Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Two insights

It occurred to me recently that one cannot claim to be a devout Christian unless he lives a penitential life. And by that I mean what used to be called a life of self-mortification. I know quite well that charity is at the heart of true devotion, and that prayer is key.  I also know well the warning of Isaiah 58 about true fasting. Still, I also think that one will be crippled in his efforts at prayer, at justice and at charity unless he has the kind of self-mastery that for all the saints has required penitential disciplines, such as fasting, vigils, etc. When people point to St. Therese's "Little Way," they shouldn't forget that she lived at a time when the discipline of the Church was much stricter than it is now and the discipline of her order was much stricter than even that. We modern Catholics are pretty lax.  I esp. think that Americans should not so quickly beg off substantially fasting; we (I) eat way more than we need to.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A new book from Homeschool Connections called Why I Should Learn This? includes two essays I wrote on Logic and the Trivium, plus one by Alicia Van Hecke, one by Ana Braga-Henebry and one by Jean Rioux, plus some other people I'm sure you've heard of or know, like Joseph Pearce or Nancy Carpentier Brown. Here is the table of contents:

 Why Should I Learn Economics?

 Why Should I Learn Geography?

 Why Should I Learn the Constitution?
 Why Should I Learn Government, Elections, and Politics?

 Why Should I Learn Using Historical Fiction?
 Why Should I Learn Christian Historiography?
 Why Should I Learn Medieval History?

 Why Should I Learn American Sign Language?
 Why Should I Learn Latin?
 Why Should I Learn Spanish?

 Why Should I Learn Computer Skills? 
 Why Should I Learn Critical Reading and Thinking Skills?
 Why Should I Learn Organizational Skills?

 Why Should I Learn G.K. Chesterton?
 Why Should I Learn Classical Literature?
 Why Should I Learn Modern Literature?
 Why Should I Learn Using Picture Books?
 Why Should I Learn Shakespeare?
 Why Should Christians Learn Tolkien?

 Why Should I Learn Algebra?

 Why Should I Learn Arts and Crafts?
 Why Should I Learn Music History?

 Why Should I Learn Using a Charlotte Mason Education? 
 Why Should I Learn Using Montessori? 
 Why Should Your Child Learn to Read with Phonemics?
 Why Should I Learn using the Trivium?

 Why Should I Learn Philosophy?
 Why Should I Learn Formal Logic?
 Why Should I Learn Thomistic Philosophy?

 Why Should I Learn Astronomy?
 Why Should I Learn Environmental Science?
 Why Should I Learn Science and its Relationship to Faith and Reason?
 Why Should I Learn Geology?
 Why Should I Learn Nature Studies?

 Why Should I Learn All Theology through Theology of the Body?
 Why Should I Learn Apologetics?
 Why Should I Learn the Early Church Fathers?
 Why Should I Learn Heresies?
 Why Should I Learn the Theology of the Body?

 Why Should I Learn Communication?
 Why Should I Learn Fiction Writing?
 Why Should I Learn Punctuation and Grammar?
 Why Should I Learn Rhetoric and Writing?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Going to Confession

I went to confession today.  It occurred to me afterwards that it is an awesome experience to come close to the Living God to receive His Mercy. Why would anyone in the world not want that?  And why would I not want to try to make sure everyone in the world can have it?  I know that God's Mercy is operative outside the sacramental system and that those who can't avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance through no fault of their own can be forgiven, but it is so great to be able to walk into a little room, say your sins and BE FORGIVEN OF ALL OF THEM NO MATTER HOW AWFUL!

God is so good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Faith and culture videos

The Aquinas College Center for Faith and Culture, run by Joseph Pearce, has a neat multimedia page. Videos include:

  • Robert Royal on The Threats of Secularism
  • Joseph Pearce on The Evangelizing Power of Beauty: Converting the Culture
  • Fay Renardson: Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Good Government Fresco
  • Dr. Benjamin L. Smith: How the Modern World Lies about Human Dignity
  • Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli: What Did Philosophy Get from the Bible and Why Does It Matter to Me?
  • Phil Keaggy: My Faith through Music
  • Father Brian Mullady, O.P.: Who Is Christ for Today?
  • Marian Devotion in the Age of the Crusades, by Dr. Vince Ryan
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: a Catholic in a Hobbit Hole, by Father Albert Trudel, O.P.
  • Etc.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A renewal of this blog?

The original purpose of this blog was to write about classic Catholic literature. Being a great bookie from way back, I am keenly sensitive to what I perceive to be a wall between contemporary Catholics and the classic sources of our faith. That is why I am so attracted to the ressourcement authors, especially Henri de Lubac. I have even written a blog post for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about "The Wall."

My intention is to reinvigorate this blog with a renewal of its original focus. I won't limit myself to literature. I will refer to the diversity of cultural expressions, including art, music, architecture, theater, ethnic customs, even movies. I say "even movies' because I'm not an avid movie watcher.

I am going to avoid addressing contemporary "issues," such as how to interpret Pope Francis or how to respond pastorally to homosexuality or divorce, unless something from a classic text sheds some light on the issue.

I acknowledge that my focus is going to make my blog less popular than others.  However, I will occasionally address pop culture, as is my want.

Yeah, I know I've "revived" this blog before. Just pray that I can keep it up.  If you want me to, any way.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Blessing at communion

I would like to add another practical suggestion. In many countries it has become customary for persons who are not able to receive communion (for example, the members of other confessions) to approach the altar with their hands folded over their chests, making it clear that they are not receiving the sacrament but are asking for a blessing, which is given to them as a sign of the love of Christ and of the Church. This form could certainly be chosen also by persons who are living in a second marriage and therefore are not admitted to the Lord’s table. The fact that this would make possible an intense spiritual communion with the Lord, with his whole Body, with the Church, could be a spiritual experience that would strengthen and help them.
From Sandro Magister. HT Jimmy Aikins

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Medieval history and the saints

One of the best books of medieval history I've ever seen is C. Warren Hollister's Medieval Europe: A Short History He strikes a healthy balance between political, cultural, and religious history.  He is very fair in his treatment of the Church. He neither glorifies her or vilifies her.

He is clearly sympathetic with the pious aspirations of the people, and is critical of the hierarchy when they let their political ambitions get in the way of their real duty as spiritual fathers and ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For instance, he praises the genuine religious fervor of the first few of 11th and 12th century reform popes, but is critical of the later ones, especially Innocent III, for putting too much emphasis on temporal, political goals, thereby alienating the people, who hunger for spiritual food, from the clergy.

He does not see piety as a negative trait, although he clearly distinguishes it from holiness. He is especially glowing in his treatment of St. Louis, and his pious mother, Blanche of Castile, emphasizing their earnestness and success at establishing a just, Christian realm.

It is very interesting to compare the Hollister's treatment of medieval saints to that of Hugh Ross Williamson in the wonderful book, The Young People's Book of Saints. There are no real contradictions, but the emphasis is different.  Hildebrand, for instance, is never called a saint by Hollister, although his zeal and high purpose is acknowledged. Williamson, on the other hand, clearly sees St. Gregory VII as the tragic hero-saint in the conflict with Henry.

I highly recommend both books.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Wise sayings?" "Yeah, I call'm wise sayings."

I've been slowly reading Proverbs. There is so much richness in them. It even has advice for bloggers:
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion (18:2).
On gossip:
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body (18:8).
On sloth:
He who is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys (18:9).
On devotion to the Lord:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe (18:10).

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Adoration and blessing

Typically when one prays the Stations of the Cross, one begins each statement with the prayer:
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You,
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
In the past when I've said the prayer, I have considered both "adoration" and "blessing" to be consequences of the Redemption. Because of the Redemption we both adore and bless Christ. 

It occurs to me, however, that adoration and blessing (or praise) are not the same thing. While we may praise or bless God because of a particular benefit, such as the Redemption, the reason we adore is simply because God is God. No other reason. "Adoration belongs by right to the Lamb who was slain" not primarily because he is the Lamb that was slain, but because He is God!

For this reason I have taken to praying the prayer like this:
We adore, O Christ,
And we bless You because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
I have no idea how St. Francis punctuated it in the original, if he punctuated it at all, but this makes the most sense to me. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Trinity trip-up

I've noticed that priests tend to get tripped up when they are reciting Trinitarian prayers. These malaprops is usually unintentional. For instance, the formula for baptism does not have an "amen" at the end of it, but some priests feel compelled to add one anyway. Also, they tend to say "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," rather than, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  Now, the shortened version isn't exactly heretical, but it is more ambiguous, I think. And then there is the Final Blessing at Mass, when the priest says, "May almighty God bless you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  There is no "in the name of" in the text.

There is one instance where the mischief is intentional--that is the Doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.  I've probably mentioned this one before.  In order to avoid so-called "exclusive" language, they will say something like, "Through God, with God, and in God,...." Which wrecks the Trinitarian form of the prayer.

Just noticing.

Friday, August 29, 2014

St. John died for truth and justice-

The collect for today mentions that St. John the Baptist died for the sake of truth and justice. I think it interesting that the truth and justice he died for was about marriage. It might be helpful to keep that in mind in our present climate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

silence, kneeling, candles

Back in my youth there is one thing you could count on; old people would keep silent when they were in Church, kneel when they prayed, and light votive candles for particular intentions. My association of those practices with the elderly is so strong, that it is a little disconcerting when I attend daily Mass nowadays where there are a lot of old people who are chatting in the chapel, and who only kneel when it is prescribed in the Liturgy. Otherwise they sit to pray. To top it off, only one or two votive candles is lit at at time.  It used to be the rack was almost all lit up.

Of course, this is a generation of old people that were in their 30s and 40s when I was a kid, so they were thoroughly formed by the "new" piety. As for kneeling, I know that many have knee problems that make kneeling problematic. Besides, there are no kneelers in the chapel and the main Church did not have kneelers for many years, so they probably got out of the habit. Heck, I don't always kneel when I pray. I think the silence would be encouraged if there were no buzzing florescent lights and if the chapel weren't carpeted. And if the priest would say something about it or put up a sign.

I've taken to lighting a vigil candle every time I go into the chapel just because--to give Glory to God and honor to the blessed Mother. Votive candles are evidence that one believes in "mediation" of God's Grace -- of sacramentality. It is a way to transform our work into prayer. When we pay for the candle our work becomes the candle, so to speak, which then is offered to God. And, of course, our prayer continues after we've left because it is our work that has become the prayer.

I think these three practices are important enough that I'd like to encourage any priest who reads this blog (hahahahahahaha) to talk to his congregation about it. Or put up signs.  Or something. Also, I hope that when I become the old generation, I'll be an good example.

[Shhhhhh. Light a candle!]

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A quiz

Heard on the radio this morning. "Ladies and gentlemen, THERE. IS. YOUR. DAGGER!"

1) Who said it?
2) What radio station?
3) What is the significance?

My kids are excluded from this contest.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home school scripture class

This fall and spring I will be teaching two online high school scripture classes for Homeschool Connections. In the fall I will be teaching Introduction to the Old Testament. In the spring I will continue with Introduction to the New Testament. Here is a link to a description and registration information.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Family, Marriage, Religion, social problems stats

Here is a link to the Marriage and Religion Research Institute page called Mapping America. It contains statistics about the relationship between marriage, religion, education, charity, psychological health, and just about every social problem you could think of, including drinking, drugs, abortion, and being paid or paying for sex. For instance, here is the chart about "Divorce or Separation: Religious Attendance and Family Structure in Adolescence."
According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), 17 percent of adults who attended religious services at least monthly and lived in an intact family through adolescence have ever been divorced or separated, compared to 27 percent of those who attended religious services less than monthly and lived in a non-intact family as adolescents. In between were those who attended religious services at least monthly but lived in a non-intact family (25 percent) and those who lived in an intact family but worshiped less than monthly (20 percent).
Here's one about "Religious Attendance and Shoplifting."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Doubting Thomas?

It is a common belief that in the scene in John 20 in which Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas, Jesus is chiding Thomas when he says, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." I've come to the conclusion that this is false. Thomas is an apostle, that is, an eyewitness. He has to see in order to be an Apostle. Our faith is based on the witness of the Apostles, so if they aren't witnesses, then how can we base our belief on their witness?

This passage is, in fact, establishing the bona fide of the apostolic witness by highlighting that Thomas and the other Apostles did see. Even Paul is an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus, and hence an Apostle, though not one of the Twelve. And, of course, Matthias was selected because he was an eyewitness.

I wonder if anyone has done a study exploring why St. Thomas is so important in the Gospel of John.  He appears several times.  In the scene when Jesus starts towards Bethany to heal Lazarus, he says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  At the Last Supper he asks, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" To which Jesus says "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him."  And, of course, Thomas is the one who calls Jesus "My Lord and my God" directly. Finally, he appears on the shore of the sea with Peter, Nathaniel, the Sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples in the "coda" in Chapter 21.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Personal devotion to the Blessed Mother

We are meant to have a personal relationship with the Blessed Mother beyond the rich liturgical life of the Church, which includes the many feasts and solemnities, not to mention the various mentions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Mass and other liturgies. This principle applies to the images of the Blessed Mother that invoke our spiritual affection. That which moves me may not move another. It has to do with what image Providence has made the medium of a more personal relationship.

Our family is heavily involved in the Schoenstatt movement, which is very Marian. Their preferred image of Our Lady is the Mother Thrice Admirable to the left. Even Schoenstatt people admit it isn't great art, but it is the image that was given to them by Providence to put in the original Schoenstatt Shrine in German.  Now all the dozens and dozens of shrines in the world have them, not to mention every Schoenstatt home. We have several scattered throughout the house.

I have never developed a warm affection for the MTA. The Schoenstatt image that moves me more is called the Unity Cross, which was designed in Chile. It features Our Lady at the foot of the Cross holding a chalice to receive the blood and water that flows from the side of Christ. The idea of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ is significant for my spirituality because of its connection to the Sacred Heart, which is the title of Jesus that has the longest and deepest history in my life. When I pray at home I either look to the image of the Sacred Heart that you see to the left of my posts at the top of the blog page or to the Unity Cross. They are both in our living room, as is the Mother Thrice Admirable picture above.

When I was teaching theology at Sacred Heart School of Theology, I dedicated one Lent to increasing my personal devotion to Our Lady. At that point I began the practice of never approaching the altar of our Lord unless "accompanied" by the Blessed Mother. This idea came from the Unity Cross, but in practice before going to my pew I would venerate an image of the Flight Into Egypt that was in the back of the chapel at SHST. I have nothing to say about the artistic value of the terra cotta bas relief, but the image itself reminded my of my own role as father--protector of the Mother and Child. I don't have a photo of that one that I can find. Left, though, is another picture that is in the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapel at SHST. I've always liked this one artistically.

The image that has come to mean the most to me, however, is a statue in the St. Joseph chapel at St. Martin of Tours parish in Franklin, WI. We attend daily Mass there most days. Not great art, perhaps, but I have come to have a warm affection for her when kneeling before this image, or lighting a candle in her honor. It has become THE Blessed Mother for me--the focus of my personal relationship. My wife says it is Our Lady of Fatima.  I don't know. I have no particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, although one of my favorite saints, John Paul II, did. This is where I go to find a place of rest for my weary soul.

Then, of course, there is this, which does mean a lot to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Queen and the Dragon

Our kids have developed an enthusiasm for new group called SHEL. They are four sisters (Sarah, Hannah, Eva, Liza, get it?) from Fort Collins, CO who play violin, piano, mandolin, and drums. Their music is hauntingly beautiful. I like just about everything on their first album.

One of their songs is called "When the Dragon Came Down." The lyrics are the kind that tear your heart apart. It is the story of a king who lost his queen and his kingdom to a dragon that attacked while he wasn't paying the kind of attention he should have. Here are the lyrics, as far as I can distinguish them.  I may have one or two phrases wrong, but you get the point:

Lay your head down
Close your eyes
Sleeping on a golden bed
Cold as ice.

Oh is she really gone
I lost my queen along with my crown
when the dragon came down
Oh deep within my sleep
awakened by the sound of her scream.
The dragon came down like a dream.

The news gets worse every day.
I read my paper, pull my weight.
Head buried in the sand.
The truth can free you [common man?]
Wisdom take me by the hand
Help me understand.
The Dragon came down.
[end of chorus]

See the sun rise in the east
Evil wakes when the king sleeps.

Oh is she really gone….[chorus]

You a man with a broken soul
You’re a king who is alone
You’re a cripple without a home
You’re a bird struck by a stone

Better cut my tongue out now
Before I speak the truth too loud
For the hope we’ve lost is found
For the world is awakened by this sound.

By this sound.

When the dragon came down.

Oh, is she really gone. 
I lost my queen along with my crown

When the dragon came down.

I've rarely heard a sense of loss and guilt so well expressed.

Compare another "poem" about a Queen and a dragon--one that features a dragon coming down to destroy a Queen.

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child.
But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.
But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth.
Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. 
We've discussed whether SHEL is Christian.  I think not. Perhaps this song is their longing for Rev. 12. "The truth can free you..., Wisdom take me by the hand, Help me understand."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The lives of two child stars

I incidentally had the opportunity recently to compare the lives of two child stars, Ricky Nelson and Donny Osmond. Apparently Ozzie Nelson was very strict, authoritarian and controlling. This seems to have resulted in Ricky becoming quite libertine when it came to sex and drugs."Nelson had a tremendous sexual appetite and a casual attitude toward sex, once estimating he had had sex with thousands of women."

Contrast Donny Osmond, who is quoted as saying:
Donny: “I married as a virgin. I really did [laughing]. And, I’m proud of it. It was difficult. Boy! let me tell you it was difficult! The hormones were raging…”
 Piers: “Do you wish you’d just piled in back then, Donny?”
 Donny: “I’m glad I withheld. I really am.”
Hilary White says in the same article,
I think Donny Osmond, with his whole family, represented something more than just silly teeny-bopper pop songs. They were sold as the “clean” pop act of their time, happy, innocent and cheerful. They made their name not only as a talented family act, but as one dedicated to the old fashioned religious-based virtues that had been hugely popular since the end of World War II. They were, in fact, the living embodiment of an innocent enjoyment of youth and, yes, I’ll say it, romantic love, that itself turned to “industry poison” at exactly that historical moment.
I think it is intriguing to think about why morality "takes" for some children, and not for others.  I have no wisdom on the matter at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jane Austen's Persuasion

My son-in-law and daughter, Chris and Therese Goode, are involved in an Acadia Theatre production of Jane Austen's Persuasion, adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc.  Here is a review, which highlights the valuable contribution of the Goodes. There are still shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday (2), and Sunday. See Acacia Theatre Company's web page for details.

How to stop the bleeding

This article in Crisis about the demise of theology and philosophy requirements at Catholic Universities is very discouraging. I have at least one friend who lost a job because his school cut out the theology requirements. I love this quote about what few courses remain:
Do students read better after such classes? Do they think more critically? Are they any more ethical? Do they understand their faith any better? The answer is usually no, and this is really no surprise since these departments long ago forswore those goals in their headlong pursuit of their own professional specialization.
Anthony Esolen makes a similar point about the absence of beauty, esp. poetry, in modern education. Modern educators have no use for beauty, because there is no political pay-off. After quoting Keat's "Ode to Autumn," he says,
Keats has said nothing about death, but it is there, like a shadow, a gentle one, not to be feared. His ode is sweet and sad, a companion for life. You cannot do anything political with it. You cannot do anything at all with it, no more than you can do anything with a sunset, or the warm pressure of a friendly hand. It brings beauty that clears the mind of what is merely ugly or crass or squalid. It is fresh air, God-sent.
I think among the things needed is for the hierarchy to realize that the demise of a robust Catholic liberal education is making evangelization even harder, because the faith is grounded in a reality that modern modes of discourse and analysis can't reach.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Romance of the Sea

Our family had a discussion recently about what geological feature is the most attractive to each of us: ocean, forest, mountain, plain, desert, icecap, etc. I have always said "mountains."  I especially love the Austrian Alps, but find the Smokies, Blue Ridge, and the Colorado/New Mexico Rockies to be close to my heart. I lived ten months in Austria during my sophomore year. This is where I lived.

Which is why I was struck this morning while I was reading the Afterward of the Third Edition of Lewis's Pilgrim's Regress by the phrase, "the noise of the falling waves."  Suddenly a series of recent events and associations came to mind having to do with the sea. I'm reading Treasure Island aloud to the boys. I saw the play Jane Austen's Persuasion yesterday, which features an admiral and two sea-captains. I've been listening to one of my favorite orchestral pieces, La Mer, by Debussy.

Finally, as we were waiting to watch the play, we sat at the little amphitheater at Concordia University that looks over Lake Michigan. It may not be the ocean, but it is an inland sea. The colors of the water and the sky were breathtaking. It is as if someone had taken all the blues and greens from a sixty-four crayon box and drawn a sea-scape. I wish I had a picture of it.  I wish I had had an hour and the skill to paint it. My thirteen-year old son couldn't take his eyes off of it. The picture is from my other son's smart phone. I tried to adjust the color some to get the nuance, but the greens and purples aren't as strong they really were

One of my most vivid memories is walking to the west end of one of the main streets in San Francisco and coming to a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Huge waves were crashing against the rocks below. The sky was a dramatic of sun and whirling clouds. I just stood there and listened to the "noise of the falling waves."  If I hadn't had an appointment I might have stood there for hours.

I'm not an "ocean" guy like some of my kids are, but there is certainly a "romance of the sea" which affects me deeply. I think the same can be said about forest and desert. I'm not so much struck by the plains or prairie, although I love the Little House books, and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Cardinal Ratzinger on Homosexuality

There is all kinds of talk about homosexuality these days. For me, it is important to affirm that two persons of the same sex who desire sexual relations with each other may also genuinely love each other. That love and its possibility needs to be affirmed. The danger to that love that sexual attraction introduces also needs to be acknowledged.

Here is a link to an article that includes 15 quotes from a 1986 letter on pastoral care of homosexual persons to bishops by Cardinal Ratzinger, in his capacity as Prefect of the CDF. I think any reflection on this issue needs to be engaged within the parameters of this letter.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Missale Romanum online

Fr. Z. posted about a new online version of the Missale Romanum cum Lectionibus ad Usum Cotidianum in Latin.  Neat.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Europe 1914-2014

Here is a comparison map of Europe between 1914 and 2014. What is amazing to contemplate is the amount of human blood spilled in order to achieve all that change. Also, the fall of so many empires (including the British empire and the Ottoman). I also noticed that Serbia shifted quite a bit to the north. Note that the map shows Crimea belonging to Ukraine. Almost all the change, except Ireland, was in central and eastern Europe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas's advice to relieve stress

From Norm Yerke's, Papa Norm's Common Sense Book of Wisdom, p. 9: "1) exercise; 2) listen to music; 3) read books as an escape; 4)  be around people."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Is Notre Dame still Catholic?

Everyone's favorite question.

Here is a thoughtful and, in my view, accurate answer to the question. by Michael Bradley on the Ethika Politika blog (HT my eldest). He first determines that, according to a couple of criteria taken from Ex Corde Ecclesiae, ND is failing even its own criteria for being Catholic, esp. in the area of percentage of faculty who embrace the Catholic intellectual tradition. He then makes the following point, which I have seen with my own three children who have gone to ND.
But a more practical question on the minds and hearts of many American Catholics is where they can send their children to receive a viable, robust, fruitful Catholic education, a tertiary schooling experience from which students can emerge as Catholic adults prepared to live as vibrant witnesses to the world in service to the Church. I submit that Notre Dame belongs in every responsible answer to that query, and that the Catholic educational experience on offer at Notre Dame is among the very best in America. One just has to be intentional—and perhaps lucky—to experience it.
I guess the best way to put it is that there is a Catholic university experience available at Notre Dame, but that it is mixed in with a University (community of scholars) that has a different logic. Institutionally, the battle rages, but for the student who pursues it, there is a real, vibrant Catholic intellectual, cultural and spiritual tradition. Unfortunately, most students there don't know they ought to pursue it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Architectural Blog

My son, Nate, who just graduated from Notre Dame in architecture, has a new web page called Pugins's Apprentice: Architecture and the Common Good.  It includes a blog that treats architectural issues from a philosophical perspective.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What do I post about?

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of what I call classic Catholicism. I hope to help the Church keep in touch with her roots in the great spiritual, cultural and intellectual tradition which marks the past 2000 years of Church history.

I looked at my tags yesterday to see how I was doing.  I sorted them according to the number of times I used each tag. Here is the top ten:

Classic Texts         139
Books                    111
Liturgy                   93
spirituality              88
intellectual life       85
ethics                      63
saints                       61
literature                 60
Catholic Education 58

20th century
Catholic Literature  55

It looks like I'm dong a pretty good job of staying focused.  Of course, there is some overlap in these numbers because a post can be about more than one topic.

One thing I found interesting is that I've posted more on Chesterton (17) than Lewis (12), and more on Lewis than Tolkien (8). This is the reverse of my interest in and opinion of these great authors.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reporting on the Church

I am constantly amazed at the clumsy way reporters write about events in the Church. You would think they would want to get things as accurately as possible. You'd also think they'd want to avoid putting their own editorial spin on the report. Alas, it is not to be. Here is a recent report in something called NorthJersey.com about the pope's interview on the plane returning from the Middle East. I'm going to intersperse comments throughout, as Fr. Z. likes to do.
Pope Francis again sent shockwaves across the Catholic world [This reporter has a) defined "sent shockwaves" and done research in the past 24 hours all over the Church to determine this. What is is really sahing is that it sent shock-waves through him.], telling reporters in his latest wide-ranging press conference that he would welcome an “open door” discussion on priests’ celibacy.
Though he said he favored celibacy, church analysts on Tuesday said Pope Francis’ remarks could be the beginning of change on an issue that has long been contested among reform groups and priests.[As he notes later, there have been exceptions to the celibacy discipline for decades now. So, if there is a change, it was begun by previous popes.] 
“Celibacy is not a dogma of faith,” Pope Francis declared [said, not "declared."] in a session with reporters traveling in his plane from the Holy Land to Rome on Monday night. “It is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal, and I believe it is a gift for the church. The door is always open.” [The door is always open when it comes to disciplinary practices in the Church. That doesn't mean that a change can be made willy-nilly at any point.] 
It remains to be seen whether his comments will bring change in church law or allow for more exceptions. [The comments in an interview cannot bring change in Church law. To allow more exceptions is a change in Church law, so the "or" is gratuitous ] Married Episcopal priests, for example, can be ordained in a Catholic diocese [To be precise, men who have been ordained in the Anglican communion, but who have left that communion and joined the Catholic Church can be ordained]
The pope’s remarks were the latest indication that he is aggressively trying to reform the church, in a way that’s palatable to both liberals and conservatives, said Charles Reid, a canon lawyer and professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. 
“He wants to move the church as rapidly as possible to reform, but he also does not want to split the church in two,” Reid said. [I'd like to note that at least since Pius XII all popes have been trying to aggressively reform the Church without splitting it apart.]
It’s possible, Reid said, that Pope Francis would test the waters by ordaining [to the priesthood--they are already ordained to the deaconate] some permanent deacons, who are allowed to be married [If he ordains them to the priesthood, they are not permanent deacons.]. Some bishops in Latin America have asked about this, and Pope Francis has said he would consider their requests, Reid said.
A more dramatic approach would be to allow deacons from entire dioceses to be ordained or to form a commission to review the issue, Reid said. [I don't think forming a commission is more radical than ordaining married deacons.]
Earlier this year, a group of women who said they were in relationships with priests sent a letter to the pope. They pleaded for a change in the celibacy requirement. “Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with,” the women wrote.
As pope, Francis is the supreme legislator of the church and could eliminate the celibacy requirement today. But he is taking a cautious approach because he needs the backing of various church interests and other Vatican officials, Reid said. [and, more importantly, he has to consult the Church. No legislator should justly make a major change without wide consultation and long reflection on the short- and long-term effect of the change.]
“You need to build that momentum, because you have an awful lot of men who are deeply invested in the status quo,” Reid said. “They’ve lived their whole lives like this.” [Maybe it is because many priests and lay people see real value in the discipline for the life of the Church. They aren't just foot-draggers. Me, for instance.]
Psychologists have debunked the myth that the chastity requirement helped fuel the clergy sexual-abuse crisis[That's good!], but some experts express concerns about it being unhealthy. Robert Hoatson, a former priest in the Newark Archdiocese, said that while he lived up to his vow of celibacy for nearly 40 years, he has seen others develop insular personalities and struggle with their sexual identity and ability to cultivate healthy relationships.[Is there a greater percentage of celibate priests with sexual struggles than non-celibate lay people? I rather doubt it. What is unhealthy is a priest who is required to be celibate without proper formation in the deep meaning of celibacy.]
“It’s forcing people to go into an unnatural state that they most likely would not choose if they did not go into the priesthood,” [No one is forced to be a priest. The idea that it is unnatural is a red herring. If that is true, than anyone who is not sexually active after they reach puberty is warped. So, the teaching against fornication is also destructive. There is no reason why the sexual energies can't be redirected to a different kind of love that is every bit as real, if not more real, than marital love]  Hoatson said. “Someone who falls in love shouldn’t have to say, ‘I have to get out of the priesthood.’” [So, if you are married and fall in love you should be able to leave the marriage?]
A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychiatrist’s assistant and former priest who has studied the effects of celibacy on Catholic clergy for the past 50 years, welcomed the pope’s comments, saying that they were “a terribly important step in a direction other people have said was impossible.” [Why is everyone quoted in this article a former priest?  Did he not interview anyone who is a celibate priest and thinks it is a good idea? This is the kind of thing that makes people think journalists skew reporting to fit an agenda.]
He said the rules against sex and relationships were not followed by most priests. [How did he define "not practicing celibacy?".] A 25-year study Sipe conducted found that 60 percent of Catholic priests were not practicing celibacy, which he said takes its own toll. [Is this a peer-reviewed study?  Has it been verified?]
“A great difficulty is the double living – saying one thing and doing another,” Sipe said. “That takes a very deep psychological price on a person, what’s called the divided heart.” [Agreed. This is a very bad thing.]
A church official in North Jersey, who insisted on anonymity, said celibate priests can be lonely. [I don't think you needed to ask a church official about this.  I'm married and I can be lonely. Is sexual activity the only way to relieve loneliness?  Does it work?]
“A lot of priests I’ve seen get in trouble because of loneliness,” the official said, “and they found comfort in the bottle.” [True of married lay people, too.]
Another concern, the official said, is priests who become romantically involved with people they are counseling – a conflict that has proven to be a legal liability. [True of lay, married therapists, counselors, and teachers. Nothing to do with celibacy. Here's the thing--struggles with sexuality are part of the human condition. Being a priest doesn't exempt you from it.]
Over the past 20 years, the official said that he has seen about a dozen cases in which men were found to have violated the celibacy law. All were placed on sabbatical leave to contemplate whether they wanted to remain in the priesthood – about 10 decided to exit the ministry and two pledged a renewed commitment to chastity, he said. [Only ten?]
Thousands of priests and nuns left the ministry in the 1960s and 1970s to get married, church historians say. Among them were Anthony Padovano, a former priest, and his wife, Theresa, a former nun. They were married in 1974 and have four children. They are awaiting the birth of their third grandchild.
“I would be conditionally interested,” in returning to the priesthood, Anthony Padovano, 79, of Morris Plains said Tuesday when he was told about the pope’s remarks.
Padovano said much would depend on the cultural climate in the church, and how much freedom he would have to speak on such issues as same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. He said he would not expect to speak about those issues from the pulpit, but would not want to be silenced completely. [It is almost as if the reporter is trying to correlate trouble with celibacy with dissent from the Church's teaching. Of course, if you do have trouble with the Church's teaching on sexuality, you aren't likely to appreciate celibacy. Esp. if you think same-sex "marriage" is a good thing--a relationshp based on emotional atraction rather than a committment to union for the sake of procreation]
Joseph Lynaugh, 74, of Ridgewood also left the church in the 1970s, but not to get married. He was working as a chaplain at Columbia University when he approached Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1973 about leaving the priesthood because he disagreed with some church doctrine, and the church’s treatment of women. [Once again....]
“This isn’t going to work,” he said he told the cardinal.
Lynaugh, a retired health care executive, met his wife after leaving the priesthood. They have two grown children and celebrated their 39th anniversary on Monday. He said he had no interest in returning to the priesthood but found it “fascinating” that Pope Francis addressed the issue. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mark Shea comments re: "gay marriage":
The advent of the catastrophic social experiment gay 'marriage' (like it's far more lethal ancestor no-fault divorce) may be a surprise to us, but it's not a surprise to God. The Church will be guided through these turbulent waters as He has ever guided us.
Very good point about it not being a surprise to God.  We'll fumble around in our response, but the Church will not fall into error. That doesn't mean that individual Catholics, priest, or even bishops won't goof up somehow. This is one of the reasons it is hard to be Catholic. We may have certainty, but we don't have certainty that we will live by what the Church is certain of.

I think, though, that no-fault divorce is not more lethal than "gay marriage." I suppose I'd have to know why he thinks no-fault divorce is "lethal."  If he means "to the soul," I'm not sure how it could be.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cardinal Dolan steers the middle course

Cardinal Dolan's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (the link goes to the National Catholic Register's article about the op-ed) seems to me to strike the right balance between "market economy" and "redistribution."
But the church certainly disapproves of any system of unregulated economic amorality, which leaves people at the mercy of impersonal market forces, where they have no choice but to sink, swim or be left with the scraps that fall from the table. That kind of environment produces the evils of greed, envy, fraud, misuse of riches, gross luxury and exploitation of the poor and the laborer. 
As Dolan points out, Pope Francis is saying that while there may be situations in which some redistribution is necessary, it is not the cornerstone of the strategy to get people out of poverty: personal virtue is.
[I]ndividual generosity, private economic development, community and family initiatives, and public policies of "legitimate redistribution of economic benefits" all have a role in enhancing economic opportunities, and in alleviating and eliminating poverty. 
Note that "ndividual generosity, private economic development, [and] community and family initiatives" are difficult to enact in a tightly controlled economy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why we should still read early Church writings

De Lubac makes a great observation in The Drama of Atheistic Humanism about the modern inversion of liberty. The ancients felt themselves entrapped by fate or at the mercy of capricious and self-serving gods, "who pinioned human life in the net of their tyrannical wills, weighing upon the soul with all their terrors" (5). They felt the world to be a prison. The Gospel of the resurrection and of union with the Creator was experienced as a liberation from an endless cycle of doom. "No more circle! No more blind hazard! No more Fate!"

Early Christian writers still exult in that sense of new freedom. "What wealth and force our faith is forfeiting by its ignorance of, for instance, the hymns of triumph and the stirring appeals that echo in the Prostrpticus of Clement of Alexandria!"

In our day, however, modern man experiences the escape as an imprisonment. He thinks he, by his own power, can create paradise on earth if only the wrong people can be got rid of. He chooses the closed circle and ignores the obvious evidence that the closed circle leads to destruction, rather than freedom and joy because the world is permeated by the principle of corruption. Exalting the circle leads us to criticize Tolkien for promoting "escape" through fantasy. Yet, all he is doing is reminding us that we need to escape the circle and that Providence makes it possible for us to do so, since we can't do it ourselves. The Invisible Hand may not lead to economic prosperity, but it does lead us to persistent joy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

True reform

"Every true and lasting reform has ultimately sprung from the sanctity of men who were driven by the love of God and of men."  -- Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, 1937.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I can sing the Alma Mater

Almost at every turn this graduation weekend at Notre Dame we were invited to sing the Alma Mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother," including at the end of the Baccalaureate Mass.   Because of the ambiguity of the term "Notre Dame," the question came up about the appropriateness of the song at Mass. If one sees it as addressed to Our Lady, okay, but if the term refers to the university, well....

Here are the lyrics:
Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.
It seems to me that the lyrics are very specifically addressed to the Lady atop the Golden Dome, who is Our Lady, not the university. I'm sure it is possible for unthinking undergraduates and alumni to think that the phrase refers to the university. Certainly the university isn't adverse to making a close connotative connection between the two.

For me, though, it is so clearly Our Lady and not the university that I have no trouble singing it as a hymn even at Mass.

I also think they should sing it at the end of all home games, whether we win or lose. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Divine Mercy controversy

I was reading the comments in an article in the National Catholic Register about the beatification of Pope Paul VI (something one should never do), and I was very surprised at the hostility on the part of what appeared to be traditionalists towards the Divine Mercy devotion. I did not realize that there was a traditionalist critique of the devotion. Nor did anyone explain the basis of the critique.

I was also wondering why people who think everything that happened in the Church since 1960 is evil are reading the National Catholic Register.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

O Radiant Light

So, we were going to sing "O Radiant Light" (#184 in Christian Prayer). I chanced to ask "What mode is this in?"

I don't know modes, but it starts and ends on A and has no sharps and flats, so I figured it was in the key of A-minor.  (That would be Aeolian, fyi, according to Thaddeus).

But Thaddeus pipes at as easy as you please and says "D - Dorian."  Which, in fact, is the case. If you play the background chord (drone), it is definitly D-min., which, would ordinarily have a B-flat. But the tune actually has a B. When you raise the sixth in a standard minor key, it becomes Dorian!

The other chants that I looked at all begin and end on the tonic.  Admittedly, I took a very small sampling (3 or 4). Still, it is odd that ORL starts and ends on the fifth and only touches the tonic at the end of the first line.

I have always thought that ORL ended without really ending. Now I know why.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Lewis vs. Tolkien

I thought that headline might grab some of you!

It occurred to me when reading "The Scouring of the Shire" to the kids the other day, that "The Scouring" could be seen as Tolkien's answer to That Hideous Strength. The Lord of the Rings was written after THS.  In fact, wasn't there something about Lewis and Tolkien challenging each other to write stories--Lewis's was going to be a space story and Tolkien's a time story? The Space Trilogy vs. LOTR, which is set in the far reaches of the past?

Compare and contrast Frodo (wounded, tempered by his personal failure) to Ransom (wounded, but having been successful on Perelandra). Gandalf (absent because they don't need him any more and his mission is done) to Merlin (who had to be invoked deus ex machina). You could even compare and contrast the Studdocks with Sam and Rosie. Then there is the almost vengeful violence of the end of THS vs. Frodo's admonition to avoid violence if at all possible. No hobbit should be killed even if he really went over to the other side vs. Wither and Frost.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Synod Prayer

When I pray this prayer, I enhance it a little in my mind.  My additions are in red.

Prayer in Preparation for the Synod

O Lord, we accept your invitation to enter into the great mystery of your love the death of Jesus on the Cross and presence within your Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the renewal and propagation of the fruits of the Cross.
Through word and sacrament, you lead us into communion with you.
Relying on this spiritual intimacy, help open our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit as we fashion our response to the cries of the poor who struggle to know Jesus.
(Pause and silently mention your personal intentions)
We give you thanks O Lord for the men and women who have offered their lives as gifts to build His [Your]  Church.
Renew within us the “fire” [I take the quotation marks out.  I don't know why they are there.] that burns with the [Your] love, the "love of the Lord" for our brothers and sisters.
As we seek to fulfill our responsibilities through the Archdiocesan Synod, we stand at the foot of the Cross with St. John the Evangelist, patron of the archdiocese, who was charged to care for Mary, Mother of the Church.  Asking their intercession, we offer this prayer through Christ our Lord.

If you want to be a good poet,....

...read the psalms. For instance, you can't beat how the Psalmist in Ps. 55 expresses his agony and distress when he says in v. 3, "I rock with grief."

Also, this is heart-wrenching:

For it is not an enemy that reviled me –
that I could bear –
Not a foe who viewed me with contempt,
from that I could hide.'
But it was you, my other self,
my comrade and friend,
You, whose company I enjoyed,
at whose side I walked
in the house of God.
Even the line break between "at whose side I walked/in the house of God" lends weight to the sense of agony.