Saturday, January 31, 2009

St. Thomas Aquinas - It never ceases to amaze me....

There are certain truths that once you realize them, you notice them everyday in our surroundings. There is the legend that St. Thomas was given the gift of angelic purity, and his mind, cleaned of attachment, could penetrate the deepest truths, and untangle the most complex problems. The Beatitudes tell us "Blest are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Numerous Eastern yogas and meditation systems teach this same principle. Classical Taoism, for instance, teaches that one must undo the damage done by excess sexual indulgence before one can even begin meditating effectively.

There is a connection between morality and intellect. As often as St Augustine is held up as the opposite pole of St. Thomas, his words echo this sentiment, " A man has as many masters as he has vices."

This is so obvious as we look into ourselves, our surroundings, and our society. When one suffers from a wound of greed, lust, anger, sloth, or any of the other vices, it clouds one's vision of the world and blinds one to even natural truths, much less the spiritual. Every newspaper printed seems to support this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

survived the first round

I just finished up my first semester as a Junior High Art teacher. No one was killed. It was an interesting ride for all concerned. On our last day I showed them several short videos on how the world of art history influences film makers to this day. The video below was the most obvious example. They were asked to name at least three of the artists that were paid homage in this film. A majority of them got it right. Enough of them any way to reassure me that some of the stuff I threw stuck.

“It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.” GCK

I just finished up my first semester as a Junior High Art teacher. No one was killed. It was an interesting ride for all concerned. On our last day I showed them several short videos on how the world of art history influences film makers to this day. The video below was the most obvious example. They were asked to name at least three of the artists that were paid homage in this film. A majority of them got it right. Enough of them any way to reassure me that some of the stuff I threw stuck.

“It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekend Thoughts

Greetings All,

There is so much in the news with Obama, recession, Gitmo, Terrorism, Automotive manufacturers, and politicians that I am choosing to write about none of them.

One of the things that continually impresses me about Chesterton is how his writing reflects the universality of Truth. We talk about change so much these days, and indeed life is the progression of the individual through changes, but Chesterton helps us see that change is what happens when an acorn turns into an oak , not an apple turning into an orange.

Chesterton is very much a product of his time as a murder-by-gaslight mystery writer and a proud Englishman. His themes, however cross from early 20th Century London to 13th Century Scholasticism to 9th Century Wessex to 2nd Century Syria. There is a common humanity shared between Angles, Angels, Irish, and Ionians. Throughout the changes of history, there is an eternal now which we all inhabit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two Clerihews (that's a Lot)

Lot's wife
ended her life
when she came to a halt
and proved her salt.

The daughters of Lot
were hot-to-trot.
After a few cups of wine
their father did fine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The media

Here is an excellent example on how to use the media to get the message out. I hope this ad is picked up as a news item and discussed as a news item.

"According to the Financial Times, a ‘Super Bowl’ type audience is expected to tune in to coverage of the Inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow.

To mark this occasion, we are proud to announce the release of a new commercial that will be airing all day tomorrow in select markets on Black Entertainment Television. Our newest ad is just the beginning of a year-long campaign that will include a series of commercials for use on the web and on broadcast TV.

Check out our new ad here –

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so be sure to check out our new ad, and then tell your friends about it. After watching the short commercial, I hope you will appreciate our purpose. The message of is universal and transcends candidates and political parties. Even in difficult times, the truth about the dignity of every human life must be proclaimed.

We at had hoped that the first African-American president would be pro-life. Sadly, that’s not the case. While we urge you to pray earnestly for his conversion on abortion, we’re not going to waste this historic opportunity to witness to life.

Our newest ad seeks to both educate and inspire – the same elements that helped make our election season film the most-watched political ad on the Internet during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Finally, I suspect there will be a lot of talk about hope in the next couple of days. The purpose of our multiple-commercial campaign is to creatively reach new people who don’t always agree with us about the amazing gift of every human life. Simply put, abortion is the enemy of hope."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday thought..St. Francis

I really have no idea if it is truth or legend that St. Francis said, "Prach always, use words when necessary."

Chesterton's bio of St. Francis captures the zeal, joy, and wonder of this magnificent figure from the Saints of the Church whose spirit overflows even Christianity.

I think that this image is the perfect model for our time. Honestly, the orthodox positions on most of major questions of our day are far more lucid, sophisticated and deeply studied than anything from the countering side. So why is there another side? Its because of the other half of the message that sometimes does not show through as obviously.

A bit pressed for time have a terrific weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Snow Day

Home again but it is much to cold to go out today. Warm, snugly and very domestic inside, as it should be.

“The home is not the one tame place in the world of adventure. It is the one wild place in the world of rules and set tasks.” GKC

The only thought that I have entertained for longer than the time it takes me to say “Quick picking on your sister!” has been to wonder if during the Victorian era did Wives asked their husbands,
“Does this dress make my butt look small?”

Speaking of romance here is a nice story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on a Snow Day

In Kyro’s post, “Media related thoughts...” he states, “I’ve been thinking about how horrible the Churches and other advocates of traditional living have been at entering the mainstream debate.” There are several reasons for this the first and primary reason is that they are not invited to the debate in that gated community. Whenever the media wants the Church’s view they contact someone from the Jesus Seminar or at best an x-priest with an axe to grind. Truly, when was the last time you saw a Bishop on the Meet the Press or even someone like Scott Hahn or Carl Olson. (For that matter when was the last time you saw an orthodox Catholic as a commentator on the History channel’s Bible series). Imagine a debate with Father Corapi and Bill Maher it won’t happen.

No, they bring in Nancy Pelosi to tell us what the Church believes:

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his
pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions.

(I don’t think she knows the reality and gravity of that last statement)
Then there is Joe Biden on Meet The Press:
SEN. BIDEN: No, what I voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that’s existed. Back in “Summa Theologia,” when Thomas Aquinas wrote “Summa Theologia,” he said there was no–it didn’t occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that’s the reason I haven’t. But then again, I also don’t support a lot of other things. I don’t support public, public funding. I don’t, because that flips the burden. That’s then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person’s God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves in what is always a–and what we’re going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.

(This contradicts what the Democratic platform says - but who reads that anyway?)
What’s the bet ol’ Joe never really read “Summa Theologia” and was just given this handy quote to “teach” the flock that the Church is confused anyway so do what you want. But of course Biden also says Christ like things like this: “The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat."

Yes, Edward Cardinal Egan and at least two dozen other Bishops came out strongly against what Pelosi and Biden said. But outside of Catholic publications the news was either buried or put in the religious section of the paper which most don’t read.

Also note the blatant disregard for the separation of Church and State in both Pelosi and Biden. They can teach what the Church says but when a Bishop does it they are harangued. Pelosi and Biden talked to millions of people where the Bishops were only able to reach thousands.

The second and probably the greatest factor in our inability to be effective in the media is fear. Far too many priests and bishops are afraid of what the media can do to them in the form of persecutions. The beating the Church took in the wake of the priest sex scandal has made many to afraid to speak or do anything that might be considered going against Caesar. Even outside the media this fear is taking a toll.

In the elderly community this fear of going a foul of the law is heart breaking. As you know if an old couple wants to marry, one of them will lose their social security payments. So in order to unite them and allow them to still eat Priests were performing clandestine marriages. Where the sacrament was administered but the state was not notified. This is an old tradition dating back to Medieval times (remember the marriages in Braveheart and Romeo and Juliet.) So these good people are faced with a choice, live in sin or turn to Protestant ministers to marry them. Several denominations in the latter are now doing these under the radar marriages.

Martyrdom is something very few have sought freely. The traditional forms of martyrdom are a red and or white martyrdom. Red martyrdom occurs when a person sheds their blood for Christ. A white martyr willingly gives up worldly concerns and makes his or her life a perpetual pilgrimage. A white martyr lives a life of heroic devotion for Him alone, eagerly uniting that devotion with Christ’s sufferings. In the west Governments have forsaken the making of red martyrs (mostly) because their witness in the face of death is impossible to ignore. The white martyr of today, although a small thorn in the side, can become marginalized as a media darling. John Paul II and Mother Teresa are cases in point.

Now there is a new Martyrdom called Green Martyrs. These martyrs lose jobs and promotions for standing up for their Faith. Dawn Eden lost her job because of her Catholicism. There are now people in California losing theirs because they had the audacity to give money to support the ban on Gay marriage. This, “stop the Christians” often borders on the silly. I was recently negotiating an art show for my students at a local gallery/coffee shop and soon into the talk the lady in charge asked if I was the same Alan that prints those prolife letters in the paper? I said yes and she said. "Well I don’t think I can work with you!" And then she hung up the phone. The absurdity of this was I was not hurt but my kids were. I have since found another venue for them.

The Church is afraid of becoming a Green Martyr in losing its Tax-Exempt status. Sometimes I think that might not be such a bad thing.

As always Chesterton gives us the answer to this dilemma and the answer is what it always has been - infiltrate.
He tells us the fall of the Viking culture was not the result on some field of mortal battle but that when the Vikings went on raids they brought back women, Catholic women, who raised their children Catholic and soon the Vikings were no more. Soon is a relative term here It took the early Christians 300 years to topple the Roman empire but less than 100 to stop the wild fire of the Vikings.

In both of those cases those who changed the world began on the lowest rung of the social ladder and influenced the ones above and so on. It also bears repeating it really was the women who did the changing. Look at the infiltration work of Barbara, Nicolosi.

We must encourage strong Christians to enter the field of journalism and then continue to confirm them in their faith. I am confidently hopeful in this by something I heard a while ago, ‘The first millennium belonged to Bishops, the second millennium belonged to the Popes and the third will belong to the laity.’

My daughter just looked out the window and realized there is enough snow on the ground to make a snowman or go sledding. “Please oh please papa let’s go outside!!!”

So I’ll talk to you later.

And one last thought: “Don’t let bastards get you down."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fr. Neuhaus RIP

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things passed away this week, January 8. For those of us interested in literature, Christian writing, theology, intelligent ecumenism, and the interaction of faith and culture, this is a day where a titan has gone to his reward.

To me, Fr. Neuhaus idealized all that a priest should be. He was active in causes that many would see as politically inconsistent. He was active in Civil Rights and ecumenism as well as providing a forum for orthodox thinkers. He carried himself as a very masculine intellectual, and was a true role model in a time when the priesthood was in crisis.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Book `em

I laughed.

Everyone at the table looked at me, puzzled.

I told them to just wait a few minutes and they would understand.

The occasion was an exchange of gifts post-Christmas. Daughter and son-in-law had not been with us Christmas Day - they had gone out of state to his grandparents - so we were exchanging gifts a few days later.

I had gotten each of my daughters the same book. Being a fan of Chesterton and a Secular Franciscan, and concerned that all three of my little birds were straying from the Church, I decided to give then a book that was important in my own faith life and discovery of Chesterton - Chesterton's biography of St. Francis. The book seemed particularly appropriate with this daughter, as she was named after Clare of Assisi.

Emerging from the wrapping of the gift Clare had given me was ... you've already guessed I'm sure ... a copy of Chesterton's biography of St. Francis. The exact same edition I'd gotten her.

"I know you like Chesterton and St. Francis," she explained.

So I laughed.

A few moments she unwrapped her gifts and found her copy.

She laughed.

She is my daughter.

I think Chesterton would have appreciated it.

I have now begun rereading it - it has been many years since I had done so. I hope she reads her copy, too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Barra on GKC

Allen Barra published a piece about GKC in the Wall Street Journal last week. When I edited Gilbert Magazine, Barra would occasionally write to me and even sent me an autographed copy of one of his books. Needless to say, this doesn't mean I know the man by any stretch, but based on that limited correspondence, free book, and things I've read by him, I'd say he's a real decent guy.

And it's a real decent piece, along with a new caricature of GKC. Check it out.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year

Resolutions have become cliche', but in terms of my reading, I really want to get more into Belloc this year. His St. Joan of Arc is something that Ive deleted out of a shopping cart numerous times when Ive been ordering books online. I click with his personality in some ways, he reminds me of some people I served under in the Army .

In terms of Chesterton, it has been years since I read Fr. Brown, and it is time to go back again. Ive read a number of different books this way. Its amazing how those couple years of life experience in between reads change what you notice and what jumps out at you.

In terms of the larger world, this is going to be an interesting 2009. I think the trend in government is toward leviathan institutions when the observable facts of the matter is that smaller local banks have fared better than the massive institutions.

I think the "culture war" really has entered another phase, but one more of blood and soil than debate and rhetoric. I think the palpable truth of humble responsible living speaks to all much like St. Francis said, without words. There is a conclusion I have heard Peter Kreeft defend in his online talks often, an opinion that many of my non-religious military friends who have seen the bad part of the world think of as well. It seems that certain ideas and ideaologies can be conceived only by a decadent, spoiled, egotistic, and elitist people. When the power of money and the power of being powerful is shown for the illusion that it is, the phantom worldview that such views espouse likewise loses its luster.

This here is very interesting, and perhaps an omen of future change.....There is a demand from a small group in France to have the Verdee' massacre declared a genocide. I think most of us in traditional circles know that those who claim that contemporary secularists have taken us out of the age of religious bloodshed are sorely mistaken. Secular and atheist governments have spilled more blood than centuries of inquisitions combined. This is an interesting stirring to have this debated in mainstream Europe.

Happy New Year!