Friday, December 29, 2006

Capitualtion and Evangelization

One of Chesterton's ideas which appeals to me most is his finding astonishment in the idea that Hope is the virtue between the pitfalls of despair on one hand, and presumption on the other.

I think other people have noted that there is some deep meaning in the feasts of the martyrs coming so soon after the joy of Christmas. I think the churches have failed in promoting this as part of the Christmas season. Everyone has bemoaned the materialistic aspects of the season, these feasts serve to bring a holy balance to the festivities, much like Chesterton's view of hope.

I have thought often of the martyrs, even though they are seldom mentioned from the pulpits. I think that many of our contemporary problems are bound up in our awkwardness in dealing with them, and celebrating their sainthood. In the US, we live in a society where we barely have to face inconvenience, the idea of discomfort is shocking enough, much less martyrdom. We are educated in a system that breeds sophism and muddling issues, and having such devotion to a cause or an idea is seen as a type of unhealthy fanaticism.

There are two things that I have mulled over that I have not seen extensively discussed:
1-Many of the Roman martyrs basically died for refusal to worship the state. In many of the stories, the crime of the martyr-to-be is merely to refuse to burn incense to Caesar. This is actually quite spooky given the Church/state relations of our own day.

2-The government and culture which persecuted the Christians ended up being the vehicle for the evangelization of Europe. Latin became the language of the Church, and you know the rest of the story.

This second item strikes me as an apologetic for the existence of the Holy Spirit. This doesnt happen normally, or naturally. Many people reading this blog are probably those who take notice of the decline of Christian culture, and its capitualation to secularism on one side, and Islamic incursion on the other. Within the course of one lifetime, the early Christians went from being persecuted by Rome, to being the bearers of Roman culture which traveled with the Faith.

What we so obviously see today isnt this miraculous evangelization and baptism of the good in a culture, but rather a capitulation to the forces of the day, an emasculation of truth, and deeply felt embarrassment about an imagined past.

We hear so much of inclusiveness and accepting other cultures that we are numbed to the best example of how Christianity dialogued with Roman culture. The early Christians didnt bemoan their Greek and Hebrew roots and how they didnt fit with progressive Roman ideas. They didnt see worshipping in the catacombs as abandoning the public square. From the blood and ashes of the martyrs, the Church arose like a Phoenix and took the language and the best of the philosophy of her persecutors, and left the Caesars to the shadows of history.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holy Innocents

Just three days ago we celebrated the Birth of Christ with hoopla and gifts and Angel choirs.

Yet the very next day, we marked the death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen.

And today we remember the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, those victims of Herod's fears and ambition.

It seems strange to mix birth and death, but from a human point of view, the two are inextricably mixed. The moment we are conceived, we are a moment closer to death.
Life and death are simply part of the circle of being.

From a Christian perspective, life and death are also mingled. Even among those gifts the Magi brought is a reminder of death: the myrrh, the sacred ointment used among other things for anointing the dead and for burning at funerals.

And that Holy Child was born to die for us all.

But the Christian message is that though we are in that cycle of life and death - a cycle in which even the innocent suffer - we are called to eternal life. The eternal life now enjoyed by Stephen and those Holy Innocents.

That was the gift that the Child brought to us - far outstripping the gifs of the Magi, and which imparts a joy that outweighs even the tragic sorrow of all those innocent lives lost.

"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why." – GKC - "On Christmas," Generally Speaking

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Passing on.......

Eric Scheske asks me to pass this along:

"The wizards at Google have changed the log-in procedures for this site. I've fully complied (I think), but they're still not letting me post. Until I figure out this dastardly plot, I guess I'll be off-line. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all (except the folks at Google)."


Friday, December 22, 2006

Got my Magazine

Well, I finally got my Gilbert "Sword Issue." Have read most of it at this point, but I have to say that one of the things that really stands out is the artwork. GKC is underestimated as a cartoonist and an illustrator. There are some fabulous drawings of duellists throughout the magazine. They range from comical characters, to figures impeccably rendered in the midst of dynamic physical exertion. Along this same theme, would like to add that my current Chesterton reading is the GKC Sherlock Holmes edition that came out a couple years ago. I grew up loving those stories with the Paget illustrations, it should be a fun read to see and study the GKC sketches for the Holmsian canon.

Above is a (poorly done) example of the art of the medieval and renaissance fencing manuals which I alluded to in my article. In clockwise order, they come from MS I.33 (13th century), Albrecht Durer(15th cent), Capo Ferro (16th Century), and Girard Thibault (17th centure). I include them mostly for those of you with an interest can google them, as well as the fact that the sword issue was visually gorgeous to look at it seemed right to continue the theme.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Christmas poem

Nothing profound, just a Christmas greeting to all ...

A Christmas Poem

On this the day to celebrate
the birth of our great King,
we gather `round and share a feast,
and later we will sing.
And this morn we opened gifts
we bought with thoughts of love -
but of course our gifts all pale
compared to the one from above.

- Lee

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

No magazine........

My Gilbert subscription came around renewal time, I hope I didnt drop an issue. If not, Ill have to *hang head in shame* borrow my mom's.

In other thoughts on Ballad of the White Horse. I just finished reading it this week.

I love this book, Its one of the things I will probably end up re-reading every year at least. I spoke before about the rhythm of the language, and imagery, and how it all comes together to create a work of true beauty and genius. One thing I think we fail to remember is how this era, the time period of BWH is a true Golden Age of the Church. I remember years ago in Gilbert, BWH was being reviewed, and it was noted how treacherous this era was with Popes being assassinated and being replaced by morally unworthy men.

I would draw our attention away from the Italian peninsula during this period, and focus on the Northlands of Europe. It was during this time that the Rule of St. Benedict was baptising the land mile by mile. It was during this time that the Church, both in the hierarchy and in the laity, came together and stopped the slave trafficing which was one of the negative remaining vestiges of the Roman Empire. Go to to the Catholic Encyclopedia, pick any letter, and click on the unfamiliar names. Many of them were abbots, scholars, and missionaries of these times who braved the barbarian wilds, brought Christ and civilization, and performed miracles. I wonder how our time compares to this?

Often, we look back on history as a conglomeration of "The Past," even though there are many distinct periods, and many events which closed some doors and opened others. Our contemporary struggles with Islam make us look back to the Crusades and similar times. If we look back just a little farther, I think there are things in that era which should bring us to awe.

Chesterton again reminding us about the debilitating slavery of being a child of our age.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


"And all over the world, the old literature, the popular literature, is the same. It consists of very dignified sorrow and very undignified fun. Its sad tales are of broken hearts; its happy tales are of broken heads." GKC

We were watching a Christmas special - a remake - the other day.

We turned it off long before it ended.

And a day later, my wife was watching another special.

She turned that one off, also.

Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a big fan of Christmas.

But what I love is the true spirit of Christmas. The love. The gift. The foreshadowing of sacrifice.

The joy.

Each generation tries to give its own spin to Christmas - at least what it can understand of it.

Sometimes the truth is enough to overcome the modern spin. Sometimes not (as in the caes of these two specials).

Ah, but then there are the classics. They let the truth of Christmas hold sway. So we return to them again and again.

"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why."

God bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Doll House

Looking for a good Christmas present for your daughter? Buy her this:

In April of 1924, the Queen's Doll House was unveiled at the British Empire Exhibit, complete with crown jewels, wine cellar, a working gramophone, pianos, and a two-thousand book library. A number of authors, including Chesterton, Maugham, Housman, and others, contributed handwritten volumes, each the size of a postage stamp. [Ted Morgan, Maugham, New York, 1980, p. 274]

Sunday, December 10, 2006


With no fanfare and little pomp, my Christmas break has finally begun. I'll be updating regularly throughout the rest of the month and into January, but for the moment, having just arrived home after a deucedly long day, I'm going to give it a miss.

I recommend going over to the American Chesterton Society's blog, where they are celebrating their first anniversary online and have a sort of social meme they'd like people to help with. Give it a try. I may post answers to their questions later on myself, but I'd also invite any of you to do it too.

Have a nice Monday, if such a thing is even possible. Those of you in southern Ontario should look out for slick roads and freezing rain, as we're on the verge of one of those weird hesitant melts that comes about when the temperature hovers just above zero for a few days. These things can get dangerous, so be safe.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday and no Gilbert

Ok, not funny anymore. I dont have my Gilbert yet. Ill just have to post blind. I really liked the work Dale and I put into the "Sword Issue". Im not sure how much got edited out, but visiting the Oakeshott folks last Summer was some of the most fun Ive had in a while.

The things Im pretty sure didnt get into the magazine:

I got to see the eyes pop out of the head of the normally cool and collected Dale Ahlquist: Craig Johnson had us put on those now infamous white gloves and handle some of the old swords while he told us about the history of each one. Dale's son, Adrian was holding the sword at the far right of the table. Craig mentioned, "This weapon comes from probably the 9th century in Northern Europe. See the carved fingers raised in a benedictus gestures? This was probably owned by one of the first Christian Cheiftans of the era." Dale's response? "PUT DOWN THAT THOUSAND YEAR OLD ANTIQUE!" Lots of fun, learned so much at that place.

I doubt some of the deeper thoughts and writings from Ewart Oakeshott got into the magazine, but a couple things I found fascinating were some facts which fill in many gaps in understanding English literature.

Ex: Beowulf --Hrothgar is a "ring-giver." These are not LOTR finger rings, but a ring that went around the pommel of a Viking's sword to denote a type of captaincy or leadership.

Arthur -- The Lady in the Lake - In Northern Europe, the Vikings, Danes, etc. got to be very good at making swords, but not at preserving metals. During times of peace, it was fairly common practice to throw weapons into bogs, or buried in lake bottoms. The lack of oxygen preserved the metal, so that when a period of conflict came, the people would dredge the bog and pull out and clean off the still sharp swords. It was not uncommon to post a guard at the bog to prevent weapons from being stolen. This was exclusive to the north. Thus, the idea of a hero being given a sword from underneath a lake becomes much more understandable. Remember a couple years ago a mummified body was pulled out of one of these bogs? A couple months ago an old Psalter was found as well. Its like these bogs were the Walmarts of the migration era North.

Where is my magazine? Its like I need to rattle a saber or something..........
Have a great weekend everybody.

Fr. Brown on DVD

The Kenneth More Father Brown series shown on PBS's Mystery! during the early 1980's will be released on DVD in just over a month. Seven episodes on two disks, over 6 hours of viewing. $40.00. Not a bad price for a DVD set.

An entirely unwarranted snippet

I am posting this only because when I first read it it caused a little frisson of glee to run down my spine. Sometimes when reading a book or watching a film, one suddenly gets a powerful feeling that one can not believe what one has just experienced. That is, one can not accept that anyone would express what has just been expressed. Too often this feeling is occasioned by horrors, but in this case it is not.

From Chesterton's "English Literature and the Latin Tradition," as collected in Chesterton on Shakespeare:
The Latin culture lives in Britain in the uncultured people. It is not a question of English scholars who know Latin. Kamchatkan scholars know Latin; and if there are any Esquimaux scholars, of course they know Latin. They know the Latin scientific word for blubber; and possibly write Latin odes to the walrus, addressing him in the vocative as "walre."
This made my night, so there you go.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Colin's mom

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. GKC

I took a book out from the library the other day.

When I got home and opened it, I found a folded piece of paper sticking between two pages, like a bookmark.

On the front of the paper was:

To: Mom
From: Colin

Curious (okay, nosey), I opened it. Inside was the word “Mom” written in a childish scrawl, and in another hand, "Thank you for taking me to the splashpad."

Maybe Colin's mom had been reading the book that day and stuck the note in the book, promptly forgetting it. Maybe she put it in the book for safekeeping, then without thinking returned it to the library.

I have many such pieces of my daughters' childhood tucked away. Notes, drawings, puzzle-piece jewelry, painted bottles, and so on. I have many of them stored in boxes. I periodically rediscover others as I search in drawers for the mates of socks, or when rummaging though my old receipts and bills and papers.

Whenever I find such forgotten treasures, I smile. I try to guess when they were created. I think of the love that went into writing or making them.

That's the value of such things. They are little patches of love. Together with the hugs and smiles, and, yes, tears, they are part of the quilt of love stitched together by our family over the years.

And now that the girls are gone to their own homes or college, that loving memory quilt keeps me warm.

Perhaps Colin's mom also has a collection of such things.

I plan to stick the note back in the book. I like to imagine that maybe Colin's mom will take out the book again and rediscover it, feeling the same flash of remembered happiness I experience when I find one of the girls' forgotten little gifts (even if I never do find that missing sock).

And even if Colin's mom never sees it again, perhaps some other book borrower will, and will be similarly inspired to remember all the gifts of love he or she has received.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Gilbert is Here II

The sword issue is quite good. I especially like this quote: "Invasion may be a sword; but peaceful penetration is a poison." GKC wrote that in 1927, thereby diagnosing Europe's Muslim problem 75 years before it got sick.

I also liked this quote: "Truth is a two-edged sword, and we must always let it cut both ways." A person could cogitate on that one for hours (heck, a lifetime).

On airline security: "the pocket-knife is a secret sword." I just wish my boys could carry a pocket knife. There's something boyishly ennobling about it, but it's distinctly degrading to get expelled from school for it.

On modern marriage: "When men have left off wearing swords, women shall begin to wave them."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Gilbert is Here

The new Gilbert Magazine is here. Though they appear to be a little behind schedule, it's a good issue: The Sword Edition. It's all about swords. GKC's sword stick, GKC quotes about swords, a tour of sword heaven by Dale Ahlquist and our own Kyro Lantsberger (including a picture of the two wearing lady-like white gloves--hee hawwww, that oughtta get a response from Mr. Lantsberger in the comments section), an article by Kyro that is worth checking out, "The Pen is (Not Always) Mightier than the Sword" (which features yet another picture of the Kyro-meister; it should be noted that my picture never once appeared in the magazine; I never learned the reasons, but someone once used the word "assfacious" when referring to me, which I think is an off-color insult).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Busy again

Only three days left until I get to pack it in for the Christmas break, but what a three days they will be. I still have to finish two papers (Homosociality in Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream; The Construction of the Foreigner in The Recruiting Officer) and get some other sundry work done as well.

I will attempt to provide some material on Wednesday, perhaps, but for now I'm simply going to have to apologize as usual and wish you the best.

In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the comic art of W. Heath Robinson, an early twentieth-century artist of considerable skill and wit. Like my favourite, Gustave Dore, Robinson produced an illustrated edition of the works of Rabelais that met with notable acclaim. They are not represented in the link provided, unfortunately, but I felt it worth mentioning anyhow.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Everlasting Masterpiece....

.......Which is what I think needs to be said again about The Everlasting Man. This post is the culmination of a little mini-adventure of mine that spanned the week.

On Monday, I was indulging one of my hobbies, looking around at a local library's sellout rack. I spend alot of time waiting in lines for different things, and I have a bit of down time during the day between client meetings. Im always looking for things to read during this time, and at the library sale, I found a collection of essays of Seneca. For $.25, of course I bought it.

On Tuesday, I was looking for something in my "book closet", when I ran across one of my beat up copies of The Everlasting Man. I took a few moments to page through it, looking for my favorites. Having just gotten into Seneca, I found the following ELM quote meaningful;

"First, a man reading the Gospel sayings would not find platitudes. If he had read even in the most respectful spirit the majority of ancient philosophers and of modem moralists, he would appreciate the unique importance of saying that he did not find platitudes. It is more than can be said even of Plato. It is much more than can be said of Epictetus or 'Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or Apollonius of Tyana. And it is immeasurably more than can be said of most of the agnostic moralists and the preachers of the ethical societies; with their songs of service and their religion of brotherhood. The moral of most moralists, ancient and modern, has been one solid and polished cataract of platitudes flowing forever and ever. That would certainly not be the impression of the imaginary independent outsider studying the New Testament. " The Riddles of the Gospel

This is true, and much like CS Lewis wrote, that the good-guy sage Jesus just cannot be found in scripture. The message is far more engaging.

On Wednesday, I found an interesting footnote in the Seneca collection, "The legend of Seneca's acquaintance and correspondence with St. Paul, and the possibility of his having been directly influenced by Christian teaching, are discussed in CT Crutwell's A History of Roman Literature (Griffen, 1877)

Hmm, interesting.... During my free time on Thursday and Friday, I dug around looking to see if this work was in the public domain....

And there we find:

Chapter II --"The problem is by no means so simple as it appears. It involves twoseparate questions: first, a historical one which has only an antiquarianinterest, Did the philosopher know the Apostle? secondly, a more importantone for the history of religious thought, Do Seneca's writings containmatter which could have come from no source but the teaching of the firstChristians.As regards the first question, the arguments on both sides are asfollows:--On the one hand, Gallio, who saw Paul at Corinth, was Seneca'sbrother, and Burrus, the captain of the praetorian cohort, before whom hewas brought at Rome, was Seneca's most intimate friend. What so likely asthat these men should have introduced their prisoner to one whose chiefobject was to find out truth? Again, there is a well authenticated tradition that Acte, once the concubine of Nero, [24] and the only personwho was found to bury him, was a convert to the Christian faith; and ifconverted, who so likely to have been her converter as the great Apostle?Moreover, in the Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul salutes "them thatare of Caesar's household," and it is thought that Seneca may here bespecially intended.."

Admittedly, this is hardly conclusive, but it is something I had never heard of before. I think coupling this with the ideas of The Everlasting Man does something that is very unpopular in our day. Christ, St. Paul, and others seem to inhabit a "Bibleland" not much different from Valhalla or the Elysian Fields. GKC's point in ELM reminds us that these figures and bound to a time and a place, and inhabit the same world we live in. I thought it very interesting that the Apostles brushed so closely with the figures of late antiquity.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A delay

Forgive the delay in my normal entry. My grandmoter passed away, and as the nearest living relative, I have been taking care of all the arrangements.

The funeral is Saturday.

I will post as soon as I can.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chesterton on Twain

Cyril Clemens interviewed George Bernard Shaw in 1934 on the subject of the playwright's views of Mark Twain. Shaw who, the interviewer noticed, had a copy of G.K.'s Weekly on his desk, endorsed Chesterton's view of Twain: "Chesterton has hit the nail on the head," he told Clemens. "The exaggeration of Mark Twain is his most salient characteristic." The series of interviews Clemens conducted for the International Mark Twain Society also included an interview with Chesterton and was published in book form to celebrate the centennial of Twain's birth. [Mark Twain and Mussolini, 1934, pp. 10-12. The interview with Chesterton also appears in Clemens' Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This Blog's Far-Ranging Reach

A reader from Spain writes:

"I want to say that this blog is amazing, and useful. And that I have a blog of my own, where I write about GKC and translate some of his writing. It is a Blog in Castellano. There I write and translate things of Belloc, Baring, Knox, Newmna, etc. Greetings again, and keep up the good work."

My Spanish is limited, but it looks like Mr. Portales doing good work over there.

A few years ago, I was having lunch with Dale Ahlquist (the GKC sex deity himself), and he said some folks in Spain wanted to launch a Spanish edition of Gilbert Magazine. I guess GKC has a good following over there (though you wouldn't know it, based on recent political events). I don't know what became of the Spanish Gilbert, but I'm sure Mr. Portales would enjoy it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apostasy Now

I was reading this site the other day, and some thoughts occurred to me.

The first thought was that I don't believe the man. Not that, is, that I don't believe he's an atheist. I'm pretty sure he is. However, I don't believe his story for a moment. He makes fundamental and stupid errors that he should not, after his alleged years of study, be making - no matter what he now believes. I have often found it a curious mark of the dedicated apostate that he is, once "free," suddenly able to systematically refute not only certain problematic areas of the faith, but every aspect of it in its totality. It boggles the mind. To hear websites like this speak, Christianity has never proposed a single thing that is true. This is what makes his ideas so frankly untrustworthy and lame.

That said, I turned to considering how, hypothetically, his story could be true. Charity, after all, would see me taking him at his word. I found it difficult, to say the least, but I think I got something useful out of it in the end.

Considering the trends of apostasy, it is worth noting that it is predominantly the Protestant - and particularly the Fundamentalist - sects that produce so-called "intellectual atheists;" that is, atheists who produce ridiculous logical or conceptual objections to the faith (scriptural contradictions, historical dilemmas, issues of text and whatnot), whereas Catholic traditions, when they see apostates, typically find them to be leaving because of some purported moral issue, typically (and, in fact, almost always) related to sexuality.

This is only natural. The former worldview places supreme, exclusive and perhaps excessive emphasis on the Bible, and that text simply can not stand without the bulwark of Tradition and a Magisterium. Because of this, it is entirely possible for a man who has spent twenty years of his life (or what have you) not only practicing but professionally preaching his particular strain of Christianity to gradually (or even suddenly) turn away from it, and, where before he may have been well-versed in the perfectly reasonable explanations for apparent textual issues, he now turns upon the text with bile and venom in his heart, and, having appraised it uncharitably, finds himself suddenly finding every possible aspect of the Christian life worthy of ridicule.

With Catholic apostates, things are very much different. We do not see ex-Catholics bleating about the insoluble, faith-destroying difficulty represented by one passage saying King Whatsit had 70 horses and another saying he had 700. We see them rather addressing the moral claims of the Church; addressing them, that is, as if the establishment *of* the Church and her moral structure is already a given, and as such as if one's breaking from her really is a matter of importance. Protestant apostates turn away from Christ because their lives have become intolerably (perhaps inevitably) absurd. Catholic apostates turn away from Christ because they want to have more or different sex.

This, then, is what I have been thinking about. I must now return to writing an essay about Paradise Lost.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chesterton Quote

Here's a discussion topic: What Chesterton quote will we hear/see the most during the holiday season? I'll give 2-1 odds that it's this one:

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"

But tell me this: Is that quote accurate? I lifted it from a blog site (a sure-fire way to get something wrong). I seem to recall that GKC said it differently. I don't think GKC is the most quoted writer of all time, but he's in the top 5 of misquoted writers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Early and small

No meaningful post this week, I'm afraid. This weekend has been, in many regards, the worst of my life thus far. I've never been more anxious and fraught with aches. Try as I might, I can't look upon my situation, self-wrought as it substantially is, with any sort of Chestertonian cheerfulness, and must rather resign myself to the fact that though the illness was not my doing, the pile of work was. I ask for your prayers regardless, though I caution you that any prayers for healing should be coupled with fervent wishes that I straighten myself out.

Anyway, here's something that may interest the Shavians among our readership.

An obscure short play by George Bernard Shaw directly influenced the handling of Britain's abdication crisis, research shows.

The playlet, written 70 years ago, is said to have been brought to the attention of Edward VIII by Winston Churchill who suggested the King emulate the actions of Shaw's fictitious monarch.

In Shaw's drama The King, the Constitution and the Lady, a king takes on the twin establishments of church and polity to marry his twice-divorced American mistress Daisy Bell.

The playlet is based on The Apple Cart, an earlier Shaw comedy, in which King Magnus is pressured by his mistress to marry her but faces opposition from his prime minister on constitutional grounds.

[It continues in some detail]
At times like this, of course, one can only bellow "Shaw!" and shake one's fist.

Make A Joyful Noise

For those of you that are really into top notch liturgical hoe downs, I have some news for you. The wild and wooly men in the dark hooded robes have done it again. They have just released their third CD a sure number one hit climbing the charts with a bullet. The moment I received my advance copy it was in the machine and yes - let me tell you - this is no ordinary boy band.

We are of course talking about those fellows down in Oklahoma where now it is more than the wind comes whistling through the trees. Yes, it’s the choir at the Monastery Of Our Lady Of The Annunciation Of Clear Creek. Gregorian Chant never sounded so good.

If you have to choose to buy only one get the Christmas CD. All purchases go to help this wonderful place bring forth holy orthodox men into our fallen world.
Go here to order.

For those of you who like the more contemporary liturgical praise and worship music let me introduce you to Jim Cowen, Scott Hahn’s favorite musician. Modern orthodox liturgical music, how can that be? Yes it is true and you should give him a listen. The Millenium III CD is a live recording of the music he does for the Franciscan University youth conferences at Steubenville. I’ve been there many times with my Youth group and Jim can make a guitar pray.

I love both types of prayful music. It really all depends on how I am connecting to the Lord that day or where I am worshiping, in a charismatic or more traditional Mass. However, in my personal prayer life Gregorian chant goes best with the Rosary or when I’m in meditative prayer.

The other is best when I’m puttering around the house or cleaning the studio. The reason is that the contemporary Christian music does not radiate from the internal self; it attaches on the external and is absorbed, it doesn’t get in the way, but like water dripping on a rock it changes you. I once heard it said a good indication on how you feel is by the song rolling around in your head. I Know things are OK (or getting better) when one of Jim's songs is bouncing around up there.

When listening to the Chants I am helpless and I can’t do anything but think of the Lord. The only thing I don’t like about chant is I can’t sing along (my fault not theirs). But I definitely can’t walk down the street whistling a chant. But then again I don’t know anyone you whistle in Latin.
The brethren also asked Abba Agathon, "Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?" He answered,"Forgive me, but I think there is no labor greater that that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath."

Sing my friends for it is a powerful weapon. A song to God the devil can not stop.
For if the devil can’t make you bad he will make you busy. He will stop all that singing nonsence and make you a serious person.

St Therese of Lisieux said, "Prayer is, for me, an outburst from the heart; it is a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and of love in the midst of trial as in the midst of joy!"

So sing my friends an outburst from the heart.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A "Top Ten" Quote....

Sorry to be late again. I hope I didn't mislead anyone into thinking that I had made a top ten list of Chesterton quotes, I only have been thinking of one that would definitely be on that list.

From the essay, "Why I am a Catholic," in Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926) Chesterton says regarding the Church:

"It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age."

I do not like getting political on a blog like this, but one of the lessons that I think I have learned from politics in the last couple years, and not merely US politics, but from my observations in Eastern Europe as well, is that all of the -isms and all of the many political parties and movements all drag us to some extent into the slavery that Chesterton speaks of here. In order to be an Enlightenment Progressive, one has to hold certain views about human nature and human life. In order to be a Communist, there is another collection of dogmas which one must subscribe to. Each of these -isms and movements are very incomplete, even dated in many ways. These philosophies also force one to either rewrite history, revise data, or simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of facts outside of the worldview of the day.

Ironically, even though contemporary thinking sees religion as being the killer of ideas and freethought, the opposite does seem to be the observable case. Particularly in the area of studying history and the influence of ideas through history, I find that the Christian has much more ease and comfort than the unbeliever, or rather the believer in an unnamed -ism. The Christian's moral sense is fully capable of condemning the sinful prelates of the past, as well as the failures and fallings of great men, and the painful junctures in history where different decisions could have altered things for the better.

On the other hand, take a modernist progressive - secular, liberal, atheist. Where the Christian is able to condemn the bad, the modernist is unable to acknowledge the good. The brilliance of Bernard, Albert, and Thomas must be unmentioned and expunged, although science and technology could never have existed without their contribution. Our era of multiculturalism can only condemn the merchant barons of the colonial era, but cannot acknowledge the contributions of a Bartolomeo de las Casas, or a Matteo Ricci.

The longer I read Chesterton and CS Lewis, the more I realize how deep the disease of the dogma of Progress really is. Our advances in technology and computer science have blinded us to how impoverished our thinking and culture has become in so many other areas.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's always Christmas

I have long been a lover of Christmas.

It is a time of wonder, of joy, of mystery.

It is a link to childhood and happy times – and, of course, to that Holy Event some 2,000 years ago when the world received its greatest gift.

And then there is Santa Claus. Some folks have argued that the focus on him has led us to forget what Christmas is really about, so we should stop all this Santa nonsense and just reflect on the truth of the day and season.

I say that view itself is nonsense!

Santa is a symbol of Christ. He is the selfless giver who miraculously enters our homes – and our hearts – just as Christ entered our world. He is a taste of the joy of the shepherd and the angels singing Halleluiah! He is a reminder of all the wonder and awe of childhood – and of that Holy Child.

Even those who do not know Christ or who have forgotten him and the true meaning of Christmas get a glimpse of him and that meaning through Santa. And that glimpse might open the door to a fuller understanding.

He gives us a gift-wrapped box which, if we open it with open eyes and heart, is filled with the gift of faith.

As I begin another season of being one of Santa’s helpers, I think back to something Chesterton said.

If ever a faith is firmly grounded again, it will be at least interesting to notice those few things that have bridged the gulf, that stood firm when faith was lost, and were still standing when it was found again. Of these really interesting things one, in all probability, will be the English celebration of Christmas. Father Christmas was with us when the fairies departed; and please God he will still be with us when the gods return. Of course, it is covered up, like every other living thing, with a sort of moss of convention and the unmeaning use of words . . . There is nothing really wrong with the whole modern world except that it does not fit in with Christmas. The modern world will have to fit in with Christmas or die . . . All Christmas feasts, all Christmas freaks, are founded on human equality: at least, upon what is now called equality of opportunity . . . The real basis of life is not scientific; the strongest basis of life is sentimental. People are not economically obliged to live. Anybody can die for nothing. People romantically desire to live - especially at Christmas.

{"The Wrong Books at Christmas," The Illustrated London News, 9 January 1909}

As for me, I celebrate Christmas year round, for the gift given us never ends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Albertus Magnus

As Eric mentioned below, today is the feast day of St. Albertus Magnus, the patron of science, students and, notably, World Youth Day. Like Eric, I couldn't remember anything specific about this gentleman being found in GK's Thomas Aquinas, but that's mostly on account of the fact that it's hard to remember anything specific from any Chesterton book for more than a few days. Gilbert was a generalist, through and through (we are all familiar with the trope of the history book with no dates, or with Maurice Baring's [I think] statement to the effect that Chesterton's facts needed work but his generalizations were beautiful), and his books create more of a feeling than an index.

That said, however, thanks to the magic of the Internet, and to Martin Ward's wonderful site, I can say that there is indeed material about the illustrious Albertus available in Thomas Aquinas. For those following along at home, it can be found primarily in the beginning of Chapter Three:

Albert, the Swabian, rightly called the Great, was the founder of modern science. He did more than any other man to prepare that process, which has turned the alchemist into the chemist, and the astrologer into the astronomer. It is odd that, having been in his time, in this sense almost the first astronomer, he now lingers in legend almost as the last astrologer. Serious historians are abandoning the absurd notion that the mediaeval Church persecuted all scientists as wizards. It is very nearly the opposite of the truth. The world sometimes persecuted them as wizards, and sometimes ran after them as wizards; the sort of pursuing that is the reverse of persecuting. The Church alone regarded them really and solely as scientists. Many an enquiring cleric was charged with mere magic in making his lenses and mirrors; he was charged by his rude and rustic neighbours; and would probably have been charged in exactly the same way if they had been Pagan neighbours or Puritan neighbours or Seventh-Day Adventist neighbours. But even then he stood a better chance when judged by the Papacy, than if he had been merely lynched by the laity. The Catholic Pontiff did not denounce Albertus Magnus as a magician. It was the half-heathen tribes of the north who admired him as a magician. It is the half-heathen tribes of the industrial towns today, the readers of cheap dream-books, and quack pamphlets, and newspaper prophets, who still admire him as an astrologer. It is admitted that the range of his recorded knowledge, of strictly material and mechanical facts, was amazing in a man of his time. It is true that, in most other cases, there was a certain limitation to the data of medieval science; but this certainly had nothing to do with medieval religion. For the data of Aristotle, and the great Greek civilisation, were in many ways more limited still. But it is not really so much a question of access to the facts, as of attitude to the facts. Most of the Schoolmen, if informed by the only informants they had that a unicorn has one horn or a salamander lives in the fire, still used it more as an illustration of logic than an incident of life. What they really said was, "If a Unicorn has one horn, two unicorns have as many horns as one cow." And that has not one inch the less a fact because the unicorn is a fable. But with Albertus in medieval times, as with Aristotle in ancient times, there did begin something like the idea of emphasising the question: "But does the unicorn only have one horn or the salamander a fire instead of a fireside?" Doubtless when the social and geographical limits of medieval life began to allow them to search the fire for salamanders or the desert for unicorns, they had to modify many of their scientific ideas. A fact which will expose them to the very proper scorn of a generation of scientists which has just discovered that Newton is nonsense, that space is limited, and that there is no such thing as an atom.

This great German, known in his most famous period as a professor in Paris, was previously for some time professor at Cologne. In that beautiful Roman city, there gathered round him in thousands the lovers of that extraordinary life; the student life of the Middle Ages. They came together in great groups called Nations; and the fact illustrates very well the difference between medieval nationalism and modern nationalism. For although there might any morning be a brawl between the Spanish students and the Scottish students, or between the Flemish and the French, and swords flash or stones fly on the most purely patriotic principles, the fact remains that they had all come to the same school to learn the same philosophy. And though that might not prevent the starting of a quarrel, it might have a great deal to do with the ending of it. Before these motley groups of men from the ends of the earth, the father of science unrolled his scroll of strange wisdom; of sun and comet, of fish and bird. He was an Aristotelian developing, as it were, the one experimental hint of Aristotle; and in this he was entirely original. He cared less to be original about the deeper matters of men and morals; about which he was content to hand on a decent and Christianised Aristotelianism; he was even in a sense ready to compromise upon the merely metaphysical issue of the Nominalists and the Realists. He would never have maintained alone the great war that was coming, for a balanced and humanised Christianity; but when it came, he was entirely on its side. He was called the Universal Doctor, because of the range of his scientific studies; yet he was in truth a specialist. The popular legend is never quite wrong; if a man of science is a magician, he was a magician. And the man of science has always been much more of a magician than the priest; since he would "control the elements" rather than submit to the Spirit who is more elementary than the elements.

And it continues thereafter for some time. Check it out!

Hey, Hey, Hey

It’s the feast day of Thomas Aquinas’ mentor: Albert the Great, the patron saint of scientists.

I flipped through GKC's Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, looking for a passage about St. Albert, but didn't find much. I'm sure there's good stuff in there, but my version has no index and I've underlined it so heavily that scarcely nothing stands out. GKC mentioned that STA "constantly" referred back to "the authorities: from St. Augustine to St. Anselm, and from St. Anselm to St. Albert."

Of course, STA didn't refer to Saint Albert, since Albert outlived Thomas by six years.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Media Friend

The media maven Marshall McLuhan was a GKC friend. In June of 1932, the twenty-year-old Marshall McLuhan wrote his parents back in Winnipeg with a practical suggestion. He urged them to enter a newspaper's "Believe It or Not" contest with Chesterton's A Short History of England, a history book that contains not one single date. [Letters of Marshall McLuhan, Oxford, 1987, p. 11]

A Chestertonian points out to me, though, that McLuhan was quite wrong. Chesterton's Short History contains seven dates:
878, 1397, 1399, 1750, 1832, 1850, and 1914.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Resolute Round-up

Because I'm in the midst of the busiest time of my life (so far), I'm more in the mood for quick shots of sass than prolonged discussion of anything. With that in mind, then, witness the bold, unsettling return of this beloved institution!


The nation of New Zealand has admitted defeat! Rather than simply crack down on the lazy, anti-intellectual jerks who insist on importing their cant into the halls of academia, the country's "Qualifications Authority" (which sounds like one of the monstrous, bureaucratic death squads from a Richard Matheson story) has decided to allow students to use "text speak" in exam answers without penalty. For those of you lucky enough not to know what this means, this luck will be short-lived, as I shall presently tell you. Text speak (or txt spk) is the use of asinine, abbreviated lingo in the place of dignified words for the purposes of saving time and space when transmitting messages via cellular phone or instant messaging program. Gone is the stately majesty of "how fare thee?" Enter the pretender: "how r u?" It's like an Americanizer's wet dream (enjoyed all thru the nite, obviously). Shame on you, New Zealand.


Watch out, Benedict! We could soon have an antipope on our hands at the rate she's going.

For 45 years, she was a Roman Catholic nun. Now she considers herself a Catholic bishop.

Patricia Fresen of South Africa says she was ordained a priest in 2003 and a bishop last year — though the church recognizes neither.

The 65-year-old Fresen, part of a movement that began four years ago called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, will be speaking in the Puget Sound area over the next few days. She's one of about 40 members who consider themselves priests or deacons and one of four who consider themselves bishops.

In other news, in my continuing fight against hegemony and qualification in all of their perverse, unnecessary and unjust forms, I am pleased to announce that I am now the Dean of Arts at the University of Western Ontario, and intend to begin hiring new part- and full-time professors immediately.


And, because it can always get worse, we have Elton John on our case now in his typical asinine manner. It's all very well and good to say that "religious leaders" (those anonymous monoliths!) should all meet up and do... something not specified, but really, what's the point? Chesterton once remarked (about the early ecumenical councils specifically, though the point is a good one to make in general) that successful religious discussions have always concluded with a distinction rather than a compromise, and I think that this is important to remember. Sir Elton would apparently have the great religions of the world throw their fundamental essences to the four winds in favour of some general policy of secular niceness (or would he? He doesn't say), which I am sure would please a great many people - many of them religious - greatly. However, that's not what religion is about. That's not the point of it. Any fool can be nice, but it takes a religion to tell him why he ought to, beyond him wanting to, and to show him that niceness simply isn't enough. Niceness is no substitute for Love. It will not conquer evil.

I would say, in fact, that Niceness is Love without God. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?


Apparently "worse" isn't the worst that it can be, though, because guess what? When it's not flaming English pop singers it's smug American atheists. The approach to the issue is sophomoric, and is all the more tragic in that it might even have had some meaningful, righteous passages if the author weren't so determined to show how disdainful and uncharitable he is. In Sam Harris' Christian landscape, either you're a fundamentalist protestant or you simply don't exist. I imagine such a landscape really is a terrifying place to live, and could quite easily provoke the sort of dreck he's been giving us lately, but someone should probably let him know that he is trapped in a Waste Land of the mind only, and seemingly by his own choice.

In any event, the article is uniformly terrible, as it stands, and is full of astonishing lapses of judgment of this sort:
Given our status as a superpower, our material wealth and the continuous advancements in our technology, it seems safe to say that the president of the United States has more power and responsibility than any person in history.
I mean, it's not like there were ever Emperors or Kings (or Popes, hey!) or anything who held literal life and death power over anyone, right? No, their power was more abstract, being rooted in the necessity of literally fending off usurpers rather than some vague constitutional notion. No, their responsibilities were fewer, given the frequent necessity of actually fighting wars with their own hands rather than handing out directives from behind a desk. With regard to America's status as a "president-booster," in terms of that gentleman's power and responsibility, I would suggest that the world is not less American than America than the world was less Roman than Rome. That is, if we want to talk about "status as superpower," "material wealth," and "continuous advancements," let's not talk about a world in which the superpower in question trails other countries in the fields of electronics, automotives and so on.

Or there's this:
Believing that God has delivered you unto the presidency really seems to entail the belief that you cannot make any catastrophic mistakes while in office.
This statement is so monstrously simplistic that I can't even bring myself to address it. You're all clever people, though; you'll figure it out.

Such, then, is the caliber of the (apparently) most popular atheist in America. Thank you, God!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Hard Saying

Although most media outlets have stopped talking about the Nickel Mines slaughter it is still on my mind. Not the incident but the aftermath. The idea, the concept, the reality and power of Forgiveness is what still swims around in my head. In my last post I hinted at a wheel barrel of trouble that was dumped on to my front stoop. Much of which I am still dealing with and can not talk about yet but this load includes everything from a new lump on my mother’s lung to the brutal murder of my friend’s 24 year old son. This boy had the nerve to be home when some addict wanted to rob his house.

I understand that the Lord does not allow any evil to take place, except that a greater good can come from the wreckage. We are not to ask why because that puts God on trial and we are not equipped to judge that case. We are to ask ‘How we can turn this pile of dung to the greater glory of God.’ We are to Forgive.

Forgiveness: the easiest word to say the hardest action to raise high.

How many times are we to forgive? “Seventy times seven.” says the Lord. Not because the action against us will happen that many times but its memory surely will. He tells us “To love our enemies”. Not that we should not have enemies. For we surely will have them in this fallen world and usually the enemies, the ones that do us harm, will be the people we know or even the ones closest to us.

The people at Nickel Mines knew that man who ripped their children from this world. And they forgave. They grew up in a community that knew and taught the power of forgiveness and helped each other lift that load. We are growing up in a culture with phrases like, “Don’t get mad. Get even.” and “Revenge is a dish served best cold.”

I heard a radio shrink the other day talking about adultery, say something like this; ‘One of the mistaken beliefs people who are trying to heal from an affair hold is that the injured person has to forgive the cheater in order to move on to a place of healing and hope. This is not the case. A powerful alternative to forgiving is acceptance. Accepting the past so that you can move on with your life together is a path you can take that doesn't require you to forgive or forget, yet still allows you to heal and move on.” He kept on repeating the concept of not forgiving but just to accept.

How, I asked the radio, “Can you accept without forgiveness?” What this man and many in our culture refuse to acknowledge is; if we use the word forgive we bow to the reality of sin. If we use the word sin we bow to the reality of God and all that means. They use sound bites like “closure”, “get over it”, “shit happens”, and “accept it and move on”. Accepting an evil of any kind is allowing the elephant to continue to stand in the living room. Forgiveness makes the elephant disappear. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Seven times seventy bites.

Loving your enemy does not mean being a doormat either. The enemy must be fought. There are consequences to actions and debts to be paid in this world or the next. John Paul II forgave his assailant,Mehmet Ali Agca, but he did stop the trial. He did however request that he be pardoned after serving 19 years of a life sentence, the request was granted. If Nancy (put them in jail and throw away the key) Grace was on TV back then I’m sure she would have had a few things to say about that.

Someone once cheated Mother Teresa and she was exhorted to do something about it. She said “It is not between me and him. It is between me and God and him and God.” I do not know if that man was eventually prosecuted. She never showed any further interest in it. She knew what she was about and “closure” was not in the punishment of that man but in her forgiving him. She lived the difficult prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is the prayer I lift up every day. It is the prayer that I struggle to live out. And I hope to do so as graciously as those parents of Nickel Mines.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chestertonian Epiphany

I had an experience last night which I thought would be appropriate to share here, especially as the tone of life has been so political lately.

I was putting my daughter to bed last night, and she was being difficult, always getting up and trying to run into the living room to play. She was antsy because she had been in time out earlier in the evening for hitting her brother in the head with a small broomhandle. (He's 5, she is 3) He was totally innocent, his crime was merely sitting in the little Winnie the Pooh chair that she wanted to sit in.

Anyway, I had to stay in her bedroom to keep her from escaping, and I was using the time to make some progress in Ballad of the White Horse, which I finally ordered in the last couple weeks. My daughter was looking at one of her animal books, and turned to me and asked, "Can you read me your book, Daddy?" I laid down next to her and started reading out loud. It stuck me then just how ingenious Chesterton was in the arrangement of this work. Much like Beowulf, and earlier epics, there is something gained by the oral recitation of the poetry. There is a wonderful rhythm and cadence to White Horse which captivated my little girl. I was completely awestruck by the situation because my daughter, to this point, has absolutely refused anything to do with a book that does not have pictures. I know she didnt catch much of the meaning of the words, but there are some powerful stanzas to be found in Ballad of the White Horse:
"Misshapen ships stood on the deep
Full of strange gold and fire,
And hairy men, as huge as sin,
With horned heads, came wading in
Through the long, low sea-mire.
Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood;
The world tuned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood." (85-95)

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Post election verse

Here’s a Mother Goose parody I wrote following the U.S. election:

The Donkey and the Elephant were fighting for the crown,
The Donkey beat the Elephant all around the town.
Some began to grin, some began to frown,
some said with a shrug, their leaders let them down.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Use Your Heel

Best story of the day, if you want to bury your head in your hands and cry:

Separating anatomy from what it means to be a man or a woman, New York City is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery.

Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent. . . .

The change would lead to many intriguing questions: For example, would a man who becomes a woman be able to marry another man? (Probably.) Would an adoption agency be able to uncover the original sex of a proposed parent? (Not without a court order.) Would a woman who becomes a man be able to fight in combat, or play in the National Football League? (These areas have yet to be explored.)

Great stuff. I just want to know what most guys want to know: Can we declare ourselves a women and hang out in the ladies’ bathroom?

The best part of the story is at the end:

Joann Prinzivalli, 52, a lawyer for the New York Transgender Rights Organization, a man who has lived as a woman since 2000, without surgery, said the changes amount to progress, a move away from American culture’s misguided fixation on genitals as the basis for one’s gender identity.

“It’s based on an arbitrary distinction that says there are two and only two sexes,” she said. “In reality the diversity of nature is such that there are more than just two, and people who seem to belong to one of the designated sexes may really belong to the other.”

Chesterton said some things can’t be argued with. They simply must be stomped out with one’s heel. This is one of them. You can’t argue. You simply have to call them “freaks” and get on with your day.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Monday's post

I'm putting it up a bit early because I would like very much to go to bed, so here you are. It will appear as though produced on Sunday, and I suppose, technically, it was, but it is to serve as material for Monday. It's all very trivial, of course, but I like to nail such things down. Which is itself ironic, however, for what follows is somewhat unfocused.

The recent history of the religious world, both at home and abroad, appears to be one of scandals and intrigues separated only by brief flirtations with apathy. We can look forward to fresh uproar among Certain Types in the next few weeks if the Indult really does play out the way it looks like it will, and, of course, the Holy Father strides boldly into Turkey at the end of the month. May he give a good account of himself, no matter what he finds there!

For the moment, however, we have the sad, sordid affair of Pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard, as many of you have no doubt already read, was forced to resign as head of the evangelical New Life Church recently after he was accused by a former homosexual prostitute of soliciting that very man for drugs and sexual favours. Haggard initially denied all of the accusations, but in recent days has confessed that they are substantially true. I won't go into the details, anyhow; you can read all about it in the newspaper that sits on the table where your children eat their breakfast.

The point, anyway, is that the affair is causing a lot of talk about hypocrisy in some circles, and rightly so. It is important to remember, however - as so many seem to have forgotten - just what it is that hypocrisy does and does not indicate.

First, hypocrisy on the part of an idea's proponent is only (and at best) tangentially related to the legitimacy of the idea being put forth. That James Smith speaks passionately against the evils of drug abuse and is yet himself addicted to heroin does not give us license to say that drugs are probably just fine. To say it thus seems absurd, I know, but this is precisely the sort of thinking that seems to have affected so many modern commentators. If something difficult is being proposed, and those who propose it are discovered themselves to have difficulties in implementing or upholding the idea, then apparently nobody has to. There is no reason why Haggard's own apparent struggle against homosexual tendencies should make a general stance against homosexual marriage any more implausible than it is already considered by many to be, but I can assure you that this is precisely the sort of suspicious and scornful reaction that those who were already Haggard's opponents are certain to have, and that those who had not yet made up their minds will be inclined to exhibit themselves.

As I am not an evangelical megachurchgoer, and certainly not a member of the New Life congregation (enormous though it most certainly is), I am not losing much sleep over the situation. Haggard's legitimacy or lack thereof as a spiritual leader does not concern me any more or less than does such a capacity in any other modernist protestant type. I will say, however, that the sentiments involved in praying for him were very interesting to examine as the prayers transitioned from wishing him rescue from a life ruined by slander to wishing him peace in a life ruined, essentially, by him.

Were it simply a matter of a man making his own mess, there would be little more to it than to wish him the best and ask for intercession on his behalf. However, in this case there's also the matter of the 14,000 churchgoers who, as recently as last week, looked up to Rev. Haggard as an unparalleled modern avatar of holiness. We of course are quite aware that even the Church's leaders, being human, are sinners, but somehow that never quite takes the sting out of it, does it? When it's just a matter of Fr. John having an expansive sweet tooth or Elder Fred being perhaps more vulgar than he ought to be, we dismiss such vices as quirks rather than sin, for gluttony and sass really are vices, after all, and quite pleasurable. But when it's a matter of real sin, like the Scandal, for example, it's not so easy to smooth over with the "they're just human" response.

Some sin - most of it sexual, actually - is superhuman, or is at least functionally and usefully treated as though it were. People are restrained about sex because it is something bright and shining as a sun, and to stare into it with all the wide-eyed candour of the morbid modern is to be addled, blinded and hurt. There are afterimages that become burned into your mind, heart and soul, lingering obstructively before you no matter where you turn your eyes or how furiously you clench them shut again. It unsettles us more to hear that a cherished figure of authority has been conducting an affair - or something like one - than it does to hear that he stole a firetruck or got into a fistfight, for example, because we know, deep within ourselves, that this great man of renown, having sampled the forbidden fruits, really is changed, changed utterly.

There is nothing small or trivial about sex, and no matter how casual we try to make the subject we will forever be incapable of diminishing the effect it has upon us. This is well and proper, of course, but it can be a highly destructive thing in cases like Haggard where tens of thousands of people have received a heavy shock to their established order of reality. This mood of dazed dismay reverberates out across communities all over the country as spirit touches spirit and doubt touches doubt. A man in Cleveland is hesitant in his prayers; a woman in Baltimore is short with her friends. These are small things in a global scheme, but not in a cosmic scheme, if you can accept such a statement. Lots of people are hurting today because one man in a position of authority had a problem. Such is the danger of the great man, but it is a danger we must accept and guard against rather than complain about. The great man is a wholly necessary creature - much like God - and the only alternative to such an aristocracy is mediocrity, which avails no man.

There is a point in there somewhere, but it abides for now. I will close simply by saying, plainly enough, that I pray that Ted Haggard may find peace in his life, reconciliation with God, and the forgiveness of those who love him.

And finally, today (or yesterday, depending on how you're taking this post) is (or was) the fifth of November, so rightly remembered in song and story. I won't even dare to comment on the tangled politics of the affair, as frankly I can't say for sure where my sympathies lie. Just shed a tear for old Guido Fawkes, who was, whatever his moral legitimacy, quite undeniably tortured and led to the gallows for a crime he did not, in fact, manage to commit.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Day Late.........Dollar short?

My internet wasnt up for most of yesterday, so I wasnt able to make my First Friday obligation (to the blog).

Last time I posted I was in the musings about Distributism, Chesterton, Gospel values, and personal finance. I see that Nancy Brown, at the ACS blog, spent some time there as well.

I think that one thing that we need to maintain awareness of is that our system, while not wholly evil, is certainly not "good" in the sense of holy and just. Just like the oversexing of pop culture, and the downfall of academia, there is an oppressive atmosphere in this area of our lives, a poison mixed in with the oxygen, to use an analogy.

How do we deal with poisoned air? One option is to move someplace cleaner. Another is to wear a gas mask. One can also light a candle or burn some incense to cover the scent. I think these each model part of how we need to approach these issues. I think all of the readers here are bright enough to come up with better examples.

Something totally different.....

I had a conversation at lunch yesterday that I believe many here would be interested in. I think most have heard about John Kerry's remarks about Stupid In Iraq. That situation was the basis of a discussion that came to a solid conclusion. Beyond the Iraq war, at a higher level than merely the election, I believe is the problem that campus activism and politicisation of academia. University operations and erudition should be existing at a level where to get involved in politics is a stepping down, which professors and faculty should at the very least see as not their vocation, if not beneath them.

Politics works at the level of slogans, preferably those that rhyme. University level discourse should be much more deliberate, in-depth, questioning, and expansive. Just as St. Augustine saw evils as goods maligned, academia saw the good of helping society and unwittingly saw themselves turned into intellectual geldings.

Sorry to bounce around today, but these are the two things on my mind.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Inside Scoop

I'm told by a highly-reliable source that the next Gilbert Magazine has gone to the printers. It should ship in about a week. After that, it's anyone's guess when the post office will actually drop it in your slot.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Anyone have some spare rope?

This has been a particularly odious political campaign season here in the U.S.

There has been little civil intelligent debate of the sort Chesterton enjoyed. (And, of course, little wit on display).

Instead, we have been served lies, counter-lies, and half truths.

Perhaps I am being cynical.

But, of course, GKC said something that echoes my sentiments:

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."

At the End of the Walk

Belloc's wonderful book, The Four Men, describes a walk he took in the English county of Sussex, from October 29 till All Souls' Day, 1902. As the four walkers reach the end of their walk, the old man, who, like the other three walkers, is Belloc himself, makes the following memorable farewell reflection:
There is nothing at all that remains: not any house; nor any castle, however strong; nor any love, however tender and sound; not any comradeship among men, however hardy. Nothing remains but the things of which I will not speak, because we have spoken enough of them already during these four days. But I who am old will give you advice, which is this: to consider chiefly from now onward those permanent things which are, as it were, the shores of this age and the harbours of our glittering and pleasant but dangerous and wholly changeful sea. When he had said this (by which he meant Death), the other two, looking sadly at me, stood silent also for about the time in which a man can say good-bye with reverence    
I have always been moved by this haunting passage--nothing at all remains, the glittering and pleasant but dangerous and wholly changeful sea, the time in which a man can say good-bye with reverence.

[James V. Schall, S. J., All Souls and the Permanent Things]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Feast

The four men finally find an old inn "brilliantly lighted".... The four men heard singing from within. They knocked and were let into the inn. They found a pleasant bar with a large room in which fifteen or twenty men were drinking and singing. All were hearty and some old. These men had finished their meal, but the four men ordered theirs,

which was of such excellence in the way of eggs and bacon, as we had none of us until that morning thought possible upon this side of the grave. The cheese also ... was put before us, and the new cottage loaves, so that this feast, unlike any other feast that yet was since the beginning of the world, exactly answered to all that the heart had expected of a it, and we were contented and were filled (Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men, 147)

The four then called for their pipes and drink, Belloc for the black current port (not that Portuguese concoction that is "but elderberry liquorice and boiled wine"), Grizzlebeard for brandy, the Poet, at "the Sailor's expense", for beer, and the Sailor for claret.

[James V. Schall, S. J., Sundry Schall Quotations]

All Saints Day

When you need a quote from GKC for a particular day, you get out Michael W. Perry's excellent Chesterton Day by Day, an indispensable tool in a Chestertonian's toolbox. Unfortunately, today's quote is too long for me to key-in, so I'm just going to hit the highlight:

"Empires break; industrial conditions change; the suburbs will not last forever. What will remain? I will tell you: the Catholic saint will remain."

From The Ball and the Cross.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Lesser" Friend

When I started this blog, I hoped to have posts about Belloc, Baring, Benson, Dawson, and other "friends." That doesn't happen as often as I'd like. It's not surprising, of course: there's more material by/about GKC than all the others combined. Still, when I find "friend material," I go out of my way to bring it here.

So, if you want to read a little bit about Ronald Knox, check out Catholic Light's post yesterday. Excerpt:

"On January 16, 1926, [Knox] unintentionally stirred up panic across Britain with his own tongue-in-cheek BBC broadcast. He sent up the conventions of radio news by announcing that a mob in London had stormed the National Gallery, attacked the Houses of Parliament, blown up the Clock Tower, and lynched a minor government minister, all at the instigation of 'Mr. Poppleberry, secretary of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues.'"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Like a Chestertonian Cowboy

It begins with a boy who was never a man and ends with a man who was never a boy.

Thus begins the absorbing English-language debut of Argentine-born writer Rodrigo Fresan. This brilliant, ambitious and hypnotically strange novel explores the creation of the Peter Pan legend, the nature of childhood, the nature of memory and of fiction, of growing old and growing up.

In an afterword, Fresan reports that he was first inspired to investigate the Barrie story when he saw a film snippet in a French documentary of G.K. Chesterton and Bernard Shaw dressed up as cowboys and playing in a garden with a little man who turned out to be James Matthew Barrie.

[Jean Westmoore, The Barrie Story is Granted a New Hook. The Buffalo News, 29 Oct 2006]

I thought this film was lost.  This article implies that there may be a portion of it available inside another film.  Does any reader know more details of this?

What's been going on

As some of you may know or remember, I am in the midst of my fourth year of an Honours English BA at the University of Western Ontario, and looking to go on to get an MA and PhD thereafter. A large part of the stress of this final year is a result of the grad school application process, which is not exactly difficult, to be fair, but is nonetheless a matter of frustrating precision and timeliness. Deals need to be hammered out, letters of reference need to be obtained, and proposals for programs of study all need to be put together months in advance of the day anything even begins to be done about them, and the sum of the matter is that this, combined with the admittedly heavy schoolwork of a fourth-year student, has left me confronted with more "stuff to do" than I have ever before experienced.

So, that's why posting has been lighter than it should be. That, however, is not what I intend to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about grants.

Grants are the lifeblood of the graduate student universe. They pay tuition, provide for living expenses, pay off student loans and are, on the whole, tremendously wonderful things to be able to cite on one's curriculum vitae. They are a bright and shining beacon that draws other grant-giving entities towards one's rocky shores. If you were good enough for someone else, after all, why shouldn't they give you money, too? It sounds (and is) absurd, in many ways, but it's a fairly straightforward proposition. There's a certain amount of prestige attached to some of these things, and it's only fair that one should profit therefrom.

The two grants with which I am most concerned at the moment are the OGS and the CGS, being the Ontario and Canada Graduate Scholarships, respectively, though the latter is often referred to colloquially as a "shirk," after the acronym of the entity (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, or SSHRC) that gives 'em out. The former is worth $5,000 a term, for a total of $15,000; the latter slightly more, for a total of $17,500. I'll be looking at about $6,000 in tuition, by way of comparison, so you can see how attractive these things can be. Assuming I'm granted one, I will use it to pay off my tuition, secure a nice place to live, and drop enough off of my student loans that the government offers a buyout option (which they do once you reach a certain amount left to pay). I will then pay that off with money earned through straight work and employment as a teaching assistant, which latter position is generally worth an additional $10,000 a year.

Now, this is all very much chicken counting, for the applications were only submitted within the last few weeks, and, at that, there's no guarantee that I'll even win a grant at all. The decision predictably falls to a series of committees and harried individuals of varying levels of charity, and it will be made largely based on my grades, accomplishments, and proposed course of research. The grades are above average in general, and slightly above the average of those applying for grants, so that's good. The accomplishments stand for themselves, for I have been blessed with a number of awards and the like that have piled up over the last four years, not least of which is the American Chesterton Society's 2005 Gilbert and Frances Award, about which we are always in such a flutter.

These are the tangibles, and things over which I currently have no control. The marks are in, the awards are given out, and that's the end of that. The proposed course of study is the only area in which I myself have any present clout, and it is about this area, naturally, that I am anxious.

Without going into unnecessary detail, I will say that my proposed area of study is Chesterton. Much as I would have liked to simply look at him in and of himself, however, that's not something the government is prepared to give me thousands of dollars to do. Rather I proposed to look at him as a precursor of sorts to various trendy modern theoretical notions like post-colonialism and certain aspects of cultural studies. Seemed convincing enough to the Dean, but it remains to be seen how the committees will react. I am of course hoping for the best, but I'm not holding my breath.

If things progress favourably, you will of course hear more. For the moment, though, that's what has been consuming my days.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Try one of mine."

R.E. Smith Jr. writes from a pro-capitalism and anti-socialism stance in today's The American Thinker, and he makes extensive use of G.K. Chesterton to support his anti-socialism argument.

I'm reminded of G. K. Chesterton's disdain for collectivists in an essay he wrote in a London socialist weekly, the New Age, in 1908. Chesterton was a prolific English writer well known as a poet, novelist, critic, journalist and essayist. He had no love for modern industrialism, but even less for collectivism. His essay was titled: "Why I Am Not a Socialist."

In a debate with socialists Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Belford Bax, he wrote that he was depressed by the "future happiness" promised by socialist idealism. Chesterton said that most collectivist utopias "consist of the pleasure of sharing." He admitted there is satisfaction in sharing, such as gathering nuts from a tree or visiting a museum. But he preferred the pleasure of giving and receiving.

Giving, he said, is the opposite of sharing. Utopian sharing, he argued, is based on the abhorrent idea that there is no private property.

Chesterton used the analogy of two men sharing a box of cigars. He didn't want that. Rather, he wished that each man might give the other a cigar from his own box. Socialist "eloquence," he said, never recognizes the ideal of "gifts and hospitalities" in its visions of the collectivist state. Their proposals may be appealing, but the "spirit" of their unfulfilled ideals becomes impractical. Ironically, they forget human needs.

G. K. Chesterton put stock in what he called "common people." He believed that individualists promoting industrialism – at that time in Manchester, England – placed an "imposition" on these people (he wrote romantically of simpler, earlier lifestyles).  But he also believed that the people, though they may vote for socialists because they want something, detested the "sentiment and general ideal of socialism" as a worse infliction, imposed by "a handful of decorative artists, Oxford dons and journalists.."

[R.E. Smith Jr., Resisting Socialism, Then and Now , The American Thinker, 27 Oct 2006]

"May I smoke?" [asked Syme] "Certainly!" said Gregory, producing a cigar-case.  "Try one of mine."
[G.K. Chesterton. The Man Who Was Thursday]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fill your soul - buy books!

A room without books is like a body without a soul. - GKC

I am vice president of the Friends of the Gates Public Library. Like Friends organizations across the U.S., we try to help the library in any way we can. One of those ways is raising money to help buy equipment and pay for programs.

Our main source of income in a series of used book sales. We have one tonight, and I will be working at it.

With books on my mind, I naturally thought of “He-who-must-be-quoted.”

And, of course, he had plenty to say on the subject of books.

The opening quote is one I’ve always liked. I know that when I go some place new – including people’s homes – I always check out the books. What they have on their shelves can reveal a lot about them.

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. - GKC

I believe we can live without literature – but life is poorer without it

Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity. - GKC

For literature is an expression of part of basic human nature.

Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it. - GKC

And it is the old books, the classics which usually offer the richest source of nourishment for the mind and soul.

And all over the world, the old literature, the popular literature, is the same. It consists of very dignified sorrow and very undignified fun. Its sad tales are of broken hearts; its happy tales are of broken heads. – GKC

Despite what the critics say.

By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece. - GKC

So I go to work at the book sale. Go to your own library book sales and support your libraries that way.

Maybe you will help to save a mind, or even a soul!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Russian Friend

I'm tight for time this morning, so I just offer this interesting snippet:

According to biographer Brian Boyd's recent biography, in 1909 the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, then a ten-year-old youngster in St. Petersburg, found few chances to practice his English. He kept up his proficiency by reading the English fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Oscar Wilde and G.K. Chesterton. [The Russian Years, Princeton: 1990, p. 79]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I am now 12 days away from opening night. Although some of my actors are still having a hard time with their lines, panic has not set in yet. At this point in rehearsal all the blocking, major character development and broad stroke themes are down. This week we begin to polish and begin to get deep in. I work to find the words and phrases that will advance my actor’s thinking to a fuller understanding of the character and the play.

With my first play, “The Lesson” by Eugene Ionesco, I was delightfully surprised that this help came from the latest issue of Gilbert Magazine. Ionesco’s work is primarily concerned with language and how as a tool for communication it doesn’t live up to it’s marketing claims. To help explain this to my troop I’ve used examples From the Marx Brothers in how language is a great bag for comedy because we really have no idea what we are saying to each other or we only assume we know what the speaker means, (“Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.) But Ionesco, a big fan of the Marx Brothers, is not just about the comedy of language he shows us how it can be used to subjugate a people or advance an intrinsically evil agenda or hide one and at the same time letting us think it was a good idea to start with. Bill Cliton’s statement, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.” Is pure Ionesco.

The Professor, in Ionesco’s play, claims that language is a scientific thing and “you can tell immediately what language is being spoken simply by listening to the person speaking it”, and “Since language is so difficult it is a wonder the common people can speak at all.” In comes Gilbert Magazine with its GKC’s Essay ‘Allegory’ upfront where he states, “For the truth is that language is not a scientific thing at all, but wholly an artistic thing, a thing invented by hunters, and killers, and such artists long before science was dreamed of. The truth is simply that – that the tongue is most truly an unruly member, as the wise saint has called it; a thing poetic and dangerous, like music or fire. …And It is not merely true that the word itself is, like any other word, arbitrary; that it might as well be “pig” or “parasol”; but it is true that the philosophical meaning of the word, in the conscious mind, that the gusty light of language only falls for a moment on a fragment and that obviously a semi-detached, unfinished fragment of a certain definite pattern on the dark tapestries of reality.” Or as the Maid says in the play “Philology leads to calamity.”

When I first began this adventure I wanted to do a Chesterton play. He was rejected by “the committee” basically on the grounds that he was a Catholic apologist and we did a C. S. Lewis play last year -after all. No, they never read the play I submitted it was rejected solely on the fact that Chesterton’s name was on the cover. So for my second play I came in through the back door of apologetics and submitted J. P. Sartre’s "No Exit". In Peter Kreeft ‘s Essay The Pillars of Unbelief—Sartre (an essay I gave to my cast) he states,

“Jean-Paul Sartre may be the most famous atheist of the 20th century. As such, he qualifies for anyone's short list of "pillars of unbelief." Yet he may have done more to drive fence-sitters toward the faith than most Christian apologists. For Sartre has made atheism such a demanding, almost unendurable, experience that few can bear it.

Comfortable atheists who read him become uncomfortable atheists, and uncomfortable atheism is a giant step closer to God. In his own words, "Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position." For this we should be grateful to him.”

He then goes on to say, “Sartre's most famous play, "No Exit," puts three dead people in a room and watches them make hell for each other simply by playing God to each other—not in the sense of exerting external power over each other but simply by knowing each other as objects. The shocking lesson of the play is that "hell is other people."

It takes a profound mind to say something as profoundly false as that. In truth, hell is precisely the absence of other people, human and divine. Hell is total loneliness. Heaven is other people, because heaven is where God is, and God is Trinity. God is love, God is "other persons."

Now if only they could get their lines down.