Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 was great.

I completely forget what my resolution for 2008 was. I think it was along the lines of, "I must not eat so many Lime Tostito Chips." But then again, I was pregnant at this point last year.

2008 was great. Along the lines of Jen from Conversion Diary, here are 8 lessons learned (or re-learned).

1. I must make time for prayer every morning. It is a proven, scientific fact in our household that, when Erika says her morning prayer, the day is a happier day. Resolution for 2009: Make time for Morning Prayer--even a truncated version--every morning.

2. The man who asked me to marry him six years ago is a "just man" in the line of Joseph. 2008 gave him many opportunities to grow in, er, virtue. Between a pregnant wife, a newborn, endless reams of dissertation data, odd hours experimenting with rodent behavior, and a two-year-old-who-turned-three--he had his hands full. And was ever-gracious about it. Resolution for 2009: Mirror his graciousness.

3.
(Baby) life is beautiful. I was really able to enjoy every moment of Isabella's babyhood in a way I couldn't, because of my own pride and impatience, enjoy our first child. Resolution for 2009: Keep enjoying every moment of childhood.

4. All life is beautiful. Since college, I've been on a hiatus from pro-life activism. The recent election woke me back up: there is no sustainable morality that does not receive and love human life from the moment of conception. Resolution for 2009: Witness to life.

5. Divorce is horrible. This was no surprise. Ever since I fell in love with Todd, whose parents divorced when he was 12, I've seen how awful it is. But it's only been since we had Miriam that I've been confronting it's deeper scars. Resolution for 2009: Pray for and witness to the beauty of the marital vows.

6. Obedience is always enough. Fidelity, fidelity, fidelity. To my vows. To the Church. To Christ. To the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Where my heart is--and submits itself--there my treasure is. So, set your heart--and submit it--to what lasts. Resolution for 2009: Meditate more on obedience.

7. I love life in the country. Our two extended vacations to NH this year confirmed it: being in an isolated place, with woods and "growing things," brings untold peace to my heart. I don't spend as much, I don't "need to get out." Resolution for 2009: Cultivate a cloistered heart even amidst all the suburban sprawl.

8. The Mother of God is my dear friend, even when I neglect her. Mary has been so quiet in my life lately, but I am always shocked by the force of her presence when she does "show up." Resolution for 2009: Walk with Mary more.





And, of course, I will be renewing my yearly resolution since 2000: "Don't be stupid." It's amazing how these three little words can save you a lot of trouble!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moses contra mundum

Loud and clear now: "Ideas have consequences."

One idea that had particularly happy consequences for me--as a woman--was the Judeo understanding of marital monogamy. Michael Novak gives a succinct and enlightening review of philosopher Dennis Prager's work on the advent of that idea.

"The ancient world considered sexual “normality” to be fulfilled in the ungoverned sexuality of males, to which women were merely instrumental. In many of the cultures surrounding Israel, sexual acts between males were given equal or even superior value to those between males and females...

Against this common vision of sexual normalcy stood the towering Moses. He taught Israel, virtually alone, to embrace a new standard for human sexual life. This standard gave its blessing solely to sexual acts between a man and a woman in the covenanted relationship of monogamous marriage. What a great channeling of sexual energies this provision achieved. What a great concentration of energies it brought to the world. What great, non-instrumental dignity it gave to women."

The basis of our society's insistence on equality between the sexes is precisely the Mosaic law. Sexual intercourse no longer plays center-stage in human affairs: it has a place, and it is that place that provides sexual equality.

"Is sexual activity the highest end of life? For Moses and the people of Israel, it assuredly was not. It was of course a great good, and one essential to the perpetuation of the human race. Sexuality was not meant to be repressed. But it was meant to run—and to run deep—in only one channel."

If men and women share an ethic that requires the same continence of each, then both are judged according to the same standard: their respect for and dedication to that one channel. Equality. At the same time, there is still room for a robust understanding of masculinity and a true appreciation for femininity. There's no need for women to become "like men," eradicating their fertility or their particular vulnerabilities in order to dominate.

Interlude: The last two pop feminists (I make a distinction between "pop" and true feminists because the popular feminism that refuses to ground itself in biological/historical/spiritual reality cannot liberate women in any meaningful sense) with whom I spoke at length insisted that the death of Judeo-Christian ethics in the public square would, finally, free women from guilt. I think they meant that, although they enjoy almost every conceivable freedom and are essentially "the same as" (rather than "equal to") men, they still see the existence of human beings who ascribe to Judeo-Christian sexual ethics as ... well, a downer.

I think they just want to be free from guilt-inducing downers.

But to return to Moses: It is ironic that these so-called feminists seek to eradicate the very tradition that made feminism as an idea (and therefore as a reality) possible. Novak again:

"From this sublimation [of sexual activity to marriage] there arose two great social consequences. First, women achieved sexual equality with men in the holy union of marriage. 'In His image [God] made them, male and female He made them' (Genesis 1:27). This text says clearly that the divine radiance in human life shines through the marital union of man and woman. Therein, each person finds completeness. Only together, fully one, does the married couple bear the image of the Creator.

The second great consequence is to channel immense energy into society through its fundamental unit, the family—and not just energy, but also a continuity of consciousness, and the dream of a more perfect future. Thus Judaism gave birth to the idea of progress. Judaism introduced the ancient world to the reality of progress... Making progress is always, in time, an unfinished business."

There is a lot of unfinished business as far as bringing the ideal of Judeo-Christian marriage into practice--both at the macro- and micro-levels. It is imperative to note, however, that without this ideal, the very bedrock ideals of feminism will crumble. Ideas have consequences.

Campion

I just finished reading Evelyn Waugh's biography of St. Edmund Campion (thanking God for vacation reading time!). It's simply astonishing to my coddled little suburban American brain: the starkness of the choices with which those men and women were faced, the tenacity of their faith, the joy of their suffering. All my mental gymnastics attempting to make the Church palatable or respectable (or even sufferable) to those I meet seem vapid. Campion and his fellow priests knew the difference between making Christ attractive and making Him into a tapioca pudding.

Christ is attractive because He spoke the truth about the human condition, provided the remedy, and gave a Church to guard that truth and remedy. And He died so we would know this: God does not change according to our comfort zones. Great joy in that. And great trembling!

It's a great read: Waugh makes the biography into a cross between a novel, a history, and literary appreciation (of Campion's letters and works).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas 2008

Gloria in Profundis

There has fallen on earth for a token
a god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
the bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
for the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendor spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
who mounts if the mountains fall,
if the fixed suns topple and tumble
and a deluge of love drown all--
who rears up his head for a crown,
who holds up his will for a warrant,
who strives with the starry torrent
when all that is good goes down?



For in dread of such falling and failing
the Fallen Angels fell
inverted in insolence, scaling
the hanging mountain of hell:
but unmeasured of plummet and rod
too deep for their sight to scan,
outrushing the fall of man
is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
the spout of the stars in spate--
where the thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
and the lightening fears to be late:
as men dive for a sunken gem
pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
the fallen star that has found it
in the cavern of Bethlehem.
~GK Chesterton

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where I am.


This is the bridge under which I drove with my dad Sunday night--about 5 minutes from my parents' home. Beautiful.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday


"What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given to Him on a belief of His promise?” ~John Henry Newman, Plain and Parochial Sermons

Whatever we give him this Christmas, it cannot out-do the generosity of God. He ventured all for us, without a hope in any of our promises.

The light comes!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Love poem for every woman.

The first book of Scripture to capture my heart--rather than my head--was the Song of Songs. In college, with the usual glee of the naughtily orthodox co-ed, I loved to insist to the Muslim student downstairs that the Christian Bible contained erotic poetry. And it does.

The last few days of Advent remind me of the Song of Songs--the intense longing and waiting for "I-know-not-what." (Those blessed enough to have been virgin brides know what I mean.) That physical longing for something as yet unseen is the visible side of our hearts' deepest longing for our Creator--an experience to ponder in our hearts as we wait for Christ and, ultimately, for heaven.

So, I was delighted to open up my copy of First Things to find this poem. What every husband wishes he could write for his wife--a beautiful interplay of the days waiting for marriage and the days waiting for heaven-with-her.

Ghazal to the One

Sun's bliss, leaf shadows, a honeyed breeze--
The world as he would have it be for you,

Your faithful, humble, and obedient servant,
One who has no other goddess before you.

The Name, the Guest, the Beloved are all one,
And he, vouchsafed that vision once, bows down before you.

The blessing of friends, the gratitude of children,
The work of your hands--a table spread before you.

A fantasy he blushes to mention: the desire
to rearrange time since and time before you.

Another not so foolish--he'll wait for you
When he reaches that riverbank, as he supposes, before you.

~Robert Mezey

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

North


The Philosopher family is headed north for three weeks of Advent and Christmas. We're praying for snow, holy conversation, and lots of laughter with our families. Pray that there are no ice storms up the East Coast tomorrow!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Babies, bonding, and God.

The First Things blog had an interesting post today (it includes links to some pretty interesting work on fertility and faith). It seems that the (few) Americans who are reproducing are those practicing their faith: "religion is a family affair."

From a secular point of view, there may be several causes of note. (1) Pregnancy and childbirth--as well as the care of a newborn, I'd add--invite one to fall back upon faith as an aide (AMEN); (2) contemplating the death of a child also intensifies the parents' need for God. Put positively, having children and "life together" give life such a sense of purpose and meaning that suddenly the question arises--could not every life have purpose and meaning? Creation itself?

And just as a thing cannot bring itself into existence, neither can it give itself meaning. Something--Someone--outside of it must ... exist.

Thomas Aquinas strikes again--this time in the midst of smelly diapers, sleepless nights, and the beauty of a child. There must be meaning; ergo there must be God. Faith from fertility.

(Oh, and then the sheer joy of meaning may even inspire more babies!" Fertility from faith.

Breathtaking.

Except, you can't see her taking breaths!



Thanks to Elizabeth Scalia.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday in Advent

"John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.
Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.
However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine."

~Augustine, Sermons, Office of Readings for the Third Sunday in Advent

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Miriam the Philosopher

Miriam: "Mother, why is there not nothing?"

PM: (wondering if she's been reading her Aristotle on the sly) "Well, because God exists."

Miriam: "Oh. That makes me happy! Happy birthday, God!"

For some reason, she refuses to say that Christmas is Jesus' birthday. She'll only say, "Happy Birthday, God!" and then inform me that "Jesus is God." I think there's an unstated premise in this syllogism somewhere...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Requiem aeternum...


Dona ei, Domine ... lux perpetua ....

May the choirs welcome him on the far side... Dear friend of faith and reason, pray for us before the face of Truth.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ

Here is the First Things memorial.

UPDATE: The picture above is from Benedict XVI's visit to NYC this past year. He made time to go personally to the Jesuit infirmary where Dulles was living at the time. Here is a brief description of that visit.

"Guadalupe!"


...is one of Miriam's favorite words at the moment. She mutters it under her breath as she colors. It is fun to say and it is today's feast day: Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rehabilitating Obedience.

I've been pondering how desperately we need to reclaim the virtue of obedience (to rightful authority, of course). Pascal prompts me. Newman prompts me. I really should write an article or something...

Then, this from an old Richard John Neuhaus essay. And I realize he's said it so well that all I need to do is pass it on to you:

"I may not understand an authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, I may have difficulties with a teaching, but, as Newman understood, a thousand difficulties do not add up to a doubt, never mind a rejection. I may think a teaching is inadequately expressed, and pray and work for its more adequate expression in the future. But, given a decision between what I think the Church should teach and what the Church in fact does teach, I decide for the Church. I decide freely and rationally--because God has promised the apostolic leadership of the Church guidance and charisms that He has not promised me; because I think the Magisterium just may understand some things that I don't; because I know for sure that, in the larger picture of history, the witness of the Catholic Church is immeasurably more important than anything I might think or say. In short, I obey. The nuances of such obedience, of what is meant by thinking with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia), are admirably spelled out in the 1990 instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian." It is an instruction that can be read with enormous benefit also by those who are not professional theologians. My point is this: liberal Catholicism cannot be reinvented, it cannot be rehabilitated, it will not be vibrantly Catholic, until it candidly and convincingly comes to terms with obedience."

I'm convinced. (I'd add that liberal philosophy can't come to terms with the human condition until I also comes to terms with the tradition.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dec. 8--The Immaculate Conception


A dewdrop of the darkness born,
Wherein no shadow lies;
The blossom of a barren thorn,
Whereof no petal dies;
A rainbow beauty passion-free,
Wherewith was veiled Divinity.

John Bannister Tabb

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent

Behold! He comes. And, behold! We are going...

"But when we shall have come to that judgment, the date of which is called peculiarly the day of judgment, and sometimes the day of the Lord, we shall then recognize the justice of all God’s judgments, not only of such as shall then be pronounced, but, of all which take effect from the beginning, or may take effect before that time. And in that day we shall also recognize with what justice so many, or almost all, the just judgments of God in the present life defy the scrutiny of human sense or insight, though in this matter it is not concealed from pious minds that what is concealed is just." ~ Augustine, City of God, Book XX, Ch. 2

Friday, December 5, 2008

Girls and boys are different.

Yesterday my ninth-grade religion class--two girls and four boys--discussed heaven. We often discuss heaven, but this time it was actually part of the reading assignment.

One of the boys asked whether there would be any pain at all in heaven: "Like, if we're playing paintball, wouldn't it hurt just a little. To be fun. Ya know?"

Well, okay. I conceded the possibility: not all pain is bad, so there can be pain in heaven. But our experience of it will not be like our experience of pain here.

Then I dropped the bombshell: "Maybe heaven will be so beautiful that it will hurt just a little."

Uh. Faces dead as doornails. "Huh?"

Now, it is a near and dear maxim to my heart that True Beauty pierces--it makes us hurt a little. Our being aches with the beauty of a moment or thing or person. It had not occurred to me that perhaps that was a post-14-years-old moment in my life.

Then.... LIFE in the classroom! The girls awoke, "Yeah, like a beautiful piece of music." "Or a beautiful day." "Like Christmas."

They got it. And the boys.... never did.

Is the pain of love a more feminine intuition? I have no doubt that one day those boys will experience what I was talking about. But the girls got it first.

Anecdotal evidence.

At the beginning, the end.

I love that the liturgical year begins by looking forward to the second coming of Christ. The first two weeks of Advent are a time to prepare our hearts for "the day when He appeareth." We are told that he is "like the refiner's fire" and "he shall purify." Sometimes I'd like to just leave all that purifying for him on "that day"--leaving it all in an abstract future, something I'll just passively receive when I get there.

In a way, it is true that we can't prepare adequately for that day. But it is also true that we must prepare: we must practice saying "yes!" to the Returning Christ by saying "yes!" every moment as he comes to us now. "To those who are faithful in little things..." He is purifying us now so that we shall be wholly his then; he redeems our suffering now so that we shall rejoice on that day. My reaction won't be, "Darnnit! It's the day of reckoning!" Rather, if I say yes to him today, on that day I will say, "Gloria! It is the day of reckoning!"

This is all inspired by a little blurb from Elizabeth Foss's column. She wrote, remembering the unexpected and harrowing days of bedrest:

"A couple of days before Sarah Anne was born, I commented to my priest that it is much more difficult to sin when one is on bedrest. He raised his eyebrows. No, I continued, maybe it’s not the bedrest so much as it is the knowledge that at any moment I could hemorrhage and once the bleeding began, I could die. Indeed, nothing drives one to one’s knees (figuratively, in my case) like knowing a serious medical situation lurks around the corner. Nothing makes avoiding sin seem more urgent than knowing the accounting could be quite near.

The reality, of course, is that none of us knows what day is our last. None of us knows when life might change suddenly and death might loom large. But few of us pray that way. Ever."

Let's start praying that way. Always.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The inevitable question.

It's "holiday" party time. And here comes the inevitable question over that (small) glass of merlot: "So, what do you do?" Or, even better: "You have your Master's? Great! What are you going to do with that?"

Usually, I respond with, "Oh, I'm home with my kids right now."

But sometimes I'd really like to bust out some Mother Teresa:

"Love one another. It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start."

I'm loving my husband and my children to the point of the cross.

That's all I do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dirty word?

Darwin asks, "Is 'planned' a dirty word for Catholics?"

In usual form, the answer is funny and philosophical. The comments are also worth your perusal.

Because any philosophy that rejects reproduction is doomed...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Woman in art

This is very cool. Think of adjectives that describe these faces. They will not include "steamy," "hot," "salacious," etc...

Philosophy=Wisdom

Over Thanksgiving, I had the distinct pleasure--between the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie--of good conversation with old friends. In particular, the Scientist Dad and I were able to discuss Blaise Pascal and the meaning of philosophy over baby food and coffee with a Philosopher Pater Familias.

One problem of teaching philosophy, posited he, is that you can only reward students with good grades when they demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the material. For example, the students who tend to get the best grades are the girls who sit in the back of the class and say nothing, but WOW do they know how to study. They may or may not have taken, for example, Augustine's Confessions to heart. Students, however, who engage the material, ask the philosophical questions, and apply their answers to their lives (i.e., put them into action) may or may not get good grades in philosophy class. But they are the students doing precisely what the teacher wants (or, at any rate, what a good teacher wants); the students philosophizing cannot be rewarded for actually doing philosophy.

This is the nature of wisdom: it eludes the obvious rewards.

But how to prod students to bring wisdom to their lives? Pascal recognizes the problem (of course): a man can study and even master the proofs for the existence of God, but five minutes after leaving his desk he will doubt God's existence. Reason's mastery of a subject (God) does not guarantee it will enter into his heart (which, for Pascal, is the center of the whole person).

The trick, he says, is to begin to act, to behave as if God existed. Or as if a moral life would make you happy. Or as if material things were unimportant. It is only in acting--in putting on a mask, so to speak--that the heart engages in truth. Reason cannot be certain of truth, especially in the post-modern world, until the heart is certain of truth. And for the heart to be certain, the man must bend his will and his life to certainty.

So, for the unbeliever who seeks God, Pascal suggests going into a church (a church housing the Eucharist) and kneeling. Go to a liturgy and say the prayers. The whole person--in the body's prayerful motions, the heart's desire, the mind's rest--becomes convicted of God's existence and his own wretchedness. In surrendering to the attractive face of the Redeemer, the heart begins to move to peace and certainty and love, and soon joy follows.

A good reminder for Advent. Our wretchedness. God's revelation in Christ. Joy.

First Sunday in Advent


Do not forget to make space for longing this Advent:

"It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from." ~CS Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beautiful Friday.

What do the Philosopher Mom, various philosophizing progeny, and the Scientist Dad plan to do today? Absolutely. Nothing. (Well, maybe go for a run, bake some bread, and play "Scoop the Baby" with our family spatula.) We're just going to relish a day of rest. And maybe decorate for Advent...

Addendum: And while I intended this post to be rather tongue-in-cheek, this story from the NYT makes the whole day rather nauseating. It's not all fun-and-games out there.

Here's an exhortation for you, thanks to Nathan via Upturned Earth:

"Black Friday? Nay! Buy Nothing Day!

Rather than hoarding the hottest new d.v.d. player or Tickle-Me-Whoever, take a stand against rampant materialist consumerism, the idolization of stuff, and cultural meaningless. Just. Buy. Nothing. Spend time with your family. Read a book; read to your children, rather than buying inconsequential garbage for them. Attend Mass. Go for a walk. Bust out Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue or one of Beethoven’s symphonies and rediscover cultural artifacts with lifespans greater than the warranty on Step 2’s 50’s Diner ...

Live, as humans, rather than merely functioning as television-commercial-hypnotized purchasing drones. Eschew the malls, Wal*Marts, and shopping “plazas” and rediscover the hearth. How often, in the modern workaday world, have many of us the opportunity to embrace an essentially free day? We should cherish it, rather than squander it standing in line to save a few dollars we could better use in countless other ways. After all, we ready ourselves not for the Christmas shopping season, but for Advent, in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, a gift far greater than Best Buy could ever proffer."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving



Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe
to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God
of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast &
furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles &
miseries therof, againe to set their feete on ye firme
and stable earth, their proper elemente.
~William Bradford, A History of Plimouth Plantation

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I always wanted to say.

I had no idea this man existed until ten minutes ago, but ... Exactly. This is perspective.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Divine Image, by William Blake


To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew;
Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I must remember this...

"Try not to feel good when thou art not good, but cry to Him who is good. He changes not because thou changest. Nay, He has an especial tenderness of love toward thee for that thou art in the dark and hast no light, and His heart is glad when thou doest arise and say, "I will go to my Father." ...Fold the arms of they faith, and wait in the quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. For the arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go to do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feeling: Do thy work."

~George MacDonald


Thanks to High Desert Home.

Miriam the theologian. Part II.

In Which Installement Miriam Launches Upon A Theologie of the Bodie

Miriam: Mummy, boys and girls are different.

PM: Oh, well, yes they are.

M: They like diffrent things. I like pink and baby dolls. Boys sometimes don't like baby dolls. But Eric (male pre-school friend) likes baby dolls and he's a boy.

PM: (stymied silence: Has she discovered the "spectrum" theory of gender-based preference?)

M: And mommies have diffrent faces.

PM: What do you mean, Miriam?

M: Well, Erika (friend of Philosopher Mom) has a face and it's not your face. And other mommies don't have a Erika face (sic).

PM: Yes. Why do you think that is?

M: (thinks) They are diffrent people. So they have diffrent arms and legs, too.

Finit.

Life without distinctions is meaningless. Life without faces (and arms and legs) would be simply ... not human!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More "almost poetry."

"Revelation interrogates reason." ~ J. Budziszewski, First Things Dec. 2008

Chew on that one.

It's like poetry.

Here I am breaking more barriers! Positively exploding pre-conceptions!

Seriously, I'm working through the Louis de Montefort consecration to Mary right now. A dear friend put together new meditations--along with some new translations of the prayers and poems--for the 33-day "interior retreat." This was today's meditation, from John Paul II's first encyclical:

Redemptor Hominis 2.10

The human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption

"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. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly "expressed" and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 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. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he "gained so great a Redeemer," and if God "gave his only Son" in order that man "should not perish but have eternal life."

In reality, the 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."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Breaking my rule.

It is my own adopted rule that Dead Poets Month (DPM) only present entire poems written originally in English. Translations, however profound, by their very nature represent a loss to the reader. The cadence and lilt of a language--and the cultural sense of its words and syllables--simply cannot transfer. And snippets of poems are just that: snippets, soundbites that demand context and further reading.

But then there's Dante. I can't read Italian and confess I have never read the entire Paradiso in one gulp. Still, no DPM is complete without him, and rules were made for man, not man for rules! To ameliorate, I've included the original Italian side-by-side. From Canto III.55:

E questa sorte che par giù cotanto,
però n'è data, perché fuor negletti
li nostri voti, e vòti in alcun canto".
And we are to be found within a sphere
this low, because we have neglected vows,
so that in some respect we were deficient."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A picture is worth...


Yes. A thousand words.

I once had someone seriously say that a roadblock to the Church, for him, was the fact that pope wore expensive shoes. Without wishing to dismiss his obviously well-informed, well-reasoned, and invincibly obstinate objections to such frivolity (the pope's shoes, by the way, were gifts), all I could muster was, "Oh, is that all?"

I must reflect aloud: Call me shallow, but couldn't this sunglasses-and-rosary combo totally make up for dorky red shoes? So cool. I could forgive a lot to have this German as my shepherd!

(Yes, I'm being facetious.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

The child, Gerard Manley Hopkins

‘THE CHILD is father to the man.’
How can he be? The words are wild.
Suck any sense from that who can:
‘The child is father to the man.’
No; what the poet did write ran,
‘The man is father to the child.’
‘The child is father to the man!’
How can he be? The words are wild.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Solitude, by John Henry Newman


THERE is in stillness oft a magic power
To calm the breast, when struggling passions lower;
Touch'd by its influence, in the soul arise
Diviner feelings, kindred with the skies.
By this the Arab's kindling thoughts expand,
When circling skies inclose the desert sand;
For this the hermit seeks the thickest grove,
To catch th' inspiring glow of heavenly love.
It is not solely in the freedom given
To purify and fix the heart on heaven;
There is a Spirit singing aye in air,
That lifts us high above all mortal care.
No mortal measure swells that mystic sound,
No mortal minstrel breathes such tones around,—
The Angels' hymn,—the sovereign harmony
That guides the rolling orbs along the sky,— {4}
And hence perchance the tales of saints who view'd
And heard Angelic choirs in solitude.
By most unheard,—because the earthly din
Of toil or mirth has charms their ears to win.
Alas for man! he knows not of the bliss,
The heaven that brightens such a life as this.

The Cave of the Yellow Dog



Now, here is a philosophical movie--contemplative, removed, and resisting the rapid shot-flickers of your usual Hollywood fare. It's more documentary than drama, but that is its strength. And here's the best part: your kids can watch it! Miriam wants to herd goats and live in a yurt now. And, she informs me, she speaks "Mongolan."

Perfect fare for the stomach flu; perfect antidote to the suburb-blues. Not that we'd know...

GK Chesterton on the pessimists

Here is GK Chesterton's little poem to pessimists... Introduced in his own words.

"Forgive me if I say, in my old-world fashion, that I'm damned if I ever feel like [the Hollow Men] ... I knew that the world was perishable and would end, but I did not think it would end in a whimper, but, if anything, with a trump of doom ... I will even be so indecently frivolous as to burst into song, and say to the young pessimists:

Some sneer, some snigger, some simper;
in the youth where we laughed, and sang.
And they may end with a whimper
But we will end with a bang."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exactly.

Jen over at Conversion Diary has said it so well. I've been mulling over the historical analogy between abortion and the Holocaust, especially since some in-laws took exception to it during election debates. The obvious difference between the two slaughters is the awareness and emotional/spiritual suffering of the victims: a tiny fetus can't experience the dread or terror of a Jewish mother or father. Another difference is the sheer number of victims: abortion has claimed nearly 50 million lives in America alone since its legalization.

But, as Jen writes so well, the root is the same:

"What I came to see, though, was that for all the many differences, there is one thing that is the same about the Holocaust and the modern practice of abortion, and it is something critical:

At the root of both scourges is a particular strain of evil, the most virulent that the devil possesses. It is the kind of evil that works to take away the humanity of human beings. It whispers in the ears of one group of people that a certain other group of people are something less than human, less worthy of life because of race or religion or physical ability or age. And once this is accomplished, once a group of people have been thoroughly dehumanized in the mind of their society, evil can run wild while the populace yawns."

More disturbing to me--in my recent conversations--has been the ability of some to insist that, no matter how horrible abortion is, we must not work to change the laws regarding abortion "rights." In a strange twist, they tell me that, yes, abortion is another Holocaust. But we have no right to do anything about it. Has anyone else encountered this line of reasoning? This philosopher mom shudders at its implications, and hopes it is a case of invincible ignorance.

A live poet invades!

Since I'm a utilitarian,
I'll eat the vegetarian.

~AM Juster

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Man
by George Herbert

My God, I heard this day,
That none doth build a stately habitation,
But he that means to dwell therein.
What house more stately hath there been,
Or can be, than is Man? to whose creation
All things are in decay.


For Man is ev'ry thing,
And more:
He is a tree, yet bears no fruit;
A beast, yet is, or should be more:
Reason and speech we only bring.
Parrots may thank us, if they are not mute,
They go upon the score.

Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
And all to all the world besides:
Each part may call the farthest brother:
For head with foot hath private amity,
And both with moons and tides.

Nothing hath got so far,
But Man hath caught and kept it, as his prey.
His eyes dismount the highest star:
He is in little all the sphere.
Herbs gladly cure our flesh; because that they
Find their acquaintance there.

For us the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heav'n move, and fountains flow.
Nothing we see, but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is, either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.

The stars have us to bed;
Night draws the curtain, which the sun withdraws;
Music and light attend our head.
All things unto our flesh are kind
In their descent and being; to our mind
In their ascent and cause.

Each thing is full of duty:
Waters united are our navigation;
Distinguished, our habitation;
Below, our drink; above, our meat;
Both are our cleanliness.
Hath one such beauty?
Then how are all things neat?

More servants wait on Man,
Than he'll take notice of: in ev'ry path
He treads down that which doth befriend him,
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him.

Since then, my God, thou hast
So brave a palace built; O dwell in it,
That it may dwell with thee at last!
Till then, afford us so much wit;
That, as the world serves us, we may serve thee,
And both thy servants be.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm,
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise
Who loves the rain
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes.


~Frances Shaw

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Love

by Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where were you...

...when you learned Barack Obama was our new president?

I was sitting in our little living room, nursing our six-month-old baby girl at 3.30am. Her little fists were clenched, her eyes shut tight, and she was content and trusting. She's just a few pounds, a few months, a few inches removed from my womb. She is undoubtedly the same child who, one year ago, was the size of a peanut and was making me sicker than the plague. A gift.

My heart was too full to speak: Change our hearts, Lord.

UPDATE: Read this from Tom Hoopes. It's so, well, balanced. Annie's point (in the comments on this post) is well-taken. Although--because I must be faithful to truth, goodness, and beauty--this election didn't offer any real choices in terms of the vote, the GOP ticket wasn't perfect. I am grateful to have had a choice at all... and that the election's outcome clarifies what was gray. From the Feminine Genius: "Since the Catholic vote went predominantly to pro-abortion candidates, it behooves us to pray hard and work hard for a restoration of authentic truths." Obviously, our approach to "preach without words" hasn't worked very effectively: human beings need words and actions and prayers. Rational creatures of speech, living out the truth in action, articulating that truth... all these cry out for renewed effort and vigilance. And the need for authentic witness to authentic truths is a cry to both parties, to all rulers of every age.

Dead Poets Humor

Because I'm feeling a little punchy... NB: This is humorous. It's not serious.

A Word to Husbands

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.

~Ogden Nash

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A vote for them.


This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.
– Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II

Thanks for the quote, Danielle!

Dead Poets Month continues

Doesn't this nicely complement election day?

The Day is Done

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Grave of Keats
by Oscar Wilde

Rid of the world's injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God's veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water - it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

I mostly chose this poem because of Isabella's name in the last line and the "gentle violets weeping with the dew."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Poetry month begins...

November is poetry month. Here is one of my absolute favorites: a repeat from last year. I believe it is one of the most poignant arguments against abortion (and contraception, for that matter) in the English language.

The Great Minimum
by G.K. Chesterton

It is something to have wept as we have wept,
It is something to have done as we have done,
It is something to have watched when all men slept,
And seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose,
Although it break and leave the thorny rods,
It is something to have hungered once as those
Must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have seen you and your unforgotten face,
Brave as a blast of trumpets for the fray,
Pure as white lilies in a watery space,
It were something, though you went from me today.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high;
It is something to be wiser than the world,
It is something to be older than the sky.

In a time of sceptic moths and cynic rusts,
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts,
It is something to be sure of a desire.

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.

All Souls 2008


Today the Church prays for the dead. We "celebrate their lives"--not so much by parties or reminiscence--by asking God to grant them the fullness of life in eternity. Amen.

Because of the time change, the girls were up at 5am this morning. We were blessed, however, with a family run followed by pancakes together. We've taken to watching EWTN on the Scientist Dad's computer, and this morning they ran the Mass in the Extraordinary Form from Birmingham, England. Today, the Oratory there transferred the remains of John Henry Newman from the main church to a smaller chapel--he may soon be beatified, I gathered.

A great thinker, a great man:

"We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day 2008


Here is Miriam's hallows get-up. She saw a clip of the movie "Therese" a few weeks ago and immediately determined to be Therese for trick-or-treat. She loved the habit so much, she wore it to Mass this morning--much to the delight of our Monsignour!

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Saints Eve 2008


"After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb." ~Revelation 7

DH Lawrence on "the great ordering"

I've been at Lucy Beckett's In The Light of Christ again--this time the chapter on the British writers from DH Lawrence to Saul Bellow. While writers like Joseph Conrad, Henry James, and Lawrence have never held much attraction for my little heart, she manages to frame them within a compelling narrative--the drama of Western culture's slow slide into the post-Christian.

But there is a real beauty in and of itself to Lawrence's prose. Here is his description of Tom Brangwen's "almost pre-Christian" and certainly pre-theological faith in God. From The Rainbow:

"During the long February nights with the ewes in labour, looking out from the shelter into the flashing stars, he knew he did not belong to himself. He must admit that he was only fragmentary, something incomplete and subject. There were the stars, in the dark heaven travelling, the whole host passing by on some eternal voyage. So he sat, small and submissive in the great ordering."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A time to die.


"Only the person who renounces self-importance, who no longer struggles to defend or assert himself, can be large enough for God's boundless action."

--St. Edith Stein

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The King's Good Servant

I've just finished a re-read of James Monti's The King's Good Servant But God's First--really the most excellent biography of Thomas More I have read as well as a beautiful history of the Protestant "Reformation."

Thomas More is a man for our season: the right balance of muscular Catholicism with deep humility, masculine fortitude with a childlike dependence on God, loyalty to king and devotion to the Church, the ability to see clearly the "first things," and an irrepressible merriment that--counter-intuitively enough--arose directly from his preoccupation with the Last Things.

Here is Monti (and More himself) on More's trial. The jury has just found him guilty of high treason and "malicious bent." Before sentence is passed, More speaks plainly his conviction of the relationship between God's justice and the justice of Parliament. Listen carefully.

"The time had come for him to give the conscience of his country a living voice--a voice that would shake the rafters of Westminster Hall:

'...Forasmuch as this Indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and his Holy Church, the supreme Government of which, or of any part whereof, may no temporal Prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present here on earth, only to St. Peter and his successors, Bishops of the same See, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law, amongst Christian men, insuffcient to charge any Christian man.'"

Let's unpack that a little.

More asserts that no temporal power, be it Congress or Parliament or a dictator, has the authority to make any "ecclesiastical" law in opposition to Rome. In other words, government cannot dictate matters of doctrine or morals; if it does, its laws are not binding on the conscience of men. Matters of faith and morals can only be decided by Christ himself, who gave that authority to Peter, his successors, and those in direct communion with them.

Then, the presiding judge challenges More, saying that "his obstinact and 'vehemnt' words against the Treasons Act were much to be marveled at, in virtue of the fact that he stood alone in his views against all England's 'Bishops, Universities, and best learned men.' There was lurking in this statement a non sequitur that so many learned men could not possibly be wrong."

More counters by appealing to a much more universal consensus:

"If the number of Bishops and universities be so material as your lordship seemeth to take it, then see I little cause, my lord, why that thing in my conscience should make any change. For I nothing doubt but that, though not in this realm, yet in Christendom about, of these well learned Bishops and virtuous men that are yet alive, they be not the fewer part that be of my mind therein. But if I should speak of those which already be dead, of whom many be now holy saints in heaven, I am very sure it is the far greater part of them that, all the while they lived, thought in this case that way that I think now. And threfore am I not bound, my lord, to conform my conscience to the Council of one Realm against the general Council of Christendom. For of the aforesaid holy Bishops I have for every Bishop of yours, above one hundred, and for one Council or Parliament of yours, I have all the Councils made these thousand years."

Hot diggity. The conscience of the Catholic is bound and beholden, not to the precedents of its nation's courts or to its laws and systems, but rather to the mind of Christ on earth: the Councils of his apostles, the constant teaching of their doctors. His hope is in heaven, not in some imminent eschatology.



Three more points on More's seasonability:

1. He died not only because he would not put a king before Christ's vicar, but also because of a "social teaching": the inviolability of marriage.

2. It was only because he put the authority of his king in its proper place--and he never denied the king's power to put him to death!--that he was in fact "the king's good servant." Had he placed the king above the pope, the king himself would have suffered.

3. He was terribly merry about the whole thing. He was a jolly martyr because, after all, the affairs of state are small things in light of eternity.

November approacheth.

And November is Dead Poets Month.

I have nothing against living poets; but since there are so very many dead poets and since November is the month to remember the dead, November is Dead Poets Month.

So, if you have any dead poets you'd like to hear from, let me know and I'll work him or her in. Starting on November 1 with my annual GK Chesterton sample, we'll enjoy some of the Good and the True through the medium of the Beautiful. It will sooth our souls in the election drama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Second Child

Poor Isabella. Today alone, she has been tossed on the waves of Miriam's whim over four times. In order, she has been:

Piglet.













Hen.
















Babbity Bumble.


















and the Baronness.
.

Here's what she thinks about that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More from Paul VI

The following is from Paul VI's letter to his brother, Ludovico, just prior to his marriage. It is appropriate following all our thoughts about abortion, to dwell on the beauty of human life--a beauty that finds its source only in divine life.

"Dear Lodovico,

You are now the heart of our household, and the two months yet to elapse before your marriage arouse in us all the tremor of anticipation and goes with life-making events. Looking at it selfishly, I can say that the happiness of the family now depends on you, for it is in you that the family is renewed and starts again. We who stand on the touchline are glad you are happy. You know that being happy is a difficult business. But the Lord has made it easier for you by giving you the lessons taught so simply and sublimely by our parents - the joy of love, that is, of understanding and being understood, of giving and receiving, of sacrificing oneself to be recreated, of pouring out treasures of one's own heart only to find them multiplied endlessly.

You have the blessing of having found a lovely woman, privileged and - you know better than I - unique. Having found a precious pearl, see to it that your soul is vested in a new personality; just think that now you are sealing for ever the means and the measure by which for your entire life you will communicate with another spirit in the mutual quest for human life (vita humana) and divine life. Mark well the providential design nature has implanted in you in this time of waiting, gentleness, self-giving, energy, generosity, abiding patience and immense desires. Use the plasticity of your soul in this period to create in yourself a new man, a new character, a new goodness, a new strength, and a new style as you seek the ideal offered by the Companion you await. Lay in a stock of love, yes indeed, for life is long and difficult, like winter, and the nest must always be warm and protected. Maybe in God's mind you have a sovereign right to expect that your marriage will grow and prosper. This is the grace I ask for you.

Farewell, Battista"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama, Abortion, and the Common Good


A friend of mine recently read Cardinal George's letter to his faithful, and asked the following:

Would you please, in as many words as it takes, synthesize the following two ideas for me, please: "One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good." and "The teaching, which covers intrinsic evils such as abortion and many other issues that are matters of prudential judgment, could not be clearer; the practice often falls short because we are all sinners." Or, to phrase my question differently, why is George "Unnecessary War" Bush pursuing the common good with his spate of misguided policies but Obama with his misguided views on abortion is not? I am assuming you're going to tell me about what it means to be intrinsically evil etc., but I'm really having some trouble with this idea. At a very practical level, how is pursuing an end to war not pursuing the common good, irrespective of one's views on abortion?

And here's my tome of a response!

I'll begin with the GW vs. Obama question and move to the more general principles. There are kind of two questions, there, I think. One is about GW's pursuit of the war: is it just or not? Another is about voting for Obama, who has promised to end the war: isn't he pursuing the common good in that way, even if not with regard to abortion? In other words, how does one's view on abortion disqualify you from pursuing the common good absolutely speaking?

GW: He may very well not have been pursuing the common good when he (and most of Congress) decided to pursue this war in Iraq. History may or may not tell (I assume we will know at the End of All Things!). Warfare against other nations, however, is not an intrinsic evil. It is always tragic and ugly, but it can in the context of human sinfulness be "just." The criteria for a just war are four: the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. (The power of modern weapons weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.)

This teaching does not and does not profess to pass judgment on any particular war in history. Catholics of good will can accept these criteria while disagreeing on their particular application. War is in some cases a just weapon to use in pursuit of the common good. If, in this particular instance, you do not believe the war in Iraq to be just, you can deplore the war but still recognize the possibility of your own error in judgment as well as the fact that, in spite of waging an unjust war, GW's fundamental political philosophy is not intrinsically inimical to the common good of the nation's citizens (even if he's a clutz in trying to promote it!).

Likewise, Catholics of good will can disagree on Obama's proposed measures to end the war. It's an issue of pragmatic strategy, opinion, and our limited access to facts. I would, personally, wonder whether pulling out at this juncture (however wrong it was to leap in) would only make an unjust situation more unjust.

Abortion, however, unlike war, is never a just weapon to use in pursuit of the common good. It is not a defensive measure taken against an aggressor, real or imagined. There is no end or circumstance that justifies the taking of an infant's life. Barack Obama is committed to the idea that an entire class of human beings--which includes some infants separated from their mothers' bodies--is not worthy of the protection of the law. Human beings have no rights until after birth, and some not even then. (Per Robert George, I would describe him as pro-abortion, more than pro-choice, because of his repeated promises to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, to re-instate the Mexico City Policy, and his opposition to the Hyde policy and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. He is actively against this class of human persons.)

Does this mean he is incapable of pursuing the common good in areas such as housing, the economy, and the war? Yes. You cannot support an intrinsic evil--deliberate killing of the unborn--and be pursuing the common good.

Here's why.

The good society is one ordered by its laws, culture, customs, to the common good of its members. The "common good" in Catholic understanding means those goods which are realized only in the individual members of society but not without the support and fellowship of other members. The common good does not diminish because it is distributed, but increases because it is protected and shared by all. Good multiplies; it is fruitful.

That is why we come together naturally in society--to enjoy those goods which, without the society of others, we could never attain. Now, because we are both Christians, I can speak in this way: The most basic and common good of all is the good of human life. "And, behold, God saw that it was very good..." All our confidence in our own salvation and in salvation history rests on this trust: that God sees life as an absolute good. Human life is a common good: it is enjoyed by the individual members of the human race, but we cannot enjoy it in isolation. We depend first on sexual intercourse, then the family, and then on society for this good. The infant, the disabled, and the elderly are simply stark reminders that, without society, we would all either be dead or even never have come to live in the first place. They are most at the mercy of the good society; therefore, the good society's ability to foster and increase the common good is in large part measured in how well it will vouchsafe that most basic good for its weakest members.

Any law-giver who orders the laws of a society against the lives of its own members cannot, de facto, order that society to the true common good (that is, according to God's justice). Aquinas writes:

"If the intention of the law-giver tends toward the true good, which is the common good regulated according to divine justice, it follows that by the law men become good in an unqualified sense. If the intention of the law-giver tends to something which is not good in an unqualified sense, but is a useful good, or something that is pleasurable to him, or something that goes against divine justice; then the law does not make men good in an unqualified sense, but in a qualified sense, that is, in the order to such a rule." Summa Theologica I-II, q. 92, a. 1, c.

Taking members of our society and saying that they are non-members and therefore may be killed by the most brutal means imaginable (saline burning, dismemberment while alive, brains sucked out while alive, etc...) is inconsonant, to say the least, with "good order." Obama may be able to bring about some housing for poor people or lower the deficit (doubtful), but his law-making and ordering of our society will never be good in any sense but an absolutely relativistic one: the common good belongs only to those of a certain size or viability. There's no justice guiding his justice beyond his own sense of expediency. There's no absolute good ordering all his various goods. And we know from history what happens to a society that judges itself based on its own opinion of right and wrong: cf. the genocides of the 20th-century.

Now, what's the difference between the lives of the unborn and the lives taken in an imprudent war (and I use the word "imprudent" because it is a matter of prudential judgment, not absolute good)? Before God, nothing--except perhaps a measure of innocence and defenselessness. But, as Augustine points out, the City of God is not the City of Man. As long as human societies exist (and they will until the Four Last Things, eh?), the common good will be pursued within the particular societies and poli. The burden of protection for the President of the United States lies in the human lives within the scope of his polity. Those lives are his first responsibility; the measure with which he saves and blesses the lives of those existing within his polity is the measure by which he is judged a good law-maker. Again, a war with another nation may or may not be just; war on your own members is never just. The common good is lost when one citizen takes another's life with the blessing of the country's laws and law-givers.

I'll leave you with Obama's speech on the floor of the IL Senate the day he opposed the BAIPA. They are, I believe, most telling: ''As I understand it,'' Obama said during the floor debate, ''this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child - however way you want to describe it - is now outside the mother's womb and the doctor continues to think that it's nonviable but there's, let's say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they're not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.''

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Teresa of Avila, October 15

Teresa, doctor and virgin, pray for us!

"O Lord, how different are your paths from our clumsy imaginings! And how from a soul that is already determined to love You and is abandoned into Your hands, You do not want anything but that it obey, that it inquire well into what is for Your service, and that it desire this! There's no need for seeking out paths and choosing them, for its will is Yours.

"May you be blessed forever and ever, my God, for within a moment You undo a soul and remake it... You know what You are doing, but I do not know what I am saying since Your works and judgments are incomprehensible. May You be ever glorified." ~Teresa, The Foundations

Monday, October 13, 2008

Abortion Survivor Speaks

The remarkable thing about this--aside from her survival--is the deep love and forgiveness with which she relates the story. If this does not at least sway a heart, there's not much that will.

Edward the Confessor, October 13


Edward: Such a good man. Not such a great king, according to Churchill. But holiness does not require worldly success. The patron of difficult marriages and separated spouses. Ora pro nobis.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palin for life.

Here's Sarah Palin on Barack Obama's abortion "rights" voting record. It's a damning indictment, but what is most compelling about her speech is her testimony to her and her husband's own choice for life. Only he who loses his life will find it!



Whether she and McCain win or not, she has fought a good fight and been a valiant witness for the unborn. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Keirkegaard for President



Thanks to Matthew Dunch, SJ!

Paul VI on Life

Once in a while you come across a quote that strikes at the heart of a matter. Paul VI here speaks on the most fundamental reason for the Church's teaching on marriage, the conjugal embrace, and life. It's a matter of keeping your eye on heaven and of seeing the beauty of a human soul created for eternity. It makes me want to say, "Whah-tcha!"

"You must strive to multiply bread so that it suffices for the tables of mankind, and not rather favor an artificial control of birth, which would be irrational, in order to diminish the number of guests at the banquet of life."

~Paul VI

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Sorry, sorry..."

Over at First Things, Amanda Shaw gives a brief overview of Theodore Dalrymple's (what a marvelous name!) article on False Apology Syndrome. While it takes a certain strength of character called, I believe, pride, to agree wholeheartedly, I think there's a lot of truth in what he says. False Apology Syndrome is the tendency to confess the sins of others rather than one's own sins: E.g., perpetual (note the "perpetual") need to apologize for Galileo, the Crusades, and the Inquisition. E.g., the habit of explaining your bad choices in terms of "my father was a harsh man..." I love it. Goshdarnnit, just own up! Remove the log and then the splinter, what ho!

Here's Dalrymple:

"False Apology Syndrome is a way of judging others to avoid judging ourselves–of shrugging moral responsibility. It fosters a perpetrator–victim mentality: “For what can I do wrong to compare with the wrongs that my ancestors suffered at the hands of your ancestors? How dare you even mention it, you hypocrite!” For that matter, what could I do wrong to compare with the wrongs my ancestors committed? I must say, it’s a reassuring mode of thought."

Of course, I apologize if you don't agree. My father is a crotchety old fellow, after all, and my mother a genius of a housewife. And I am what I am, therefore, I am a sinner...