Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Sunday, 29 May 2016

"I Suffered Quite a Lot As a Goat"

Sure, why not.......?
When the rat race became too much for [an eejit the Daily Mail has decided to enable/humor/exploit] he quit London and became a goat... in Switzerland. The 35-year-old spent a year creating prosthetic 'goat legs' that would allow him to roam the Alps comfortably on all fours and an artificial stomach that would enable him to blend in and 'eat grass'. [the eejit]  said..."I was constantly falling over, and of course I had to eat grass."
Well yes, there is that.
'When I first had the idea a lot of people called me crazy, but I was fed up with my life anyway and I needed a break. I was jobless and I had a lot of personal problems, and I found everyday life so stressful.... as he was not keen on meat he decided against becoming a dog.
eejit]  said the idea of 'being an elephant had appealed' but then he realised they 'seem to have the same problems we do - they get sad, they get upset and they can even suffer from post-traumatic stress. That was exactly the sort of thing I was trying to get away from.'
Eventually he settled on the idea of being a goat....
'I learned something important, and that is that even goats have a hard life and need to fight for their existence. Every day was tough, and that is something that just is part of being alive.
'The one other thing I reckon I found is that goats are better people. They live much more in the moment than we do, and show us that we really do need to learn to be a bit more relaxed about life.'
Now he has written a book
Of course he has.
But wait, didn't Barth cover that?


Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Enemies of Christ?

This never hit me before:
 The Lord said to my Lord:
         "Sit on my right:
                  Your foes I will put beneath Your feet."
Who are the foes, the enemies of the Lord?
Surely, even though we are sinners, we are not His enemies, for He loves us. He loves us unconditionally. All of us. Every single one of us. Even when our actions are unforgivable in the sight of man, God forgives us!
His ways are not our ways, He is as far above us as the heavens are above the earth but His intention is that NONE of us shall be put "beneath his feet."

No human being is created with the destiny of becoming a footstool, He created not a one of us with that intention.
Perhaps Muhammed greets Christians and Jews and Yezidi in that place of Endless Day and says sheepishly, sorry about that, and all embrace.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

"Bread of Fatness and Royal Dainties"

I am yet always surprised at differences in traditional practices of piety, probably always shall be.

Was inspired, chanted Ecce Panis... aloud during Communion procession this morning, (often hum or sing so quietly that at most the man next to me is aware - although yesterday one of the celebrants noticed the Ave Verum...) was delighted that some joined in, and after Mass in thanksgiving chose a litany from a book someone had given me, to pray silently.

Had never come across this version of a Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament -

Wheat of the elect,
     Kind of lovely...
Wine of which virgins are the fruit, 
    Hmmm, odd visual evoked there...
Bread of fatness and royal dainties,
     Okay, wait... WHAT?
Clean oblation,
    Oh, okay, "clean," that's different, not "pure"? or "spotless"? or... where was I?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Bathroom Wars and Snack Crackers

So I just discover a really tasty cracker to which I am not allergic.

Then I discover that they are, to put it mildly, dear, (and the expensive box is tiny.)
THEN I discover someone else offers something similar.

But only one store around here seems to carry them.

Oh well...
Anyone know any copy-cat recipe for the Blue Diamond?

A Hymn and My Happy Place

I think of myself as a fussy, quick-to-compare-and-criticize person, as do most who know me, and I truly am.
That is why it is such a marvelous state of affairs that a tiny and welcome surprise can make me happy all day - please join in a hymn of thanksgiving, number 34 in the missallette.

I think I would willingly and joyfully sing the words of a washing machine owner's manual to PICARDY.
Add to that tune the glorious translation of Gerard Moultrie of the ancient words from the Liturgy of St. James, and I am transported.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand; Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand ,Christ our God to earth descendeth Comes our homage to demand. 
King of kings, yet born of Mary, As of old on earth He stood, Lord of lords, in human vesture, In the body and the blood; He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food. 
Rank on rank the host of heaven Spreads its vanguard on the way, As the Light of light descendeth From the realms of endless day, Comes the powers of hell to vanquishAs the darkness clears away. 
At His feet the six winged seraph, Cherubim with sleepless eye, Veil their faces to the presence, As with ceaseless voice they cry: Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia, Lord Most High!
It is a shame that those who pursue, perhaps favor, a liturgical minimalism are unaware that the most minimal of embellishment, the tiniest extra effort, lengthening the Mass by mere seconds, is often enough to lift it, and the spirits of the congregants into an entirely new realm.

Monday, 23 May 2016

"Demythologizing the Papacy"

And absolutely fascinating report by the wonderful Edward Pentin on a presentation by Archbishop Georg Gänswein.
Archbishop Gänswein, who doubles as the personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus and prefect of the Pontifical Household, said Benedict did not abandon the papacy like Pope Celestine V in the 13th century but rather sought to continue his Petrine Office in a more appropriate way given his frailty....
Drawing on the Latin words “munus petrinum” — “Petrine ministry” — Gänswein pointed out the word “munus” has many meanings such as “service, duty, guide or gift”. He said that “before and after his resignation” Benedict has viewed his task as “participation in such a ‘Petrine ministry’.
“He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the step he took on 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry,” Gänswein explained, something "quite impossible after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005.“
Instead, he said, "he has built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry...
“Therefore he has also not retired to a monastery in isolation but stays within the Vatican — as if he had taken only one step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy.” With that step, he said, he has enriched the papacy with “his prayer and his compassion placed in the Vatican Gardens....
“So it is not surprising,” he said, “that some have seen it as revolutionary, or otherwise as entirely consistent with the gospel,  while still others see in this way a secularized papacy as never before, and thus more collegial and functional, or even simply more humane and less sacred. And still others are of the opinion that Benedict XVI, with this step, has almost — speaking in theological and historical-critical terms — demythologized the papacy.”
I will not deny that I miss Pope Benedict every day, but I utterly denounce this insistence on pitting the theology and faith and Catholicity of Francis against that of Benedict, or vice versa.
Different styles, different ways of expression, (there is no doubt to which I incline,) different personalities... different reserves of prudence? of the prudence of reserve?  but they are brothers in arms.
Cooperatores Veritatis , indeed.
The unseemly backroom machination against the popes are no surprise, but I did not know about the sister who had been killed in the car accident.
That is the kind of blow that can be hard to bear at any stage in life.
Any way, good read, thank you Catholic Register.
I am finding, with the raging partisanship that seems to have invaded every kind of social and institutionalized information supplying, that there is very little that we can depend on.
Sometimes our enemies tell us the truth, and our allies lie.
Did you hear what....? Well, no, so and so said that what really.... But it said in.... But were there actual quotations, or did someone mischaracterize... Yes, he wrote that but in context he clearly....
And yes, I have been troubled by some things actually said, and other things imputed to Pope Francis, and I don't always think he has phrased things as felicitously as he might have, or taken into account likely misinterpretations.
But so long as neither Ratzinger nor Gänswein has turned on him, neither shall I dare to do such a thing.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

You Know That the Rulers Lord It Over Them, and the Great Ones Make Their Authority Over Them Felt

Sorry, but you know how it is, when something sticks in your craw, and new objections to it continue to bubble to the surface.
Anyway, guess - was this...
“The light of Christ reflected in the Church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor ... for the elite, the clean, the perfect and the saved.”
.... said by a layman decrying the scourge clericalism, or a presbyter annoyed at how "empowered" those uppity laymen are becoming? DON'T THEY KNOW THEIR PLACE???!?

Oops. There. I've given it away.

What Kind of "Brand Reputation" Ought the Mystical Body of Christ to Have?

"Pope Francis has succeeded in rebranding the public profile of the Church, according to a Vatican PR aide" 
Isn't that a lovely way for a priest to have put it, for him to describe his own efforts on behalf of the Church...
"His positive tone isn’t always reflected...."
Reflected, huh? Vampires have some trouble of the same sort, although I always thought that might be because they don't exist.
Thee are statements that need to be taken with a grain of salt. Or salt and light.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Decision Fatigue, and Catholish Charities

Some people wear grey t-shirts every day, trying in vain to protect themselves against "decision fatigue."
I haven't taken it upon myself to tell the world what's trending, with what topics it should concern itself, so  burden is somewhat lighter than that of such movers and shakers, but it seems to me that the shade of the fabric I pull over my head in the morning is not just a relatively easy choice to make, it's an actively pleasant one, even if the pleasure is very small - it is virtually impossible that ten minutes, or ten hours, or ten years from now I'll be kicking myself and moaning, "Periwinkle? WHY, why, why, why.....?"
Other choices are neither easy nor pleasant, so when the day starts, it's nice to get something like t-shirt color under my belt, so to speak - decision-making successfully navigated!
My current decision fatigue comes from the apparent elasticity of the word "Catholic," with an upper case "C."
I used to think that persons and institutions calling themselves "Catholic" were, you know... actually Catholic in thought and practice. Naif!
Alas, there is no guarantee that the word means anything of the sort nowadays. My time, my efforts, my charitable dollars, (few though they may be,) - how can I know they do not support practices I abhor?
I must research for myself.
Several times recently Himself has bemoaned finding himself aligned with people with whom he is not used to agreeing, because those who more usually share stances seem to have gone off the deep end, more intent on pushing the agenda of a bizarre ideology than in improving the world and the lives of those in it in commonsensical ways.
And I know how he feels, but I'm also aware that it is virtually, perhaps literally impossible to live in the world without compromising ones principles at least to the degree required to some times collaborate with those with whom one disagrees, perhaps even on fundamental issues.
Aren't we glad when Der Schränker in "M" organizes other criminals to guard the children?
Shouldn't Melanie take Belle Watling's money in the noble cause of fighting for the Glorious Confederacy?
Don't the good Daniel Craig and the evil Harrison Ford justifiably band together against a common enemy in Cowboys and Aliens?
Sorry about the tangent. Anyway, I came to terms some time ago with the fact that if you need mosquito nets to save lives and the only NGO with mosquito nets to sell in that part of the world also provides abortions, you may end up temporarily engaging in commerce with someone who provides abortions.
You are not yourself doing or endorsing evil, and you hold your nose when you materially, remotely, mediatedly cooperate with it.
But when you complacently enter into a long term relationship with the devil?
Now sometimes the people who make you aware of what's going on may not be people with whom you'd necessarily wish to associate, either, but I think you must be grateful to them for opening your eyes.
The Lepanto Institute, for instance, are provocateurs, and I'm told not above stretching a point to connect the dots as they demonstrate the webs of cooperation that allow certain kinds of evil to flourish unchecked by, indeed, supported by good people.
And they may be a bit to quick to try to establish guilt by association.
But they are right too often to ignore, and I think they're going to be a go-to for me in days ahead.

Right now, I don't need them to spill the goods, I can be disappointed all on my 'onesome.
A family member asked me to join in helping a medical charity.
The "Catholic" board chairman, when I asked point blank where they stood on the use of embryonic stem cells for research or therapy because "I can not support that," said absolutely not, no way, never, that's important to me too.
Come to find out, I don't know whether the chair is lazy, deceitful, or ignorant, but the groups they bankroll actively lobby for money for the development of new embryonic stem cell lines, and laws protecting such development, and actually pursue such research themselves.

Gonna go live in a cave...

God, Send Us Many Holy Priests!

I think there is something really ugly about a bureaucrat who feels he must suck up to current higher-ups by denigrating former, or who cannot find a way praise and encourage current subordinates without insulting former.
I'm not going to hold the seminary rector responsible for a loathesome example of the latter up to contempt by naming him, but I want to post in its entirety a reply from a former seminarian, now hard-working, dedicated and zealous priest (Lord, send us many more such!):
This article, written from an interview given by the out-going Rector of my former seminary, is very hurtful. The men who were formed in and ordained from Theological College over the past 10 years are some of the best and most pastoral men and priests that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Inventing a false dichotomy between a love for the Church's traditions and a love for the people of God is a manipulative, ideological tool used to push forth one's personal agenda.
I have known Father [X] for many years, and have a great deal of respect and admiration for him personally, but this public interview he gave with an openly dissenting "Catholic" publication warrants an alumnus response.
As one of the many cassock-wearing, Communion-on-the-tongue-receiving, Latin-loving, Extraordinary-Form-Mass-saying young priests that have passed through the halls of Theological College, allow me to say plainly to anyone who would agree with the tone and sentiment of this article that you have deliberately and painfully pigeon-holed men who love the Church and cast us to be pompous little monsters simply because we have a different theological/liturgical outlook than you. You condescend towards us as if we were not thinking, opining, and sincere men. You gossip about us, ensuring that we are "put in our places" and "taught a thing or two" by your confreres. You confuse our strong convictions with arrogance and accuse us of being staunch when we are trying more than anything else to be faithful, helpful, and loving.
But let's be quite honest...you don't really know us because you never took the time to get to know us. You saw us when we were in the seminary chapel or over breakfast...but that's about it. Have you seen us at 2:00 AM in the hospital? Have you seen us working late into the night on a funeral homily? Have you seen us giving up our one day off a week to visit with a lonely elderly parishioner? Have you seen us on our knees at night before the tabernacle weeping because we just buried a child earlier that day? Have you seen us celebrate four Masses on a weekend, hear hours of confessions, and still show up to Sunday evening Youth Ministry? Have you seen us wear the same pair of socks two days in a row because we simply ran out of time to do laundry? Have you seen us muster a smile even when we're exhausted, or miss Christmas with our families because we're assigned 300 miles away, or forget to eat dinner because there's another meeting to go to? The answer is no. What you see are the cassocks and birettas and fiddleback chasubles and accuse us of being "out of touch." Well the reality is, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse us of. You ignore our humanity, our struggle, our sincerity, and you fixate on external things to make your judgments.
As difficult as it is at times, I love being a priest with my whole heart. Not because it offers me an exalted status or any privileges, but because it offers me, and the people I serve, the means by which to attain salvation. I love the people I serve to death, and I would do anything within my means to help them. If you look at my cassock and presume otherwise, I can only feel sorry for you.
Myself and the other men who were indirectly insulted in this interview are the ones on the battlefield. As parish priests, we work hard, sacrifice hard, and try daily to live solely for God in Jesus Christ. Instead of insinuating that Theological College had to somehow put up with a decade or more of rigid, overly-conservative, and ideological seminarians, why not offer us a word of encouragement and perhaps even a prayer or two?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Thinking About Evil, Dabbling in Heresy ; Is Evil a Verb Rather Than a Noun?

I had a philosophy teacher once, a religious sister, who gave me high marks, suggested I might want to "go into" philosophy or theology, and said that I was an original thinker.
(How the undergraduate mind preens under such a gaze....)
I was horrified when I was older to read something I had written in that class, on which she had given me thoughtful, constructive and mostly admiring feedback, and see that what I had written was heretical, outright, no-question-about-it heresy.
And she had no problem with it !!!!!!!!

So I just wanted to say upfront that I am wary when I have thoughts on certain matters.

But a question occurs to me, would it be correct to say that Evil is "not a noun"? that is, not a thing, for God Who is all good and hates nothing He has created, and therefore never created an evil thing,

Therefore, Evil cannot be a created, (or even, perhaps, imagined,) thing,  a noun - it must be a verb, must be action.

Evil must be the doing, not the thing itself.

So the devil, a created being, was not created as an evil thing, but instead chose to engage in evil actions, to feel prideful, to disobey, and to try to provoke such actions in other beings.

Likewise, we, human beings, are never evil, (though it sometimes seems so,) we are good, but we continually are given choices, and too often choose to act in ways that are evil.
Evil is always then, an action that is a Fail, (and sometimes, quite literally, a failure to act - act in a way that would be Good, that would further God's hopes for us.)

Judas, Stalin, that bully at school - no one is created to be bad, they are all created Good by God Who is Himself all Goodness, and they choose to walk down another path.

Does any of that make sense? is it anything even approaching correct?

"Liturgical Material Assuring Us the Man With the Scythe Won't Have the Last Word"

A perfectly wonderful piece, from an Anglican perspective, on the immense value of the Christian funeral.
I don't know Stewart Dakers, but he is, as he so felicitously describes his state in life, "in the queue" when it comes to being the secondary locus of attention at a funeral, i.e. getting up there.
By virtue of my Church work, and even more so, of my enormous family, I have been to many more funerals than most people, it seems, going back to childhood. I am often shocked to know people quite middle-aged who tell me they have never been to one.
(My very earliest memory is of a dead man in a large, pretty box, in a tidy, sweet, if somewhat dark, stone house - the wake of our parish's pastor in his own rectory. It wasn't in any way, shape or form, scary, and I have sympathy for those whose experience, or lack thereof, leads to the dread I find many adults have of the dead and of funerals.)
Mr Dakers paints himself as a bingo-playing senior citizen, but he writes with an edge and wit many an urban hipster would envy.

And then, on top of that, he's simply right in his thought and opinion.
I attended a better funeral a couple of weeks earlier. It took place in a crematorium, whereas Enid’s affair had been in a real church. So in a sense the contrast was the greater. We sat in silence until the coffin was brought in with those wondrous ominous words
I am the Resurrection and the Life…
which set the tone for a sustained focus on the divinity of love and the hope of eternal life. Even without the accoutrements of a holy building, there was a feeling of belonging to a larger universe, a sense of the transformational.
In this secular age, sceptical of the numinous, the religious funeral demands from us the spiritual literacy which can surrender its cerebral convictions to an incredible hope. If that ingredient is removed, if every departure is presented as an event from which we are urged to move on, to draw a line under, then it does not take a psychiatrist or a theologian to identify a major source of contemporary angst.

"Do not be afraid, I will not harm you. I come from heaven."

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, the 99th anniversary of the first apparition.
(Those are comforting words, but we should all remember that Friar Alberto in the Decameron says something similar.)
At any rate, though I've never been one for apparitions and personal revelations, I believe I should hurry along and make more of an effort to be in time for the pre-Mass Rosary.
“Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding of history. These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith and must, therefore, have their focus in the core of Christ's proclamation: the Father's love which leads men and women to conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with filial devotion. This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel” (The Message of Fatima, CDF, June 26, 2000)

(In the old calendar 'twas the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, apologist, Cardinal, tireless enemy of schism and heresy, and perhaps most important for today, culture warrior - St Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

I Am Not a Squeam, But I Am Squeamish

I have never, even when I was a child or a romantic adolescent, longed for the days of yesteryear.
I am simply incapable of yearning for a period in history when I would be deprived of  any of the comforts with which I grew up.

Forget the big thing, antibiotics, long distance communication in real time, suffrage.

I would be miserable deprived of hair conditioner or fitted sheets or individually wrapped American cheese singles or bug spray or ice cubes.
(We live in a golden age, no?)
Anyway, I am in awe of the easy familiarity with which our ancestors dealt with other species and life and death in the Animal Kingdom.

Yes, Blanche, we have rats in the garage.
I shudder doing the wash, I shudder getting canned goods from the pantry, and I shudder at the smell of whatever has died in the wall.
Himself is made of sterner stuff, he is after all a hick.

The Silent Squeam.

"[Candidate X] has never changed his mind on anything. Changing your mind is a sign of weakness in a leader."

I didn't actually hear this, but I understand a supporter spoke these words in praise of her candidate on camera for CNN.

Nothing about this particular candidate, and I'll stipulate that choosing ones current position according to poll numbers is a sad and sorry way to operate, but only the dead or the brain dead never change their minds.

When did we become a society that doesn't want anyone to ever absorb new information and insight in such a way as to perhaps change his mind?
What kind of a person thinks he has never made a mistake in his life, has nothing to regret, nothing for which to apologize, nothing he would have done differently had he known then what he knows now?
And what kind of person refuses to ever know any more than he does now, thus making for a future self that is smarter/wiser/better informed?

I see the same idiocy at work in the mockery of someone who professes religious or ethical or moral ideas which he has transgressed.
Sometimes, even if the transgressions occurred before the conversion.

The righteousness and rightness of a law, whether of God or man, is not dependent on its being broken or followed.

The Evolution of Words

Of course English is a living language, definitions of pre-existing words may multiply as need arises.

"Stylist" was not, I suppose, a recognized profession until recent decades, and so "style", as a verb, could have meant, variously, to "call oneself" or to arrange things to look attractive.

Now "style, v.", can mean "to remind a client that even after she has put on pants or a skirt her ensemble isn't really complete until she adds a shirt or something."

"Empower" and "dignity" seem similarly to have.... grown, as words.

I think we may have Thelma and Louise to thank for some of that.
Wasn't it the "transformative violence" of that film that sanctioned women acting as stupid and irresponsible as some men always have in accord with the terms of a patr- living life on their own terms rather than those of a patriarchal society?

And what is driving off a cliff if not "death with dignity"?

As long as it's done in a cool car.
In a beater mini-van it would just be sad...

Monday, 9 May 2016

"The Harvest is Meagre But the Laborers, We Got'em Coming Outta Our EARS!"

"...so tell the master of the harvest to lay off some of the laborers for his harvest,” said Jesus never.

And yet, that actually seems to be the problem for some protestant sects.
Since leaving our former leadership roles in a local church more than a decade ago, my husband and I have talked to many, many people who were once either in college or seminary preparing to enter full-time vocational ministry and couldn’t find a job upon graduation, or those who had been in ministry and for a whole host of reasons were no longer in a leadership role. Some were no longer part of an institutional church in any way.
The lure of the promise to spiritually-minded emerging adults that they are destined to be world changers, given them at conferences, retreats and youth group meetings as they grew up, meshes with the ambition that characterizes this life stage. I’ve informally followed the trajectory of some of the amazing, committed students I knew from my days working at Trinity International University who were preparing for vocational ministry. A percentage did connect with paying ministry positions after graduation and are still employed by a church or parachurch ministry five or ten years later. Others found a ministry position, only to discover that the cold reality of harsh politics and/or dwindling church finances pushed them out of a job before the ink was fully dry on their degree. And too many faced a long hall full of closed doors. These people have moved into other lines of work, hampered by the challenging combination of a difficult economy and a degree that doesn’t always translate neatly to other fields.
Now, of course, there are plenty of once idealistic and now disillusioned Catholics, and there are those priests who, fairly or unfairly, have found their services were no longer required by the Church, as well, but on the whole, unless there is actually something wrong with you as a priest, the Church is going to make use of your calling.
(Not necessarily the best use, you understand... I'm talking to you, bishops and provincials who like to send scholars and dynamic leaders of an orthodox bent to out of the way nursing homes, etc....)

Anyway, I find the whole thing mystifying. Of course, I wasn't aware of that whole "Shepherding" thing and the abusive totalism in some Evangelical circles until recently, so it's not as if I keep abreast.

"An Ashley By Any Other Name"

I won't bore you with a map of the wormhole down which... no, one falls down rabbit holes, right? wormholes are more a matter of falling through, I think.... there. I've done it again.
Start over.
I won't go into how I ended up here, (thank you, Time Suck Yclept Interwebz), but because several young couples in my family are going through the minefield of whatever shall we name junior? and all the juniors so far have been girls, I found it arresting.
Large family, names have good and fairly immediate associations, but also, of course, unpleasant one; names are taken or over-taken; names create awkward monograms; names have too few or too many syllables for euphony; names sound too indicative of one nationality or another, (sometimes one appropriately enough claimed); names are oocky.
(That last is an actual, quoted appraisal of one suggestion.)
Add in some specific familial... I won't say requirements, but no one has defied certain expectations for generations... customs having to do with eldest offspring being named after a parent and bequests of purely sentimental value being given along with the name.
And smart aleck relatives who favor vaguely insulting or gross nicknames for pets and children.

Absent, yes, I will say sadly absent, from the negotiations is any thought of honoring ancestors, (other than in that one instance mentioned,) or the Faith.
This saddens me.
No thought of patronal saints, or looking to the liturgical calendar.

And with the resurgence of "old-fashioned" names for girls, (flowers, or Old Testament heroines,) there has been no trendy rise of virtue names, has there?
Well, I suppose modesty and constancy are no longer considered virtues, and "Purity" would just be tempting fate...

But there is an irony to the above linked piece from 1985, to a degree that would probably shock the author were she alive - she wondered why "pink" children, girls, were being given names that "mask their gender."
If only she had known! By 2016 we would have been past such creaky notions, that the options for an infant's gender were binary! What, only "boys" and "girls"?
What an antiquated notion!
Not only are there dozens of conceivable genders, being "fluid" in ones gender is a gender in and of itself!

But perhaps most important of all, masculinity or femininity is hardly something parents, or even medical personnel can tell, or would dare to assume just from looking at the little, squalling, red thing.

Brave New Relativistic World that has such creatures beings in it, we can't call them "creatures" because that would imply something or Someone created them, and that surely can't be right...

Human Flourishing and the Mad Ukrainian Assassin

First off, let me assure my 2.3 readers that I am aware that characters on television are not real. (Someone tried to tell me that that hysterically funny Donald Trump fabrication was an actual, living, breathing businessman/politician !!! Go on, pull the other one!)

But Great Truths may subsist in Little Fictions, and Deep Thought in Shallow Pop Culture.

I know. Paradoxes. (Paradoces?)

Here's another one-  a murderous, voracious Slavic clone raised by religious fanatics who is totally fictional may have a greater soul and a more profound respect for the dignity of human life than....
oh, I dunno... a Catholic "theologian" who works in international philanthropy? who says, "We uphold the sanctity of all human life" but "we're not, like, all fanatic about it, I mean, sure, they're all 'holy' but some of them aren't holy enough that you need to treat them that way, you know, as if they were 'holy.' Which I do profess they are, but not....well, holy-holy." (I think that's a fair presentation of her beliefs.)

Whereas Helena, said mad, Ukrainian assassin, upon whom every kind of dehumanizing indignity has been visited, not just from her conception, but from the moment her conception was imagined and planned for and "designed"; whose very personhood was stolen from her again and again; whose identity as a human being as an individual is denied her over and over, says that,
Human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death. 
Well, more or less, but she used fewer words.
As she solemnly and sadly and respectfully buries the cryo-tank in which the embryos created from eggs wrested from her very body by force, whose genetic twins she carries within her and loves unconditionally, (as all mothers ought their babies,) having been forced to "steal" the tank lest her torturers either kill them or subject them to what she has endured, she places a cross on their secret grave.
And how did she put it?
Little science babies, forgive me. I did not know to feed you liquid nitrogens. But your twins are in my belly. And when they are old, I will tell them all about you and our adventures.
That is how human beings, that is how mothers think about their children.
Well done, Orphan Black.

Obama, Staff, Entire Administration and Democratic Leadership of Congress Agree to Actually Watch Daleiden Videos

The videos shot by the Center for Medical Progress will be veiwed in their undoctored entirety before there are any more statements, about or push for funding for, Planned Parenthood.
As requried by, you know.
At least, that's what I think the President  said:
democracy requires compromise... you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you....change requires more than just speaking out -- it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise....don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Some People Have Objections to Women Being Used As Brood Mares?

Apparently there is still common sense and decency in the world, and surprise, surprise - it doesn't break down across the left/right, conservative/liberal divide.
The Feminist Party of Spain has filed a complaint in court over an upcoming surrogate motherhood “fair” as constituting an illegal practice in the country by promoting human trafficking.
The Surrofair will take place in Madrid May 7-8. The fair will provide information and the different ways to contract with a surrogate mother.
The Feminist Party has condemned the fair, which it considers to be promoting human trafficking.
“The state of necessity of women who turn to renting their womb, for a price, is not unlike sexual exploitation,” the party said in its complaint.

I would have done it for three...

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Have We?

From an Evangelical blogger:
Of course, we in the church have been given the responsibility to judge one another, and the privilege of stirring each other in community to act in love and do good works. 
Not disagreeing, just wondering.

"Holy" Cards

Image result for holy card "sorrowful mother" sepia
I am next thing to a hoarder, never can bear to give anything away if I think I might want it later, never can bear to throw anything away if I think someone else might have use of it, and if the right person or charity does not occur to me at the moment - well, there that item will sit. And sit. And sit.
That old faux shearling coat, that I hope never again to be cold enough to wear? It would make a swell pillow.
I hate vertical blinds, took them down immediately - but don't the long cream colored strips look like candles? Add yellow construction paper flames and let each child in Sunday school write the names of people they would like to remember in prayer during the month of All Souls,
I can't throw out scrap metal, I know there are people around who will take it,

I understand there are people who buy expensive garments they've never worn, or replace electronics with newer, faster devices - but then find that they can't bear to pitch that for which they spent so much money. But that's never been my problem - I spend very little on clothes, (I won't even go to the thrift store usually except on sale days,) and technology keeps its place in our household until it completely gives up the ghost, (sometimes after spending a long time on life-support.)

But I do find it difficult to divest myself of books and scores and scripts -- and all those photocopies.
Not so much for what they cost in monetary terms, but in effort. Out of print chant books, and reference works that were the result of hours combing, first, of used book stores, and old libraries, and later the internet - so many hard won volumes or articles or scores are freely available online now.
But I'm getting a bit better at that.

Which leaves us with the matter of holy objects.
I have disintegrating and dilapidated Latin prayerbooks, French antiphonals, a Polish Missal, broken Rosaries, crucifixes rescued from bins at Goodwill, a stack of "pew cards" for the new Holy Week changes, (when did that happen? that's right, before any of us were born.)

I will have a bonfire at some point, soon, I will.

But there are other things that whoever is stuck with clearing out my house will have to find and sort and dispose of, (don't worry, I'll do my best to make certain it won't be the hired henchman of some atheist nephew.)

I am fascinated by the Holy Cards.
They are such a a part of my family and religious history.
I see cards reminding me to offer prayers for the soul of someone I never knew, never met, dead before I was born, who lived half a world away in some cases - I think that's beautiful.
The changing styles fascinate me as well - the mawkish Edwardian lithos of the Virgin Mary no worse nor better than the saccharine pastel-colored saints and angels from between "the" wars.
And both are a damned blessed sight better than the garish '70s asymmetry of graphic artists in thrall to the concept of negative space, or the Kincaidesque landscapes with carefully worded "spiritual" messages, guaranteed not to offend adherents of any religion, or even of none at all.

I had brought some in to the last Sunday school class, curious if these children had encountered such things - I loved them when I was little, to be given something so grown-up, so jewel like, (the print shop at the Rosary Shrine was special,) that so connected me to history, (which, as far as I could imagine, stretched back months and months!)
One of them was an emblem of my very first memory - the dead body of an elderly man lying peacefully in a big box, in a charming little stone house attached to our church. Ah, that must have been the wake of this priest.
Another was for an aunt I remember very well, but strangely couldn't remember dying -I realize now it was because my Mother was in the hospital at the time being delivered of a younger sibling of mine, of course that would have occupied all my attention.

I am well aware that the devotions, the sacramentals, the little, (even from time to time kitschy,) uniquely Catholic practices and items are no all that important in and of themselves - but properly understood, I believe we should think of them as "gateways" to the Sacraments and to an entire right conception of the Faith - to its breadth and its homeyness and corporeality and personalizability, ('zat a word?) to its diversity and mystery and, yes, fun, and perhaps most especially, to our praiseworhty individuality within our praiseworthy interconnectedness.
They are all part of the "Catholic identity" that so many fear our failure to transmit.

Well, some, perhaps most of the 10 year olds knew what they were, one actually owned some, and every single child was fascinated with the very idea. and wanted to have them.
Some had a vague idea of to whom the face on my most recent acquisition belonged.
So we made our own Holy Cards. I gave them a number of psalm verse and prayers as suggestions, and they chose one, unanimously.
O Lord God of hosts! let Your face shine on us, that we may be saved!
(Oh, and this really threw me for a loop - if we had time and supplies for a second card, (after they each made one from themselves and we made 2 dozen for "the kids in juvie," as they like to say,)?

I love that "glory" prayer at the beginning of Mass, can we do that?.... and they all agreed.

Ohm and I believe I may have discovered the secret to engaging them - lamination.
(Dollar Tree, a true dollar store? five sets of the sheets, enough for ten or even 15 cards depending on size and shape. Bookmarks, maybe.)

Yes, laminating is an adventure.
I'm going to use that knowledge next year for enchanting the learning of a chant, and perhaps for memorizing the Works of Mercy, or an Act of Contrition, or the Latin and Greek names of the parts of the Ordinary.

One last thing, I loved this from the memorial card from an uncle who died when I was a young, from St Ephrem (a patron saint of mine.)
I call for the prayers of all those who have known me, of all those who have loved me.
(Isn't that better than, "do not weep for me, I'm in a better place and I'll see you at the other end of the rainbow? I know which one I would rather people read as they cart me off to the boneyard.)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

A Pentacostalist makes the Case for Authentic Liturgy

Very worth your while read.

Preach, Brother:
In my experience contemporary church service styles rarely yield the same results as those I've experienced in more formal liturgically-based settings. Why? For three reasons.
1. Most contemporary church gatherings rarely incorporate formal liturgical mechanisms into their order of service
2. Most contemporary church gatherings simply do not create space for reflection
3. Most contemporary church gatherings are more concerned about creating a performance-based program that seeks to keep people entertained, not liturgically engaged.
Need I say, he expounds on these reasons.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

And God Said, "Let There Be...."

And there was light. But darkness, too.

Image result for let there be light
Remarkable bit of news in science when sperm meets ovum, and life begins, zinc radiates out in a "breathtaking" burst of light!

When.  Life.  Begins.

(The knowledge, alas, will almost certainly be used to grade the lives deliberated created to be ranked, and to off those of our brothers and sisters who shine less brightly.)
The discovery could help fertility doctors decide the best fertilised eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilisation.
Well, no, not "off them" outright, just consign them to the attic* as we used to do with other children who didn't make the grade, at least in horror films and gothic novels.
You know.
Cripples. Idiots. Bastards. Monsters.
Fine old custom, with a long pedigree.....
Oh, they were so cruel in the olden days! How could parents do that? Why didn't they just kill him before they had to look at him, like we do nowadays?
(*Nowadays our more advanced civilization uses refrigerator tanks.)
Image result for "embryos are kept frozen" "in a" tank

"The Church Needs a Theology of Manhood"

Excellent piece in First Things, very thoughful, and saying very much the same thing as the Holy Father has been lately, about prioitizing the laity fulfilling the role preper to them, instead of attempts at marthaing us all with new "jobs" in Church.
Almost fifty years ago, when the Catholic Church unveiled its new rite of Mass in the Sistine Chapel, Cardinal John Heenan, then Archbishop of Westminster, remarked that if the Church used the new liturgy in ordinary parishes it would “soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children.”
(Also, some shocking statistics)
study of Swiss churchgoers [insert snark here, something like, "there a re church-goers in Europe???!??] commissioned by the Council of Europe found that if a mother attends church regularly but the father is non-practicing, only 2 percent of their children will attend church regularly in adult life. If the roles are reversed, with the father attending regularly and the mother non-practicing, the figure for regular attendance shoots up to 44 percent (higher even than the figure when both parents attend regularly). Another study found that when an American mother converts to the faith, there is a 17 percent chance that the rest of her family will follow. When the father alone converts, this figure rises to 93 percent.
It is praiseworthy that despite falling attendance rates among men, many women have steadfastly kept the faith and have often made valiant (if sadly ineffective) efforts to pass it on to their children. But the way to ensure that future generations of women continue to discover the joy of life in Christ is not by making token appointments. It is by ensuring that the Church has an adequate theology of maleness and of fatherhood, by ensuring that daughters see their fathers going to church and living lives of faith—which, incidentally, is also the way to ensure that future generations of boys might find their way back to the churches that current generations of men are leaving in droves.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Austin Ivereigh on "The Letter"

The arguments for allowing abortion under very limited circumstances are precisely the same as for allowing abortion under broad circumstances. Legalising abortion out of compassion for the mother’s pain — which is what motivates Professor Beattie — implies, at once, rendering the unborn life a lesser being. First the law strips it of rights, then it is able to be killed.
Once the law declares that the baby of a woman who has been raped, or a disabled baby, is not a life worth defending or saving, it crosses that threshold.If the law does not declare that life worth living under those circumstances, it cannot logically declare it worth living under other circumstances. A life is recognised as such in law, or it is not.Even without religion to teach us that every life, however conceived, is a reflection of the divine, legally and philosophically this has always been an either-or question.
Nails it.
But Eccles still has the best line.

Herod was pro-life, since he only killed people under 2 years of age.

Bellissimo Canto?

I was thrilled, when my dear Mother was failing, to discover what an extraordinary amount of opera is to be seen on the Tube of You.
Even sitting in a movie theater for very long became impossible, so shortly after she was introduced to them, the Met's HD broadcast's were no longer an option - but I was so, so grateful for them while they worked, and for the chance to share performances with her.
And then, there was Youtube, sometimes singers I never saw or had the opportuinty to hear live much less in person, but whose recordings were the best sort of  "blast from the past", in the case of, say, Birgit Nilsson, almost literally so! ("literally", refers to the "blast" part.)
E'en now, I think when she tires of bending the Blessed Virgin's ear, my Mother chats with Magda Olivero and the latter's English has become perfect, and my Mother's Italian is flawless.
(Or perhaps, I should say, everyone there speaks "heaven.")

I was reminded of all that delightful scouring of the Tube of Yous, while repeating the exercise for some examples and inspiration for Himself's next gig.
And since the Tube is one of the worst offenders of the ThoseInterwebsAreATimesuck variety, I ended up listning to various too many In Questa Reggias, and hearing Nina Stemme, and being sorry that the Met's most recent Turandot HD broadcast was not available to us when I heard her shattering Elektra on the radio this past weekend.
Hopefully it will find its way to a PBS station or library shelf near us.
But THAT reminded me of another Saturday afternoon broadcast - I only listen to the "radio", (ask your parents, little ones,) from the Met, (thank you, Towle Bros, Toll Bros?)

Not an enormous Donizetti fan, not wildly familiar with Roberto Devereaux, (though IIRC, I saw the entire "Tudor Trilogy" in my remote youth,) and only heard snatches in between errands, (I only think to listen to the radio in the car.)

But, you guys.... Matthew Polenzani.

Omiwerd, I don't think I've ever been bought to tears by Donizetti, and unless it was a super-familiar, filled-with-associations opera or singer, ever wept at such over the radio, of all things.

Pearl Fishers was another one I would have dearly liked to have seen, but the Met is no longer available at any theaters near us.

So, just once more, I need to type - MATTHEW POLENZANI.