Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's a Rich Life...Prepare for Death

I'm trying to wrap up some irritating loose ends here at work before Christmas. It's somewhat tedious and I complain about it.
Frantic behavior from my corporate overlord executives who should know better than to try to control every jot and tittle of the machinations of upper, mid-level Federal bureaucrats.
Creating needless tension and stress for false deadlines and irrelevant projects.
Some of this is my own fault and I play my part in the torrent of vanities.

I'm nearing the "who cares" point.
It will all work out fine. Quite well, actually.
Let's go home and enjoy our families and friends and forget about all of this nonsense.

In spite of ourselves though, we're still fully the best possible sense. 

Meanwhile, I have a messy desk full of papers and unopened bills...and a few Christmas presents.
I was introduced to St. Alphonsus Ligouri earlier this year.
His reminder to simply remain in constant conversation with God came as a comfort. In the end, our only calling is real friendship with God.
A good friend happened to recommend St. Ligouri's "Preparation for Death."
This will be my first reading of 2013.
Interesting that my last book of 2012, which I am just finishing now, will be Francois Mauriac's "Viper's Tangle" in which the protagonist reflects on a life squandered in disproportionate affection for material goods and accrued resentments alongside a lack of real charity towards pretty much anyone he encountered along his life.

A household full of beautiful and noisy children and a good humored and radiant wife who loves me.
Good friends who I learn so much from and who constantly surprise with their heroism and joy.
The fullness of the liturgy and Christ in the Eucharist.
Oh and plenty of good holiday cheer from people who know me well...and still love me.
It is a rich life I've been given.

"It is true that I have offended Thee more than others, because I have been favored more than others with light and grace; but the Blood Thou hast shed for me gives me courage, and proffers pardon to me if I should repent. Yes, O my Sovereign Good, I do repent with my whole soul for having insulted Thee." - St. Ligouri.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When Discreet Faithfulness Will No Longer Suffice

Archbishop Carlo Vigano, (Papal Nuncio to the US), spoke at a forum on religious freedom and persecution at Notre Dame last month. It's pretty clear and succinct speech and definitely worth the 15 minute reading investment

In our modern culture, the prudent and the sane might sometimes experience the temptation to give a wide berth to an opposing view. There is an inclination perhaps, to attempt to live and let live, particularly in a democratic society that espouses some vague sort of pluralistic openness with room for all sorts of personal and ethical diversity.  And if someone does have to cede at some cultural or ethical impasse, let it be the one who preaches a turning of the other cheek and all that. Except that will rarely suffice for long. The State in particular, is greedy.
However, when [John] Fisher and [Thomas] More remained resolved in their fidelity to the Church’s teachings about the validity of the marriage but discreet in how they did so, the state mechanisms designed to bring them and their views around were ratcheted up so as to increase the pressure on them. When they resisted the increased pressure, statutes were enacted and amended to make non-compliance a treasonable and, therefore, a capital offense.
Cardinal Vigano demonstrates that the state is less and less satisfied with passive obedience but ultimately will demand full and active cooperation. How long will American democracy be content to allow for religion to freely express itself? Catholics are forced to pay for abortion inducing drugs. America has already ceased to allow the free expression of religion. And what exactly is religious freedom? Again, Cardinal Vigano's speech is clear and direct, "religious freedom is the exercise of fidelity to God and His Holy Church without compromise."

Without compromise.

Shakespeare's Falstaff from "Henry the Forth" seems to be the patron of the contemporary American Catholic professor or Catholic politician.
"To die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav'd my life."

In the end however, we know that our true patron is likely to be Sir Thomas More. 
"I am the King's good servant, but God's first."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Craftsmanship Over Capitalism

First of all, without any hyperbole, I will just say that all of the Pappy Van Winkles really are THAT good.  I didn't realize how lucky I'd been to land a bottle every Christmas the past few years. This might be a bit over the top, but to me, this bourbon expresses something wonderful, yes sublime actually, about being human. It is a gift.

Gun and Garden has a great interview with Julian Van Winkle III, who has seen the family business struggle and thrive while remaining unphased by swings in either direction. Van Winkle is currently enjoying a frenzied cult following and yet their business plan remains almost completely unchanged.
Why, with a high-volume distillery in his corner and the public in full ferment for his product, doesn’t he seize this moment to crank the stills to capacity and cash in? “Well, the quality would go down,” he says, as though this is explanation enough. “I don’t need a ton of money. I’m comfortable. Why get bigger? I mean, yeah, I guess I’d like to have a jet to fly around in, but things like that just complicate your life.”
The article also cites some of Dr. Percy's work, who I am sure would heartily approve.
God Bless America.

Just Say "No" to Political Monopoly

More Greenwald greatness in which he explains that if you are a shill for one party and get caught up in the game of wedge politics as you rant and carry on about the baddies on the other side of the aisle you essentially send the following message to "your" party.

"I'd really appreciate it if you did X, Y and Z, and strongly believe you should, but even if you don't, you should know that I'm going to be there for you and your party: cheering for you, raising money, demanding that everyone else support you, doing everything in my ability to keep you empowered."

And as it turns out, it's not your party after all. They just let you hang around to go get their beers for them but the second you object you are unwelcome nuisance.

This is just as applicable for the right as it is for the left. In fact, it is more applicable. In this recent presidential campaign Conservatives carried the water for a socially moderate, fiscally liberal North Eastern Republican in the tradition of Rockefeller and got beat by an unpopular incumbent in a down-economy during a prolonged war. Seriously. Think about that.
If ever there was a time for us to speak up it would be now.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Take a minute to pause over this one...

The boy on the right reminds me so much of my son Gabriel who is now about the same age.
I hope that all of my sons and daughters grow up to be as brave as the boy on the left.

My freshman history teacher in high school had this picture hanging up in his classroom. He explained that this was taken just as the before the Berlin Wall was constructed. The boy's family had made it across to the West. Orders were to shoot anyone who tried to cross. The soldier was subsequently removed from his post and there is no record of what became of him.

"Greater Love has no one than this: that one lay down his life." John 15:13

Monday, November 19, 2012

I hope they do ditch us

The Republican Party is horrible. The The Senate Republicans are so far removed from having any real trace of subsidiarity to the point that any mere whiff of it is now a complete fantasy. Simultaneous to that, the last two Presidential nominees were social moderates and the RNC thinks they lost because the elections because "normal" Americans don't care about that nonsense.
 I know, I know. The public nudity thing is easy blog hyperbole but see, even in SF and the rest of the country as well, people don't want their neighbors' sexual hang-ups forced on them. Americans do care about social issues. They just can't stomach the hypocrisy of using beatitudes as a wedge against beatitudes.
This guy in a Shea combox summarizes it well.
"the large core value of modern conservativsm and GOP politics seems to be a sort of “every man for himself” social Darwinism. As an orthodox Catholic, I cannot support that. On the other hand, what ought to be the core value of liberalism (“we’re all in this together”) very much fits with orthodox Catholicism — except that nearly all modern liberals have tossed this out the window. If every citizen has an inherent value that must be defended, one could never justify abortion."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pro-Life Democrat Explains Why Stupid Republicans Lose Again

Golly Day, but Rebecca Hamilton is Brilliant!
"Wedge issue electioneering by the Republican Party made it easy for the Democrats to come along and use the other side of those wedge issues to drive their own votes to the polls."

Two party system and wedge issue politics - a marriage made in hell.
Anyone bring a ball of yarn when we started poking around in this labrynth?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Remember this guy?

You know, the one who caused all of those riots in the middle east? The one who got four Americans, (including an ambassador), killed in Libya...or was it terr...errr. Well anyway, even if he had nothing to do with Benghazi that dude's still in jail. Yay! The world is safe from...really badly done movies.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Work, work, work

Still here. Just traveling all over the place for the job, no time for me to barf up some genius for the blog. Sheesh.
In the mean time, for some real intelligent cultural dialogue check out your Facebook. 
We had a debate this week so all of the posts are going to be so rad.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hopeless Romantics

Ahh...Marital bliss.
Sometimes it looks like this:
File:Michelangelo Caravaggio 025.jpg                        Caravaggio's portrayal of the Holy Family taking respite during the flight into Egypt

And sometimes it looks like this:
                                                Empty-nesters Edith and Archie get re-aquainted

But we believe...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Prison is like a monastery—it's a place for ascetic practices."

Man, I love the Russians. What a fascinating dramatic, beautiful, wild and screwed up country.
They seem to me like such a young people. Spiritually and intellectually they always read like adolescents, (in the best possible way), hungry, eager and just on the verge of adulthood. Certainly their artists, but hell, even their fascists strike me as so profoundly earnest. Despite a history of perpetually trading one reign of heavy handed authoritarian rule for another they maintain a perpetual youthfulness that will not be broken. This is not the vague superficial spirituality of the modern west that dogmatically proclaims that  "it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere." Even in the throes of tyranny and cynicism the Russians always seems to possess an interior belief in the integrity of Truth that they just can't shake. 
So, I've quibbled a bit with the specifics of "Punk Prayer" on here before but I think there is still something profoundly truthful about Pussy Riot. This is not marketing activism.
"Prison is a good place to learn to really listen to your own mind and your own body. I've learned to read much more deeply, for instance. For four months, I had nothing to read but the Bible, so I read it for all four months—diligently, picking everything apart. Prison is like a monastery—it's a place for ascetic practices. After a month here, I became a vegetarian. Walking in circles for an hour in that tiny dusty yard gets you into a pretty meditative state as well. We don't get much in the way of the news. But enough to get inspired."
Read on

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dogma, Certainty and Curiosity

Not too long ago I had a conversation with an Evangelical Protestant that I have a lot of respect for as he is someone with an intellectual curiosity on pretty much any subject. Somehow the topic of purgatory came up. He asked me some general questions along the lines of what exactly it is and how it relates to the faith. As the conversation went along he also asked me if purgatory was something that Catholics had to believe in. This wasn’t posed in a vindictive sort of way. I think he just wanted to know how I came to believe in purgatory and if that belief was universal within Catholic orthodoxy.

So…Purgatory is a dogma. And in these post modern, post, post whatever times, dogma  is generally a bad word.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Europe According to...

About a year old, so maybe I'm late to the party but I'll pass it on just in case.
We'll start by laughing at ourselves first...
Europe According to the US:

Go laugh at the rest of the western world here

Elites...and freedom of inquiry

I'm shooting for at least 5 posts a week. Mon-Fri. But I've got this Mon-Fri job that sometimes interferes. The past couple of days I've been on the road a bit so blogs are light this week. However, I spent a few hours in the car yesterday listening to a couple of really interesting presentations. 

First, I listened to Ross Douthat's presentation at University of Mary in Bismark, ND. This was mostly a summary of his new book "Bad Relgion: How we Became a Nation of Heretics." I'd already read Douthat's book and have jotted down my thoughts on itI think it's tremendously encouraging. While Douthat delivers news that is not all sunny for the faithful his presentation style is somewhat light. There is a humility that seems to comes from the sense that we aren't the first generation to be faced with what appears like insurmountable odds and that we won't be abandoned. Ours is a history of surprising resurrections.  

Next, I listened to an interview between Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hayes. They spent the time discussing Haye's new book "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy." 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Courts intervene on NDAA

And now it looks like the Administration may not be able to use NDAA to indefinitely lock people away. I guess they'll actually have to come up with some charges for this guy.

Either that, or they're going to actually have to deal with the fact that the anti-American riots in the Middle East are a multi-dimensional mess with no easy scape goat or sound bites to make it all quickly go away no matter how much the press tries to help the administration out on this one.. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why there won't be religious rioting in American streets anytime soon

Jonathan Turley, I'm going to have some fun with you for a few minutes here. On religion, you're a dummy, (I mean that in the best possible way). And your ignorance breeds some really unfounded fears. Here you are  fretting your little ol' self that America is on the verge of some Libyan style street violence. Really, you're smart enough to do better. On one hand, you accurately call out Romney's, ehhh let's just say, "suspect", pro-life credentials.
"While it’s fairly obvious that Romney  has no firm convictions on the issue, he does firmly believe that the issue is a winner among the religiously conservative base that now grips the Republican Party."
The idea that Romney would outlaw abortion, much less score more than minor points for pro life, even if he has a clear line, well, that's just silly. Sooooo, what are we to make of this?

Obama launches an insincere attack ad aimed at Romney's insincere views on life as if he is some crusading pro-life radical, (we should be so fortunate). What a charade. It's not like Turley has some keen insight on the cynicism of the Romney campaign that fresh and earnest campaign managers like Axelrod, (who employ the same cynical tactics themselves), aren't going to see right through. If the Obama campaign really believes that Romney wants to outlaw abortion or overturn Roe v. Wade, they're pretty much alone on that position. By contrast, the alternate Obama track of insane, full throttle, celebration of abortion anytime, anywhere, anyway is a freaky sort of radical and I'll settle for small token victories and scraps from the Republicans, (at the Executive level anyway). So Turley, in the interest of honest dialogue and a campaign that gets at the real issues of governing, when are you going to call out the Obama campaign for this sort of obfuscation that's only real aim is to pit tribe vs. tribe? Well anyway...he goes on to the polls to try to  extrapolate some discernible consistent meaning on American religious views, (as if that's even remote possible!).
"But the question remains about how well this strategy of placing God squarely on your side will do among the general voting population. Polls show Americans are more and more rejecting traditional religion for something spiritual but less dogmatic. Atheists/agnostics are the nations’ fastest growing “religion” category even though their numbers are still quite small at 15%.  There is no reliable data showing that a candidate’s religious beliefs sway voters one way or the other. If they did, Romney’s Mormonism would be more of a handicap to his election bid."

How is this new? Alex de Tocqueville called this well over 100 years ago.
His work largely deals with the many, many different religious groups in America and the unique and curious spectacle of their mutual toleration of one another. This was a toleration that came at the expense of doctrinal integrity and accompanied a doctrinal vagueness. No one cares. Americans have never really battled out theological specifics in presidential elections, (and once JFK promised to pretty much keep his Bishops at arm's length Catholics were finally welcome to participate as well). Of Americans, politics and faith, Tocqueville wrote:
"Religion should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions.From the start, politics and religion have agreed and have not since ceased to do so."
So in politics, Americans reserve the right to be just as vague and inconsistent, while still just as passionate and heartfelt, as we are in our religion.
Anyway, Turley, on Romney and abortion, you're right. But since you're so smart, how is it that you somehow think Romney's defense of religion or even the mention of God in the public square is somehow tantamount to escalation of sectarian rioting in American streeets?

"Will Americans, seeing the carnage that religious fanaticism has wrought at America’s foreign outposts, begin to question the wisdom of electing leaders who pursue political goals through religious rhetoric?"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bare with me while I pick up in here right quick...

Yep, there's laundry all over the place and the kids never put their shoes away. Oh...that empty beer bottle is mine. Yeah, I've got some editing to do, but while I'm tightening things up here grab something out of the fridge and make yourself at home. We can talk while I clean.

Tempest (Part II)... "Love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken"

"My heart is cheerful, it’s never fearful”

Is it possible to do southern Gothic with a sunny disposition?
Sure it is, if you throw in plenty of nods to William Shakespeare.

After receiving it in the mail earlier this week and giving it a few listens I am not disappointed.
Of course I’ll need some more time to digest it but here are a few first thoughts…

Dylan songs are always an exhibition in how to make a fine lyrical stew.
The guy just throws about anything in the pot, never mixing metaphors mind you, and somehow it just works.
One of the great things about Dylan is how he has always confounded people, particularly the ones who think he is speaking for them or is on their side. He always finishes his point by making a weird or unexpected turn.
That said, I think maybe he’s on my side.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Side Stories and Background in Libya

I guess it's always hard to discern specifics leading up to, during and after a riot. I think we've just about determined the events around the Boston Massacre, (although we have plenty of room for debate left). So, we've probably got some time, (maybe all the time in the world), before everything becomes clear regarding the violence in Libya and Egypt this week.

So the killings of four people during the attack on the American consulate in Libya were sparked by violence during an Egyptian protest? Hmmm. Probably, plenty more to the story there. But one of the things that got the Muslims in Egypt cranky enough to riot was a less than flattering portrayal of their prophet in a movie put out by a...California Land Developer, (huh, ?), but not funded by Coptic Christians.

And here is something interesting: Coptic Christians are actually protesting the movie as well.
So, who is the Maspero Youth Union?
Best take I can find was in an interview one of them gave an American writer living in Egypt. It's well worth the read. A couple of comments he made really struck me.
"The word ‘Copt’ means ‘Egypt’ etymologically, but yes, it is true we are working for Coptic rights. We are a Christian movement in what we work for, though, not in our composition. We have Muslim members, though they are a small percentage. Yet we do receive much spiritual support and encouragement from Muslims, as well as media support from personalities like Nabil Sharaf al-Din and Fatima Naout. It must also be mentioned that several Muslims came to defend our group when we were attacked."
"I reject the call for international protection because I will not risk the security of Egypt for my own security. Some Muslims hear ‘international protection’ and understand it to mean what is happening in Libya. These might then interpret that Copts are looking to make trouble, attack us, and this will harm the stability of Egypt."

Monday, September 10, 2012

More Illogical Extremes in the Age of Reason

Not a lot of time for me today. I'm just going to throw this up there because I've been harping on this sort of thing here recently. So James Carville, plays theologian, sociologist and all around expert and authority on ecclesiology and explains the American Catholic Church for us. Behold the Rajin' Cajun...


Friday, September 7, 2012

Shenandoah Fall Days Fast Approaching

Cooler days are around the corner.A few of my favorite Fall things...

Ahhh Shenandoah. I've been to much of the country and there are some beautiful places to be found, but nothing tops the Old Dominion. Credit: Painting is Gray Dodson a Central Virginia Painter whose work is usually available at the Fred Nichols Studio in Barboursville
 I'll be on the road bike less and the mountain bike more.

And my 20 year Pappy is about done so it's time to get another bottle of the Old Van Winkle.