Friday, December 31, 2010

A Younger Ted Kennedy on Abortion

Source

"While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.

"On the question of the individual's freedom of choice there are easily available birth control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy [editor's note: Ted already betrayed the fort with that remark]. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire.

"When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."

- Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, August 3, 1971

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Road Trip

This week I'm wintering at my parents' house in Florida. Normally I would fly a commercial airline for this outing, but instead I drove nine hours rather than endure the TSA harassment at the airport. And I feel much safer for it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Odin Go Home

Christmas Eve

Source

Hugo Jaeger, one of Hitler's personal photographers, took pictures of the Fuhrer, his generals, and a herd of Nazi thugs at a Christmas-time gala for SS officer cadets in Munich on December 18, 1941. Jaeger buried the images in glass jars on the outskirts of Munich; later he sold them to Life Magazine, which published many of them this week.

The mass murderers are not having a good time of it, judging by their dispirited scowls in the color prints. Small wonder, as the Russians had been knocking them about the eastern front pretty well.

The photos are interesting on multiple levels, one of them being that they help demonstrate how much the Nazis really hated Christianity.

From the article:

* Hitler believed religion had no place in his 1,000-year Reich. He replaced the Christian figure of St. Nicholas with the Norse god Odin. He directed Germans to celebrate the season as a holiday of the "winter solstice."

* The angel atop the Christmas tree in one photo has been replaced with a swastika. Many of the tree's ornaments carried runic symbols and iron cross motifs.

* A few years later, in 1944-1945, the Nazis tried to reinvent Christmas as a day to commemorate the war dead.

Points to ponder the next time someone trots out the calumny that the Third Reich was the consequence of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Nativity

We have a new installment in the collection of Nativity sets.


Thanks Mom!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Virgin Birth

"Before she was in labor, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man child."
-
Isaiah 66:7

This prophecy from Isaiah describes the birth of Christ: when He was born into the world, He did so in a way that left His mother's virginity intact.

Something like this miracle is repeated after the Resurrection, when Christ appears to His disciples after they have locked themselves in the upper room:

"Now when it was late the same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst..."
-
John 20:19

Mary was always a Virgin -- to the ends of her days, Deo gratias.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

By the Numbers

What's the ratio of cradle Catholics to the overall population vs. the ratio of Catholic immigrants to the overall population? The US population has skyrocketed, while the number of cradle Catholics have not kept pace. That the ratio seems comparable to what we saw 50 years ago is due largely to Catholic immigrants.

Of those who call themsleves Catholic, how many accept all the dogmas? How many accept as a matter of Faith the True Presence, Papal infallability, and the Immaculate Conception? Attend Mass every Sunday, keep their Easter duty, and refuse the use of artificial birth control? Only a minority of those who call themselves Catholic.

The problem stems from the highest levels, where Churchmen from Rome on down have parted from the faith of their fathers and embraced a new modernist creed. The children have asked for bread, and their modernist spiritual fathers have given them stones. The situation is grave indeed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

America's Patroness

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

"I will put enmities between thee and the woman."

In these words the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was announced to our first parents. It was to be the reversal of the friendship with the serpent contracted by Eve, when she listened to his voice and fell under his power. The second Eve was never to be under the power of the devil; the enmity between them was to admit of no possible exception. This involved the grace of being conceived immaculate. Mary's Immaculate Conception was the foundation of all her graces. The absence of any stain or spot of sin distinguished her from all the rest of mankind. It distinguished her from the holiest of the Saints, since they, one and all, were sinners. Her perfect sinlessness was the source of all her glory and all her majesty; it was this which opened the door to the unlimited graces which she received from God; it was this that qualified her for her divine maternity, and raised her to her throne as Queen of heaven.

"O Queen, conceived without original sin, pray for us, who have recourse to thee."

As December 8 is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception -- the patroness of the United States -- it seems fitting to offer up today this prayer for the country.

Prayer for Our Government
Abridged from a prayer composed by Archbishop Carroll A.D. 1800, for the United States of America

We pray Thee, O almighty and eternal God, who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy; that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue, with unchanging faith, in the confession of Thy name.

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist, with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude, the President of the United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides, by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of the Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our government; so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge, and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State, for the members of the Assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare; that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy all our brethren and fellow-citizens, throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge, and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union and in that peace which the world cannot give; and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Only Saints Go to Heaven

From St. Lous de Montfort's True Devotion: Consecration to Mary:

There are those who think that it is sufficient to be saved and that it is not necessary to be a saint. It is clearly not necessary to be a saint who performs miracles and whose sanctity is officially recognized by the Church. To be saved, we must take the way of salvation, which is identical to that of sanctity. There will be only saints in heaven, whether they enter there immediately after death or after purification in purgatory. No one enters heaven unless he has that sanctity which consists in perfect purity of soul. Every sin, though it should be venial, must be effaced, and the punishment due to sin must be borne or remitted, in order that a soul may enjoy forever the vision of God, see Him as He sees Himself, and love Him as He loves Himself. Should a soul enter heaven before the total remission of its sins, it could not remain there and would cast itself into purgatory to be purified.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conspiracy Junkies

A while back I was party to a 9/11 conspiracy discussion with a chap who had a Doctorate in Grassy Knoll Philosophy.

For the record, I'm of the camp who thinks that:
(1) The airplanes flown into the twin towers brought them down;
(2) The Pentagon was hit by a plane and not a missile;
(3) War planes did not shoot down the fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

Very official story of me, I know. And anyone who thinks I'm a news media groupie had better take another look at my posts on this blog over the past few years.

Anyway, as the exchanges with the individuals who were half a bubble off plum were winding down, I was reminded of another conspiracy discussion I'd been involved in.

Once I was dining with a friend's out of town guest who offered as a lunch-time conversation topic the idea that not everything we've heard about the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust can be trusted, and that the persons murdered were far fewer than is commonly believed. In support of this point he cited the work of one Fred Leuchter. Curiously, my fellow diner couldn't recall Leuchter's name; I had to provide that detail.

Which tips my hand: I'd already read up on Leuchter's activities, and I replied that the report had been thoroughly discredited as fraudulent. I added that Leuchter had collected his samples for the cyanide tests from reconstructed buildings and not the original gas chambers.

My rebuttal was greeted with a dull, pod-person stare and a slight nod; the matter was dropped without further comment, and we moved on to other subjects.

Backstory
The Leuchter report was written in 1988 for the legal defense in the Canadian trial of one Ernst Zündel, Holocaust Denier (or, as his ilk prefers, "Revisionist"). Leuchter himself was an opportunist and professional witness who would say just about anything his employer required of him -- in this instance, for the grand sum of $38,000.

For the Zündel case Leuchter traveled to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Lublin-Majdanek to conduct a study on the presence of cyanide in the death chambers. Leuchter spent four days at the death camps scraping and stealing bricks and cement fragments. He then had the samples tested for the presence of cyanide. When what Leuchter arbitrarily deemed was only insignificant traces of cyanide were found, he declared that no gas chambers had been used to exterminate the Nazi's inmates.

Leuchter was entirely uncredentialed for the task he attempted:
* He was a history major, not an engineer;
* He had no formal training in toxicology, biology, or chemistry;
* He fraudulently represented himself as an expert in gas chambers.

The methodology of Leuchter's study was gravely flawed on several points:
* His collection method diluted his samples, making it impossible to gather accurate data about the presence of cyanide;
* He did not advise the chemist who analyzed the material as to where it originated or how it was collected, which further compromised the tests;
* He was unaware that the chambers from which took his samples had been rebuilt using a good many bricks that were not in the original buildings, thus skewing his findings;
* He did not consult any of the large documentation archive readily available at Auschwitz.

For the record, subsequent tests using methods to account for the variables Leuchter ignored or was unaware of refuted his conclusions. The cyanide was there.

Leuchter's testimony as an expert witness was accepted by the court, but his accompanying Leuchter report was excluded because of his lack of engineering credentials -- thus, the court accepted the report only as evidentiary display and not as direct evidence. Leuchter testified to the veracity of his findings under oath in the trial, yet on cross-examination he failed to provide satisfactory answers about rudimentary matters touching on his supposed field of expertise.

After hearing Leuchter's testimony, the presiding judge dismissed the report as "ridiculous" and "preposterous." The court ruled unequivocally that Leuchter's testimony was without merit on the grounds that he had no expertise whatsoever. Leuchter had also failed to demonstrate any concern for the truth, even while under oath.

An aside: Zündel's case was thrown out because the law under which he was being prosecuted was deemed unconstitutional. Zündel promptly declared that the courts had ruled he was innocent of any wrongdoing. He was later deported to Germany, where he served prison time for inciting racial hatred.

Analysis
I suppose conspiracy theories superficially simplify things. A conspiracy notion might make for a false or bad remedy when dealing with subjects outside one's area of expertise, but it is a readily grasped remedy, particularly for the intellectually challenged.

It also brings closure, which can be reassuring: people endure prolonged turmoil and uncertainty only with great difficulty. And our age excels in producing prolonged turmoil and uncertainty.

There's also the appeal to pride in having an insider's knowledge that most other people are not privy to -- sort of a modern day gnosticism. What smugness there is in knowing what everyone else has missed!

Some people, of course, could just be confused.

Others, meanwhile, are simply bigots.

Whatever the root cause, the modus operandi of the conspiracists is to neglect chronology, treat rumor as history, and use citations fraudulently; hypothesis morphs into fact, authorities that don't bolster a thesis are maligned, and the absence of proof becomes evidence of a cover-up. Dogged repetition is key to winning the day.

For my part, I tend to simply avoid that crowd. If I encounter them and they persist, however, I have few qualms about setting the record in order. Aside from the fact that bearing false witness is a violation of Commandment #8, I don't want to be complicit in their assault on reality by remaining silent.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Skirting the Issue

Richard and I were in an office meeting several years ago with four female colleagues. Jamesha was the lady in the delightful outfit with a colorful African-print skirt. The other three women were all wearing miniskirts.

The reason I noticed this last part is because the three women could not sit still during the meeting. For the hour when the six of us were making reports and giving status updates, the three women incessantly shifted and adjusted their miniskirts -- they were as fidgety as little boys on a long summer bus ride. It didn't matter that the lot of us were parked around a conference table and nothing eye-catching was revealed: the short-skirted ladies were clearly uncomfortable in their attire, pulling and tugging under the table to cover up as much flesh as possible. It was sad and comic and distracting all at once.

The happy exception was Jamesha: this confident and capable woman was a dignified individual who hadn't resorted to cheap (take that term how you will) wardrobe tricks to get attention and so "advance" her career.

Another time when the "career-minded" women were permitting themselves to engage in low-brow humor to show that they could do anything a man could do, Jamesha brought the issue to a close with the observation, "That must be some of that single girl humor." Delightful.

If you're too willing to sell too much, the meager remainder will leave you squirming to make up the difference.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Truth in Journalism

Source

Pope Benedict XVI urged journalists to "courageously serve the truth..."

That is certainly the way it should be. Pity the phenomenon is so rare.

"The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors."
- Thomas Jefferson

"News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead."
- Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where's My Car?

A few months ago I was road-tripping my way from Columbus, OH to Charleston, WV on my state capitol tour. Along the way I made a stop in the college town of Athens, OH, where I took in a few familiar spots did some reminiscing.

I lived in Athens for about a year after I finished
undergrad. My wife and I were married there: after I received my diploma I moved north for our wedding, then passed time taking graduate-level English courses for fun and getting paid to sit with latch-key kids while the Mrs. finished grad school.

At the time I was still driving my first car: a hand-me-down tan 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera that my grandfather gave me when he retired to Florida. I drove that thing to pieces: when I finally traded it in years later, my feet would get wet during a rain because of the splash action coming up through the floorboard.

Sean's First Ride

That Olds got me where I needed to go, however, which is what counts when you're a starving college student (and then a jobless college grad).

It was a sunny Athens day in the Spring of 1992 that I'd finished up at the laundromat, loaded everything up, and then discovered that the car's engine wouldn't turn over. I gave it my best, but I finally had to throw in the towel and call some friends to come pick up me and my laundry. While I was waiting for my friends, I called a tow company to come get my car: I described the auto, provided the license plate number, and then (because the tow truck was taking its sweet time to get there) hauled the clothes home.

While I was folding the clothes at the house, the tow truck driver called me.

"I can't find your car."

"What do you mean? Are you at the Ambassador Laundry?"

"Yep, and I don't see your car."

"Great."

I hoofed it over to the spot where I'd left my car, and confirmed what the driver had told me. The fellow had cleared out already -- I couldn't blame him -- so I bugged the people in the laundromat to see if they'd observed anyone working with my car. No luck.

Where My Car Went Missing

I felt sick to my stomach. I tried to put a brave spin on the situation. "Well, if someone stole it, the good news is that at least my car is working." The people around me looked at me like I'd cracked.

I made my way back home and called around to the towing companies in town to see if they'd picked my car up. No dice. So I finally called the police and reported the car stolen.

I felt wretched. It was just a sick, helpless feeling. I moped around the rest of the day.

That evening the towing guy called me. "Your car will be ready in the morning."

"What?!" I shouted. "You said you couldn't find my car -- you mean you've had it all day?"

"Oh yeah," the guy said nonchalantly. "You just gave me the wrong license plate number, but I finally figured out which car you meant and towed it."

Sure enough, I'd described the right car to him, but in a distracted moment had given him the license plate number of my wife's car.

I was too relieved to give the guy grief, though he had given me a rotten time. When I picked the car up the next day I told him of my previous day's dilemma.

"That's pretty funny," he said.

Yeah, a real barrel of laughs.

Here's a run-down of the cars I've owned over the years.

1993 For Escort Wagon
I ground the clutch out of this one.

1993 Mazda MX-3
The Mazda's clutch wore out my left knee; this one left with the cat.

1995 Infiniti J30
Excellent for long trips, but this one had recurring electrical problems; declared "salvage" after a Chevy pickup rear-ended it.

2003 Honda Civic
The car I drive today; so far so good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Palin on Kennedy

Source

From the article:

Palin addresses at length John F. Kennedy's noted speech on religion during the 1960 campaign...

"I am not the Catholic candidate for president," Kennedy said at the time. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic."

Palin...realized that Kennedy "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are."

Palin is on the money: Kennedy was a sellout. He wasn't even a good politician either: he could get next to nothing done in Congress. His dance to appease anti-Catholic sentiment in the country only got him a bullet in the head.

So how should a Catholic conduct himself when he is running for office in a non-Catholic country?

I like the example of Old Thunder, Hilare Belloc. From 1906 to 1910 Belloc was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament for Salford South. During one campaign speech he was asked by a heckler if he was a "papist." Belloc took his Rosary from his pocket and said, "So far as possible I hear Mass each day and I go to my knees and tell these beads each night. If that offends you, then I pray God may spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament."

Aside: Palin's mother is an ex-Catholic who had her daughter Baptized as an infant. Sarah has known only non-denominational Christianity all her life, but she did receive the Catholic Sacrament. She puts "practicing" Catholics like Biden and Pelosi to great shame.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Broken Coffee Pot

One of the office's coffee pots went belly up this week. This morning I applied the "Broken" warning sign, as shown here.

Work of the Blue Shirts?

My correspondence with the TSA and several airlines has largely been a one-way affair to day. The exception was this note to yours truly:

"Please understand we no longer perform searches at any of the airports we service and, therefore, have no control over the manner in which security screening is conducted and the use of Advanced Screening Imaging. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is conducting this procedure and we are required to comply with TSA directives."

My reply was essentially that they needed to quit passing the buck to TSA and start standing up for their customers.

On a happier note, the airport in Sanford, FL (Orlando) has decided to opt out of TSA involvement. Read the news for yourself here.

From the article:

* "You're going to get better service at a better price and more accountability and better customer service." - Larry Dale, Director of the Sanford Airport Authority

* "I think TSA is overstepping its bounds." - Congressman John Mica

* The airport will choose one of the five approved private screening companies to take over.

No word on criminal prosecution of TSA officials and agents. But Christmas is just around the corner.

Now, would you believe I'm flying Atlanta > Sanford next week to see my parents for Thanksgiving? When I pass through, I will make a point of finding airport officials so that I can both thank them and remind them to make sure the new security agency they use is an improvement. Too bad the change is supposed to take effect for 12 months.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Get Out of Yourself

"The center of the soul has an irrestrainable need which demands satisfaction. In reality, God alone can answer this need and the only solution is to immediately take the road leading to Him. The soul must converse with someone other than itself. Why? Because it is not its own last end; because its end is the living God, and it cannot rest entirely except in Him. As St. Augustine puts it, 'Our heart is restless, until it reposes in Thee.'"
- Taken from Three Ages of the Interior Life by Rev. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Any number of times I've spoken with, listened to, or read individuals who said that ours is an especially restless age compared to ages past. This is true only in a superficial way. The human soul is always restless because it is immortal and it can never be satisfied with finite, material things. In ages past men in Western society found their remedy by turning to the infitely true, good, and beautiful God, where they found unending joy for their soul. Men today, meanwhile, don't trouble with God; as a result they're trapped in a reality limited by their mundane appetites, blasé attitudes, and vapid imaginings, and they are obliged to fill their lives with frenetic activity to distract themselved from this sad fact.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Refuser

Being someone who travels quite a bit with my my job, I've been able to enjoy more than one encounter with the invasive new "security" techniques being employed at various airports around the country. I've always refused the invasive, non-secure, and unreliable full body scans using the $200,000 x-ray devices.

Today I caught a snippet from a TSA spokesman who said that complaints have not gone up significantly with the new "security" techniques. Imagine people not so much as attempting to register formal complaints with an agency whose employees will threaten to suspend you from air travel for life if you don't shut up and do what you're told.

Now, a chap might still want to file a formal report. In fact I did so, at the TSA web site. Here's the message I left:

"Your full body scanners are invasive and inappropriate, and your full body pat-downs are insulting techniques that turn people into cattle. When someone refuses the scanner and you have a team of TSA agents all shouting, 'WE HAVE A REFUSAL!' you are clearly trying to embarrass people into complying. You don't make airports safer; all you're doing is dehumanizing innocent citizens."

In a more enlightened age TSA gropers would be shouted down by an angry mob for what they do to innocent travelers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

About a Year

It's been about a year since the terrorist gunman in Ft. Hood murdered and injured dozens of innocent people.

I haven't met Francisco, but his parents and sisters are good friends. The terrorist put a gun on him, pulled the trigger -- and missed. And then after the cops dropped the murderer, Francisco treated him too.

"None of my patients died," Francisco said. "I’m really glad for that."

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/05/2399496/kansan-awarded-medal-earned-in.html

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dies Irae, Dies Illa

Here is a recording of the monks of the Abbey of St Maurice and St. Maur in Clervaux, Luxembourg chanting the hauntingly beautiful Dies Irae, Dies Illa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpvLPmv2FeY

I like the commentary from the chap who posted the video on YouTube:

The monks sing the seqeuence of the Dies Irae, which is traditionally said or sung for a Requiem Mass between the Epistle and gradual and before the reading of the Holy Gospel in the Traditional Catholic Mass of all ages. This beautiful sequence was removed from the Requiem Mass after the disaster which was Vatican II 1964 - 1968.

Our chap got the years of the disaster wrong (1962-1965), but his heart is in the right place.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Praying for the Deceased

All Souls' Day

When the days of the old covenant between Almighty God and His chosen people had been fulfilled, Christ defeated sin and death and so made it possible for men to enter Heaven through union with His mystical body, the Catholic Church. Those who are united with the soul of Christ’s Church share in the Communion of Saints, a locution describing:
* The faithful on earth (the Church Militant) who are fighting the temporal crusade for the Kingdom of God,
* The souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) who are making atonement in the place of purification, and
* The blessed in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) who are rejoicing in their eternal reward.

With our Lord as its head, this unity forms the Mystical Body of Christ, and benefits from a plenary exchange of grace and vitality between its members. Thus, through charity and obedience the members of the Church Militant participate in the same faith, sacraments, worship, and government, and aid one another through holy examples, constant prayers, and satisfactory works. These faithful also assist the suffering souls in Purgatory by prayers and sacrifices. The saints in Heaven, meanwhile, intercede with God on behalf of those who have not yet attained the Beatific Vision. The whole is vivified by life-giving activity of the Holy Ghost.

On November 2 Catholics unite in prayer for all the souls detained in Purgatory. The faithful who, during the period of eight days from All Saints Day, visit a cemetery and pray for the dead may gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, on each day of the Octave, applicable only to the dead. Also, between noon of November 1 and midnight of November 2, a person who has been to confession and Communion within the octave can gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, for the poor souls each time he visits a church or public oratory and recites the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father six times.

Praying for the deceased is Biblical, after all. Consider: "It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead, that they maybe loosed from their sins." - 2 Macabees 12:46

If the reference to the book of Macabees gives you pause, consider that it was in the Scriptures that Christ Himself used.

The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred for a time from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.

The historical foundation is there too: Christians prayed for the dead from the earliest days of the Church.

"Of all prayers, the most meritorious, the most acceptable to God are prayers for the dead, because they imply all the works of charity, both corporal and spiritual."
- St.Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dignity

Feast of Christ the King

The foundation of liberty is truth (i.e. what is in accord with objective reality), not dignity. Because whoever clings to error loses his dignity.

But what of intrinsic human dignity?

There is no such thing. Man's dignity is always contingent -- it depends on the extent of his adherence to what is true. To the degree that a man is ignorant or wrong, his dignity suffers.

To put it in a positive manner, man derives his dignity from perfection -- i.e. from his knowledge of the truth and acquisition of the good.

Seen in this light, the notion that "everyone has his own truth" is nonsensical -- it is a concept that sacrifices truth for the sake of some short-term goal.

Error brings bondage and misery. The truth sets you free.

- Excerpted from Religious Liberty in Open Letter to Confused Catholics by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Keep Your Grout Clean

I travel quite a bit with work -- one more flight this year and I hit my medallion status with Delta (I would have reached that milestone much sooner but I flew a good bit of AirTran this year too). So it's nice to have a respite from travel and enjoy the comforts of home.

Case in point: I'm having company over tonight. Neighbor Olivia was by beforehand to drop off some appetizers. Surveying my kitchen, she asked, "Sean, how do you keep the grout in your tiles so clean?"

"Because I never use my kitchen," I said.

See, depending on your situation, some things are just easy to solve for.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who is Correct?

Q: Catholics profess that the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ during the Consecration. Protestants, meanwhile, hold that the bread and wine used in communion are just symbols, and that the in the communion service nothing actually happens. Who is correct?

A: Both sides are correct.

Q: How can both sides be correct?

A: When a Catholic Priest says the words of Consecration at Mass, the bread and wine literally (and not symbolically) become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. When a protestant pastor performs a communion service, meanwhile, nothing happens.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan, Tim, and Bombs

Source

Said former NPR news analyst Juan Williams: "Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh."

That's good, because McVeigh was an agnostic who said science was his religion.

In fact, in his philosophy of religion, McVeigh had more in common with NPR news analysts than with Christians.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Real Adventure

Bp. Bernard Fellay, SSPX: "When we ask priests who approach the Society what they expect from us, they tell us initially that they expect doctrine." With respect to the young generation devoted to Tradition, His Excellency said, "it is waiting, ready for the adventure of Tradition, sensing very well that what is being offered to it apart from Tradition is nothing but imitation goods."

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - G.K Chesterton in A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

Video: excerpt of Bp. Fellay celebrating a Pontifical High Mass in Kansas City -- October 17, 2010

I'm seated (off camera) Gospel-side, about a dozen rows back with Helmut and Linda.

Friday, October 15, 2010

40 Years of SSPX

I'm in Kansas City this weekend attending the 40th anniversary conference of the SSPX.

One celebrates birthdays because it is good to be alive; similarly, one celebrates anniversaries to commemorate a happy event -- in this case, the foundation of the Society of St. Pius X. This ex-atheist now entertains a good hope of Heaven, and the SSPX is the entity used by Almighty God to bring that change about. In gratitude, then, for the graces brought through the Society, I'm attending the conference. In a world that wants to see the Gospel silence and the Faith given by Jesus Christ to the world through his Apostles, I'm glad to support this public manifestation of the light shining in darkness; to be edified by the examples and company of the holy people present; to be renewed in my efforts to fight the good fight.

Merci, monsignor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ways to Say Thank You

Anand is an Indian chap I've been working with on my current assignment. He's an affable fellow, and he has kindly entertained several of my questions about life and language in India (e.g. I related this story, and he agreed that it was prudent of me to not have had dinner with the fellow).

"How do you say 'thank you' in Hindi?" I asked him the other day.

"Dhayanwad" he said (I transliterate). "But we do not use this."

"What?" I replied. "You mean if someone does you a good turn you just ignore him without acknowledging it?"

"No," Anand said, smiling. "We just say 'thank you' in English, we do not say it in Hindi."

It's the legacy of the Britishers, you see. Live and learn.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Combo Special

Last night's dinner was Chinese buffet with Dave by Northlake Mall. I can't say I quite grasp the point of the take out special, but I figure maybe it comes across better in the original Chinese.

Last Night's Combo Special

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another Free Lunch

Last Friday I got a free lunch after the waitress spilled a glass of beer on me.

Today I got a free lunch because my manicotti took too long to be served. No food or beverages were spilled in the process.

Next Friday I'm on multiple airplanes; we'll see how the food turns out then.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rosary

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Excerpted from Butler's Lives of the Saints:

The Rosary is a series of prayers through which Catholics honor Christ by meditating on 15 principal mysteries or events from His life and that of His mother. While contemplating each mystery, one begins with an Our Father, follows with ten Hail Marys, and concludes with one Glory Be.

This devotion is an epitome of the Gospel -- a history of the life, sufferings, and triumphant victory of Jesus Christ and an exposition of what He did for our salvation when He walked the earth. The topics of the meditations are as follows.

Joyful Mysteries
(1) The Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary
(2) The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth
(3) The Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem
(4) The Presentation of the Holy Infant at the temple in Jerusalem
(5) The Finding in the Temple of the young Jesus teaching

Sorrowful Mysteries
(1) Christ's Agony in the Garden on the night of His betrayal
(2) The Scourging at the Pillar
(3) The Crowning with Thorns
(4) The Bearing of the Cross
(5) The Crucifixion

Glorious Mysteries
(1) The Resurrection of Christ from the dead
(2) His Ascension into Heaven
(3) The Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost
(4) The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life
(5) The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth

The three prayers used have their own significance.
* The Our Father is the perfect prayer given by Christ directly to His Apostles.
* The Hail Mary does honor to the Incarnation.
* The Glory Be declares the Divinely revealed truth of the Holy Trinity.

The principal objectives of the devotion are:
* to bear in mind these mysteries,
* to return to God an homage of love, praise, and thanksgiving for them,
* to implore His mercy through them,
* to make them the subject of meditation, and
* to mould one's affections, regulate his life, and form his spirit by the impressions they make on his soul.

The Rosary is a simple prayer to recite and can be performed by anyone regardless of age or ability. It is also sublime and faithful in the exercise of all the highest acts of prayer, contemplation, and interior virtues.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pope in the UK

Source: DICI

During his four-day visit to the United Kingdom (September 16-19), the statements made by Benedict XVI dealt more particularly with four topics:
1)
the pedophile priest scandal;
2)
the role of Catholics in a strongly secularized society (with a reminder about the mission of the bishops);
3)
ecumenical dialogue with the Anglicans;
4)
the example given by Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom he was anxious to beatify personally.

The modernist crisis of the past 50 years in the Church has pretty much been the result of an unprecedented, monumental failure on the part of the bishops and the priests to adhere to the constant practice and belief of the Catholic Church.

Take the pedophile priest scandal: in the good old days, if a pedophile priest were not lynched by a mob, his bishop would remove him from office (so that he could not do further harm) and would place him in a remote monastery where he would justly live out his life in penance. But in these days of the New Advent, the bishops instead surrendered their judgment to "compassionate" counselors and clinicians who declared such men healed and delivered of their maladies and safe to return to normal parish work. The bishops rubber-stamped such declarations, priests were transferred and reinstated, and the cycle of abuse continued. Compassion for the victims consistently took a back seat to all this. Meanwhile anathemas from the bishops were reserved only for Catholics who wanted to stay faithful to the worship and dogmas that produced 20 centuries of saints. There's a very hot place in Hell reserved for clerics guilty of such injustices.

Ah, for the good old days.

Tradidi quod et accepi.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 5s of October

This October has
* five Fridays
* five Saturdays
* five Sundays
all in one month.

The phenomenon occurs only once every 823 years.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today's Free Lunch

At today's lunch, the waitress spilled a glass of beer down my back. Yes it was an accident. Yes my lunch was free.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Adler the Aristotelian

Here's a snippet of a reply I made in an online discussion about quasi-Thomist philosophers Jacques Maritain and Mortimer Adler.

=======

One reason modern philosophers can't touch Aquinas is that the Dominican saint had a complete, coherent, and consistent system that accounted for everything. The distinctions of Aquinas were built on classical distinctions that can be traced back to Aristotle -- cosmology, rational psychology, metaphysics, political philosophy, philosophy of math, ethics, etc. -- and the same core principles apply across all the areas. Moderate realism is the key philosophy for opening the door to understanding all aspects of reality.

The modern philosophies are derived from the work of Descartes, and generally they are limited to epistemology, which is the theory of knowledge (i.e. what is knowledge? how do we know what we know? what is truth?). For the most part the modern philosophers simply ignore the other distinctions (e.g. metaphysics, logic). That by itself is a fatal flaw, but what's even worse is that their lopsided approach caused them to neglect considerations of the objective and stay fixated on subjective considerations. "What is true for you isn't true for me" and "that was true back then but not today" are nonsensical but typical cliches of the heirs of the modern philosophers. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre -- a classically trained Thomist who faithfully applied the tenets to moderate realism to the modern milieu -- had an adequate answer for that: "Rather than join you in modern error, I'll just wait until tomorrow when what I believe becomes true again."

When you understand the Thomistic core principles in one area, you have a solid foundation that can be immediately applied to help you make progress in the others. I observed this magnificent coherence myself when I was taking instruction to become a Catholic -- it was like someone suddenly turning on a brilliant light, and for the first time I could see vistas I never even imagined. This coherence and supreme reasonableness of Catholic thought was a profound influence on my decision to convert.

Regarding Maritain and Adler:

Jacques Maritain's specialty was political philosophy. The traditionally formed Thomists (e.g. Abp. Lefebvre) were suspicious of a number of his statements. Citations from They Have Uncrowned Him are illustrative.

Mortimer Adler became a Catholic late in life; he'd been close for a long time, and when he finally crossed the Rubicon I don't believe anyone was surprised. Though he gets credit for being a Thomisthe was really more of an Aristotelian. Aristotle did brilliant work, but there were flaws in his efforts that Aquinas corrected. A fellow could do still pretty well combating modern errors using just Aristotle; at the end of the day it would be imperfect, but it would be a big improvement on the nonsense we all live with because of Descartes, Kant, Hegel, etc. Adler's chief work was in the arena of rational psychology, or what is called the Philosophy of Man, which deals with the immortality of the soul, distinctions between man vs. animals, and a number of other elements that give fits to modern materialists.

So what do we make of Maritain and Adler? I'd rather read Abp. Lefebvre myself: that way I would be certain to get the classical Thomist treatment and nothing but. It could be useful to read the other two men to understand the historical development of modern debates in philosophy, and certainly their writings would have recognizable Thomistic themes; for my part I'd reply on a reliable authority as a guide.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Time and a Place

"If thou desirest too inordinately these present things, thou wilt lose those that are heavenly and eternal. Use temporal things, but desire eternal. Thou canst not be satisfied with any temporal goods, because thou wast not created for their enjoyment." - Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Ch. 16

Something might be good in and of itself, but it becomes bad when done in the wrong time or the wrong place. Brushing your teeth is a good activity, while brushing your teeth during a job interview is an excellent way to make sure you don't receive a job offer.

To know what we should make of any number of goods in this life -- e.g. food, exercise, sleep, speech --- which have to first know what are lives are supposed to be ordered to. Thus, "What is the meaning of life?" should be the first question one answers, not the afterthought.

The meaning of life is to love, serve, and obey God in this world so that we can enjoy supreme and unending happiness with him in the next. The many good things in this life are aids to help us accomplish this goal. When we lose sight of that goal, or when we treat the means as a goal unto itself (e.g. money), we fall into the tar pit.

"But I don't believe in your God or your notion of the afterlife or your philosophy," plenty of folks have informed me. Sure; say hello to Br'er Rabbit for me.


Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wisconsin's Declaration of Defiance

From 1859, when the state of Wisconsin declared that a ruling by the SCOTUS was "without authority, void, and of no force..."

Wisconsin's Declaration of Defiance

Whereas, The Supreme Court of the United States has assumed appellate jurisdiction in the matter of the petition of Sherman M. Booth for a writ of habeas corpus, presented and prosecuted to final judgment in the Supreme Court of this State, and has, without process, or any of the forms recognized by law, assumed the power to reverse that judgment in a matter involving the personal liberty of the citizen, asserted by and adjusted to him by the regular course of judicial proceedings upon the great writ of liberty secured to the people of each State by the Constitution of the United States:

And, whereas, Such assumption of power and authority by the Supreme Court of the United States, to become the final arbiter of the liberty of the citizen, and to override and nullify the judgments of the state courts' declaration thereof, is in a direct conflict with that provision of the Constitution of the United States which secures to the people the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus: therefore,

Resolved, The Senate concurring, That we regard the action of the Supreme Court of the United States, in assuming jurisdiction in the case before mentioned, as an arbitrary act of power, unauthorized by the Constitution, and virtually superseding the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus and prostrating the rights and liberties of the people at the foot of unlimited power.

Resolved, That this assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary, in the said case, and without process, is an act of undelegated power, and therefore without authority, void, and of no force.

Resolved, That the government, formed by the Constitution of the United States was not the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; but that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

Resolved, That the principle and construction contended for by the party which now rules in the councils of the nation, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism, since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the Constitution, would be the measure of their powers; that the several states which formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a positive defiance of those sovereignties, of all Unauthorized acts done or attempted to be done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Corrected Maternal Death Count

Source

A few months ago the WHO reported that annual worldwide maternal deaths were at about half a million. This number was used to support efforts to gain $169 billion in new funding for UN maternal health initiatives.

An independent study at The Lancet contradicted the WHO conclusions, saying that the number was actually 350,000. After initially trying to get the Lancet researchers to modify their findings, the UN was obliged to corrected its previous report.

From the article:
"UN researchers and women’s rights groups confronted the authors of the Lancet study at a meeting in Washington last June, asking them to get in line with UN statistics so as not to confuse the media and big donors,"
and
"UN scientists say they have to balance publishing their findings with gaining support for UN policies."

Nothing like cooking the books and then silencing dissenting voices from the prevailing ideology.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Examples and Sushi

When I was first investigating Catholicism, I had an awful time getting my mind around why Catholics gave so much attention to Mary. I wasn't being contrarian or difficult, I simply could not grasp the point. For many converts a tough issue is the True Presence, but I didn't bat an eye at that. Devotion to our Lady, however, was a very long time coming.

The cause of the hardship was rooted in part in the Protestant notion of a sinner's absolute helplessness and worthlessness. Because of sin, the Protestants say, we are utterly hopeless; we cannot do the first good thing without God's grace -- we cannot merit His mercy or even His attention. In theological terms this Protestant doctrine is called "Total Depravity." Thus, asking Mary (or any saint) to intervene with God for us accomplished no good: our sins make us as unclean rags, and nothing but a completely gratuitous act of gracious mercy on God's part mattered. For Protestants, there is simply no such thing as meriting anything from God; you could only look immediately and exclusively to Jesus Christ and hope for the best.

One helpful Catholic offered, "If I asked you to pray for me, would you do it?"

"Sure," I replied.

"It's the same with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven: just as I might ask you to pray for me, I ask them to pray for me."

This made only a modest impression. I would pray for my friends out of affection and to express support and concern, but praying to an individual not present was something else again. Praying to saints also had an eerie resemblance to praying to God -- on a surface level it seemed to be attributing to them the characteristic of ubiquity that should be reserved to the Deity.

"Do you believe in angels?" was another question.

"Of course. Hebrews says they are ministering spirits sent to aid those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).

"So asking saints to pray to God for you is no different than asking angels to help us."

Only Protestant don'
t pray to angels. Protestants routinely ask the Almighty to send His angels on various errands, but there are no colloquies with them.

Like other Protestant errors, this one was rooted in an ignorance of Christian teaching and a misunderstanding of the Scriptures. God is the Lord of Love: He did not leave His children to wander through the wild world and stumble about in darkness, He gave us numerous lights to help guide us back to Him. We not only can rely on saints and angels and the Mother of God as aids on the path to Heaven, we are supposed to.

St. Paul made this point repeatedly.

"I beseech you, be followers of me as I also am of Christ." - I Corinthians 4:16

"Be followers of me, brethren: and observe them who walk so as you have our model." - Philippians 3:17

"You became followers of us and of the Lord..." - I Thessalonians 1:6

"You ought to imitate us...that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you, to imitate..." - II Thessalonians 3:7, 9

Some habits die hard: though I could see no harm in praying to Mary, I could not grasp why one would do it. If you can go directly to the omnipotent Christ in prayer, what's the point of trying to augment the work of the all-powerful?

Later I would comprehend that what is amplified by such requests is not the virtue of the response but the efficacy of the request. In the short term, however, the answer I stumbled on was both simple and radical: I would ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary because it pleased My Lord.

Even after I had that epiphany, I still had to develop the habit and the attitude to follow through. This I acquired, curiously enough, by praying the Rosary.

Why would I do such a thing, given that I didn't see the point? Because I was keen to show these Catholics that I wasn't afraid of their devotions.

Did I expect anything to come of it? Of course not.

But I conducted the matter as an experiment -- not unlike I did when trying sushi: I didn't care for the idea of it; the flavor didn't appeal to me; the texture was all wrong; the experience was hardly pleasant. But after I'd eaten it enough times I could stop eating it and say with a note of triumph, "I tried your sushi, and it's not for me. No more lectures please about how I need to broaden my horizons -- I did my due diligence, and I did not develop a taste for it."

Only the Rosary experiment did change me. I found that my objections and intellectual reservations rather suddenly didn't seem significant after all; the hesitation was gone; the mental block evaporated. I didn't have any new information; no miracles took place that I was aware of; I couldn't articulate my understanding any better. The darkness had passed, however: without knowing why, everything seemed to be the way it should be. I've likened the experience to eating a tasty dish made from ingredients I could not name: "I don't know what this is called, but this is the best meal I've ever feasted on."

Mulier, ecce filius tuus.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Anne Roche Muggeridge, RIP

Source

Anne Roche Muggeridge passed away last Tuesday in Toronto; she was 75. The funeral Mass was yesterday morning in the Toronto Oratory.

Anne is best known for two books, The Gates of Hell (1975) and The Desolate City (1986 and 1990), that detail the rebellion within the Catholic Church -- covert at first, and then blatantly abusive -- to subvert and overthrow 2,000 years of Divinely instituted teaching and practice. In a shockingly brief time, God was kicked out of the sanctuary and the cult of man came to hold sway.

As a result, millions and millions of Catholics lost their Faith, seminaries emptied, dissension and scandals spread, innocent souls were grievously harmed, and the Church of Christ suffered its worst ordeal since the Crucifixion.

In the midst of the horrible modernist darkness that kills souls, stupifies intellects, sterilizes culture, and topples civilizations, Anne carried a light of faith through her books.

Requiescat in Pace

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Retreat + Four More Caps

This week I'm on an Ignatian retreat in Ridgefield, CT. I've wrapped a trip around the pilgrimage to take in four more state capitols -- see my route at http://tinyurl.com/24gpyff

An Ignatian Retreat consists of a series of spiritual conferences, structured meditations, and an opportunity to make a general confession. Silence is kept throughout the retreat, though the retreatants have the opportunity to speak with a priest for spiritual advice. Since 1533, the spiritual exercises of
St. Ignatius of Loyola have been used by millions to deepen their Christian life.


Fr. Ludovic-Marie Barrielle, C.P. CR.V. was an illustrious preacher of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. He became the Spiritual Director at the International Seminary of the Society of St. Pius X (the traditional Catholic missionary society of which I am a tertiary) in Econe, Switzerland, where he condensed the 30-day retreat into five days for laymen.
Fr. Barrielle, C.P. CR.V.
(1897-1983)
"In the Retreat of Manresa, St. Ignatius learned from the Mother of God herself how he should fight the combats of Our Lord. It was as from her hands that he received this code so perfect, and in all truth we can so call it, of which every soldier of Jesus Christ ought to make use. We are speaking of the Spiritual Exercises, which according to tradition, were given from Heaven to Saint Ignatius. Not that we should not esteem other spiritual exercises, but that in those organized according to the Ignatian method, everything is disposed with such wisdom, everything is so well coordinated that, if man does not oppose Divine Grace, they renew him completely and render him fully submitted to Divine Authority..."
- Apostolic letter Meditantibus Nobis of Pope Pius XI (3 December, 1922)


Pope Pius XI

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Burn or Not to Burn

The pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, Terry Jones, has vowed to burn copies of the Quran on September 11 in commemoration of ninth anniversary of the attacks in New York city.

Protests have come from numerous quarters, both Muslim and non. One expects the Muslims to object to the burning of the chief text of their creed. The protests from the non-Muslims, however, are of a different stripe, and are from people all over the religious and political spectrum. What they generally share in common, however, is a manifestation of fear of Islam: they are terrified of the consequences of this act of provocation.

Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to committing acts of violence against those who differ from them. How many Christians over the years have gone on rampages when the writings, symbols, and rituals of their faith are publicly ridiculed, mocked, and desecrated by the bigoted NEA, who provided funding for the morally reprehensible displays of Christian-haters like Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Annie Sprinkle?

On that note, I like Paul Clark's suggestion: Pastor Jones should repackage the burning of the Koran as conceptual art for an NEA grant application.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Film and TV Conversations

"You don't own a television?" my friend asked incredulously.

"It's true," I said.

"Don't you feel like you're...missing out?"

“On what?”

He just raised an eyebrow and moved on to another subject. The next several times we got together he’d grill me on whether I’d heard some bit of local news or headline; the times that I hadn’t, he’d observe, “Ah, not keeping up, are we?”

Being a chap who makes his living on web sites, I then started keeping tabs on news in my pal’s part of town via online channels; then I would ask him about it. After a few exchanges when it became apparent that I knew more about his local news than he did, the harassment coming back my way stopped.

It’s easy to keep up with events without recourse to a tool that transforms you into a passive receptacle.

=======

Another time a colleague queried me about my taste in items from the cinema after I talked about enjoying one of the Tolkien movies.

“Sean, you like war films,” she began, “but you stay away from movies that romantic scenes between couples.”

“That’s true enough,” I replied.

“Don’t you see the inconsistency in that?”

“How so?” I asked.

“They both are realistic depictions of life events, but you object to only one of them. Why do you boycott one and not the other?”

“I certainly don’t like gratuitous violence,” I said. “But fight scenes are still dramatized things; it’s not hard for me at least to recognize the acting of a combat scene.”

“But can’t you say the same thing about love scenes between couples?”

“Well,” I replied, “not really. After all, you can pretend to be dead; you can’t pretend to be naked.”

I won the round, though my friend kept on with her preferred entertainment choice.

=======

Folks close to me recognize that I seldom go to the movies anyway, and when I do my taste in films is, compared to theirs, sedate. I try to take a polite interest in their movie-going – it’s natural enough with folks you care about to ask what they’re up to and how they enjoyed some outing or activity.

One person, though, got into the habit of telling me. “Let’s not talk about this Sean – you’d be offended by this movie.”

Optimistically this change of subject was an act of courtesy towards me. It also put the onus on me as the killjoy. But I was having none of it: that some people have so saturated their appetites with a taste for amoral worldly themes was a reflection on their compromised preferences, not on any undue sensitivity on my part. So after receiving this treatment a few times, I finally answered, “Well, I’m offended only by offensive things.”

Ever since the change-of-topic mantra is now simply, “I don’t think this is a film you would enjoy.” Fair enough; I can live with that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Exterminating the Parasites

Feast of Pope St. Pius X
Source

James J. Lee was shot to death by police after a standoff involving hostages at the Discovery Community building in Silver Spring.

Lee was a militant environmentalist schooled in the doctrines of Al Gore's
An Inconvenient Truth, a misanthrope from the political left who declared that “humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures” and who was agitating for “stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies.” He had a grudge against Discovery, and brought a gun and explosive devices to their office to draw attention to his personal jihad.

Lee is from the more polemical wing of the zero population growth crowd (an example of the sort is
this outfit), entities who normally show more tact in their greening of bigotry and hate (after all, when the Zero Pops start talking about unwanted children and describing humans as parasites, they're pretty much always talking about the populations of third world countries).

Damage control efforts are already underway to ensure that Lee doesn't become the poster child for his clan -- the Lee Coterie? Fair questions to ask folks of that ilk remain, however: Are you a member of the undesirable population? If not, how do you know?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

BBC Bias

Source

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, confessed in an interview with Spectator magazine that the BBC has historically been guilty of a "massive bias to the left."

That was then, this is now, Mr. Thompson said: the BBC of today has "much less overt tribalism among the young journalists."

If hard-core leftist bias is now replaced with soft-core leftist bias, I suppose that's an improvement of sorts -- the unfair coverage and misrepresentation of the issues no doubt remain, but perhaps the enthusiasm has cooled. The fury of the revolution, after all, has been institutionalized: it's time to become respectable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Irish Take on Money

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who He gives it to.
- Irish Sayings & Wisdom

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Marie's Funeral

Marie died suddenly Friday morning. Her funeral is tomorrow. I'm to be one of the pallbearers.

She'd been battling cancer, and took a sudden turn for the worse Thursday evening. Extreme shyness had kept her home and out of the public eye -- including away from Church -- for some time. In the hospital, when her husband asked her if she would like a priest, she replied, "I am a Catholic and I want to die as a Catholic." A priest was called to give her Extreme Unction.

None of us deserves a chance at Heaven, but God Who is good and kind gives us many opportunities anyway. Marie was lucid and had a few hours to prepare for her particular judgment, and she took the last chance when it was was offered to her. That one decision, like that of the penitent thief at Calvary, could make all the difference.

Next Saturday is a first Saturday, a day that is especially precious to the Blessed Virgin Mary; may she look favorably on the last act of the woman who bears her namesake and escort her to the realm of the Blessed.

Requiem æternam dona ei Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peace and Politics

Source

“A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering."
- Archbishop Charles Chaput, August 25, 2010

The degredation of religious freedom, the archbishop explained, is manifested as part of an “aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model.” The objective is to replace religion and social and moral considerations with technological progress and social engineering. And with the government in charge, people need live only to gratify their appetites and desires. Which is why so many people these days are unhappy and miserable.

"Peace is a gift of God, not the work of politicians."
- Fr. Petrus Pavlicek, O.F.M. Cap

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum is placeholder text that has been used in the printing business since the 1500s.

I use it routinely in my web site design work. There are plenty of times when I need to show what a web page will look like with text in it -- it helps when I need to demonstrate a layout or collect feedback on a new design.

Experience has shown, however, that when I use real copy -- say, a composition of my own or something pulled from an existing publication -- my audience inevitably reads it and wants to comment on the style or modify the punctuation. It doesn't matter if I explain that it is just placeholder text, or if I write DRAFT in big letters across the page: real copy in a demo page is distracting.

Another unsuccessful tactic is to just fill the screen with xxxxoooxxxoooo etc. The chief drawback here is that such text doesn't adequately convey that the space will be filled with words -- it looks like a static shape that does not correspond to any known language outside of computer binary.

What to do?

Centuries ago, a typesetter adapted language from the De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the Ends of Goods and Evils) of Cicero (106 – 43 BC). A gifted orator and writer, Cicero's writings are regarded as a model of Latin prose. The old linguist's Latin was deemed adequate for the typesetter's task because the dead language roughly corresponds to word size and sentence length for modern western languages -- thus, a reader could get a rough but accurate sense of what a page would look like without being distracted by a chance typesetting error.

The typesetter's adaptation runs like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, leo cras vivamus, velit cras, tellus dolor urna nullam integer pharetra dolor, amet platea egestas nibh, urna id. Eget feugiat nibh dictum magna suspendisse est, penatibus tincidunt venenatis, vitae pharetra leo, porttitor hendrerit rutrum...

This is gibberish of course -- back when the passage was adapted, literate people still read Latin (and memorized large chunks of it to boot). No doubt a 16th century editor worth his salt would have scoffed at any mistake in a citation from the great Roman statesman. The unknown typesetter's solution, then, was to truncate terms and fold in a fair measure of constructions that were nonsense.

The Ciceronian original is here:

Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipiscing velit, sed quia non numquam do eius modi tempora incididunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

Rendered in the vulgar tongue, Cicero's sage advice is as follows:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?


For reasons I've never heard explained, inserting a nonsensical version of Cicero's Latin into a page layout is known as "Greeking."

A little nonsense now and then
Is cherished by the wisest men.

- W. Wonka

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blow to the Head

So there I was: a pimply high school kid, sparring with my black-belt Tae-Kwon-Do instructor. He telegraphed a spinning side kick just to see how a rookie orange belt would react. I tried to dodge the assault, but I slipped in the perspiration on the sparring mat. To catch my balance I flung my arms out -- leaving me wide open precisely at the moment when my instructor's high-velocity heel made contact with my chin. My head snapped back, I collapsed to the floor, and I just laid there.

My instructor jumped to my side, anxious and nervous that he'd done serious harm, and said, "Sean, How many fingers am I holding up?"

I tried to focus my vision but couldn't, so I replied, "Why, don't you know?"

He just shook his head, announced I would be fine, and walked away.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From St. John Eudes

"Our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make His spirit, His devotion, His affections, His desires and His disposition live and reign there."
- St. John Eudes, The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls

It's no small matter to try to live after the example of a Divine King and Priest, but that's what we are obliged to do to win Heaven. On our own there's no hope, but with humility and obedience we open the door that leads to the treasury of God's good grace.

And then anything is possible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Oompas Take on T.V.

Mike Teavee...
(from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Am Not Bald

The coyotes in my part of town, I've been told, are here because fox hunters a few decades back transported the prairie wolves to central Georgia to inter-breed with their own hunting stock. Being highly adaptable animals, the creatures made themselves at home readily enough.

Next to my previous house was a county preserve, and I had grown accustomed to seeing little rabbits and squirrels darting about hither and yon. Then, it seemed like all my scurrying and burrowing neighbors moved out in short order. The truth is, however, that the little guys are standard fare on the coyote's menu.

I actually spotted a coyote in the area, though the sighting was a few miles from my house. They're cunning creatures, and normally they move only from cover to cover; that I saw one in mid-day among so much foliage was an uncommon piece of luck. They don't usually bother humans, though small animals and people's pets are fair game.

A while afterwards while perusing the city's web site I spotted a topic on the community forum about coyotes in the area. I added a few comments, one of which was the question, "I wonder if the city would ever do anything about the coyotes?" It was a long-shot, but I was curious if trapping and relocation was too much trouble.

The discussion didn't go anywhere, however, because one of my Gaia-gaga neighbors took exception to my use of the phrase "do something about" and derailed the conversation.

"Oh, you want the city to do something about the coyotes do you?" my pseudonymous critic began. "The coyotes are just doing what's natural for them, and here you are trying to drive them to extinction," the screed continued. "Just who do you think you are? I bet you're a bald middle aged fat guy who waters his lawn during illegal hours and whose wife drives a gas-guzzling SUV!" The diatribe included a few more sentiments of the sort before smoldering out.

Now, I could stand to shed a few pounds, but otherwise the accusations were nowhere close to accurate. I'm shy of middle age, I never watered my lawn, I've never owned an SUV, and I'm prematurely gray, not bald.

Beyond all that, coyotes are so good at surviving in any environment that if I had the know-how and talent to drive them to extinction, I'd be rich from having sold the secret to midwestern farmers and cattlemen, not poking around a community web site.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Five-Egg Breakfast

Breakfast this morning was five scrambled eggs, toast, and a cup of balmy yogurt. Yesterday, meanwhile, I polished off what remained of the warm milk.

The cause of this strange diet was a malfunctioning refrigerator: the cooling device in mine went out, and I was trying to see to it that none of the perishable items on hand went to waste.

In fact it is a sin to waste food, so I even asked a neighbor if she cared for any of my room-temperature cheese, eggs, or milk. I was informed that she and her family were good to go on 70 degree dairy.

At least I tried.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Giraffes and Unicorns

I suppose the rhinoceros was the seed that blossomed into the many unicorn rumors that turned out to be medieval urban myths.

One can hardly blame the folks of the time: a unicorn is a lot like a horse, only it has a single horn in its head. That isn't all that much unlike a cow or a deer or a gazelle, which have two horns. What's so odd about a single horn?

Now, a giraffe is truly odd. A horse-like creature covered in leopard's spots, thrice the height of a man, and whose neck is as long as its body? Really? Yet it turns out the unicorn was the tall tale and the giraffe was the true one.

Yet plenty of medieval folks knew that the unicorn and the basilisk and the siren and the lamia and the dragon were mythical and fabulous. To such poets and visionaries it was reasonable that as the unicorn was serviceable as a symbol. Thus, the legend came into being that because a unicorn permitted itself to be captured only in the lap of a pure virgin, it was a fit representation of the Incarnation.

These days the unicorn sees service in the handiwork of, among other things, new agers. In my view this is a sad turn of events for the noble creature. Unicorns are resilient creatures, however, so I'm sure it's just a matter of time before it leaps out of the odd constraints people fashion for it.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

SSPX General House

An 11-minute video about the SSPX general house in Menzingen is online at http://gloria.tv/?media=88494%20

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vatican Bans Scantily Clad Tourists

Source

Check out the scare quotes in this one:

The ban had previously applied only to St Peter's Basilica but guards manning the official entry point into the tiny, walled state begun pulling visitors aside overnight for sporting "inappropriate" attire...

If you attend a wedding, you put on a nice outfit, out of affection for the happy couple; you don't show up in a tank-top and flip-flops.

If you go to a funeral, you suit up in a nice outfit, out of respect for the deceased; you don't go in a miniskirt or muscle shirt.

If you have an audience with a head of state, show up at a job interview, or host a late-night TV show, there's no question that a coat and tie is readily recognized as a top fashion pick.

Ah, but walk into the one place on earth that is home to an entire city established for the adoration of the Almighty, the Author of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, infinite in dignity and majesty -- do that, and suddenly what is "appropriate" attire becomes a head-scratcher.

"Most [locals] are accustomed to treating the Vatican like any other part of Rome..." In fact, they seem to be treating it worse than a number of other places in the Eternal City.

Ut sementem feceris, ita metes.