Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sell The West Coast

I'm sure Canada or Mexico can offer us something worth more than the west coast of our nation. I think we should just sell the whole thing.


Reason #1:

Reason #2:

Need I say more?

No. Cuz this guy's said it all.

Monday, May 30, 2005

What I Do On Holiday

Bl. John XXIII
You are Pope Bl. John XXIII. Everybody loves you.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
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Updated Blogroll

I'm finally starting to give props to the blogs I read on a regular basis. So note the links column on the right of the screen. I officially welcome the following additions to my blogroll. More will be added soon.

Audjutorium Nostrum

The Angry Twins

Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director

De Omnis Gloria

Fructus Ventris

Papa Ratzi Post

The Shrine of the Holy Whapping


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Extraordinary Time

If you have never done so, glance through the works of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the like. You may find it interesting that the members of their writing school chose to communicate the Gospel in fairy-tale form. I know I do. These men, the Inklings, were towering intellectuals with deep philosophical minds who easily could have communicated their messages in the most systematic and scientific ways. But in their most remembered writings - the most impacting and moving ones – the stories are fantastic and mythic. The events of ordinary life are told in extraordinary ways, employing symbolism, allegory, otherworldly locations, fantastic creatures, and regular supernatural interventions. Philosophizing that, in Christ, "myth became fact," the Inklings brought to our modern, empirical worldview the unique notion that Christianity is true precisely because it doesn't make sense – at least, not to the world... the fallen world. The Gospel IS incongruous, it IS remarkably strange and unseemly: a "stumbling block" and a "folly." Members of "the way" found that way to be way off the beaten path, leading to a realm even less imaginable than Narnia or Middle-Earth - one nonetheless fantastic simply because it happens to be real. The lesson we can learn from the Inklings is that, beneath the ordinary events of ordinary lives lived by ordinary people in ordinary places, there is an all-pervasive truth whose attraction and believability depends upon its sheer extraordinariness.

Our faith is awesome and mysterious, full of rituals bound up in symbol and sacrament. Yet the eyes of modern man are blind to the underlying realities of this faith. A scientific analysis and molecular breakdown of the Eucharist would reveal only the accidents of simple, ordinary bread and common wine. The eyes of faith, on the other hand, see past these ordinary elements and into the extraordinary mystery beyond. Faith in fact grants an entirely different type of a vision - the type shared by the Inklings - the fairy-tale type of vision. How better our world would be if more men had such sight! The challenge for us Catholics is to try to foster this acuity and perception, to see how moments of our ordinary time are kissed by the eternal. Consider if our normal sight could capture this vision for us, what awful and awesome things we might see: around a tempted man we'd glimpse leagues of demons working feverishly for his downfall; before a sinner we'd see the dark boundaries of Dante's dark wood; on the shoulder of a man haunted by despair, we'd see the conniving form of Wormwood, Screwtape's nephew, whispering at his ear; we'd see souls shed blood when wounded, and a man's hands imbrued with the gore of trespasses against his neighbor's spiritual well-being. In plain truth, we DO track through these woods, soiled with blood and haunted by demons, each day. But our fairy-tale vision exists in imagination only. With our earthly sight, we see only the external, manifest forms: the bullies of the schoolyards, the impatient queues of the supermarkets, the raging roadsters of the highways, and the corporate killers of the offices. The great moments of peril we encounter each day are masked by the mundane. They are not occasioned by great battles and decisions ruling the fate of worlds; rather, their context is an altercation about copy-machine toner, or a mad rush for a better parking space.

Our modern sight is due for an adjustment. In today's worldview, the value of human life is negotiable and can be changed by judicial activism; the rights of living people to live more comfortably outweigh the rights of the unborn to live at all. It's time that we adopt the vision of the Inklings and see these epic struggles for what they are. We must learn to see with clear sight the multitude of souls pouring into Hell and the prayers said on old women's rosaries slapping the back of the pew being carried to heaven with angelic vanguard. I recommend the writings of the Inklings as a good starting point for those interested in developing this view. For those who have it, I recommend sharing it with others. G.K. Chesterton said that there are certain truths that can only be seen clearly by those who live in fairy-land. Perhaps, we should follow the map he and his contemporaries outlines for us, that everyone may grasp the gravity of his or her life's moments, and see how extraordinarily unordinary ordinary life can be.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Peace of My Mind

During the last week of school, while I was retreating, I went through pretty intense computer withdrawal. I compromised a little bit with myself and allowed use of my laptop to compose a reflection for my blog of a religious nature, so as not to violate the spirit of the retreat. The result is the following, which, to be sure, is more "preachy" than what people are used to reading from me, but don't worry - I'll be back in the swing of things and posting my cantankerous gripes before long.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
With these words, Christ revealed himself to his disciples after his Resurrection. Bestowing on his apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, he sent them forth into the world with his peace. So graced with the peace of Christ, they became men hunted - moving constantly, laboring restlessly to build up the kingdom of God; they faced enemies from every side, threats at every corner; they were frequently imprisoned, often brought within a hair’s breadth of execution; they endured loneliness, hunger, and restless wandering; and finally, all but one suffered agonizing martyrdom. By cross, by fire, by sword or by stone, each died "peacefully," as it were – but what a strange peace they had been given!

Ite in pace.

At the end of every Mass, Catholics hear some form of this dismissal. Like the apostles, we are bidden to "go in the peace of Christ." It has a comforting sound, regardless of what hell and brimstone we may have heard preached in either the readings of the homily that day. And so, we quickly hurry off to our favorite diners for Sunday morning breakfast, or home to catch the early afternoon football game. Our weekly participation in the holy Mass has left us feeling quite satisfied, and even edified. And certainly, it is appropriate that there should be such a sense of joy and serenity that comes of an influx of grace. However... we cannot conflate the world’s pleasures with the Lord’s peace. The relative cheerfulness of Sunday drivers or the kindness of our favorite waitress should give us no illusions about our relationship with the world into which we have been sent, or what our mission is there. The peace with which we have been sent forth is no different than that of the apostles; the external circumstances alone may differ, while the internal realities remain the same - and these former things can change all too easily.

The Catholics in China receive the same Eucharist and the same peace as those in the West; then, they steal forth via back-alleys or even underground passages to their homes, aware that the Body and Blood of Christ lately consumed during their clandestine Mass might bring them to prison or worse at the hands of a tyrannical government. In contrast, Catholics in Europe and America might leave Sunday Mass and pass rather comfortably the remaining week, working at posh jobs each day and returning to luxurious homes with in-ground swimming pools; yet these may be steeped in sin and in truth possess but little of the true peace offered by Christ.

This was the peace with which Saint Peter and Saint Paul greeted the recipients of their letters. These authors knew very well that they were headed for the gibbet, and that their acquaintances might follow them there before long. Faithful men and women throughout the entire era of catacomb Christianity and the Roman persecutions never ceased offering one another similar sentiments of peace, living lives torn apart by oppression and threat of torture and death. The peace offered by Christ once crucified confounded many in the early Church, as Saint Paul observed, and it remains a paradoxical mystery to this day. It is a transforming peace, an interior peace, that can often be found more readily in a soldier's heart as he eats cold rations on a battlefield than in the soul of a rich businessman lounging in comfortable chambers choking down expensive food and bad wine which he only pretends to be tasty because it ought to be at the price he paid. It is a peace rarely to be found as an aspect of what we so follishly refer to as "the good life." Truly good lives - truly peaceful lives - are the lives of people like Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein, not Paris Hilton and Kobe Bryant.

It's worth pausing the moment it takes to gather breath before we give God our thanks at the end of next Sunday's Mass, to reflect on what it means to "go in the peace of Christ," "to love and serve the Lord." When offering one another "a sign of Christ's peace", it may be well for us to glimpse peripherally the crucifix and the true sacrifice lately made present at the altar around which we gather. Our handshakes have a deeper meaning - they are the offer of a profound and terrible gift, one which we often recieve all too lightly and too seldom give in earnest to our neighbors. I pray that I learn to appreciate this gift and be more willing to share it with others. I pray that we all may understand more deeply what it means to recieve Christ's gift, and how long it may be and how much we may endure before we can truly rest in that peace.

Deo gratias.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Happy Spider

I'm supposed to be studying for exams, but I had to provide a link to a very funny blog entry by Jimmy akin on the evils of advertising. Head on over and check it out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Next Best Thing?

In pretty recent news, the movie trailer for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe has been made available online. Apparently, the trailer will air before the premier of the new Star Wars movie next week when that comes out. I'm pretty excited about this...


Ok, well, since you asked: here's what I mean.

What's a lover of letters to do?

After I calmed down from the adrenaline rush that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I took some personal time to go back and reread The Silmarillion. I had forgotten what an incredible experience it was to actually read Tolkien. The richness of the language, the beautiful imagery, the way he weaves storylines together. It's incomparable.

So, in short, I'm being that guy. I'm rehashing the old books vs. movie debate. This horse is dead, and really doesn't deserve to get beat again, but I have such a strong sense of ambivalence toward this new film that I have nowhere to go with it but my trusty old blog.

Proponents of the idea of adapting movies frombooks say that it brings new audiences to the authors' works, and introduces new generations to masterworks of fiction past in an exciting way that will gain them readership. I say bullocks. Most of my friends who have seen the LOTR trilogy would rather eat rat poison than read the books, and yet they rave about the cool CG fight scenes to no end. Even the more sensitive folk that I meet, who picked up on the Catholic symbolism in the plot of the movies aren't interested to see the fuller development of theology present in Tolkien's writings.

C.S. Lewis is a brilliant prose stylist. I'd put him up there in the top ten of the best writers of the 20th century, far ahead of Tolkien in terms of skills for the craft. His works drip with a brilliance of irony, humor, insight, and linguistic beauty that film could never capture. So how should I feel about this new movie? I'm really torn. The trailer looks awesome, and it will be neat to see Narnia brought to life on screen (in a realistic way, as opposed to the cheesy attempt from the BBC a few years ago.)

I hope to maybe spark discussion or at least consideration with this post, because it really does fill me with a swarm of conflicting emotions. In short, I'm not at all going to protest the movie. I'll go see it. And I'll be irritated the first time I see a new printing of the books with an ugly "now a major motion picture" sticker plastered over the author's name. And I'll look at the drooling children thrilled to see the mythical creatures come alive on screen who'll probably never make it past Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and be jaded towards the idea of "leisure reading" long before high school, and I'll sigh...

That's what I'll do.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Things That Interest Me...


That is, new words which somehow become accepted parts of a culture's vocabulary. I was browsing the internet this morning, and found an interesting article online about Homer Simpson's catch-phrase, "D'oh!".

Apparently, the phrase has actually been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Anyway... it interested me, so there it is.

Hopefully, when exams are over, my output will increase. In the meantime, feel free to offer some supplications to John Vianney on my behalf.