeing a beauty-haunted sunrise, or witnessing a child’s first footstep, or hearing the laughter of a young girl, or remembering a mother pulling us into her lap with a book to hear a bedtime story, or seeing a butterfly take wing in delicate splendor like a living flower, when we know, and know in a way we cannot name, that life is magical.
The springtime in the sun, the winter whiteness in the moon, everything which is not merely quotidian or dull or mundane holds a reflected glint of the silver starlight escaped of worlds beyond our own, an echo of the horns of elfland dimly blowing.
That is what the word ‘magic’ means. The real magic in real life is, at its root, a religious or mystical insight which tells us this grim world of entropy, decay, disappointment, treason, cowardice and death cannot be the whole story, the whole world there is: there is some unseen profound beneath the seen and shallow surface.
I highlighted the most important point.

This is not a power of man over the elements, but the loving, providential, supernatural power of God--the intentional immanence of the transcendent on our behalf. Magic in this sense is our memory of the mysteries which were so much more alive before the entzauberung (disenchantment) of modernity spoken of by Max Weber. That is why fantasy often relies on the medieval. We have been so conditioned by Descartes that we are like black and white t.v.s receiving blindingly color signals but unable to display them. Fortunately some writers are able to hot wire our sensitivity to "magic' in Wright's sense to help us remember that the phenomenal and the visible and the empirical is not all there is, nor is it even the most important, although it is important as a means for an incarnate being such as Man to gain access to the Invisible and, as Lewis the so-called Platonist insists, more real. Our longing for this more, this desire for the supernatural, is a constitutive part of our being--the longing Joy that Lewis mentions.

The Church insists that the invisible is more real, too, by the way. Here's a nice quote from Gaudium et Spes.
Now, man is not wrong when he regards himself as superior to bodily concerns, and as more than a speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man. For by his interior qualities he outstrips the whole sum of mere things. He plunges into the depths of reality whenever he enters into his own heart; God, Who probes the heart,(7) awaits him there; there he discerns his proper destiny beneath the eyes of God. Thus, when he recognizes in himself a spiritual and immortal soul, he is not being mocked by a fantasy born only of physical or social influences, but is rather laying hold of the proper truth of the matter (GS 14)
Finally, here is what Pope Paul VI believed about the Eucharist, as expressed in his Credo of the People of God.
We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.35

Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,36 as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.37

The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.
This is the belief of the Church, to which I whole-heartedly subscribe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I noticed that a troll from The Alpha Course posted in my comments box. Alpha is a non-denominational basic Christianity course from the Evangelical Anglican tradition with charismatic leanings. It has a Catholic "version." The purpose of the trolling was to gain participation in this "Catholic" version.

I'm not in favor of using my comments box as a source of advertisement. Whatever the quality of the Alpha Course is (and I have no basis to criticize it or the faith and sincerity of those who run it), I can't say that they have endeared themselves to me by their tactics.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Alderman illustrates the Revised Roman Missal

Our friend Matt Alderman has drawn the illustrations for an edition of the Revised Roman Missal published by Liturgical Training Publications. To see examples of his work, you can click here, then click on the pen and ink illustration of the Nativity to see a slide show of some of his work.

Since I know he uses live models, I couldn't help but try to recognize some of the faces.



Here is Clifford Geertz's definition of religion in Religion as a Cultural System, which I have just started to read:
(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.
I don't think I can argue with this. It doesn't on the face of it prejudice the question of the validity of any particular religion for or against, as far as I can tell. In other words, Catholicism can be true (even the One True Religion) and this definition can be true at the same time, because the definition doesn't address the source or authority of the system of symbols.

I'm going to finish the essay to see if his further explication seems as sympathetic as this definition. And I mean sympathetic, not neutral. There is an underlying sense (subtext) in the essay so far that metaphysics has real value.

I had never heard of Geertz before this. He is apparently very influential in the scientific study of religion.

I also like his definition of culture:
[A]n historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
This is a very intellectual definition. Note the emphasis on concepts and meaning, rather than feeling or power.

The emphasis on concepts extends to his definition of "symbol," "any object, act, event, quality, or relation which serves as a vehicle for a conception—the conception is the symbol's 'meaning'" Of course, a symbol can represent or express a mystery the full significance of which is beyond conception, but also not completely unavailable to conceptualization. To quote Augustine, "If you can comprehend it, it isn't God." I'm not sure yet whether Geertz allows for the transcendent mystery as the referent for "symbol," but I bet he at least leaves the door open.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sunday morning t.v.

When I was a kid we went to Mass on Sunday morning. We also liked to watch Davey and Goliath as we got ready for Mass. Before that, however, was a program called Gospel Singing Jubilee which featured a lineup of southern gospel quartets and other singing groups (including, for instance, the Oakridge Boys!). The sound of those voices singing that theme song has lived on in my memory. I haven't heard it for probably forty years, until now when I ran across it on YouTube.
Jubilee! Jubilee!
You're invited to a Gospel Jubilee!
I always associated the show with being square and super-evangelical. The men singers had those Porter Wagner haircuts and gray suits and ties. Of course, I remember it in black and white, since we didn't have color television.

The clips I found on YouTube must be from the early seventies, which is somewhat later than when I was likely to have watched it. You can see that there was an attempt at being more "hip," with some "long" hair, side burns, and wide ties--and the funky lettering of the logo. The music is just the same, however.

The theme starts at 1:07.

Does anyone else remember this show?

In honor of the patron saint of astronomers...

...whose feast is today, I bring you the Astronomy Picture of the Day, which shows us evidence for seasonal water flows on Mars.

Friday, August 05, 2011

University Faculty for Life Newsletter

The University Faculty for Life, an organization dedicated to the scholarly exploration of life issues in support of the Culture of Life, has appointed me editor of their quarterly newsletter. The first issue comes out in October.

Here's a post about it on our blog, which you might want to consider reading to keep up on issues in pro-life scholarship. There a posts on a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, law, theology, medical and biological sciences, and literature.

My former fellow blogger at Heart, Mind and Strength, Dr. Kevin Miller, also posts on that blog.

"My" commentary on the current economic crisis

"For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, Yet will I rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights" (Hab. 3:17-19).
From today's morning prayer.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Leah Darrow

Leah Darrow is a former New York Model and current chastity speaker. Here is a National Catholic Register article about her by Jim Graves. Some nice quotes:
“Modesty is more than just the length of a hemline,” she explained. “It’s about our conversations, how we treat people, and how we love others. Modesty protects our purity and the mystery of a person. In our society, it gets a bad rap. It’s actually quite attractive.”

“There is modesty of feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.”

I especially like this. "In fact, for her personally, she has resolved that the only romantic kiss she will share with a man will be with her future husband." She gets it. It reminds me of the wonderful children's book, The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop. I just found out that there is a companion book called The Squire and the Scroll. I haven't read it, but would love to.

Home School

I was looking for a book by Evelyn Waugh in the library and ran across a sequel to Charles Webb's The Graduate called Home School. Naturally, I was interested, since it was about home schooling. I also saw The Graduate when I was in college.

After having read a couple of reviews of the book and read about Webb's very strange biography, I can affirm something we all know anyway. The home schooling movement is very broad based. Webb home schooled his two children in the 1970s, illegally in California. He also managed a nudist camp at one point, according to the internet sources.

Here is a quote from the book.
Underlying the education of the children was Benjamin and Elaine's [the main characters from The Graduate besides, you know, Mrs. Robinson] conviction that a child's natural learning impulse must be allowed to develop freely, unfettered by direction from above any more than is strictly necessary, and that if this freedom is permitted, innate curiosity will guide the child to the objects of greatest interest and relevance to its life, resulting in an absence of those inhibitions derived from forced institutional learning that can stamp various kinds of psychologically damaging behavior on the emerging personality of the traditionally schooled child. So it was not out of the ordinary the next morning that the family found itself in the back yard to discuss the possibility of Jason constructing a guillotine behind the house.
I haven't read the book, nor do I have any particular desire to do so.

Now, where is that Waugh book?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Direct and indirect abortion

In case you've ever wondered, here is the distinction between direct and indirect abortion, according to the U.S. bishops. Direct abortion is not a human option under any circumstances.

Monday, August 01, 2011

I'm a scientific expert!

I just noticed that someone considers me a scientific expert on "dehumanization." See the list to the right here.

I'm not sure that this is a good thing. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nathan Schmiedicke on Studying Scripture

Here is a nice video from EWTN feature our good friend Nathan Schmiedicke. He talks about how to study scripture at home in the tradition of the Fathers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Me and Jesus

I've sometimes heard it said that prior to the Council there was a "me and Jesus" mentality when one went to Mass. I have no doubt that that is true since catechists back then were as likely to teach just some of the riches of the Catholic faith as we are now.

On the other hand, most people had an English translation of the Mass in their hands when they "assisted" (not "watched") at Mass. What would they see if they followed the text of the Roman Canon? The Communion of Saints in spades. Not "me and Jesus" at all, and also not "I'm the priest doing this for you."

Here is an old translation of the Roman canon. I've highlighted the parts the emphasize the communion of saints.

Most merciful Father, we humbly pray and beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, to accept and to bless these + gifts, these + presents, these + holy unspotted Sacrifices, which we offer up to Thee, in the first place, for Thy Holy Catholic Church, that it may please Thee to grant her peace, to preserve, unite, and govern her throughout the world; as also for Thy servant N . . . our Pope, and N . . . our Bishop, and for all orthodox believers and all who profess the Catholic and Apostolic faith.

Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids N . . . and N . . . and of all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to Thee, for whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee this Sacrifice of praise for themselves and all those dear to them, for the redemption of their souls and the hope of their safety and salvation: who now pay their vows to Thee, the everlasting, living and true God.

In communion with, and honoring the memory in the first place of the glorious ever Virgin Mary Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ; also of blessed Joseph, her Spouse; and likewise of Thy blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddeus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy Saints. Grant for the sake of their merits and prayers that in all things we may be guarded and helped by Thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord, we beseech Thee, graciously to accept this oblation of our service and that of Thy whole household. Order our days in Thy peace, and command that we be rescued from eternal damnation and numbered in the flock of Thine elect. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Humbly we pray The, O God, be pleased to make this same offering wholly blessed +, to consecrate + it and approve + it, making it reasonable and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body + and Blood + of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who, the day before He suffered , took bread into His Holy and venerable hands, and having lifted up His eyes to heaven, to Thee, God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, blessed it +, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and eat ye all of this:

For this is My Body.

taking also into His holy and venerable hands this goodly chalice, again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it +, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and drink ye all of this:

For this is the Chalice of My Blood, of the new and eternal testament: the Mystery of Faith: which shall be shed for you [pl.] and for many unto the remission of sins.

As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of me.

And now, O Lord, we, Thy servants, and with us all Thy holy people, calling to mind the blessed Passion of this same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, likewise His Resurrection from the grave, and also His glorious Ascension into heaven, do offer unto Thy most sovereign Majesty out of the gifts Thou hast bestowed upon us,

a Victim + which is pure, a Victim +which is holy, a Victim + which is spotless, the holy Bread + of life eternal, and the Chalice + of everlasting Salvation.

Deign to look upon them with a favorable and gracious countenance, and to accept them as Thou didst accept the offerings of Thy just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham, and that which Thy high priest Melchisedech offered up to Thee, a holy Sacrifice, an immaculate Victim.

Humbly we beseech Thee, almighty God, to command that these our offerings be carried by the hands of Thy holy Angel to Thine Altar on high, in the sight of Thy divine Majesty, so that those of us who shall receive the most sacred Body +and Blood + of Thy Son by partaking thereof from this Altar may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing: Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids N . . . and N . . . who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

To us also Thy sinful servants, who put our trust in the multitude of Thy mercies, vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship with Thy holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and all Thy Saints. Into their company we beseech Thee admit us, not considering our merits, but freely pardoning our offenses. Through Christ our Lord.

By whom, O Lord, Thou dost always create, sanctify +, quicken +, bless +, and bestow upon us all these good things.

Through Him +, and with Him +, and in Him +, is unto Thee, God the Father + Almighty, in the unity of the Holy + Ghost, all honor and glory.

Okay, so, after having helped offer the sacrifice of Calvary for the whole Church, we then approach the communion rail with a bit of an "I-thou" perspective? I see not the problem. Unless we are taught, like we are so often nowadays, that the Eucharist is a primarily a meal and so if you aren't acting and thinking fully communally when receiving, you aren't acting or thinking communally at all. Because that whole middle bit about the sacrifice of the communion of saints isn't the focus.

Monday, July 18, 2011

People are reading my dissertation

Like Dominican Matthew Bernard Mulcahy in his dissertation, "Not Everything is Grace: Aquinas's Notion of "Pure Nature" and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac and of Radical Orthodoxy."

Hot dog!

I just found out that the Catholic Servant, the independent Catholic newspaper from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, is available online. It is a great source of adult catechesis and apologetics, no matter where you live. I used to contribute to it on occasion. Dale Ahlquist, the Chesterton guy, writes for it regularly. As does Mary Ann Kuraski.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A great moral theology web page

Peter Colosi, of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, just launched a new web page. It features a lot of articles and video. The quality is very high. Not just blogger rants (like here).

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Son of death

I always tell my students that it is very helpful to read a bible passage in a number of different translations. If you can read it in a foreign language, that is even better. Of course, reading it in the original languages is best, but not many of us can do that.

The other day I noticed a neat thing in the Latin Vulgate. In II Sam. 12, when Nathan confronts David about his sin with Bathsheba, by telling him the story of the man who stole the lamb from a poor man, David says, "Vivit Dominus, quoniam filius mortis est vir, qui fecit hoc." The RNAB translates it: "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death!" The literal Latin for "merits death," however, is "is a son of death." That is a much more colorful phrase, but does it reflect the Hebrew? I looked it up. Sure enough, the Hebrew says bn-muth, which seems to mean "son of death."

The other thing I noticed about II Sam. 12 was that in the RNAB, it doesn't tell you that in vs. 25 when Nathan names Solomon "Jedidiah," it means "Beloved of God." In fact, the Vulgate of Jerome doesn't say Jedidiah at all, but simply, vocavit nomen eius Amabilis Domino. The Nova-Vulgata of the Vatican has the name and the explanation: vocavit nomen eius Iedidia (id est Amabilis Domino). Now, I know that the Hebrew just gives the name, assuming that the reader will understand its meaning, but I wonder why the RNAB leaves the explanation out or doesn't simply translate it into English, like Jerome translated it into Latin? It sure helps us understand things better.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

"I don't get anything out of Mass"

Some sage words from St. Francis de Sales for those who complain they don't get anything out of Mass (Introduction to the Devout Life, Bk 2, Ch. 9). He's speaking of meditation, but it certainly also applied to Mass in spades:

But if, after all this, you are still unrelieved, do not be disturbed at your dryness, however great it be, but continue striving after a devout attitude in God’s Sight. What numbers of courtiers appear a hundred times at court without any hope of a word from their king, but merely to pay their homage and be seen of him. Just so, my daughter, we ought to enter upon mental prayer purely to fulfil our duty and testify our loyalty. If it pleases God’s Divine Majesty to speak to us, and discourse in our hearts by His Holy Inspirations and inward consolations, it is doubtless a great honour, and very sweet to our soul; but if He does not vouchsafe such favours, but makes as though He saw us not,—as though we were not in His Presence,—nevertheless we must not quit it, but on the contrary we must remain calmly and devoutly before Him, and He is certain to accept our patient waiting, and give heed to our assiduity and perseverance; so that another time He will impart to us His consolations, and let us taste all the sweetness of holy meditation. But even were it not so, let us, my child, be satisfied with the privilege of being in His Presence and seen of Him.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Jesus and women

I think we tend to draw stark contrasts when they aren't there. Some scholars give the impresseion that women were just "cattle" in Judaism. This is belied throughout the OT, such as in the stories of Ruth, Judith, Esther, Rahab, Hannah, etc. Women play a prominent role in the Old Testament, and not just as servants of men.

There is no doubt that sometimes men in the OT treat women awfully, but when men treat women as property to be used or worse, they are always punished (David and Bathsheba comes to mind).

I'm not saying that Jesus did not go much further in acknowledging women's value, but I think what he was doing was bringing forth in its fulness something that was already present in the Old Testament, but somewhat obscured and incomplete. He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.

In the history of the Church, women did not lose their original place as disciples. As the centuries have gone by, women's leadership has been consistently increased. I think it is true that there has always been pressure to allow the worldly attitude towards women to have sway in the Church (to their detriment), so the record isn't perfect (Christians remain sinners), but one can't argue that women weren't valued or weren't leaders.

Part of the problem is that we use worldly standards to assess what is "valuable," "important," "leader." For instance, the "leadership" of mothers is not considered as important as the leadership of men in public life or ecclesiastical life. This does not represent a Gospel hierarchy of values.

Liturgy was an exception for a very important reason; it is seen as a symbol of the marriage between the Bridegroom and the bride. The priest represents the Bridegroom. In the marriage of Heaven and Earth, heaven, represented by the sanctuary, was the domain of the Bridegroom, and the nave was the domain of the bride, represented by the congregation. That is why only Bridegroom/symbols were allowed in the sanctuary during the liturgy. This imagery and symbolism is so deeply rooted in the liturgy, that there has to be a very good pastoral reason to change it. Lots of people resisted because, although they couldn't explain it rationally (we often can't explain our symbols rationally), they understood it emotionally.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Catholics and the Bible

In my mind, we Catholics are overly defensive about our supposed deficiency in knowledge of scripture. Granted, we don't know chapter and verse very well (and that we should know it better), we have to keep two things in mind:

1) The dogmatic structure of Catholicism is biblical. It was developed by the Church Fathers and the magisterium as a systematic intellectual support for and expression of biblical Christianity. There is not an opposition between the two, but rather a complementarity. Anyone who knows Catholic dogma knows the deep structure of the biblical message.

2) The Catholic life, especially the sacramental life, is deeply biblical. The Mass (including the Extraordinary Form) is saturated with Scripture through and through. The Rosary is a biblical prayer par excellence. Even the two mysteries that aren't technically biblical flow from the an authentically biblical doctrine about our Lady. The art and architecture of the Catholic cultural heritage screams Scripture. Those who live the Catholic life don't just know a book, we live in the world of the book.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On our current clerical scandal

I've tried over the years not to comment to much on current ecclesiastical events. First of all, focusing on certain aspects of the Church as it really is can be somewhat depressing. So, given this weekend's revelation (which I won't detail because it would give publicity where it doesn't need to be), the only thing I want to share comes from someone else; Fr. Longenecker at Standing on My Head Blog.
Putting your trust in a priest--not matter how wonderful he is--will always be a let down. Furthermore, it's an immature thing to do. Too often instead of doing the hard work of becoming saints ourselves we idolize someone who has become a saint or who we think is a saint. That's shallow and too easy. It's like a religious form of those teenage girls who scream and cry and faint when they see their boy pop idol. They mistake their own immature high octane emotions for real love. Likewise, when religious people idolize their parish priest or some media star they often mistake their love and admiration for that person for real religious emotion and fervor.

It's bubble gum religion, and if God takes away your idol, well then you might just turn your eyes to the one true God instead. And that would do you, and your priest a favor.
Oh, he does look kinda like him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Large vs. small churches

I believe I've commented before on my preference for small churches, but a visit to Notre Dame this weekend reinforced my preference for me. I went to Mass four times while on campus. The first two were in the dorm chapel in Alumni Hall. It is a very well appointed chapel with a classic "feel." It has pews, for instance, which is by no means a universal feature of dorm chapels, where students at their 10:00 p.m. Sunday Mass may be more likely to sit on the floor rather than kneel.

The setting was, however, quite intimate. There was nothing fancy, no singing (or not much, anyway). The congregation amounted to a handful. It was quiet. I felt more like God was trying to get my attention rather than we trying to get His.

The second two times I went to Mass were at the Basilica. The first time only had a cantor; the second, a full-blown choir. They were the Saturday evening and Sunday Pentecost Masses. I love the beauty of the Basilica; it is breathtaking. On the other hand, the liturgy itself just seems overblown. Too loud, too showy, too contrived. More like "look at us, God," rather than "look at God, us." The self-congratulatory spirit that is Notre Dame's Achilles' heel affects its liturgies as well.

But even if it weren't Notre Dame with its pretensions, I would find such a blustery liturgy spiritually distracting. It seems to me the more grandiose the liturgy is, the less spiritually enriching it is. Give me that ol' Roman noble simplicity any day.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New Blog

My son started a new blog of social commentary, the American Commoner, here. This is distinct from his blog of spiritual reflection, the Third Order, here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

True love of enemy

An enemy is someone who in fact offends you or seeks in some way to do you harm. Sometimes an enemy considers himself justified in doing what he does. We are to love that enemy. What does that mean?

Recently I read a couple of Admonitions by St. Francis of Assisi that give what I have found to be a very liberating perspective on love of enemy.

11. That no one should be corrupted by the wickedness of another

No thing ought to displease the servant of God except sin. · And in whatever manner another person would sin, even on account of this the servant of God, out of charity, would not be upset or grow angry, (as one who) hoards up fault for himself (cf. Rm 2:5). · That servant of God, who does not grow angry nor disturbs himself on another's behalf, lives rightly without anything of his own. And blessed is he, who does not let anything remain for himself, rendering those things "which are Caesar's to Caesar, and those which are God's to God" (Mt 22:21).
9. On love

The Lord says: "Love your enemies; [do good to those who hate you, and pray on behalf of those who are persecuting and calumniating you]" (Mt 5:44). · For he truly loves his enemy, who does not grieve because of the injury, which he did to him, · but, concerning the sin against his own soul, burns for the sake of the love of God. And he shows love for him by (his) deeds.
The point is to value the state of your enemy's soul more than your own temporal good. Sounds simple. If someone sins against you they are doing themselves infinitely more harm than you. This reminds me of the section in Gaudium et spe about sins against the dignity of the person:
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator (GS 27).
I have often had time forgiving those who have injured me. I think from now on I'm going to remember these admonitions. I've always tried to pray for those who have injuried me, but I don't think I've gotten the point that my own injury is really nothing, that all that is important is the state of the soul who has done the injury.

Also, I think activists for justice should keep these admonitions in mind as well. We focus so much on the temporal effect of the injustice that we consider it "okay" to despise the perpetrator of the injustice. Not so. In fact, I'd say that if one is worked up about injustice, his first duty is to root out such contempt before he goes on to "fight" for justice.

I heard a paraphrase of a quote by Chesterton lately that seems relevant. Soldiers fight not because they hate those in front of them, but because they love those behind them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Golden Sequence

One of the hymns used in morning prayer during the Easter Season is Chorus Novae Jerusalem, also known as the Golden Sequence. This hymn depicts the triumphant, risen Christ leading a victory procession of the just dead from the underworld to the heavenly homeland. It was written by Fulbert, bishop of Chartres around the year 1000 (Early Christian Hymns: Series II, ed. Daniel Joseph Donahoe). Typically, the version in the office doesn't quite match the original, but it is very close:

The original:
Chorus novæ Jerusalem
Novam meli dulcedinem
Promat colens cum sobriis
Paschale festum gaudiis.

Quo Christus invictus leo,
Dracone surgens obruto,
Dum voce viva personat,
A morte functos excitat.

Quam devorarat, improbus,
Prædam refundit tartarus,
Captivitate libera
Iesum sequntur agmina.

Triumphat ille splendide
Et dignus amplitudine,
Soli polique patriam
Unam facit rempublicam.

Ipsum canendo supplices
Regem precemur milites,
Ut in suo clarissimo
Nos ordindet palatio.

Per sæcla metæ nescia
Patri supremo gloria
Honorque sit cum filio
Et spiritu paraclito.

In the office the second line of the first verse is:

hymni novam dulcedinem

The last stanza is replaced by two boilerplate Easter stanzas.

Esto perene mentibus
paschal, Jesu, Gaudium,
et non renatos gratiae
tuis triumphis aggrega.

Jesu, tibi sit Gloria,
qui morte victa praenites,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna secula. Amen

Here are a couple of translations on cyberhymnal.

Here's a German translation.

The translation in Early Christian Hymns (cited above) is:

Sing out, O New Jerusalem,
A new and gladsome song;
Revere the feast of Paschaltide,
Its holy joy prolong.

This day the conquering Lion, Christ,
Uprising, rent the tomb,
O'erwhelmed in light the power of hell,
And roused the soul from gloom.

The prison bars are burst apart,
The ransomed band are free,
They follow their Redeemer, Christ,
From long captivity.

He triumphs in his glorious strength,
His triumphs by the Rood,
And joins the earth with heaven above
in one vast brotherhood.

And we, his warriors on the earth,
Our Leader's praise shall sing,
And strive as our reward to gain
the palace of the King.

Let praise and love and glory crown
The Father and the Son,
And Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,
While endless ages run.

Here is my rough, literal translation:

The chorus of the New Jerusalem brings forth the new sweetness of a hymn,
celebrating with solemn joy the Paschal feast

On which the rising Christ, the victorious lion, the dragon having been buried,
While he shouts aloud with a living voice, arouses the dead from death.

The underworld returns the spoils the wicked had devoured,
from captivity they follow Jesus in free procession.

Worthy, he triumphs fully and splendidly,
and makes one nation out of the land of the sun and the stars.

The king of which [nation] we kneeling soldiers implore, singing,
That he might ordain us into his most gleaming palace.

Jesus, be the eternal paschal joy to the mind,
and gather us who are renewed into your triumph of grace.

Jesus, to you be the glory, who, having conquered death, shine forth
with the Father and the kindly Spirit, world without end, amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fr. Don Hying named Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee

Here is the press release. He is a great priest, whom we've known since we moved to Milwaukee in 1995. He did wonderful things at Our Lady of Good Hope.

I wonder if he is still going to be Rector of the seminary?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Revised Grail Psalter

My son just informed me that GIA has the revised Grail psalter in its entirety online. I've been perusing it. Some parts are changed significantly, others are word-for-word what we've been praying since the 1970s, when the Liturgy of the Hours was revised.

I especially like the fact that the language is traditional at many points where it might well have been changed. For instance, Psalm 1: "Blessed indeed is the man."

I even saw an instance of "mankind." Haven't seen that in a while.

Also, Ps. 118 has been restored to a more traditional, liturgical language. Woohoo!

"24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad."

"26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Academic Retreat for Teachers

Institute for Catholic Liberal Education Presents:

Truth and Joy in the Catholic School
The 2011 Academic Retreat for Catholic Educators

IMAGINE a week of uninterrupted time to:
  • Revitalize your joy in learning
  • Explore the foundations of Catholic education with
  • colleagues from around the country
  • Discover Truth in the Trivium, Mathematics, Science,
  • Literature, Music, and Theology
  • Read Newman, Dawson, Sayers, Shakespeare, Euclid,
  • Descartes and more
  • Experience a vibrant Catholic learning community
“I learned more in five days than I would learn in 5 semesters at many universities.” [2009 Retreat Participant]

“The networking opportunities with retreatants beyond the sessions are as valuable as the enriching classroom discussions themselves.” [2009 Retreat Participant]

"The week has made me think— the kind of thinking that students should be doing." [2009 Retreat Participant]

"’Knowledge is truth and the truth will make you free’—etched on the walls of my alma mater—
means so much more now. Thank you for a delightful week." [2009 Retreat Participant]

DATE: July 10 ‐ 15, 2011

LOCATION: Holy Cross College
Notre Dame, Indiana

COST: $450 (registration by June 1); $495 (registration after June 1)
For two or more registrants from the same school, the cost is $400/person
Cost includes room, board and materials


Online at:

By mail with check payable to:

Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
P.O. Box 4638
Ventura, CA 93007

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Roman Breviary

For many years I have had a vague notion of what the Roman Breviary was like, but have never looked at one. Now I find that there is a site for the Roman Breviary, run by The Confraternity of Ss. Peter and Paul, who, judging from their "abhorrence" of the liturgical reforms of Pius XII, etc., are somehow affiliated with the SSPX. You have to sign up as a member to see the Breviary itself, but there are some open resources that are quite interesting, such as the Roman Martyrology and a commentary on the Breviary by Pius Parsch. The Breviary used is the 1911 edition. It includes an English translation. Since I didn't want to sign up as a member, I don't know the quality of the English, but I presume it is pretty archaic.

I realize now that I had some misconceptions about the reform of the Divine Office. For instance, there were OT canticles in the old office. And there were petitions--better ones, in my mind, than the ones we have now, which sometimes seem more like mini-homilies.

I should that the current preces are very inspirational and spiritually rich. And I don't mind praying them for my interior and the Churches renewal, but I do a so like to pray for ordinary, external things, too, which the old prayers did. I know that there are alternative petitions in EP that are more like the older ones, but they aren't in the one-volume versions.

Here is the web site.

I wonder if there is a similar site for the official Extraordinary Form Breviary?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Good advice from Benedict XVI

"You all know in what way the community of believers has been wounded in recent times by the attacks of evil, by the penetration of sin in the interior, in fact in the heart of the Church. Do not take this as a pretext to flee from God's presence; you yourselves are the Body of Christ, the Church! Carry intact the fire of your love in this Church every time that men have obscured her face. "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11).
When Israel was in the darkest point of its history, God called to the rescue no great and esteemed persons, but a youth called Jeremiah; Jeremiah felt invested with too great a mission: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth!" (Jeremiah 1:6). But God did not let himself be misled: "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak" (Jeremiah 1:7)." --From the introduction of the new Catechism for Youth

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Love and Responsibility Course

Aquinas Connections: Love according to John Paul II
(click on the title to register)

Class dates: Thursdays, February 10 through March 31, 2011
Total classes: 8
Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
Fee: $80
Intructor: Robert Gotcher, Ph. D.
Prerequisite: None
Audience: Adult
Description: Even before the Second Vatican Council Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, was reflecting on the meaning of love and marriage. In the late 1950s he wrote a ground-breaking book on the subject called Love and Responsibility in which he anticipated much of the later reflection of the Church on these subject. Among the themes in this book are the difference between loving and using someone, the relationships between the various kinds of love, the barriers to love, and the meaning of marriage for our relationship with God, each other, and society.

This class will be an eight week seminar-type discussion group on the text of the book Love and Responsibility (L & R). There will be very little lecture. Each participant will be expected to actively contribute to the discussion. For this reason, everyone will need a functioning headset with a microphone.
Homework: Reading the assigned chapters of the book. If you don’t read the passages, you won’t get much out of the discussion. There will also be outlines and resources on the Moodle page.
Course materials: Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1981).

Frequently Asked Question

Q: How do I “attend class”?
A: You will receive an email with a link to the “classroom.” Classes take place in an audio/visual classroom where the teacher and students meet in a real time environment. The instructor converses directly with students. The student is able to see and hear the voice of the instructor. Students can respond two ways. They can type in chat or “raise their hand” to respond orally using their headset.

Q: What if I miss a class?
A: All classes are recorded and made available to students within 24 hours. In the case of a missed class, a student can go back and watch the recorded class.

Q:What are the system requirements for the webinars?
A: Usually, a computer purchased in the last seven years, a DSL or better connection to the internet, and a headset with microphone.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why we also need a retranslation of the Office

There are some really cool things that happen in Latin that don't come through in English. For instance, note what happens here in Latin.

Responsorium breve
Tu es vas electiónis, * Sancte Paule apóstole. Tu es.
V/. Prædicátor veritátis in univérso mundo. * Sancte Paule apóstole. Glória Patri. Tu es.

Ad Benedictus, ant. Celebrémus conversiónem sancti Pauli apóstoli, quia ex persecutóre efféctus est vas electiónis.

Now in English:


You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.
You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.

Preacher of truth to the whole world,
holy apostle Paul.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.


Ant. Let us celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul the apostle. He was transformed from being a persecutor of Christ into a vessel of his grace.

Note the highlighted terms. The same phrase in Latin (vas electionis) is translated in two different ways in English, neither of which is a literal translation of the Latin. So, you loose the connection between the two. Why?

Then there is this in the Intercessions:
Fratres caríssimi, hereditátem cæléstem ab Apóstolis habéntes....
Now in English:
Beloved friends, we have inherited heaven along with the apostles....
Note that we now inherit heaven along with the Apostles, not from the Apostles. There is a theological point lost here, although the rest of the petitions actually hit home the point that the means of salvation come to us from the Apostles (capital "A").