Saturday, December 24, 2005

Gabriel's Message

The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
"All Hail" said he "thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

"For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel,
By seers foretold
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"My soul shall laud and magnify
his holy name."
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn
And everyone throughout the world
Forever saved.
Most highly favourd lady, Gloria!

Words by Sabine Baring Gould
Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner
Recorded by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation, among others

Thursday, December 15, 2005

To Frances:

G.K. Chesterton to Frances Blogg (189?)

...I am looking over the sea and endeavouring to reckon up the estate I have to offer you. As far as I can make out my equipment for starting on a journey to fairyland consists of the following items.
1st. A Straw Hat. The oldest part of this admirable relic shows traces of pure Norman work. The vandalism of Cromwell's soldiers has left us little of the original hat-band.
2nd. A Walking Stick, very knobby and heavy: admirably fitted to break the head of any denizen of Suffolk who denies that you are the noblest of ladies, but of no other manifest use.
3rd. A copy of Walt Whitman's poems, once nearly given to Salter, but quite forgotten. It has his name in it still with an affectionate inscription from his sincere friend Gilbert Chesterton. I wonder if he will ever have it.
4th. A number of letters from a young lady, containing everything good and generous and loyal and holy and wise that isn't in Walt Whitman's poems.
5th. An unwieldy sort of a pocket knife, the blades mostly having an edge of a more varied and picturesque outline than is provided by the prosaic cutler. The chief element however is a thing 'to take stones out of a horse's hoof.' What a beautiful sensation of security it gives one to reflect that if one should ever have money enough to buy a horse and should happen to buy one and the horse should happen to have stone in his hoof--that one is ready; one stands prepared, with a defiant smile!
6th. Passing from the last miracle of practical foresight, we come to a box of matches. Every now and then I strike one of these, because fire is beautiful and burns your fingers. Some people think this waste of matches: the same people who object to the building of Cathedrals.
7th. About three pounds in gold and silver, the remains of one of Mr. Unwin's bursts of affection: those explosions of spontaneous love for myself, which, such is the perfect order and harmony of his mind, occur at startingly exact intervals of time.
8th. A book of Children's Rhymes, in manuscript, called the 'Weather Book' about 3/4 finished, and destined for Mr. Nutt. I have been working at it fairly steadily, which I think jolly creditable under the circumstances. One can't put anything interesting in it. They'll understand those things when they grow up.
9th. A tennis racket--nay, start not. It is a part of the new regime, and the only new and neat-looking thing in the Museum. We'll soon mellow it---like the straw hat. My brother and I are teaching each other lawn tennis.
10th. A soul, hitherto idle and omnivorous but now happy enough to be ashamed of itself.
11th. A body, equally idle and quite equally omnivorous, absorbing tea, coffee, claret, sea-water, and swimming. I think, the sea being a convenient size.
12th. A Heart--mislaid somewhere. And that is about all the property of which an inventory can be made at present. After all, my tastes are stoically simple. A straw hat, a stick, a box of matches and some of his own poetry. What more does man require?....
...The City of Felixstowe, as seen by the local prophet from the neighbouring mountain-peak, does not strike the eye as having anything uncanny about it. At least I imagine that it requires rather careful scrutiny before the eerie curl of a chimney pot, or the elfin wink of a lonely lamp-post brins home to the startled soul that it is really the City of a Fearful Folk. That the inhabitants are not human in the ordinary sense is quite clear, yet it has only just begun to dawn on me after staying a week in the Town of Unreason with its monstrous landscape and grave, unmeaning customs. Do I seem to be raving? Let me give my experiences.
I am bound to admit that I do not think I am good at shopping. I generally succeed in getting rid of money, but other observances, such as bringing away the goods that I've paid for, and knowing what I've bought, often pass over as secondary. But to shop in a town of ordinary tradesmen is one thing: to shop in a town of raving lunatics is another. I set out one morning, happy and hopeful with the intention of buying (a) a tennis racket (b) some tennis balls (c) some tennis shoes (d) a ticket for a tennis ground. I went to the shop pointed out by some villager (probably mad) and went in and said I believed they kept tennis rackets. The young man smiled and assented. I suggested that he might show me some. The young man looked positively alarmed. 'Oh', he said, 'We haven't got any--not got any here.' I asked 'Where?' 'Oh, they're out you know. All round,' he explained wildly, with a graphic gesture in the direction of the sea and the sky. 'All out round. We've left them all round at places.' To this day I don't know what he meant, but I merely asked when they would quit these weird retreats. He said in an hour: in an hour I called again. Were they in now? 'Well not in-- not in, just yet,' he said with a sort of feverish confidentialness, as if he wasn't quite well. 'Are they still--all out at places?' I asked with a a restrained humor. 'Oh, no!' he said with a burst of reassuring pride. 'They are only out there--out behind, you know.' I hope my face expressed my beaming comprehension of the spot alluded to. Eventually, at a third visit, the rackets were produced. None of them, I was told by my brother, were of any first-class maker, so that was outside the question. The choice was between some good, neat first-hand instruments which suited me, and some seedy-looking second-hand objects with plain deal handles, which would have done at a pinch. I thought that perhaps it would be better to get a good-class racket in London and content myself for the present with economising on one of these second-hand monuments of depression. So I asked the price. '10/6' was the price of the second-hand article. I thought this large for the tool, and wondered if the first-hand rackets were much dearer. What price the first-hand? '7/6' said the Creature, cheery as a bird. I did not faint. I am strong.
I rejected the article which was dearer because it had been hallowed by human possession, and accepted the cheap, new crude racket. Except the newness there was no difference between them whatever. I then asked the smiling Maniac for balls. He brought me a selection of large red globes nearly as big as Dutch cheeses. I said, 'Are these tennis-balls?' He said, 'Oh, did you want tennis-balls?' I said Yes--they often came in handy at tennis. The goblin was quite impervious to satire, and I left him endeavouring to draw my attention to his wares in general, particularly to some zinc baths which he seemed to think should form part of the equipment of a tennis player.
Never before or since have I met a being of that order and degree of creepiness. He was a nightmare of unmeaning idiocy. But some mention ought to be made of the old man at the entrance to the tennis ground who opened his mouth in parables on the subject of the fee for playing there. He seemed to have been wound up to make only one remark, 'It's sixpence.' Under these circumstances the attempt to discover whether the sixpence covered a day's tennis or a week or fifty years was rather baffling. At last I put down the sixpence. This seemes to galvanise him into life. He looked at the clock, which was indicating five past eleven and said, 'It's sixpence an hour--so you'll be all right till two.' I fled screaming.
Since then I have examined the town more carefully and feel the presence of something nameless. There is a claw-curl in the sea-bent trees, an eye-gleam in the dark flints in the wall that is not of this world.
When we set up a house, darling (honeysuckle porch, yew clipt hedge, bees, poetry and eight shillings a week), I think you will have to do the shopping. Particularly at Felixstowe. There was a great and glorious man who said, 'Give us the luxuries of life and we will dispense with the necessities.' That I think would be a splendid motto to write (in letters of brown gold) over the porch of our hypothetical home. There will be a sofa for you, for example, but no chairs, for I prefer the floor. There will be a select store of chocolate-creams (to make you do the Carp with) and the rest will be bread and water. We will each retain a suit of evening dress for great occasions, and at other times clothe ourselves in the skins of wild beasts (how pretty you would look) which would fit your taste in furs and be economical.
I have sometimes thought it would be very fine to take an ordinary house, a very poor, commonplace house in West Kensington, say, and make it symbolic. Not artistic - Heaven - O Heaven forbid. My blood boils when I think of the affronts put by knock-kneed pictorial epicures on the strong, honest, ugly, patient shapes of necessary things: the brave old bones of life. There are aesthetic pattering prigs who can look on a saucepan without one tear of joy or sadness: mongrel decadents that can see no dignity in the honourable scars of a kettle. So they concentrate all their house decoration on coloured windows that nobody looks out of, and vases of lilies that everybody wishes out of the way. No: my idea (which is much cheaper) is to make a house really (allegoric) really explain its own essential meaning. Mystical or ancient sayings should be inscribed on every object, the more prosaic the object the better; and the more coarsely and rudely the inscription was traced the ! better. 'Hast thou sent the Rain upon the Earth?' should be inscribed on the Umbrella-Stand: perhaps on the Umbrella. 'Even the Hairs of your Head are all numbered' would give a tremendous significance to one's hairbrushes: the words about 'living water' would reveal the music and sanctity of the sink: while 'Our God is a consuming Fire' might be written over the kitchen-grate, to assist the mystic musings of the cook - Shall we ever try that experiment, dearest. Perhaps not, for no words would be golden enough for the tools you had to touch: you would be beauty enough for one house..."
... By all means let us have bad things in our dwelling and make them good things. I shall offer no objection to your having an occasional dragon to dinner, or a penitent Griffin to sleep in the spare bed. The image of you taking a sunday school of little Devils is pleasing. They will look up, first in savage wonder, then in vague respect; they will see the most glorious and noble lady that ever lived since their prince tempted Eve, with a halo of hair and great heavenly eyes that seem to make the good at the heart of things almost too terribly simple and naked for the sons of flesh: and as they gaze, their tails will drop off, and their wings will sprout: and they will become Angels in six lessons....
I cannot profess to offer any elaborate explanation of your mother's disquiet but I admit it does not wholly surprise me. You see I happen to know one factor in the case, and one only, of which you are wholly ignorant. I know you ... I know one thing which has made me feel strange before your mother - I know the value of what I take away. I feel (in a weird moment) like the Angel of Death.
You say you want to talk to me about death: my views about death are bright, brisk and entertaining. When Azrael takes a soul it may be to other and brighter worlds: like those whither you and I go together. The transformation called Death may be something as beautiful and dazzling as the transformation called Love. It may make the dead man 'happy,' just as your mother knows that you are happy. But none the less it is a transformation, and sad sometimes for those left behind. A mother whose child is dying can hardly believe that in the inscrutable Unknown there is anyone who can look to it as well as she. And if a mother cannot trust her child easily to God Almighty, shall I be so mean as to be angry because she cannot trust it easily to me? I tell you I have stood before your mother and felt like a thief. I know you are not going to part: neither physically, mentally, morally nor spiritually. But she sees a new element in your life, wholly from outside - is it not na! tural, given her temperament, that you should find her perturbed? Oh, dearest, dearest Frances, let us always be very gentle to older people. Indeed, darling, it is not they who are the tyrants, but we. They may interrupt our building in the scaffolding stages: we turn their house upside down when it is their final home and rest. Your mother would certainly have worried if you had been engaged to the Archangel Michael (who, indeed, is bearing his disappointment very well): how much more when you are engaged to an aimless, tactless, reckless, unbrushed, strange-hatted, opinionated scarecrow who has suddenly walked into the vacant place. I could have prophesied her unrest: wait and she will calm down all right, dear. God comfort her: I dare not....
... Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born of comfortable but honest parents on the top of Campden Hill, Kensington. He was christened at St. George's Church which stands just under that more imposing building, the Waterworks Tower. This place was chosen, apparently, in order that the whole available water supply might be used in the intrepid attempt to make him a member of Christ, a child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Of the early years of this remarkable man few traces remain. One of his earliest recorded observations was the simple exclamation, full of heart-felt delight, 'Look at Baby. Funny Baby.' Here we see the first hint of that ineffable conversational modesty, that shy social self-effacement, which has ever hidden his light under a bushel. His mother also recounts with apparent amusement an incident connected with his imperious demand for his father's top-hat. 'Give me that hat, please.' 'No, dear, you mustn't have that.' 'Give me that hat.' 'No, dear - ' 'If you don't give it me, I'll say 'At.' An exquisite selection in the matter of hats has indeed always been one of the great man's hobbies.
When he had drawn pictures on all the blinds and tablecloths and towels and walls and windowpanes it was felt that he required a larger sphere. Consequently he was sent to Mr. Bewsher who gave him desks and copy-books and Latin grammars and atlases to draw pictures on. He was far too innately conscientious not to use these materials to draw on. To other uses, asserted by some to belong to these objects, he paid little heed. The only really curious thing about his school life was that he had a weird and quite involuntary habit of getting French prizes. They were the only ones he ever got and he never tried to get them. But though the thing was quite mysterious to him, and though he made every effort to avoid it, it went on, being evidently a part of some occult natural law.
For the first half of his time at school he was very solitary and futile. He never regretted the time, for it gave him two things, complete mental self-sufficiency and a comprehension of the psychology of outcasts.
But one day, as he was roaming about a great naked building land which he haunted in play hours, rather like an outlaw in the woods, he met a curious agile youth with hair brushed up off his head. Seeing each other, they promptly hit each other simultaneously and had a fight. Next day they met again and fought again. These Homeric conflicts went on for many days, till one morning in the crisis of some insane grapple, the subject of this biography quoted, like a war-chant, something out of Macaulay's Lays. The other started and relaxed his hold. They gazed at each other. Then the foe quoted the following line. In this land of savages they knew each other. For the next two hours they talked books. They have talked books ever since. The boy was Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The incident just narrated is the true and real account of the first and deepest of our hero's male connections. But another was to ensue, probably equally profound and far more pregnant with awful an! d dazzling consequences. Bentley always had a habit of trying to do things well: twelve years of the other's friendship has not cured him of this. Being seized with a particular desire to learn conjuring, he had made the acquaintance of an eerie and supernatural young man, who instructed him in the Black Art: a gaunt Mephistophelian sort of individual, who our subject half thought was a changeling. Our subject has not quite got over the idea yet, though for practical social purposes he calls him Lucian Oldershaw. Our subject met Lucian Oldershaw. 'That night,' as Shakespeare says, 'there was a star.'
These three persons soon became known through the length and breadth of St. Paul's School as the founders of a singular brotherhood. It was called the J.D.C. No one, we believe, could ever have had better friends than did the hero of this narrative. We wish that we could bring before the reader the personality of all the Knights of that eccentric round table. Most of them are known already to the reader. Even the subject himself is possibly known to the reader. Bertram, who seemed somehow to have been painted by Vandyck, a sombre and stately young man, a blend of Cavalier and Puritan, with the physique of a military father and the views of an ethical mother and a soul of his own which for sheer simplicity is something staggering. Vernede with an Oriental and inscrutable placidity varied every now and then with dazzling agility and Meredithian humour. Waldo d'Avigdor who masks with complete fashionable triviality a Hebraic immutability of passion tried in a more ironi! cal and bitter service than his Father Jacob. Lawrence and Maurice Solomon, who show another side of the same people, the love of home, the love of children, the meek and malicious humour, the tranquil service of a law. Salter who shows ho beautiful and ridiculous a combination can be made of the most elaborate mental cultivation and artistic sensibility and omniscience with a receptiveness and a humility extraordinary in any man. These were his friends. May he be forgi ven for speaking of them at length and with pride? Some day we hope the reader may know them all. He knew these people; he knew their friends. He heard Mildred Wain say 'Blogg' and he thought it was a funny name. Had he been told that he would ever pronounce it with the accents of tears and passion he would have said, in his pride, that the name was not suitable for that purpose. But there are [Greek letters]....
He went for a time to an Art School. There he met a great many curious people. Many of the men were horrible blackguards: he was not exactly that: so they naturally found each other interesting. He went through some rather appalling discoveries about human life and the final discovery was that there is no Devil - no, not even such a thing as a bad man.
One pleasant Saturday afternoon [his friend] Lucian said to him, 'I am going to take you to see the Bloggs.' 'The what?' said the unhappy man. 'The Bloggs,' said the other, darkly. Naturally assuming that it was the name of a public-house he reluctantly followed his friend. He came to a small front-garden; if it was a public-house it was not a businesslike one. They raised the latch - they rang the bell (if the bell was not in the close time just then). No flower in the pots winked. No brick grinned. No sign in Heaven or earth warned him. The birds sang on in the trees. He went in.
The first time he spent an evening at the Bloggs there was no one there. That is to say there was a worn but fiery little lady in a grey dress who didn't approve of 'catastrophic solutions of social problems.' That, he understood, was Mrs. Blogg. There was a long, blonde, smiling young person who seemed to think him quite off his head and who was addressed as Ethel. There were two people whose meaning and status he couldn't imagine, one of whom had a big nose and the other hadn't.... Lastly, there was a Juno-like creature in a tremendous hat who eyed him all the time half wildly, like a shying horse, because he said he was quite happy....
But the second time he went there he was plumped down on a sofa beside a being of whom he had a vague impression that brown hair grew at intervals all down her like a caterpillar. Once in the course of conversation she looked straight at him and he said to himself as plainly as if he had read it in a book: 'If I had anything to do with this girl I should go on my knees to her: if I spoke with her she would never deceive me: if I depended on her she would never deny me: if I loved her she would never play with me: if I trusted her she would never go back on me: if I remembered her she would never forget me. I may never see her again. Goodbye.' It was all said in a flash: but it was all said....
Two years, as they say in the playbills, is supposed to elapse. And here is the subject of this memoir sitting on a balcony above the sea. The time, evening. He is thinking of the whole bewildering record of which the foregoing is a brief outline: he sees how far he has gone wrong and how idle and wasteful and wicked he has often been: how miserably unfitted he is for what he is called upon to be. Let him now declare it and hereafter for ever hold his peace.
But there are four lamps of thanksgiving always before him. The first is for his creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. The second is that he has not, with all his faults, 'gone after strange women.' You cannot think how a man's self restraint is rewarded in this. The third is that he has tried to love everything alive: a dim preparation for loving you. And the fourth is--but no words can express that. Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.

Image: Chesterton with Frances in 1922

Read it all at this site
More Chestertonhere

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fiddle and Heart

If you need a break and some energy, stop here

Just listening to 'Greek Fiddle' or Drums of Belfast is guaranteed to add two hours of wakefulness to your evening study time!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Saint Margaret of Scotland

Born about 1045, died 16 Nov., 1092, Margaret was a daughter of Edward "Outremere", or "the Exile", by Agatha,. Her uncle was St. Stephen of Hungary, and she was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. The date of Margaret's birth must have been between the years 1038, when St. Stephen died, and 1057, when her father returned to England. On his death and the conquest of England by the Normans, her mother Agatha decided to return to the Continent. A storm however drove their ship to Scotland, where Malcolm III received the party under his protection, subsequently taking Margaret to wife. This event had been delayed for a while by Margaret's desire to entire religious life.

In her position as queen, all Margaret's great influence was thrown into the cause of religion and piety. Margaret impressed not only Malcolm but many other members of the Scottish Court both for her knowledge of continental customs gained in the court of Hungary, and also for her piety. She became highly influential, both indirectly by her influence on Malcolm as well as through direct activities on her part. Prominent among these activities was religious reform. Margaret instigated reforms within the Scottish church, as well as development of closer ties to the larger Roman Church in order to avoid a schism between the Celtic Church and Rome. Further, Margaret was a patroness both of the célidé, Scottish Christian hermits, and also the Benedictine Order. Although Benedictine monks were prominent throughout western continental Europe, there were previously no Benedictine monasteries known to exist in Scotland. Margaret therefore invited English Benedictine monks to establish monasteries in her kingdom.

On the more secular side, Margaret introduced continental fashions, manners, and ceremony to the Scottish court. The popularization of continental fashions had the side-effect of introducing foreign merchants to Scotland, increasing economic ties and communication between Scotland and the continent. Margaret was also a patroness of the arts and education. Further, Malcolm sought Maragret's advice on matters of state, and together with other English exiles Margaret was influential in introducing English-style feudalism and parliament to Scotland.

Margaret was also active in works of charity. Margaret frequently visited and cared for the sick, and on a larger scale had hostels constructed for the poor. She was also in the habit, particularly during Advent and Lent, of holding feasts for as many as 300 commoners in the royal castle.

King Malcolm, meanwhile, was engaged in a contest with William the Conqueror over Northumbria and Cambria, and The Conqueror's son William Rufus. In the ensuing hostilities Malcolm was killed along with Edward, the eldest son of Malcom and Margaret.

Margaret had already been ill when Malcolm and Edward went off to battle. Her surviving children tried to hide the fact of their deaths, for fear of worsening her condition. But Margaret learnt the truth, and whether due to her illness or a broken heart, Margaret died four days after her husband and son, on November 16, 1093.

Edgar, son of Malcom and Margaret, came to the throne. He was succeeded by his brothers, Alexander and David. Alexander smoothed over relations with England by marrying the daughter of King Henry I and arranging for Henry to marry Alexander's sister Matilda. Edgar and David carried on their mother's reputation for sanctity, both in their service to the poor and their patronage of religious orders, and David was later canonized. Quite a celebrated family when you consider that Margaret's uncle is also known as Saint Edward the Confessor.

Margaret herself was declared a saint in 1250, particularly for her work for religious reform and her charitable works. She herself was considered to be an exemplar of the just ruler, and also influenced her husband and children to be just and holy rulers. She was further declared Patroness of Scotland in 1673. Her book of the Gospels, richly adorned with jewels, which one day dropped into a river and was according to legend miraculously recovered, is now in the Bodleian library at Oxford.

Image: William Hole

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Revealer of Man

Man cannot live without love.

He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.

This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself".

If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. ...The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must "appropriate" and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. ...[T]he name for that deep amazement at man's worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say: the Good News. It is also called Christianity. This amazement determines the Church's mission in the world and, perhaps even more so,"in the modern world".

John Paul II: Redemptor Hominis 10
Image: Guercino 'Christ With the Woman Taken In Adultery'

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A picture is worth a thousand words

First Go Here

Then read this, courtesy of my sister.

Well, guys, I guess we're busted. Now everyone knows that we really went to WYD for the drugs, rock n' roll, and orgies. Should we flee to Europe where no one will know what kinky things we are doing, or just go public officially now? I'm open to suggestions. I must admit it would be a relief to get rid of the three normal outfits left in my wardrobe and just go completely punk from now on. And Deathstripper will be sooo glad he can finally meet the family.

Actually, that's not us in the photograph. I almost wish it were. I never had that much fun at World Youth Day, though maybe if I had thought of a conga line I would have. And I certainly would never wear horizontal stripes.

Unfortunately, it is indisputable that any number of unfortunate antics take place at World Youth Day. I think part of it is because Europe is much more uninhibited in general about things like nudity and public displays of affection, and part of it is because today's youth are badly catechized, (if at all). It's a shame. There are people who don't go to WYD for the religious part at all. But to say that this is the norm rather than the exception, or that misbehavior is all the event is about is very far from the truth.

What is not depicted by these people is crowds of beautiful, vibrant religious in full habit. Or churches and catechetical sites crammed with pilgrims in prayer. Or the hours-long lines for confessions, or the cheerful sacrifice of big hungry young men who have to go without dinner. Or people kneeling in the mud in the middle of the night at Eucharistic Adoration; some of the same people, I might add, who were 'making out' on the lawn the afternoon before, and who I, for one, will not presume to judge. (Don't get me started on the "preventing bad instincts" part. Instincts are by definition neither good nor bad, but the other underlying assumptions are too insulting to dignify with a response. Antiquated and unhealthy attitudes only make these things worse.)

This Tradition In Action site is a trip.
"Cardinal Wojtyla in (gasp!) casual dress!" (see side)
"Bishop plays drums in (horrors!) a nightclub!"
"Conservative seminarians dance samba in Brazil!"
(You wouldn't expect them to be doing the Watusi there, now would you? And would it be better or somehow worse if they were liberal? I don't get it.)"
Nun dances with priest, performing obscene poses"
(For the record, that would be a swing arial that includes (gasp!) body contact: these people need to get out more).
"Young women hula dance for the Pope"
(Hula is an ancient cultural tradition. Would doing the Llandler for the Pope be inappropriate? Got a problem with people who aren't dead white Europeans?)

Which all begs the question: just whose tradition are we talking about here? I thought the Church was universal. I also thought it embraced other cultures and people who are under the age of 55. And I did get the distinct impression that holiness was a very joyful and even, dare I say, liberating experience. Though karl Keating's Jansenism comment was interesting, I have a feeling these same folks have been around even longer than that. Some of their reasoning is distinctly familiar:
"Messiah appears on earth in swaddling clothes!"
"Jesus Christ caught turning water into wine at wedding!"
"Galilean shares meal with tax collector!"
"Jew caught talking to Samaritan! Wait: there's more! She's also a woman!"
" Man healed by Jesus jumps up and runs off stark naked!"
"Healer sued! Read claims of Geserene pig farmer inside..."
"Christ's shocking connection with prostitutes!"

Gets a little old after 2000 years, doesn't it?

Images: Cathedral Square, Cologne, World Youth Day, 2005
Cardinal Wojtyla on a picnic outside of Krakow, 1975

Friday, September 30, 2005

Why I'm A Plagiarist

For some of the singularly most entertaining writing ever concieved, click here

Or go to the Vestal Morons link on the side bar.

Image: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema -
A Sculpture Gallery in Rome at the Time of Agrippa

Thursday, September 29, 2005

On Gargoyles

Realism is simply Romanticism that has lost its reason. This is so not merely in the sense of insanity but of suicide. It has lost its reason; that is its reason for existing. The Old Greeks summoned godlike things to worship their god. The medieval Christians summoned all things to worship theirs, dwarfs and pelicans, monkeys and madmen. The modern realists summon all these million creatures to worship their god; and then have no god for them to worship. Paganism was in art a pure beauty; that was the dawn. Christianity was a beauty created by controlling a million monsters of ugliness; and that in my belief was the zenith and the noon. Modern art and science practically mean having the million monsters and being unable to control them; and I will venture to call that the disruption and the decay. The finest lengths of the Elgin marbles consist of splendid horses going to the temple of a virgin. Christianity, with its gargoyles and grotesques, really amounted to saying this: that a donkey could go before all the horses of the world when it was really going to the temple. Romance means a holy donkey going to the temple. Realism means a lost donkey going nowhere.

GK Chesterton
Read the Whole Essay
Image: Pieta -Bouguereau

Monday, September 26, 2005


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I ’ll put a trinket on.

Emily Dickinson
Image: 'Autumn' John W Godward

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Feast of the Stigmata

The Parchment given to Friar Leo
This document had its origin in the incident reported by both Bl. Thomas Celano and St. Bonaventure. Friar Leo, a close companion of St. Francis, came to him, revealing that he was in the midst of a severe interior trial, and asked for the Saint's assistance. To satisfy his request, St. Francis wrote "The Praises of God Most High" [LaudDei] and the "Blessing given to Friar Leo" [BenLeo] on a single piece of parchment: the former on the obverse, the latter on the reverse. Upon receiving it, Friar Leo was instantly freed of his temptation. This parchment is preserved to this day at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, and bears a note of authentication by Friar Leo himself. For this reason the place and date of its composition are known very accurately: sometime after St. Francis received the stigmata (Sept. 14) and before the Feast of St. Michael (Sept. 29) in the year 1224 A.D., while both were in retreat on Mount Alverna.

The Praises of God Most High [LaudDei]
The praise of God is one of the most characteristic and essential aspects of St. Francis spirituality, so much so, that for him it was a solemn duty, borne of the most profound gratitude and love of the Most Holy Trinity, our Creator and Redeemer. It is thus quite consistent with the spirituality of the Saint that these Praises are associated with a miracle worked by him during his life.

Thou art" the Holy Lord, the only "God, who works wonders" 12 (Ps 76:15).
Thou art strong, Thou art great (cf. Ps 85:10),
Thou art the Most High, Thou art the Omnipotent King,
Thou "Holy Father" (cf. Jn 17:11) King "of Heaven and Earth." (Mt 11:25).
Thou art Three and One Lord, God of gods (cf. Ps 135:2),
Thou art good, all good, the Highest Good, Lord God living and true (cf. 1 Thes 1:9).
Thou art Charity; Thou art Wisdom, Thou art humility,
"Thou art patience" (Ps 70:5), Thou art Beauty,
Thou art gentleness; Thou art security, Thou art quiet, Thou art our Hope
Thou art joy; and gladness, Thou art justice, all
Thou art temperance, Thou art riches unto sufficiency.
Thou art beauty, Thou art gentleness,
"Thou art Protector" (Ps 30:5), Thou art guard and our defender,
Thou art fortitude (cf. Ps 42:2), Thou art refreshment. Thou art our hope,
Thou art our faith. Thou art our charity,
Thou art our eternal life:
Thou art our entire sweetness, Great and admirable Lord, God Omnipotent, merciful Savior.

The Blessing given to Friar Leo [BenLeo]
Friar Leo was one of St. Francis' close companions. This writing of St. Francis has the unique honor of containing the signature of St. Francis, in the form of a Tau Cross drawn in red ink, between the letters of Leo's name [i.e. Le-T-o]. This blessing has become the customary one in Franciscan communities, and is recited over the friars by the local superior as the last prayer of the day. St. Francis' ability to use language emphatically is seen particularly in the last sentence of this blessing.

May the Lord bless thee and keep thee; may He show His face to thee and be merciful to thee. May He turn His countenance to thee and give thee peace (cf. Num 6:24-26). May the Lord bless, friar Leo, thee (cf. Num 6:27b).

Text: The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi
Translated from the Critical Latin Edition, edited by Fr. Kajetan Esser, O.F.M.

Images: El Greco 'St Francis Recieves the Stigmata'
Hermano Leon 'Cruz'

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ineffable: A Song For Mary

Καί πάντων τέλος έσσί, καί εϊς καί πάντα καί ούδείς, ούχ έυ εών, ού πάντω—πανώνυμε, πως σε καλέσω, τόνον άκλήϊστον.

The End of all art Thou,
being One and All and None,
Being one thou art not all,
being All thou art not one,
All names are Thine,
how then shall I invoke Thy Name
Alone Indefinite.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen
ϋμνος είς θεόν

Image: Bernardino Luini

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why We Study, Fight, and Love

FREEDOM, a continuing conquest,
It cannot simply be possessed!
It comes as a gift,
but keeping it is a struggle.
Gift and struggle are inscribed on pages, hidden, yet open.
For freedom you pay
with all your being,
therefore call that your freedom
Which allows you,

in paying the price,
to possess yourself ever anew.
At such a price do we enter history
and touch her epochs.
Where is the dividing line between
those generations that paid to little,
And those who paid too much?
On which side of the line are we?

…Over the struggles of consciences,
history places a layer of events
Brimming with victories and defeats.
History does not conceal them –it proclaims them.
How weak the people that accepts defeat,
That forgets its call to keep vigil
Until its hour should come.
The hours continually return on the great clock face of history.
Herin the liturgy of life,
That vigil is the Lord’s word and the people’s word
Which comes to us ever anew.
The hours become a psalm of ceaseless conversions.
Let us take part in the Eucharist of the worlds…

O earth, you do not cease
To be an atom of our age.
Learning new hope,
We pass through this time towards a new earth.
And we raise you, ancient earth,
Fruit of the love of generations,
To the love that overcame hate.

Karol Wojtya
Poezoe-Poems Krakow, 1998

Image: 'God Speed' Edmund Blair Leighton

Monday, August 29, 2005

Check it out now ya'll

What people without younger brothers do with themselves I have not yet figured out. Those of you who unlike me have been deprived of the ministrations of masculine siblings my want to visit this newly linked site.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What Is Youth?

...It is a time given by providence to every person and given to him as a responsibility. During that time he searches, like the young man in the Gospel, for answers to basic questions; he searches not only for the meaning of life, but also for a concrete way to go about living his life. This is the most fundamental characteristic of youth.

...There is a youthfulness of spirit that lasts through time; it arises from the fact that at ever stage of life a person seeks and finds a new task to fulfill, a particular way of being, of serving, of loving... Even though you are young, the time for action is now! Jesus does not have 'contempt' for your youth. He does not set you aside for a later time when you will be older and your training will be comple. Your training will never be finished. Christinas are always in training. You are ready for what Christ wants for you now. He wants you - all of you - to to a light to the world, as only young people can be light. It is time to let you light shine!

Servant of God Pope John Paul II

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Brief Hiatus

Please pray for me and the 1 million others at World Youth Day in Cologne as we begin to gather today.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why I Love Hans

Want something stimulating? Peeping Thomists and Hans Urs Von Blathazar present the following morning wake up call.

"...remarkable though it is, not even all that we idiots with all our measures can do has yet succeeded in destroying the Church. Indeed, almost the opposite seems true: the more one violates her, the more clearly appears her inviolable virginity. The more one humiliates her, the more clearly one can see that the Church is in her own, proper place. That is, of course, in the “last” place. The saying about the last place is found on Jesus’ and Paul’s lips. What people outside the Church get up to need not worry us, but there are very many within her who think that they are doing God a service by belaboring the Church like a dusty old mattress; and indeed why not, if only they would not forget at every blow to identify themselves with what they are beating, and so were really to beat their own ancient and ailing breast. But as soon as they leave off doing that, then I cannot understand why they should be able to maintain that they have remained in the Church, that they are not kicking at her from without. However, let us leave them to their fate, or rather to gentle providence, in the hope that it may one day open their eyes to the fact that a pure Church which imagines she knows better than other Christians and which belabors the old dusty Church is not a Church at all but a Montanistic-Donatistic-Pelagian sect which has nothing whatsoever in common with the Church of Jesus Christ. But we must leave it to them to draw this simple conclusion while we move on to the more positive arguments..."

Read more
Image: Caravaggio 'Deposition From The Cross'

Monday, August 08, 2005

Gaudi, the Spanish Architect

Click here to learn about one of my heros, and the controversial cause for his beatification.

Opponents of the cause insist, ...that Gaudí's Catholicism is accidental to his genius—even a limitation on it. They believe that if Gaudí had not been Catholic, he would have been even greater...

Gaudí was recognised from the beginning as a genius, the extraordinariness of whose work lay in his attempt to harness the forms of nature. From a childhood spent contemplating nature's forms, he observed that the abstract geometry of human architecture was foreign to nature, which instead had forms that are fibrous—wood, bone, muscle—and in shapes formed by gravity. ...Gaudí's major works—La Pedrera, the Güell Park, and not least the Sagrada Familia—are initially upsetting, because they are more like nature than architecture. For the same reason they are both captivating and timeless. Everything in his work, Gaudí would later say, "comes from the Great Book of Nature"; his task was that of "collaboration with the Creator".

Click here to visit the church: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

"Life is love, and love is sacrifice, the architect used to say ... Sacrifice is the only really fruitful thing. The idea is embodied in his great church, which he conceived as an "expiation" for the sins of the world."

Image: Nativity Facade (from my own trip to Barcelona: look closely and you can find the Holy Family surrounded by all the interesting characters of the greatest story ever told.)

Friday, August 05, 2005

A little madness

I said to day that I was going
mad, quite mad, quite certifiably,

because quite possibily this fantastic
adventure with all of its unexpected gifts

is inconcievably turning,
as I test it, into a reality.

But how much love can truly exist
in an earthenware world without
it cracking?

Can sane people live and resist the irony
when they agree that suffering overcomes fear

with peace? And is it really
really possible to easily carry

a yoke? You say this is all for me;
Let me also spoil others so effortlessly.

Image: Hunt 'Shadow of Death'

Culture & Crisis: Reflections on Islam and Enlightenment

Religion cannot be imposed by the state, but ...can only be accepted in freedom; respect of the fundamental rights of man equal for all; the separation of powers and control of power.

It cannot be thought, however, that these fundamental values, recognized by us as generally valid, can be realized in the same way in every historical context. Not all societies have the sociological assumptions for a democracy based on parties, as occurs in the West; therefore, the total religious neutrality of the state, in the majority of historical contexts, has to be considered an illusion.

But let us clarify first if the modern Enlightenment philosophies, considered as a whole, can contain the last word of the cause common to all men. These philosophies are characterized by the fact that they are positivist and, therefore, anti-metaphysical, so much so that, in the end, God cannot have any place in them. They are based on the self-limitation of rational positivism, which can be applied in the technical realm, but which when it is generalized, entails instead a mutilation of man. It succeeds in having man no longer admit any moral claim beyond his calculations and, as we saw, the concept of freedom, which at first glance would seem to extend in an unlimited manner, in the end leads to the self-destruction of freedom.

It is true that the positivist philosophies contain important elements of truth. However, these are based on imposed limitations of reason, characteristic of a specific cultural situation -- that of the modern West -- and therefore not the last word of reason. Nevertheless though they might seem totally rational, they are not the voice of reason itself, but are also identified culturally with the present situation in the West.

For this reason they are in no way that philosophy which one day could be valid throughout the world. But, above all, it must be said that this Enlightenment philosophy, and its respective culture, is incomplete. It consciously severs its own historical roots depriving itself of the regenerating forces from which it sprang, from that fundamental memory of humanity, so to speak, without which reason loses its orientation.

Knowing is doing

In fact, the principle is now valid, according to which, man's capacity is measured by his action. What one knows how to do, may also be done. There no longer exists a knowing how to do separated from a being able to do, because it would be against freedom, which is the absolute supreme value. But man knows how to do many things, and knows increasingly how to do more things; and if this knowing how to do does not find its measure in a moral norm, it becomes, as we can already see, a power of destruction. Man knows how to clone men, and so he does it. Man knows how to use men as a store of organs for other men, and so he does it; he does it because this seems to be an exigency of his freedom. Man knows how to construct atomic bombs and so he makes them, being, in line of principle, also disposed to use them. In the end, terrorism is also based on this modality of man's self-authorization, and not on the teachings of the Koran.

The radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its roots becomes, in the last analysis, contempt for man. Man, deep down, has no freedom, we are told by the spokesmen of the natural sciences, in total contradiction with the starting point of the whole question. Man must not think that he is something more than all other living beings and, therefore, should also be treated like them, we are told by even the most advanced spokesmen of a philosophy clearly separated from the roots of humanity's historical memory.

We asked ourselves two questions: if rationalist (positivist) philosophy is strictly rational and, consequently, if it is universally valid, and if it is complete. Is it self-sufficient? Can it, or more directly must it, relegate its historical roots to the realm of the pure past and, therefore, to the realm of what can only be valid subjectively? We must respond to both questions with a definitive "no." This philosophy does not express man's complete reason, but only a part of it, and because of this mutilation of reason it cannot be considered entirely rational. For this reason it is incomplete, and can only be fulfilled by re-establishing contact with its roots. A tree without roots dries up.

Removing God

By stating this, one does not deny all that is positive and important of this philosophy, but one affirms rather its need to complete itself, its profound deficiency. And so we must again address the two controversial points of the Preamble of the European Constitution. The banishment of Christian roots does not reveal itself as the expression of a higher tolerance, which respects all cultures in the same way, not wishing to privilege any, but rather as the absolutizing of a pattern of thought and of life that are radically opposed, among other things, to the other historical cultures of humanity.

The real opposition that characterizes today's world is not that between various religious cultures, but that between the radical emancipation of man from God, from the roots of life, on one hand, and from the great religious cultures on the other. If there were to be a clash of cultures, it would not be because of a clash of the great religions -- which have always struggled against one another, but which, in the end, have also always known how to live with one another -- but it will be because of the clash between this radical emancipation of man and the great historical cultures. Thus, even the rejection of the reference to God, is not the expression of a tolerance that desires to protect the non-theistic religions and the dignity of atheists and agnostics, but rather the expression of a conscience that would like to see God cancelled definitively from the public life of humanity, and relegated to the subjective realm of residual cultures of the past.

Relativism, which is the starting point of all this, thus becomes a dogmatism which believes itself to be in possession of the definitive scope of reason, and with the right to regard all the rest only as a stage of humanity, in the end surmounted, and that can be appropriately relativized. In reality, this means that we have need of roots to survive, and that we must not lose sight of God, if we do not want human dignity to disappear.

Translation of the lecture given in Italian by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XIV, in the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, the day before Pope John Paul II died.
Zenit code: ZE05072829
Image: Pilgrims Going to Mecca, 1861-Leon Belly

The Arrow and the Song

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
One of my Great Grandmother's favorites
Image: Millias 'The Blind Girl'

Monday, August 01, 2005


To suffer and to be happy although suffering,
To have one's feet on the earth,
To walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet
To be enthroned with Christ at the Father's right hand,
To laugh and cry with the children of this world
And ceaselessly sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels
This is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

For now the world consists of opposites.
But in the end these contrasts must disappear
How can they do otherwise
In the fullness of love?
Edith Stein

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Be a Prophet

Elijah stands before God's face because all of his love belongs to the Lord. ...Glorifying God is his joy. His zeal to serve him tears him apart: "I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord, the God of hosts" (1 Kgs 19:10, 14; these words were used as a motto on the shield of the Order). By living penitentially, he atones for the sins of his time. The offense that the misguided people give to the Lord by their manner of worship hurts him so much that he wants to die. And the Lord consoles him only as he consoles his especially chosen ones: He appears to him himself on a lonely mountain, reveals himself in soft rustling after a thunderstorm, and announces his will to him in clear words.

The prophet, who serves the Lord in complete purity of heart and completely stripped of everything earthly, is also a model of obedience. He stands before God's face like the angels before the eternal throne, awaiting his sign, always ready to serve. He has no other will than the will of his Lord. When God bids, he goes before the king and fearlessly risks giving him bad news that must arouse his hatred. When God wills it, he leaves the country at the threat of violence; but he also returns at God's command, though the danger has not disappeared.

Anyone who is so unconditionally faithful to God can also be certain of God's faithfulness. He is permitted to speak "as someone who has power," may open and close heaven, may command the waters to let him walk through and remain dry, may call down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice, to execute punishment on God's enemies, and may breathe new life into a dead person. We see the Savior's predecessor provided with all the graces that he has promised to his own. And the greatest crown is still in reserve for him: Before the eyes of his true disciple, Elisha, he is carried off in a fiery carriage to a secret place far from all human abodes. According to the testimony of Revelation, he will return near the end of the world to suffer a martyr's death for his Lord in the battle against the Antichrist.

Edith Stein: on Carmelite Spirituality
Read the rest here

Image: Ford Madox Brown 'Elijah Raises the Widow's Son'

Friday, July 29, 2005


"However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."
Henry David Thoreau

The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
Luke 10


My spelling is Wobbly.
It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.

A. A. Milne

Image: Ernest H Shepard

See also here if you have ever unsuccessfully tried to find a spot on the beach, the best way to carve a ham, or comfort in a moving vehicle,

Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it's in my basement... let me go upstairs and check.

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is a wonder.

M. C. Escher

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Saints Natalia, Aurelius, Liliosa, Felix, and George: Martyrs

At the beginning of the Moslem rule in Córdova, Spain, during the 8th century, Christians were allowed to practice their Faith; later, however, when the domination became complete, the Mohammedan leaders began a systematic persecution of the Christians. One of the most prominent martyrs of the day was the Archbishop of Toledo, St. Eulogius, who also wrote a Memorial of the martyrs who suffered before him, among whom were those we honor today.

Natalia was a converted Moslem and her husband Aurelius was the son of an Arab and a Spanish woman. They conformed to Moslem customs outwardly but practiced their Christian faith in secret. One day Aurelius happened to see a Christian patiently enduring the scorn of the populace and the fierce blows of the whip for having publicly confessed his faith. This worked a dramatic change in Aurelius: from that moment on, he and his wife began to live their Christian faith openly. After setting aside enough money to take care of their daughter’s future, they distributed the rest of their possessions to the poor, and gave themselves over to penance and devotion.

Their example proved to be an inspiration for a relative of Aurelius named Felix, who had apostasized from the Church, and his wife Liliosa who had been practicing her faith in secret. Now, Felix returned to the Church and both gave up all pretense of dissembling. All four began to visit and minister to the Christians who were in prison. It did not take long before all four of these dedicated servants of God were arrested and themselves thrown into prison.

Also arrested with them was a beggar named George, who belonged to the monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem and had toured Egypt and Europe in search of alms for his house. S ince he could not be accused of the same crime as the others — apostasy from the Moslem faith — George in order to obtain martyrdom insulted Mohammed to the Cadi’s face. Thus, when the first four were condemned to death by beheading, George was also included. On July 27, 852, these saintly followers of Christ achieved the martyrdom they so avidly sought.

More reflections on Saints Natalia, Aurelius, Liliosa, Felix, and George
-Celine McCoy
Image: Delaroche 'The Young Martyr'

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Frescos in an Old Church

Six Centuries now have gone
Since, one by one,
These stones were laid,
And in air's vacancy
This beauty made.

They who thus reared them
Their rest have won;
Ours now this heritage-
To guard, preserve, delight in, brood upon;
And in these transitory fragments scan
The immortal longings of the soul of man.

Walter de la Mare

Image: St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read, Corby Glen, Linconshire c.1325

An Old Jazz Tune

Powder your face with sunshine
Put on a great big smile
Make up your eyes with laughter
Folks will be laughing with you in a little while

Whistle a tune of gladness
Gloom was never in style

The future's brighter
When hearts are lighter
Smile, smile, smile!

via Crosby, Martin, Lombardo, et al

Monday, July 25, 2005


Georges de la Tour painted him as a pilgrim. El Greco as an envoy.
And this is what St. Paul had to say

2 Cor 4:7-15
"Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

...Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God."

Of the 12 apostles, Paul met only Peter and James.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

On The Artist

It is important to recognize the distinction, but also the connection, between these two aspects of human activity. The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own acts, with responsibility for their moral value; it is another to be an artist, able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art's specific dictates.

This is what makes the artist capable of producing objects, but it says nothing as yet of his moral character. We are speaking not of moulding oneself, of forming one's own personality, but simply of actualizing one's productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.

The distinction between the moral and artistic aspects is fundamental, but no less important is the connection between them. Each conditions the other in a profound way. In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history.

In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.
John Paul II, Letter to Artists

Image: Rosenthal ' His Maddona'

Friday, July 22, 2005

What, Then, Shall We Read?

In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

–C. S. Lewis,
An Experiment in Criticism

Image: Edward Robert Hughes
'Night With Her Train Of Stars

Many Sins Forgiven, Because She Loved Much...

If you haven't already,
I challenge you to read
On Mary Magdalene

Because I sure can't top it!

Happy Feast Day

Image: Georges de la Tour 'Magdalene'

Thursday, July 21, 2005


This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except war. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They maybe to the next.

All a poet can do today is warn. That is why true Poets must be truthful.

~Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918
from a preface to a planned book of his poetry.
"And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies' plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger."

CS Lewis- The Last Battle

Why the only solution is love. Zenit on 'What Makes Terroists Tick'

As Time Goes By...

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no one has the power
To tell just where the hands will stop,
At late or early hour...

The present only is our own
Live, love, toil with a will;
Place no faith in tomorrow
For the clock may then be still.

- Robert H Smith
As remembered from its place by my mother's cookie jar.

Image: Paul Almsey 'Rock N Roll Sur Les Quais de Paris'

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 is through poetry that the soul is most adequately described...

The human soul is not a complete, static, unchanging, monolithic existence.

It is being in the state of becoming and in the process of becoming; the soul must bring to fruition those predispositions with which it was endowed when coming into the world; however, it can develop them only through activation.

... The soul is housed in a body on whose vigor and health its own vigor and health depend — even if not exclusively nor simply.

On the other hand, the body receives its nature as body—life, motion, form, gestalt, and spiritual significance — through the soul.

The world of the spirit is founded on sensuousness which is spiritual as much as physical: the intellect, knowing its activity to be rational, reveals a world; the will intervenes creatively and formatively in this world; the emotion receives this world inwardly and puts it to the test.
-Edith Stein

Images: 'The Lady of Shalot' by: William Holman Hunt (top left) and John William Waterhouse

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

How to Educate Girls

The nature and destiny of woman require an education which can inspire works of effective love. Thus, emotional training is the most important factor required in the formation of woman; however, such authentic formation is related to intellectual clarity and energy as well as to practical competence.

This education forms a proper disposition of the soul in accordance with objective values, and it enables a practical execution of this disposition. To place supernatural values above all earthly ones complies with an objective hierarchy of values. The initiation of this attitude presents as well an analogy with the future vocation of forming human beings for the kingdom of God.

That is why the essence of all feminine education (as of education in general) must be religious education, one which can forcefully convey the truths of the faith in a manner which appeals to the emotions and inspires actions. Such formation is designed to exercise simultaneously the practical activities by the life of faith. The individual will be concerned with these activities through his entire life: the development of the life of faith and of prayer with the Church through the liturgy, as well as with creating a new personal relationship to the Lord, especially through an understanding of the Holy Eucharist and a truly Eucharistic life. Of course, such religious education can only be imparted by those personalities who are themselves filled with the spirit of faith and whose lives are fashioned by it.

-Edith Stein, 'On the Spirituality of Women'

Image: Jessie Wilcox Smith

Life is a fact

Monday, July 18, 2005

On the Sixteenth Sunday of the Year, 2005

This is a day of contradictions: the height of summer in a world which seems to us to be defined by the cold despair of winter. But we remember that it is in winter, when everything is frozen into the intimate warmth of the earth that the grain prepares for a new spring.

When you sow things they seem to become lost. You cannot find, or hope to find the mustard seed again. The wheat appears to be rotten and worthless. And Jesus says this, in the presence of God, is actually the solution: a promise of spring, resurrection, and life!

The answer of a Christian to the questions of the world is different from that of the politicians and the media. It is not revenge, not taking upon ourselves the separation of the 'darnel' and the wheat. And our peculiar element of hope is that in a communal sharing of suffering, new seeds of empathy and heroism will grow. Paul asks how we can even pray amongst this suffering, and then gives us the answer: for us, this is the travail before a new birth! And what we acknowledge that we cannot fix our God can transform.

Sermon: Fr. Benedito, Diocese of Westminster, London
Image: Millet 'The Angelus'

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Notes from Greenwich

"All I need is a tall ship and a star to stear her by..."
-John Masefield

A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men around her; she has a waist and wears stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her young looking; it's not the initial expense that breaks you, but the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly but without a man at the helm she is absolutely uncontrolable; and when coming into a new port she always heads for the buoys.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Generous Love

"Be witnesses to Christ among other people of your own age. In this way give vigour to your lives as believers secure in committing yourselves to a great cause, and you will be able to perceive more effectively the voice of the Spirit.

And if this voice calls you to a higher and more generous love, do not be afraid. Take courage: Christ is calling you and the whole world awaits you!

Remember that the Kingdom of God has need of your generous and total dedication. Do not be like the rich young man who, when invited by Christ, was unable to accept but remained with his possessions and sadness, even though Jesus had glanced at him with love. Be like the fishermen who, when they were called by Jesus, left everything promptly to become fishers of men. " John Paul II, 1989

Please join me and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha to pray for World Youth Day 2005- 33 Day countdown!

Image: William Allard- Midwife Bedami Devi holds an abandoned baby girl found under a bridge

Just a Legality

Courtesy of my brother, via Disorder in the Courts of America, a book which claims to have gleaned these from actual court reports.

Although in all fairness I think one of the reasons so much humor has exists at the expense of lawers is that, unlike artists and architects, they have the misfortune of working in a profession which regorously rechords every slip of the tongue...

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all? WITNESS: Yes. ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory? WITNESS: I forget. ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning? WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?" ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you? WITNESS: My name is Susan.

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo? WITNESS: We both do.ATTORNEY: Voodoo? WITNESS: We do. ATTORNEY: You do? WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning? WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken? WITNESS: Would you repeat the question?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated? WITNESS: By death. ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to? WITNESS: Oral.

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body? WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m. ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time? WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse? WITNESS: No. ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure? WITNESS: No. ATTORNEY Did you check for breathing? WITNESS: No. ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy? WITNESS: No. ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor? WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar. ATTORNEY: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless? WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Song of Paradise

SING a song of Paradise
Far above the skies,--
Four-and-twenty Elders
And Monsters full of eyes!
Heaven's gates are opened,
They all begin to sing,
Playing ball with golden crowns
Round about the King.

The King is in His counting-house,
Counting His elect,
The Queen comes from her chamber
Royally bedecked
With chrysoprase and amethyst
And jacinth without price . . .
Now is not this a pretty song
To sing of Paradise?
-Dorothy Sayers

Image: Margaret Tarrant 'First Flowers'

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ecce! Labora!

Happy Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia:

St. Benedict's Rule is written for laymen, not for clerics. The saint's purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices, but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic life of such laymen as wished to live as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel. "My words", he says, "are addressed to thee, whoever thou art, that, renouncing thine own will, dost put on the strong and bright armour of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King." (Prol. to Rule.)

A characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of work. ...With Benedict the work of his monks was ...a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labour of obedience, from whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the first condition of all growth in goodness. ... In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline, even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler. ... "Ecce! labora!" go and work.

Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian.

The religious life, as conceived by St. Benedict is essentially social. Life apart from one's fellows, the life of a hermit, if it is to be wholesome and sane, is possible only for a few, and these few must have reached an advanced stage of self-discipline while living with others (Rule, 1). The Rule, therefore, is entirely occupied with regulating the life of a community of men who live and work and pray and eat together, and this is not merely for a course of training, but as a permanent element of life at its best. ...So intimately connected with domestic life is the whole framework and teaching of the Rule that a Benedictine may be more truly said to enter or join a particular household than to join an order.

...The Benedictine ideal of poverty is quite different from the Franciscan. The Benedictine takes no explicit vow of poverty; he only vows obedience according to the Rule. The rule allows all that is necessary to each individual, ... Possessions could be held in common, they might be large, but they were to be administered for the furtherance of the work of the community and for the benefit of others. While the individual monk was poor, the monastery was to be in a position to give alms, not to be compelled to seek them. It was to relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to help the afflicted (ibid., 4), to entertain all strangers (ibid., 3). The poor came to Benedict to get help to pay their debts (Dial. St. Greg., 27); they came for food (ibid., 21, 28).

... In his conception of the Chrisitian character, prayer is coexistent with the whole life, and life is not complete at any point unless penetrated by prayer. ... The form of prayer which thus covers the whole of our waking hours, St. Benedict calls the first degree of humility. It consists in realizing the presence of God (7). ...[T]he centre of the common life to which he bound his monks, [was]...public worship of
God, the opus Dei, ... the chief work of his monks, and to be the source from which all other works took their inspiration, their direction, and their strength.

...if St. Benedict gives no further directions on private prayer, it is because the whole condition and mode of life secured by the Rule, and the character formed by its observance, lead naturally to the higher states of prayer.

...The Rule, including its system of prayer and public psalmody, is meant for every class of mind and every degree of learning. It is framed not only for the educated and for souls advanced in perfection, but it organizes and directs a complete life which is adapted for simple folk and for sinners, for the observance of the Commandments and for the beginnings of goodness. "We have written this Rule", writes St. Benedict, "that by observing it..., we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness in life and a beginning of holiness." "Whoever, therfore, thou are that hastenest to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this little RUle which we have written for beginner: and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God's protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue." (73).

Click Here to Visit Monte Cassino

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Terror, Heroism, and Anniversaries

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profundity
Of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, Good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all.
In ire and exultation,
Aflame with faith and free,
lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

Hymn: GK Chesterton
Image: J Powell, 'St Michael' from the Warminster Mosaic

BBC on the 60th Anniversary VE and VJ Day

Christopher Hitchens on London's Response (With apologies to PeepingThomists)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Relative Burdens

'Come to me all you who labor, and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.'

"Any other burden oppresses and crushes you, but Christ's actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs down, but Christ's gives you wings.

If you take a bird's wings away, you might seem to be taking weight off it, but the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to the earth. There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight; give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it flies"

- St. Augustine, "Sermon," 126.
Image: 'Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter,' Ford Mattox Brown

Just So Things Don't Get Too Serious

One of the refinements of culture which I have discovered English grocery stores to be missing during my time here...