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.