Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The structure of the Lord's Prayer [Revised]

I have never done a systematic study of the Lord's Prayer, but I was struck by some comments made by Dr. Pius Parsch in his classic study The Liturgy of the Mass. He described the logical relationship between the seven petitions of the Our Father in a way that made me realize for the first time that the petitions are not a random series, but in fact are related to each other. Also, although he doesn't emphasize this, a Eucharistic interpretation is quite possible.

What he points out is that of the seven petitions the first three reflect, in reverse temporal order, the purpose of the life of man and the last three represent, in reverse temporal order, those things that are detrimental to the fulfillment of a truly human life. The logic of the first three petitions goes from 1) doing God's will, which 2) accomplishes the coming of His kingdom, which then 3) gives glory, honor (hallows) His name. The three barriers to achieving this are 1) our sins (trespasses, debts), 2) temptations, and 3) the Evil One (which is how πονηροῦ is often translated). This moves from the Evil One to temptation to sin! Note that the first word in the prayer is "Father." The "our" comes after "father" in the Greek. The last word is "The Evil One." Also note, as Parsch did, the two "as" statements in the third and fifth petitions, enhance the sense of a diptych around the central, fourth, petition.

The middle petition, for daily bread, is clearly highlighted by this structure. It reflects our desire to have what we need now on earth to fulfill our humanity. Logically, this is grace, but in fact it is a prayer for bread. Parsch doesn't put a particularly Eucharistic spin on this petition, but that has been done in the tradition, especially those, such as St. Jerome, who have translated the petition as "Give us this day our supersubstantial bread." (See this article by Fr. Benjamin Reese for a linguistic justification of this translation; as it turns out the word appears nowhere else in Greek.) What is it that helps us 1) to fulfill our humanity, the first three petitions, and 2) to avoid those things which are barriers to that fulfillment, the last three petitions? The Eucharistic Bread of Life!

For the early Christians bread already had a significance beyond physical sustenance. First of all, it had a social significance in the ancient Mediterranean cultures. Witness, for instance, the word "companion," which helps us remember that sharing bread is a component of partaking of bread. "As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever." (Didache 9:4). Further, of course, bread has a spiritual, Eucharistic significance.

The prayer clearly lays out the fundamental spiritual dynamic of human existence. We are stuck in the spiral of sin. The only way to get beyond that spiral to the movement of grace towards God is through the Word Incarnate become the Bread of Life. There is a movement down and a movement up. It is no mistake that the Lord's Prayer appears where it does in the Liturgy, right after the consecration and at the head of the Communion Rite.

This is not a fanciful, "spiritual" interpretation imposed upon the text from later reflection. It reflects the logic of the text itself. This prayer was clearly composed very carefully, which does not itself call into question its dominical origin . If John of the Cross can so carefully compose spiritual poetry in a dark prison, our Lord could certainly have composed this prayer while spending those hours at night in prayer. It would be a spiritual masterpiece, even if it weren't dominical.

I don't always agree with Parsch's interpretation of the liturgy. He falls victim to the archaistic dismissal of medieval developments that Cardinal Ratzinger criticized in The Spirit of the Liturgy. On the other hand, this book can be very insightful and spiritually upbuilding.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modern Saints

At breakfast my eight-year old son was expressing his astonishment and delight that there were saints in the nineteenth century, so close to us, such as St. Bernadette. I told him there were saints in the twentieth century, such as St. Maria Goretti, St. Josemarie Escriva, St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), and St. Maximilian Kolbe. When I said the last one his eyes lit up and he shouted "Really? Cool!" His middle name is Maximilian.

To quote my older children, "Saints are cool."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ralph McInerny's appreciative appraisal of Thomas Merton


I owe a great debt of gratitude to Merton (and to the grace of God first, of course) for the revitalization of my Catholicism my senior year in college. Although I understand McInerny's point about a Pharisaical interpretation of Merton's love affair, I'm not sure I can be quite as sanguine about it as McInerny is. As McInerny points out, he did remain faithful. The twentieth century seems to be populated with near-saints of this sort. The scourge of Satan has had its effect, I think.

On the other hand, after twenty-eight years of "trying," I'm not exactly St. Robert of Franklin.

McInterny's brother, Dennis, wrote a book about Merton. Thomas Merton: The Man and His Works. Spenser, Mass.: Cistercian Publications, 1974. He also wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Minnesota on Merton: "Thomas Merton and Society: A Study of the Man and His Thought against the Background of Contemporary American Culture." He also had an exchange of letters with Merton that is on file at the Thomas Merton Center.

Vulgate and Neovulgate

So, you think you're going to write a nice, spiritual reflection on a neat passage of scripture (Ps. 85 (84)) that you run across while you are praying the office, then you are sidetracked by the disparity between the Vulgate of St. Jerome and the neovulgate used in the current Liturgy of the Hours.


Original vulgate:
verumtamen prope est his qui timent eum salutare eius ut habitet gloria in terra nostra
misericordia et veritas occurrerunt iustitia et pax deosculatae sunt
veritas de terra orta est et iustitia de caelo prospexit
sed et Dominus dabit bonum et terra nostra dabit germen suum
iustitia ante eum ibit et ponet in via gressus suos.

Neovulgate, with changes in bold:
Vere prope timentes eum salutare ipsius, ut inhabitet gloria in terra nostra.
Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi, iustitia et pax osculatae sunt.
Veritas de terra orta est, et iustitia de caelo prospexit.
Etenim Dominus dabit benignitatem, et terra nostra dabit fructum suum.
Iustitia ante eum ambulabitet ponet in via gressus suos.

I presume the points were a) to make it somewhat more classical ("etenim" rather than "sed et"), and 2) to make it correspond more closely to the Hebrew. For instance, "fructum" must be a better translation of the Hebrew than "germen."

By the way, the version in the office inexplicably has "verumtamen" rather than "vere"!

This is a beautiful passage with Christological overtones. The English:
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Yea, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

What better image of the fruitful marriage between heaven and earth that occurred in the Incarnation?

No more superstars

My adult life as a Catholic has been dominated by Catholic superstars. First, there was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I met in the summer of 1982. Then there was John Paul II. No pope has ever been like him, not even Leo XIII, who certainly profoundly influenced the shape of 20th century Catholicism in a similar way that John Paul II has shaped 21st century Catholicism. But he didn't have the charisma nor the biography that John Paul II. Then, in this diocese, we had Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal, I'm sure) Dolan. He also had the charisma and the adulation of many of the laity in this diocese.

Now it seems there are no superstars dominating the headlines in local or international Catholicism. Maybe it is because I'm not watching. Benedict XVI, although certainly a wonderful pope, is too retiring and intellectual to be the kind of Catholic magnet that Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Archbishop Dolan were.

We don't need them, of course, but it sure is inspiring to have them. There have occasionally been such superstars in the history of the Church, who shook the Church up. I'm thinking of, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi. Who else, though, was so big?

I suppose it was difficult to have the kind of influence in your own time that ecclesiastical figures can have now because of mass communication. St. Benedict was certainly influential, but not in his own time. St. Antony became influential because of the best seller by St. Athanasius. Perhaps St. Benedict became so influential because of the bestseller by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Is there another superstar on the horizon? Any thoughts?

The revival of living Latin

The distinction between studying Latin and learning Latin is highlighted in this article by Mark J. Clark, of Christendom College. My own kids have studied Latin, but not learned it. I'd say even my son that is majoring in Classics does not practice much "living" Latin in the way that Dr. Clark means it. He can correct me in the comm box if I am wrong. I'm very much in agreement with Clark about the necessity of learning Latin as the key to our Catholic heritage and as an exercise in a significantly different way of thinking.

Hat tip goes to Lisa Seeley, wife of Andrew Seeley of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Political conservative vs. liberal

If I can be characterized as a political conservative, which I suppose I can, the reason is well expressed in this quote by Andrew Klavan in an interview with Frontpage Interviews: "no system will make us good or fair but that there are systems that can keep us free so that we can choose whether or not to be good or fair." I would add that an important component of the system that helps us stay free is a prevention of vicious activity that does serious damage to the well being of others. Also, it should have in place a social safety net to help those that are in a perilous situation that they themselves cannot get out of (even if they are, to some extent, the cause of their situation).

25,000 and counting

Hey, I just noticed on Sitemeter that I have had my 25,000th "view." The winning city was Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I intend to keep this blog up, even though the genre is in its death throws.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Latin Hymns of the Office

I've been fascinated by the Latin hymns of the office since I started praying the office in Latin in the late 1990s. They for the most part have been left out of the equation in the one-volume English translation (I don't know how the four-volume English translations handle them, since I don't own one), although some of the hymns have vernacular equivalents that are in the English editions, such as "Creator of the Stars of Night" and "At the Lamb's High Feast."

I wanted to translate the Advent hymn for morning prayer, "Vox clara," so I did some poking around on the Internet and discovered the fascinating story of the "revision" of the Latin hymnody enacted by Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century. He was so imbued with the classicism of the Renaissance the considered it necessary to rewrite or have rewritten most of the hymns that had been part of the Catholic heritage for a thousand years, by such illustrious Churchmen as St. Ambrose and Prudentius! The defective translations stayed with the Church for over 300 years until the reforms of Vatican II restored, for the most part, the original versions of the hymns. Well, they got one thing right, anyway, eh? Here is an article at EWTN about Urban VIII's "reforms." Talking about imposing the spirit of the age on the life of the Church! HT

I never did get around to translating the hymn.

Light and Darkness

It occurred to me yesterday how little experience of genuine darkness we have in our day. There is no where we go, save, perhaps, in a closed closet, where there is no significant source of light.

I was imagining what it must have been like living before the advent of electric or gas lighting during the winter when there are more than 14 hours of darkness in a place with the latitude of Milwaukee. Outside it would be very dark unless the moon were shining. You would have starlight at best (which would be much brighter because there would be little interference from ground light). If it were cloudy the clouds would have little light to reflect from the ground, so it would be much darker than it is now in cloudy weather. No orange glow from the city street lights.

Inside it would simply be dark unless you had a candle or two lit, or a fireplace (which we don't have). For fourteen hours. You certainly would not be able to get much accomplished after dark, so you'd have to sit around and play the fiddle like Pa Ingalls, or knit or string onions or something. I'm sure people slept more in the winter than we do. And you would probably sleep more deeply and soundly, since it would be genuinely dark. There is now no discernible difference between sleeping patterns in summer and winter.

Just think how frightful it must have been to wander around in a medieval castle or village at night, not knowing who or what was lurking in the shadows that were deeper than anything we know about in our day.

I imagine there are places on the earth where one can experience this kind of darkness even now--away from cities in places where electricity is scarce.

In our house there is no place you can go to avoid the light that comes in from the outside. The street lights are bright. On cloudy days the bright orange lights from the cities make it even brighter. When there is snow on the ground it is brightest of all. Our neighbor keeps their outdoor lights on all night to keep away the burglar. Even if you put blinds up, they are translucent enough to let in significant amounts of light.

And in the house there are dozens of little light sources all over the house shining forth from the technology that we have surrounded ourselves with. The t.v., the computer, the printer, the digital alarm clocks, the CD player, the flash drive.

If you walk around our neighborhood, whether the moon is shining or not, whether it is cloudy or not you do not need a flashlight.

And we stay up until after 11:00 (six hours after dark) doing the normal, productive things. Not sitting around knitting or playing the fiddle.

It makes one tired just thinking about it. That rhythm between summer work and winter quasi-hibernation was probably quite healthy. I know that monastic schedules used to change between summer and winter. I wonder if they still do. I'm wondering if there is some way we can return to it.

I suppose at this point I should have some spiritual insight about this, but I don't. It is just an observation. Although I do believe that the chronic sense of fatigue that is so common in our day may find its source partly in the change in our culture that I am describing.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

One of the bad things about the new liturgical translation... that it will consign the emminently enjoyable sport of critiquing ICEL translations to the dustbin of history.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A good vision for a school...

"a little classical learning, scholarly standards, a bit of Plato and Cicero, moderation, good sense, respect for the truth." Dr. Alois Fischer, in A Postcard from the Volcano, by Lucy Beckett (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009).

A review of the novel forthcoming. Br. Bob, you'd like this one, I think.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Whether capitalism is capable of being a just system or not,.... is clear that there are certain vices that must be avoided and virtues to be cultivated by anyone seeking to pursue holiness while in the world. Can a person live as St. Teresa says and be a "successful" capitalist?:

3. Souls soon learn in this way; they perceive their faults very clearly, and sometimes the discovery of how quickly they are overcome by but slight earthly trials is more painful than the subtraction of God's sensible favours. I consider that God thus shows them great mercy, for though their behaviour may be faulty, yet they gain greatly in humility. Not so with the people of whom I first spoke; they believe their conduct is saintly, and wish others to agree with them. I will give you some examples which will help us to understand and to try ourselves, without waiting for God to try us, since it would be far better to have prepared and examined ourselves beforehand.

4. A rich man, without son or heir, loses part of his property, but still has more than enough to keep himself and his household. If this misfortune grieves and disquiets him as though he were left to beg his bread, how can our Lord ask him to give up all things for His sake? This man will tell you he regrets losing his money because he wished to bestow it on the poor.

5. I believe His Majesty would prefer me to conform to His will, and keep peace of soul while attending to my interests, to such charity as this. If this person cannot resign himself because God has not raised him so high in virtue, well and good: let him know that he is wanting in liberty of spirit; let him beg our Lord to grant it him, and be rightly disposed to receive it. Another person has more than sufficient means to live on, when an opportunity occurs for acquiring more property: if it is offered him, by all means let him accept it; but if he must go out of his way to obtain it and then continues working to gain more and more--however good his intention may be (and it must be good, for I am speaking of people who lead prayerful and good lives), he cannot possibly enter the mansions near the King.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

By the way....

The 1962 Missale Romanorum is available online in toto here.

The priest and the words of consecration

I had once heard that the priest when consecrating the chalice speaks into the chalice, hence representing the Word and Holy Spirit effecting the consecration. I similarly thought the priest spoke into or toward the host. My son, the liturgical enthusiast, questioned this when I mentioned it, so I did some research. The current missal only says for both consecrations that the priest "parum se inclinat" when he speaks the words of consecration. He bows a little. It does NOT say he speaks into or over the chalice or into the host.

The instructions of the 1962 missal, says that the priest rests his elbows on the altar, inclines his head and speaks "over" the host and the chalice, elevating them slightly. You could interpret that as speaking into, but it certainly isn't a necessary interpretation.

I guess I'll have to read Parsch or Jungmann.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I love Journalists

Here is a nuanced, informed version of the Galileo "affair" in an article about finding some of the remains of his body.
Galileo, who died in 1642, was condemned by the Vatican for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Church teaching at the time held that the Earth was the center of the universe. In the early 1990s, Pope John Paul II rehabilitated him, saying the church had erred.

Episcopal Wall of Honor

Episcopal Signers of the Manhattan Declaration.

  • Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, CO
  • Most Rev. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, CA
  • Most Rev. Timothy Dolan Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of New York, NY
  • Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, KY
  • Most Rev. Richard J. Malone Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, ME
  • Most Rev. John J. Myers Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ
  • Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, KS
  • Most Rev. John Nienstedt Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN
  • Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, AZ
  • Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO
  • Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
  • Most Rev. David A. Zubik Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA

I'm going to assume that a couple of bishops who weren't on the list that I would expect to have been didn't get the memo in time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

St. Francis's comment on Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, etc.

"Blessed (is) the servant, who when he speaks, does not reveal all his own (thoughts) in view of (some) reward, and is not swift to speak (cf. Prov. 29:20), but wisely weighs what he ought to speak and answer. · Woe to him religious, who does not retain in his heart (Lk 2:19.51) the good things, which the Lord shows him, and does not show them to others through work, but who in view of (some) gain desires rather to show them to men with words. · He himself receives "his wage" (cf. Mt 6:2; 6:16) and (his) hearers bring back little fruit." Admonition 21.

Bravery and heroism

I have begun a wonderful novel by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press), whom I met at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture conference this weekend. It is about the life of a man named Max who grows up in East Prussia during the period between the two world wars. His father is seeking to imbue him with a Prussian love for the glory of war. His tutor is a Jew who has fled Alsace-Lorraine because of the French persecution of the Jews.

When Max is eight he has a conversation with his tutor about the events which precipitated World War I, which had just started. They were discussing the Serbian youth who had plotted to kill Archduke Ferdinand. In this conversation Dr. Mendel makes a very useful distinction between bravery and nobility.
"So are they good, like heroes are good? Or bad, like murderers are bad?"
"They are murderers, not heroes. They thought what they were doing was brave, which it was. They also thought it was noble, which it was not. Some Serbs may think them heroes for a while, but they will be wrong. The lives they have given up [because they will be executed] would have been more use to Serbia than their deaths will be."
Then the possibility that they are martyrs is discussed.
"But they could still be heroes when they're dead? Like martyrs?"
"A martyr is a witness to the truth. Whether Bosnia is part of Serbia or part of the Empire is not a matter of truth, but a matter of politics. Politics is about power, not about truth. And now nearly all of Europe is at war because of these foolish boys."
Terrorists, no matter what side they are on or how just their cause, have lost all understanding of these distinctions. Islamic terrorists may be brave, because they've overcome fear and danger, but they are not heroes. We need to be clear and direct about this, and about any contemporary or historical act of terrorism. Bravery and a just cause does not make you a hero if you engage in ignoble acts.

I think this also applies to those who would promote a totalitarian state. Terrorists and totalitarians are cut from the same cloth. The difference is that one has the reins of state in hand, and the other does not. Neither is consistent with the Catholic faith. That is why Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were not genuinely representative of the Catholic religion. Nor are those who commit acts of murder in the name of the pro life movement.

I think it interesting, by the way, that some of the earlier instances of both errors appeared in England--Fawkes and Cromwell.

I also think that burning figures of Fawkes in effigy doesn't rise much above the ignobility of Fawkes himself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

John Paul II and the Pater Noster

For you John Paul II and Latin fans out there, Nancy Carpenter Brown links to this video.

Retaining one's innocence in a depraved world

A question for conversation: how does one retain one's innocence (purity of heart, as the Catechism calls it) while at the same time becoming aware of the world as it really is (pretty dark). This is a helpful discussion for parents of teenage children. It is a perennial question in our home school group.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Collect of St. Martin of Tours

I am continually amazed at the inexplicable manner that ICEL translates the collects in the liturgy. Half the time I can't even detect a real ideological principle behind it. They just seem to have delighted in scrambling concepts around. Today's feast is no exception. I'm going to provide the Latin, then my translation, then the ICEL English. Someone explain to me why they changed it. I'm not saying the essential meaning was lost, but there is something lost.

Deus, qui in beato Martino episcopo sive per vitam sive per mortem magnificatus es, innova gratiae tuae mirabilia in cordibus nostris, ut neque mors neque vita separare nos possit a caritate tua. Per Dominum....
This isn't difficult Latin. My literal translation:
[O] God, who has been exalted in blessed Martin, both though [his] life and through [his] death, renew in our hearts the wonders of your grace, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love. Through Our Lord....
Now ICEL (with my parenthetical comments:

Father [I understand why they do this, but it irks me nonetheless], by his life and death
[blessed?] Martin of Tours offered you worship and praise [in switching to the active voice, the focus on God is somewhat mitigated. also, it really doesn't say anything in the Latin about worship or praise].
Renew in our hearts [so far so good] the power of your love [okay, so what is wrong with the word "grace," and where did "mirabilia" go, and why is love put here, since it clearly belongs later--this last move distances the prayer somewhat from Romans 8, which is the obvious reference],
so that neither death nor life [okay] may separate us from you.
Grant this...

I just don't think the modification and paraphrasing helps us understand the prayer better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


You rarely see this direct a communication by a bishop to a politician. You know, the issues are not as muddy as most people seem to think.

Interview on Drew Marianin on Capital Punishment

I was on Drew Mariani (Relevant Radio) last Friday for about 30 minutes to talk about the death penalty. the interview can be heard here. Click on "hour 2" and go about 12 minutes and 30 seconds into the program. The first part is Drew's own reflections on the impending execution of the D.C. sniper. He, not surprisingly, accepts the Church's position.

New Tractarians

My son at ND has helped start a student organization the purpose of which is to "promote an educational and intellectual atmosphere [at the university] permeated with the Truth of the Gospel and the highest regard for the teachings of the Church." They meet once a week for dinner to discuss topics related to genuine Catholic higher education. Here is their blog: New Tractarians. Both my sons are members of the group.

Not everyone has given up on Notre Dame!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

Funny how the English translation of things sometimes misses the mark. In the English office the description of the feast says, "The celebration of this day invites all to meditate...." The Latin uses the word "incitat," which means something more like the English cognate "incite." According to the online Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid,, "incito" means, "to put into rapid motion, urge on, hasten." This seem stronger to me than "invites." Are the translators afraid of enthusiasm?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Divine Office

When I came down from my shower this morning my eight year old boy was praying Morning Prayer using the Christian Prayer book I bought when I was a senior in college. My eleven year old daughter will often come down in the morning and ask whether I've prayed yet and whether she can join me. My college kids quote from the office on their Facebook pages.  Oddly, and without much encouragement on our part, all our children love to pray the office (except the four-year old).   

I am very happy about this.  It makes me realize how much what we hand on to our kids is informal and, in a sense, unintentional.  My kids appear to have notice, whether consciously or not, that the office is my favorite form of prayer and that my wife loves to pray it as well.  

The  daily prayer of a Christian should be biblical (esp. the Psalms) and ecclesial.  I also believe in devotions, but the best of these (like the Rosary) is also biblical and ecclesial (strong ecclesiastical approbation, even if not the official prayer of the Church).  Litanies fall in this category, and the Angelus.  As I've mentioned before, I always take a Bible to Eucharist Adoration. Note: I don't think that Bible reading should be the focus of adoration, contemplation of the Face of Jesus should be, but the Bible can help us move into contemplation.  The Word helps us see the Word. 

Oh.  I like to sing praise songs. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Neighbours

When I was a kid they used to show this film (16mm) during the homily at Mass.  I think it is great.  Not sure whether the GIRM at that time allowed films during the homily, though.  

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lilles blog correction

I got the wrong url for the second of the blogs of Anthony Lilles in the post below. The one called Beginning to Pray can be found here.


I "backed up" my files the wrong direction. Lost a week of work. Fortunately, the one file that I could not afford to lose survived. I am not sure why, but I sure am grateful to the One who is looking out for my best interests.

He also must want my blood pressure to go up.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Anthony Lilles' Blog

Anthony actually has two blogs, Fire in the Night and Beginning to Pray. The first is more about contemporary issues, the second about spirituality, Lilles' specialty. Both are excellent. I especially like these thoughts about prayer. They help us get around the question, "What do I get out of prayer?"
Most people look at prayer as principally a psychological and therapeutic exercise. They do not normally see prayer as something that actually changes time. But prayer is not simply psychological or therapeutic. It is interpersonal, in the Body of Christ for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world.

Because the prayer of Christ is always effective, Christian prayer is effective to the degree it is in union with Him and the desires of his heart. It is his desire that all things, including time itself, should be offered in thanksgiving to the Father for the salvation of the world. The reality is, Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, make time pregnant with grace whenever they pray. When we pray, this grace-filled time becomes part of our offering to the Father in Christ. [Emphasis mine]
Lilles is academic dean and professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Online course discount

To help promote my online  classes, homeschool connections is offering a $15 off coupon. This is just for my classes and can be used for 1, 2 or all 3 as well as by multiple family members. So, a family with 2 high school students who both wanted to take all 3 courses would save $90!  Plus the Spiritual Writers class still has an early enrollment discount.

The coupon code is 

It's good until September 1st.

Typography, by Taylor Mali

A great poem with which I totally, like, agree? 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Land o'Lakes?

Or Bishop Darcy:
Rejecting the infamous 1967 “Land O’ Lakes Statement” by which Catholic college leaders declared independence from the Church, Bishop D’Arcy declares firmly, “There is no Catholic identity apart from the affiliation with the Church.”
(From Cardinal Newman Society)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Silver Lining department

One of the benefits of being (temporarily, I hope) free from the academy is that I can read anything I want. Anything. I'm not preparing for classes. And the online high school classes I am preparing for, I already have most of the material for, so don't need to do a lot a prep. When evening comes and the littles* are in bed I can sit around, read a book on medieval Irish history, play guitar, study Latin, talk to the bigs* or anything.

One thing I avoid is going anywhere near the Internet. It is a bad habit to get into to hang out on the Internet when you could be reading Aquinas (or, Br. Bob, Bonaventure). 

* we divide the kids into the "littles" and the "bigs." The littles go to bed early, the bigs, being teenagers and beyond, stay up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ancient Christian Faith web page

I found this page on the Ancient Christian Faith on the Hyperekperissou patristics blog. They aren't Catholic, but they sure sound like they get the significance of the patristic voice for contemporary challenges.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The labyrinth. Is it traditional?

A Catholic high school web page says: "Students also have classroom experiences centered on Catholic traditions such as the Stations of the Cross, The Rosary, Meditation and The Labyrinth."

Is the labyrinth a Catholic tradition? Even the founder of modern labyrinth movement, Lauren Artress, doesn't claim this. See this article. Not all articles are as critical. See, for instance, this article, which points out that the labyrinth was originally a symbol of Hell and the need for redemption, but then claims that in the Middle Ages the labyrinths were later used as substitute pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Neither article is well documented, although the first one says, "Doreen Prydes, a professor of medieval history at the University of Notre Dame, says there is absolutely no evidence of labyrinth walking in the Middle Ages. She believes that Christians of that era saw the labyrinth as a symbol of redemption, not pilgrimage." The second article also warns about a false, pagan/new age use of labyrinths, but says they can be used properly as substitutes for a holy land pilgrimage.

So, should the high school have equated the labyrinth with the rosary? What do you think?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fall online courses for high schoolers

The Mass, spiritual classics, Tolkien! My three favorite subjects. That is why I will be teaching three online courses for high schoolers this fall on these subjects through Homeschool Connections, run by Maureen Wittman and Walter Crawford. Go to these links for more details:

Literature: Tolkien & Fairy Stories
Theology: The Mass Explained
Theology: Catholic Spiritual Writers

Homeschool Connections has several other online courses this fall.

Theology: Moral Theology with Monica Ashour
Theology: Christian Anthropology with Monica Ashour
Literature: Gawain and the Green Knight -- Chivalry, Courtesy and Chastity with Henry Russell, Ph.D.
Literature: Christ and King Arthur -- Heroism and Holiness with Henry Russell, Ph.D.
Literature: The Orthodox Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer -- Trust God and Tradition with Henry Russell, Ph.D.
Science: Blood in Sickness and In Health with Kris Corriera
What Do Philosophers Do and How Do They Do It with Jean Rioux, Ph.D.
Democracy, Government, and Citizenship with Ed Rivet
Principles of Economics and Catholic Perspectives with David Harris, Ph.D.

All courses are four to eight weeks long. To find out more just go the the Homeschool Connections web page.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gates' Arrest

Having seen egregious and offensive racial profiling in action in my neighborhood, I don't doubt that it is still a major problem in the U.S. But, what I find interesting about this article is its political bias. If you can tell what I'm talking about, put it in the comments box.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Milwaukee NFP Conference

A lot of great speakers I know are giving an NFP conference for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on August 29th, including Lydia LoCoco, Dr. Richard Fehering, Dr. Julia Michelson, Fr. Nathan Reessman, and Sue Eck. Here are the details:

Archdiocesan Conference on Natural Family Planning

Saturday, August 29, 2009
St. Joseph Center, 1501 S Layton Blvd, Milwaukee
Cost: $15.00 per person
The Nazareth Project of the John Paul II Center is hosting an Archdiocesan Conference on Natural Family Planning on August 29, 2009. Natural family planning, or NFP, is a method of achieving or postponing pregnancy by observing the changes in a woman’s body that naturally indicate her fertility. Everyone is welcome and invited to attend this conference, which will begin with a mass celebrated by Bishop Callahan. No prior knowledge of NFP is needed! This day is especially for those wishing to learn more about Natural Family Planning, as well as those who work with engaged or married couples in parishes, such as FOCCUS couples. For more information and registration form, please visit our website: If you are interested in being trained as an NFP instructor, call Lydia LoCoco at 414 758-2214.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In what sense has the Church's position hardened?

"Benedict gave Obama a copy of a Vatican document on bioethics that hardened the church's opposition to using embryos for stem cell research, cloning and in-vitro fertilization." From Yahoo! News.

In no sense at all. There was no change, nor was there ever any doubt about where the Church stood.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Another Moral Theologian weighs in on West

Maurizio Faggioni, OFM, of the Alphonsianum, weighs in on the Christopher West fracas. I'd have to say, I agree with what is is reported as saying in this article and think that his and Schindler's concerns need to be addressed seriously and not simply defensively by West and those that are defending him against criticism. Even if Faggioni and Schindler are wrong about some things.

Friday, July 03, 2009

My thoughts on the culture, esp. the 60s

There was a conversation on the 60s on Maclin Horton's Blog recently. I have found it almost impossible to express the dark side of this cultural event to my children, and to explain why I react so strongly to the apparently fascination they have for this music and culture.  I look back on it as a very dark time in which Satan gained a lot of ground in our culture and destroyed, literally, a lot of lives. The list of those destroyed is large. Almost every major band was affected. Here's my partial list of individuals and groups affected.

Beatles--John Lennon, Brian Epstein
Stones--Brian Jones
Who--Keith Moon
Jimi Hendrix
Doors--Jim Morrison
Janis Joplin

Then there were those deeply wounded, but not yet destroyed.
Led Zepplin
David Crosby
John Phillips (and McKenzie by extension)
Pete Townsend
Gracie Slick 

The myth is that Woodstock is the good festival and Altimont the bad--that is simply a myth. They were both steeped in the evils of rebellion.  

Wow.  Why would I want this culture to have any influence on my children?

Interestingly, it is reading Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra that has made me more aware of the spiritual warfare that underlies our contemporary culture.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Shelf

I now have a bookshelf in my bedroom (my "office") that contains the most influential books in my theological work.  It contains several copies of the bible both in the original languages and in various translation, the Summa in Latin, and the Lord of the Rings.  The reason why the third, I really doubt I would be in theology at all, and perhaps wouldn't be a believer if the LotR had not allowed me to rethink the practical materialism of my youth.  Although I was a believer, I thought like a Cartesian, and therefore my understanding of the cosmos was materialistic.  I was intellectually very scientific and rationalistic, and therefore subject to the caprice of my emotions, much like Walker Percy describes American culture in Lost in the Cosmos.  LotR changed all that.  I realized the spiritual potential of matter in his imaginative work. I'm pretty sure some kind of apprehension of the reality of spirit and its connection to the material universe is necessary for a robust Christianity. 

My de Lubac collection takes up a large part of the next shelf down.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My books

I just moved all my books home.  Now I have the Summa and my de Lubac at my fingertips in my new "office" in my bedroom.

Plus, we have thousands of other books to figure out what to do with.  

I find it hard to say "No one will ever read this one again."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As of tomorrow, July 1, I am among the 10% of this country that is unemployed.  I am going to continue to seek an academic appointment, but in the mean time and looking for either occasional work or full time position.

I would be interested in any teaching, writing, editing, speaking or administrative opportunities in the following areas:
  • Family life
  • Lay spirituality
  • Catholic Education (liberal education, higher education, homeschooling)
  • Dogmatic theology
  • Moral theology (life issues, sexuality, social teachings)
  • Latin, philosophy, religion, or literature
I am available for online presentations as well as in person.

To contact me, e-mail profgotcher[at]

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Only in this weird 21st century...

Is it believable that one is at the same time reading the Latin text of the Imitation of Christ and listening to some Bob Marley track on Pandora radio.

A text from a Kempis apropos the Christopher West Flap

Concerning concupiscence:

"Nullus Sanctus fuit tam alte raptus, vel illuminatus, qui prius vel postea non fuerit tentatus" (Bk. 2, Ch. 9.7).

"Non dormit diabolus, nec caro adhuc mortua est. Ideo non cesses te præparare ad certamen, quia a dextris et a sinistris sunt hostes qui nunquam quiescunt" (Bk. 2, Ch. 9.8).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Biblical Scholars

Here is an ancient critique that I think also applies to some contemporary Catholic biblical scholars. Note that St. Catherine thinks that a sign of ignorance of the grace of God is an inability to see beyond the literal meaning of Sacred Scripture. I've noted a belligerence among some biblical scholars to anything but the literal meaning.
Ignorant and proud men of science were blind notwithstanding this light, because their pride and the cloud of self-love had covered up and put out the light. Wherefore they understood the Holy Scripture rather literally than with understanding, and taste only the letter of it, still desiring many other books; and they get not to the marrow of it, because they have deprived themselves of the light, with which is found and expounded the Scripture; and they are annoyed and murmur, because they find much in it that appears to them gross and idiotic. And, nevertheless, they appear to be much illuminated in their knowledge of Scripture, as if they had studied it for long; and this is not remarkable, because they have of course the natural light from whence proceeds science. But because they have lost the supernatural light, infused by grace, they neither see nor know My Goodness, nor the grace of My servants.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A quandry

So, I went to St. Stan's in Milwaukee last night for Mass in the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. In that calendar the Ascension is still on Thursday. In this archdiocese it has been transferred to Sunday. So, when I prayed the office this morning for Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter, which antiphon do I use for the Invitatory: the one for before the Ascension, or the one for after the Ascention?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer online courses for high school students

I will be teaching several online summer school courses beginning in June through Homeschool Connections. The classes are open to all Catholic students (and non-Catholic, for that matter, so longer as they are not offended by my popery!) not just homeschoolers.
Here are the links to the classes. (They're not so lofty as they sound -- I'' be gearing the classes to your average high school student.)
Also available through Homeschool Connections this summer:
Homeschool Connections provides free webinars for Catholics and homeschoolers as well as online classes for a reasonable fee. Homeschool Connections uses webinar technology for the online courses. The students will be able see and hear the teachers via a webcam and microphone. In turn, the students can communicate with me and the rest of the class through the chat room or their own microphone. I can also use Power Point presentations that are viewable on the same screen. The teens love the technology. This is an great opportunity to keep high school students engaged and learning over the summer. These particular courses have been designed for summer time with no or light homework. Also, all classes are recorded so if you're away on vacation for a week or two, and can't access the Internet, you can simply watch the recorded event later. In fact, registered students have access to the recorded classes for 6 months. This is a great value for the price.

Faith and Science

This is from a Zenit interview with Opus Dei priest, Fr. John Wauck, on Dan Brown and Catholicism:

It's relatively easy for people to see that a lot of the great art of the Western World -- music, painting, sculpture, literat ure, architecture -- is the product of a Christian culture, often inspired by the faith or even funded by the Church. That seems obvious. But what people don't realize is that something similar is true of the sciences.

Think about it. Universities are an invention of the Church. Copernicus was a Roman Catholic cleric, and he dedicated his book on the heliocentric universe to the Pope. The calendar we use today is the Gregorian Calendar, because it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII, who was working with the best astronomers and mathematicians of his time. Galileo himself always remained a Catholic, and his two daughters were nuns. One of the greatest Italian astronomers of the 19th century was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi. The father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a Catholic monk. The creator of the "Big Bang" theory was a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaitre.

In short, the idea that there is some natural tension between science and the Church, between reason and faith, is utter nonsense. Nowadays, when people hear the words "science" and "the Church," they immediately think of Galileo's trial in the 1600s. But, in the larger scheme of things, that complex case -- which is frequently distorted by anti-Catholic propagandists -- was a glaring exception. There's a reason why critics of the Church are always bringing it up: It's the only example they've got. So, when we hear the words "science" and "the Church," we should think Copernicus, Secchi, Mendel and Lemaitre. They're representative. Galileo's trial is not.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Great Divorce on stage

If you want to see an excellent staged production of C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, and you live in the Milwaukee area, come and see Acacia Theater's production beginning this weekend. My daughter is performing in it as, among other things, a spirit. The script is by a Jesuit, George Drance, S.J.

My Baby Needs a Shepherd

This song is a moving, if ideosyncratic reflection on the human needs and human failings that make our need for the Good Shepherd so poignantly intense. Good thing to reflect on this week. I've loved Emmylou Harris since I was a kid.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The importance of Orthodoxy

The Church Fathers went out of their way to defend the orthodox faith against all heresies. St. Antony of the desert, for instance, was a staunch opponent of the Arians. This attachment to orthodoxy at the expense of apparent unity is something we are loath to emulate in our day. Yet, it has been a characteristic of holy men and women since the earliest days of the Church. Did not St. Teresa of Avila say that it is better for a spiritual director to be orthodox than to have had mystical experiences?

Here, from Orthodoxwiki, are a couple of sayings of the desert fathers in this regard:

It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him 'Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?' 'Yes, it is very true,' he answered. They resumed, 'Aren't you that Agothon who is always talking nonsense?' 'I am." Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am not a heretic.' So they asked him, 'Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult.' He replied 'The first accusations I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God.' At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.


This is what Abba Daniel, the Pharanite, said, 'Our Father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naïveté he was deceived and said, "The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol. Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, "Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." The old man said, "it is I who have said that." Then the old men exhorted him saying, "Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ." The old man said to them, "As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." So they said, "Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us." The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed in these words, "Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ." The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward." God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child's blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, "Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood." Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, "God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith." Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labour. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.'


(Abba Theodore) said 'If you are friendly with someone who happens to fall into the temptation of fornication, offer him your hand, if you can, and deliver him from it. But if he falls into heresy and you cannot persuade him to turn from it, separate yourself quickly from him, in case, if you delay, you too may be dragged down with him into the pit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reading program

This is going to seem just plain silly, since almost never can we sustain this kind of thing, but I am going to begin a formal reading program which consists of always having a book that I am working on from a specific list of categories, which are Christian spirituality, technical theology, philosophy, literature, a book of the Bible. I'm going to try to a certain extent to alternate between classical and books, but can't guarantee that.

Right now here is my list:
  • Christian spirituality: The Writings of St. Therese of the Andes
  • technical theology: Not yet chosen
  • philosophy: Whose Justice, Which Rationality?
  • literature: Kristin Lavransdatter
  • a book of the Bible: Sirach

My plan is to always keep them in my bag.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When is God Gonna Show Up?

A new book by a friend, Marge Fenelon:

When’s God Gonna Show Up?
Daily Discoveries of the Divine

Written in a warm conversational tone, the stories and refl ections in When’s God Gonna Show Up? draw on the everyday experiences of Marge Fenelon as wife, mother, and Catholic. Entertaining and thought-provoking, her stories lead the reader to discover God’s presence in the small events in our daily lives.

Short, poignant refl ections walk the reader through the liturgical year (beginning with Advent), off ering Scripture passages and questions for individual contemplation or group discussion. With humor and grace, these stories will not only entertain you, but will bring you to a new awareness of how God is working in your life.

Note who wrote the forward!

Friday, April 17, 2009

ND Center for Ethics and Culture call for papers

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture have announced the theme for their fall conference in November: "The Summons of Freedom: Virtue, Sacrifice, and the Common Good." The focus seems to be on the importance of virtue in the fulfilmment of our humanity in freedom. Here is a link to their call for papers.

We welcome the submission of abstracts drawing on a wide range of moral and religious perspectives and academic specialties. Special consideration will be given to submissions of ideas for panel discussions that would bring together several people to discuss a focused theme. Possible issues to be explored are:

  • the natural law and American democratic government
  • analogous senses of the common good
  • special demands on courage in contemporary culture
  • the multiple threats of individualism
  • philosophical and theological inquiries into the virtues
  • the riches of Catholic social teaching
  • the global economic crisis and the situation of late modern capitalism
  • the secularization of contemporary culture
  • imagining the common good: what the arts contribute
  • the fate of Europe
  • stewardship over nature: what does it entail?
  • Catholic approaches to the common good: Maritain, McInerny, and
  • “Whose common good?”: the unborn, the barely born, the disabled,
    and the elderly
  • freedom and its relation to truth
  • Pope Benedict on charity and hope
  • the Christian Democratic movement in 20th Century politics
  • Elizabeth Anscombe and the virtue revolution in ethics
  • the sacrifices of family life

Classic Liberal Arts Academy

The Classical Liberal Arts Academy, run by William Michael, of North Carolina, looks like a very robust and useful program in Catholic liberal education for all grades. It is especially useful for those parents who can't spend a lot of time or don't have the skill to teach well the types of subjects that make a good, classic Catholic liberal education. Hat tip goes to Dr. Nathan Schiedicke.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Terrrible News!

President Thomas Dillon of Thomas Aquinas College was killed this morning in an auto accident. His wife, Terri, was seriously injured. Please pray!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Classics of Catholic Spirituality

As part of a course I am teaching to deacon aspirants for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I am using the book called The Classics of Catholic Spirituality, by Peter John Cameron, O.P. (New York: Alba House, 1996). The book consists of fourteen brief chapters on the great spiritual classics of the past 1600 years, beginning with St. Augustine's Confessions, and ending with Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux. Among the works covered are The Cloud of Unknowing, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, The Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, Dialogues, by St. Catherine of Siena, The Imitation of Christ, Spiritual Exercises, by St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Interior Castle, Introduction to the Devout Life, The Practice of the Presence of God, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Abandonment to Divine Providence.

Each of the chapters, though brief, is insightful about the distinctive contribution of these works has made to western Catholic spirituality. I am particularly impressed by the Conclusion, which lists the seven common characteristics of Catholic Spirituality and goes into some detail about what each one means. Here they are
  • Belief in God's Love
  • God's mercy, sin, and the mode of the Soul [The is about the role that knowledge of our own sinfulness and knowledge of the mercy of God plays in the transformation and purification of our souls].
  • The instrumentality of the the Church and the Communion of Saints
  • The Importance of prayer and the struggle with aridity
  • The dynamic of detachment and holy indifference
  • The redemptive role of suffering
  • Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fr. Cameron emphasizes among other things the role of submission of the intellect to the guidance of the Church, and the value of what many "sophisticated" Catholics condescendingly dismiss as "piety."

I wonder if a similar book were written about eastern authors, what the list would consist of? 

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Blog

This weekend I taught Catholic social teachings to deacon candidates in the diocese of Evansville, IN. It was a great weekend and I thought the men were just marvelous. One of them, John McMullen, is among other things a writer and has a good blog that I want to recommend. Here it is.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Good, beautiful, tears

St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes was a Carmelite who died at the age of 19 in the early part of this century. I'm reading a book by and about her called God the Joy of My Life (Hubertus, WI: Teresian Charism Press, 1994). The editor, Michael D. Griffin, O.C.D., is discussing the struggle we all experience to attain holiness because of the divided nature of our hearts. It is a commonplace to talk about the necessity of the Cross before the Resurrection, but the description here gives a very concrete example in a young soul of how this works. The final paragraph of the section reads:

It took this lively young Chilean girl a long time to overcome her inclination to anger and to gain dominion over these disorderly forces in her life. And it was not easy. After describing the depths of her struggle, she expressed her discovery that "the good and the beautiful always cost tears."

The last line become especially poignent for us who are beginning to age and are still fighting many of the same demons that plagued us as youth, some of which we have only recently become aware of. The depths of our depravity keep revealing themselves. We can only hope that in some way the beauty and truth are beginning to shine through in our lives more.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
Invites You to its 2009

Academic Retreat for Teachers

“Truth and Joy in the Catholic School”

IMAGINE a week of uninterrupted time to:

  • Explore the foundations of Catholic education with colleagues from around the country
  • Discuss the history and integration of Western education, the Trivium, Mathematics, Science,
  • Literature, Theology and Music
  • Read and discuss authors such as Newman, Dawson, Shakespeare, Euclid, John Paul II and more
  • Discuss these writings with an intimate group of peers
  • Refresh and revitalize your sense of wonder and joy of learning!

THIS is truly an Academic Retreatlike none other...
REGISTER AND PAY ONLINE NOW!!!Register and Pay by Check Now!

DATE: July 12-17
LOCATION: University of St. Francis - Fort Wayne, Indiana
Questions? Call 805/625-1817
COST:EARLY BIRD (by June 1): Registration Only $450
AFTER June 1: $495
Includes room, board and materials—

What made this experience unique was that we did more than simply talk about the merits of a classical curriculum, we experienced them for ourselves, first hand.... I am writing to thank you for putting together a wonderful and carefully thoughtout conference. It provided a much-needed respite from the stress and chaos of becoming assistant principal at a new high school.—Peter Fletcher, Assistant Principal,St. Michael the Archangel, Baton Rouge, LA

To sign register online, click here, or write to:
Summer Academic Retreats
Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
PO Box 4638
Ventura, CA 93007

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Modern minimalism

I don't usually just point to an entry on another blog, but this one by Matt of the Holy Whapping is so good and so corresponds to my own thoughts on the subject that I can't resist.  I especially agree with the reviewer's point about an almost Gnostic fixation "with disembodied ideas and concepts."  Precisely. The dualism of Descartes takes it revenge in the Bauhaus.  

I also find this about nudity to be insightful: "I see nothing wrong with being 'modern' if that means adapting old designs to new realities and bringing forth new beauty, but I don't see why that means knocking off all the interesting bits off a building and leaving it a inhuman cube. Humans cannot stand that much "reality." Like nudity, [modern cubist, bare bones architecutre] is more often a sin against charity than chastity, more disappointing than attractive, once the initial novelty wears off."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Man, woman and history

As a result of our modern dualism--relegating sexual difference to the merely biological, leads us to think of the significance of sexual differentiation as only relevant to marriage, sexuality and family issues.  I was struck by this quote in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, quoting from John Paul II's Letter to Women: "To the 'unity of the two, God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but the creation of history itself." (147) That means, it seems to me, that every human reality is some way marked by sexual complementarity. So, if both men and women are active in the public arena, it is as complementary participants.  What that means exactly, I don't know.  We know Church life is marked by this--that is why priests are only men and why, as John Paul II says somewhere, celibacy is of the logic of priesthood (men can't remarry after being ordained). 

Monday, March 23, 2009


"Dragons and all other creatures that serve the Devil only seem big as long as we harbour fear within ourselves." Br. Edvin in Kristin Lavransdatter

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Pride, Pt. 3

Today's Morning Prayer gives us the following petition, addressed to Christ:
Corrige mentes nostras rebelles, nosque magnanimos effice.
In English: "Correct our rebellious minds, and make us magnanimous" or, as it is in the ICEL tranlation: "Discipline our rebellious minds: make us great in spirit."

ICEL sometimes does a pretty good job.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Pride, Pt. 2, as promised

From the Introduction to Tiina Nunnally's translation of Kristin Lavransdatter:

Sigrid Undset later explained that Kristin's greatest sin is not the fact that she succumbs to her sexual desires and yields to the amorous demands of her impetuous suitor before they are properly married. Of much greater import is Kristin's decision to thwart her father's wishes, to deny the traditions of her ancestors, and to defy the Church; her worst sin is that of pride. The scholar Marlene Ciklamini notes that 'in medieval times the most egregious sin was superbia, or pride, setting oneself up as the arbiter of things human and divine, or, to express it another way, loving oneself more than God.' Kristin's constant struggle to integrate a sense of spiritual humility into her strong and passionate nature underlies much of the dramatic tension in all three volumes of the novel.

I might add that superbia isn't the most egregious sin only in the middle ages, but in our day as well.

Litany of St. Joseph

Taken from Our Lady's Warriors.
Litany of St. Joseph
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father
of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy
on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us..
Holy Mary, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Renowned offspring of David, pray for us.
Light of Patriarchs, pray for
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the
Virgin, pray for us.
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Diligent protector of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray
for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most strong, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of artisans, pray for us.
Glory of home life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of families, pray for us.
Solace of the wretched, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who take away the
sins of the world, spare us, O Lord!.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of
the world, graciously hear us, O Lord!.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins
of the world, have mercy on us. .
V. He made him the lord of his household.
R. And prince over all his possessions.
Let us pray. O God, in your
ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most holy Mother; grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector: You who live and reign forever and ever. R. Amen.
Here is a sound recording of it from EWTN.

Here it is in Latin from


Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
R. Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, audi nos.
R. Christe, audi nos.
Christe, exaudi nos.
R. Christe, exaudi nos.
Pater de caelis, Deus,
R. miserere nobis.
Fili, Redemptor mundi, Deus,
R. miserere nobis.
Spiritus Sancte Deus,
R. miserere nobis.
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus,
R. miserere nobis.

(R. for ff.: ora pro nobis.)
Sancta Maria,
Sancte Ioseph,
Proles David inclyta,
Lumen Patriarcharum,
Dei Genetricis Sponse,
Custos pudice Virginis,
Filii Dei nutricie,
Christi defensor sedule,
Almae Familiae praeses,
Ioseph iustissime,
Ioseph castissime,
Ioseph prudentissime,
Ioseph fortissime,
Ioseph obedientissime,
Ioseph fidelissime,
Speculum patientiae,
Amator paupertatis,
Exemplar opificum,
Domesticae vitae decus,
Custos virginum,
Familiarum columen,
Solatium miserorum,
Spes aegrotantium,
Patrone morientium,
Terror daemonum,
Protector sanctae Ecclesiae,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
R. parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
R. exaudi nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
R. miserere nobis.
V. Constituit eum dominum domus suae.
R. Et principem omnis possessionis suae.
Deus, qui in ineffabili providentia beatum Ioseph sanctissimae Genetricis tuae Sponsum eligere dignatus es, praesta, quaesumus, ut quem protectorem veneramur in terris, intercessorem habere mereamur in caelis: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. R. Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Pride, Pt. 1

I'm going to post a couple of things on the sin of pride. I think rebellion against the Father is the chief and root cause of human woes, and it manifests itself in a plethora of ways. The first quote is from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
27. It is in the free action of God the Creator that we find the very meaning of creation, even if it has been distorted by the experience of sin. In fact, the narrative of the first sin (cf. Gen 3:1-24) describes the permanent temptation and the disordered situation in which humanity comes to find itself after the fall of its progenitors. Disobedience to God means hiding from his loving countenance and seeking to control one's life and action in the world. [Emphasis mine]. Breaking the relation of communion with God causes a rupture in the internal unity of the human person, in the relations of communion between man and woman and of the harmonious relations between mankind and other creatures[29]. It is in this original estrangement that are to be sought the deepest roots of all the evils that afflict social relations between people, of all the situations in economic and political life that attack the dignity of the person, that assail justice and solidarity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Music tonight in Milwaukee

If you like good Irish/Scottish music, you might try the Shinigans in Milwaukee tonight. Here are the details:

Shinigans include two of my children, Therese on fiddle and vocals and Nate on guitar and keyboard.

The Shinigans

Date: Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 11:00pm
Location: Derry Hegarty's Pub
Street: 5328 W Bluemound Rd
City/Town: Milwaukee, WI

Here is a link to their CD. Their current music is more trad than the CD. I have no idea if you have to have Facebook to hear these.

Waugh vs. Undset

Our high school literature group discussed Waugh's Brideshead Revisited the other night, as Love2Learn Mom reported. I find the book, and Waugh in general very tedious. I am too much a dinosaur, I suppose. I just find myself completely out of sympathy with the whole disillusionment environment of the upper class English in the time of the decline of the Empire. I just want to say to the spoiled brats, "Go do something worthwhile!" There is enough disillusionment in real life for me to want to read more about it. I know, you can argue that the message is actually one of hope in the face of the experience of disillusionment, and I'll buy that, but what my soul needs is a belief in the possibility of real heroism, purpose, direction in this life. That is why I am so glad that the next book we are reading is Undset's Kristen Lavransdatter. I've already read the first chapter of the first volume and I feel like I'm breathing fresh air again after the stale air in Waugh's world. Lavrans is someone I'd like to emulate both as a man and as a father. There is no one in Brideshead I'd want to emulate.

That is why I am such an admirer of Servant of God John Paul II. He was able to live a truly heroic, manly life in the very 20th century that Waugh was writing about. (I'm not canonizing his every decision or action, by the way. I am pretty disappointed about his apparent inability to confront the crisis in the Legionaries of Christ head on). Lavrans wasn't perfect, either. It does say in the intro of the new translation that Undset patterned Lavrans after her father.

St. Mary's in Port Washington

I'm not smart enough to be like "Lucy," of City of Steeples or the Holy Whapping gang, reporting on churches I've visited with photos and very knowledgeable details. I do want to comment on a church my wife and I happened upon while in Port Washington, Wisconsin the other day. Just north of downtown Port Washington, which is right on Lake Michigan, on a little hill is a Gothic revival church, St. Mary's. The parish is over 150 years old. I don't know what year the church was built, but it is very stately. The work around the altars is white, rather than the Bavarian woodwork I'm used to at St. Anthony's in Milwaukee. There are paintings on the side walls in the sanctuary. The one I was able to identify was the Annunciation, so a presume the others are also paintings of events in St. Mary's life.

What I wonder is how church's choose which saints to have statues of. For instance, St. Mary's has St. Henry, St. Barbara, St. Dominic, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, among others. They also have, in the back in a corner, a small shrine to Our Lady of Consolation. Which consists of a very porcelain doll like St. Mary with a blue, Infant of Prague like dress, holding the baby Jesus, who is also dressed in a similar "dress," The funny thing is his little, chubby feet sticking out from under his skirt, just dangling there.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Homeschool conference in Milwaukee

Here is a Catholic News Service article about the upcoming Greater Milwaukee Catholic Home Educators' Conference, to be held April 25-26. Among the highlights, my son and daughter are producing a stage adaptation of Regina Doman's novel, Midnight Dancers. Regina will be on hand as a speaker.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

St. Patrick ala Veggie Tales

A couple of years ago I mentioned the Veggie Tales version of the story of St. Patrick. I've since discovered that it is available online at Youtube. This is the best retelling of the story I've ever seen. It is well worth the nine minutes it takes to watch it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lying about books I've read

Woodward of Thursday Night Gumbo links to a Reuters article about the books Briton lie about having read. Here is the top ten list. The ones I've put a "*" by are ones I have read. The ones I put a "?" by are ones I remember reading, but don't know whether I finished. Numbers nine and ten I have no intention of ever reading:
*1. 1984 - George Orwell (42 percent)
?2. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (31)
*3. Ulysses - James Joyce (25)
?4. The Bible (24)
?5. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (16)
*6. A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking (15)
7. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (14)
8. In Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust (9)
9. Dreams from My Father - Barack Obama
10. The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins (6)
As for the Bible, since I've never read it straight through I have no idea whether I've read it in its entirety. I know I've read the entire New Testament, historical books and the wisdom books, but I don't know if I'd read all the prophets.
The one book that I've started to read three times but never got beyond page 700 or so was The Brothers Karamazov.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Taking refuge as escapism

One of the things that has always bothered me about Rahner is the disdain he has for the simple piety of the devout. He is especially hard on those whom he thinks try to escape the harshness of life by taking refuge in Jesus. For Rahner, To “lean on Jesus” in the face of the challenges of life is a sign of weakness. He once said in an interview, “On the one hand, I fear that some are scared by the hard struggle with the world and run therefore to Jesus.” Dialogue, p. 64. I think there is ample reason to have a fear of the hard struggle with the world if we attempt to do without first taking refuge in Jesus. The scriptures give us justification for this:

Psalm 57, for instance, says:
Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me. In you I seek shelter. In the
shadow of your wings I seek shelter till harm pass by. (v. 2)
And, of course, as we are reminded in today's office of readings, Mt. 11:28 says:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

I'm reminded of the Buddhist discipline of taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sanga so that one can become a refuge for others. Of course, in Christianity we take refuge in a person and never completely escape our dependence on that person.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Garrigou-Lagrange and Rahner

You know, if you read a history of 20th century theology you get the idea that these two are far apart. On the other hand, there are passages such as this one in G-L which is reminiscent of Rahner's idea of the mysticism in the ordinary. I think G-L says it better, though:

The exclusive use of this descriptive method [for treating mystical theology] would lead one to forget that ascetical and mystical theology is a part of theology, and to consider it as part of experimental psychology. In other words, whoever neglects to have recourse to the light of theological principles, will have to be content with the principles furnished by psychology, as do so many psychologists who treat of mystical phenomena in the different religions. This procedure, however, does not take faith into consideration at all; it permits a supernatural cause to be assigned only to facts which are essentially and manifestly miraculous. Other mystical facts, which are deeper and hence less apparently supernatural, it declares inexplicable, or it tries to explain them by placing undue stress on the merely natural powers of the soul. The same remark applies to biographies of the saints, and to the history of religious orders and even of the Church. --Christian Perfection and Contemplation, p. 19.

St. Casimir and Holiness

The Office today describes St. Casimir as especially practicing the Christian virtues of chastity, kindness to the poor, zeal for the faith, especially in regards to devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Virgin Mary.

When I die if I will be remembered for these, I will be happy.

Plus a devoted husband and father.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I picked up Christian Perfection and Contemplation the other day and started reading it. I'm finding that G-L is not exaclty the evil neoscholastic that he is sometimes painted to be. For instance, he is every bit as insistant as Servais Pinckaers that St. Thomas's moral theology is distorted by the manuals and later commentaries. Also, he actually admits the value of secular psychology even by unbelievers, so long as it stays in its area of competency. I don't know. I wasn't expecting this.

Admittedly, I haven't read his stuff on nature and grace in detail yet.