Friday, August 29, 2008

Little Dear

Miriam: "Mummy, I was smiling in my bed!"

Mummy: "Oh, why were you smiling in your bed?"

Miriam: "Because I was so happy I love my parents!"

So am I, dearling, so am I.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Today the Church remembers St. Augustine of Hippo. I like this image of "Augustine Refuting a Heretic." Cute, but here is a (rather lnegthy) quote from City of God that, I think, captures what Augustine was all about.

"For God speaks with a man not by means of some audible creature dinning in his ears, so that atmospheric vibrations connect Him that makes with him that hears the sound, nor even by means of a spiritual being with the semblance of a body, such as we see in dreams or similar states; for even in this case He speaks as if to the ears of the body, because it is by means of the semblance of a body He speaks, and with the appearance of a real interval of space—for visions are exact representations of bodily objects. Not by these, then, does God speak, but by the truth itself, if any one is prepared to hear with the mind rather than with the body. For He speaks to that part of man which is better than all else that is in him, and than which God Himself alone is better. For since man is most properly understood (or, if that cannot be, then, at least, believed) to be made in God's image, no doubt it is that part of him by which he rises above those lower parts he has in common with the beasts, which brings him nearer to the Supreme. But since the mind itself, though naturally capable of reason and intelligence is disabled by besotting and inveterate vices not merely from delighting and abiding in, but even from tolerating His unchangeable light, until it has been gradually healed, and renewed, and made capable of such felicity, it had, in the first place, to be impregnated with faith, and so purified. And that in this faith it might advance the more confidently towards the truth, the truth itself, God, God's Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man's God through a God-man. For this is the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. For it is as man that He is the Mediator and the Way. Since, if the way lies between him who goes, and the place whither he goes, there is hope of his reaching it; but if there be no way, or if he know not where it is, what boots it to know whither he should go? Now the only way that is infallibly secured against all mistakes, is when the very same person is at once God and man, God our end, man our way." ~Augustine, City of God, Book XI, Ch. 2

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well done, good and faithful servants!

Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, will be beatified together October 19th!

Philosophically untenable

It's actually quite tragic that any human being lives in such a state of illusion--whether it's self-deception or poor formation or both. More than anything, observing this political race has been an exercise in pity and grief for this philosopher mom.

Creative Minority Report has a fascinating little piece on Joe Biden's view of his Church and its effect on his public life. Even better is Archbishop Chaput's letter to the Catholics of Denver on Nancy Pelosi and so-called "abortion rights." And, yes, when they come out with a Republican who's equally mistaken, I'll post those tid-bits too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Queen of Heaven

Today the Church remembers Mary as "Queen of Heaven." There's a bit at the end of The Return of the King, when Sam and Frodo are trudging through Mordor, thirsty and exhausted. As Frodo lies down to sleep, Sam looks up through the black smoke and sees a single, silver star thousands of miles above. The star's constancy gives him great comfort: whatever his own fate, there is something good and beautiful that goes on. I wish I had the passage here with me... Mary's beauty is like that star.


"Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Isabellissima, carissima!

... can roll over and has a tooth coming! Just further proof to the Philosopher Mom that we were not made for time. We can never acclimate to its passing--swiftly then slowly, always ineluctably!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Missing NH

..this is the picture that made me cry this evening.

A Nation of Wimps?

This one caught my eye first because I have a peculiarly deep-seated loathing for the movie Titanic. It was my first date. Ever. And let's just say that when the movie ended and I turned to my date to say, "Wasn't that unbelievably awful," he had tears of deep sentiment in his eyes. It was also my last date for the next three years (that was, by the way, a very good thing!). But the movie is also loathing on its own merits, regardless of what your date's reaction was when you saw it.

But, anyway...

Rebecca Teti's thoughts on heroism and self-sacrifice are pretty provoking for all us little mothers-post-modern. Give her a gander.

Poem for a tired mind

Mass at Dawn

I dropped my sail and dried my dripping seines
Where the white quay is chequered by cool planes
In whose great branches, always out of sight,
The nightingales are singing day and night.

Though all was grey beneath the moon's grey beam,
My boat in her new paint shone like a bride,
And silver in my baskets shone the bream;
my arms were tired, and I was heavy-eyed.

But when with food and rink, at morning light,
The children met me at the water-side,
Never was wine so red or bread so white.

~Roy Campbell

I wonder who the children are. A mother who had lost some children to miscarriage thought they may be the children already in heaven. Perhaps they are the souls of all the child-like, who alone can enter there.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh, Babylon!

Fr. Neuhaus just posted his latest installment in a series of reflections on the Christian life-in-exile. His thoughts will eventually (hopefully, soon!) become a book.

He approaches the question through the scriptures of the Hebrew exile. I especially appreciated the quote from Jeremiah: "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (emphasis mine)

Seeking the welfare of my "city"--and its expanding circles of "cities"--has always been a curious puzzle to me. My natural inclination is to reject the city of exile and go live in a cave somewhere. As my children grow, too, I tend to want to find that cave (though perhaps a bit larger).

But Jeremiah encourages us to live and flourish in the land of exile--always waiting in hope for our freedom. He asks us to seek the good for the city, no matter how corrupt and wicked it is. The city, too, may be delivered (think of Ninevah). Daniel and his companions become servants to the king of their exile. Their service is so excellent, in fact, that they become the king's favorites, and he makes them governors of his land.

Neuhaus reminds us, however, that service to the city can only go so far.

"... the story illustrates what it means to seek the peace of the city of our exile. The young Judeans went along with a great deal but drew the line at worshiping a false god. Much better to die than to violate the first commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” In the first centuries of the Christian movement, martyrs went singing to their deaths rather than do something so seemingly innocuous as burning a pinch of incense before the statues of emperors who had been officially deified. Also today, Christians worry about the ways in which accommodation to this foreign city can become betrayal. At least they should. The temptation to worship false gods usually presents itself in subtle forms. It does not usually announce itself with the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music."

The worship of false gods helps neither the city nor the exile: rejection of the true, the good, and the beautiful only sets up obstacles between now and the final deliverance. How do we serve, like Daniel? And when, like him, do we know it is time to face the furnace? I note, as I'm sure Neuhaus has also noted, that Daniel and his companions were known to be men of prayer and fasting. I believe that somewhere in those moments they discovered that line of demarcation between service to the king and the first commandment.

Seek the good, for yourself and your land of exile. The days are coming!

Edith Stein

Today the Roman Church celebrates the feast of Edith Stein, aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. August 9 marks the day she died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

She's a dear old friend--philosopher, convert, bride of Christ. She helped me first love philosophy and see that it, too, is a path to God. For God is truth.

"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." ~Edith Stein

Friday, August 8, 2008


In Georgia.

Dang! It's hot. And on only three hours' sleep, I'm fagged, as Lord Peter Wimsey would say. Speaking of whom, is there a more wonderful detective in all English literature? And Busman's Honeymoon is the very best of all. Praise God for summertime's reading pleasures.

Now, back to laundry, toilet-training, and everyday life.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Feast of the Transfiguration

"Behold, I make all things new."

In Christ's transfigured body, we see what we were born to become. Glory and honor, beauty and goodness, truth and light. Listen to him, go down the mountain to the city, and have heart--he has overcome the world!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The heartbreak of time

Thomas Hibbs reviews the newest dramatization of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. I hadn't planned on seeing it--in spite of the fact that Emma Thompson plays Lady Marchmain--and he certainly hasn't changed my mind. But his review was an opportunity to bask once again in a few delightful passages of my all-time favorite novel.

The film's central mistake, Hibbs says, is its inability to rise above nostalgia. This is a classic misunderstanding of Waugh--and, I believe, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, and Belloc: their love of past times and memory is not a desire to return to what is lost. They recognize the limits time places on the human person and on human culture, but also see in the history of salvation the possibility of time redeemed and put at the service of eternity. Hibbs articulates it quite nicely:

"The desire to arrest time, to hold onto the present as if it could be preserved from age, is a powerful human motive—one at the root of art itself. (In both the book and the film one cannot help but think of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”) While the film’s focus is on guilt and lost innocence, Waugh’s focus is on the way faith overcomes the limits of romanticism regarding innocence and the past. It is not simply, as Lady Marchmain severely puts it, that time and eternity are at odds with one another. Instead, the task of faithful memory, or desire recollected through grace, is to discern the workings of providence in and through the moments of time. Thus, time itself, ordinarily an instrument of decay, can be redeemed, as the moments of time are gathered, rather than dispersed."

I try to remember the ideas of "arresting time" and "the task of faithful memory" and "desire recollected through grace" and, of course, divine providence working in time. Watching a baby grow must be one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking experiences in time. Beautiful, because the child emerges so sweetly and innocently and with such love; heartbreaking, because you know babyhood is swift and is lost forever. I want to live in time and memory with the eyes of faith--to perceive the life that does not decay, to gather the moments given to us.