Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 5 & 6

Introductory Remarks

You're a bunch of lazy bums. And you know who you are.

I understand, it might be writer's block or something. I recommend listening to Vladimir Horowitz. That's what helps me, anyway...

Next deadline: 2 more chapters (7 & 8) in 10 days.

Discussion Points - Chapters 5 & 6

1) Not much to really say about Chapter Five. Comment freely, as you will. I find the character of Sunday to be particularly interesting.

2) Given the events in Chapter Six, what do you make of Sunday's staring at Syme throughout the conversation on the balcony?

That's really about it from me. These two chapters seemed to have been majorly concerned with moving the plot along. They weren't very "heady" from my perspective, but I'm open to any suggestions from the group. If anyone besides Dave decides to come out of hibernation, that is...

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One-Two Punch

Two interesting posts from Rocco. First, an allusion to Bob Dylan, which I'm pointing out purely for the sake of my discipleship of the fabled folkie. And second... a bit more interesting.

Nota Bene

Please note that I have adjusted my side-bar order. My "previous posts" quicklinks, as they are useful to more readers, are now above the "book club" quicklinks.

English 102 & Liturgy 2006

Finally, as promised, the Domine, non sum dignus.... My previous post (Logic 101 & Liturgy 2006) really is sort of a prerequisite to this one, so if you haven't read it, you might want to check it out before continuing.

Imprimis: Much has been said, elsewhere on the web, about the Bishops' removal of "my soul" from the second portion of this invocation. I will not address that issue here, as all the bases seem to have been covered in what I have read, and I frankly don't see it as that big of an issue.

Now, down to business.

First, let's reproduce and break down - word for word - the original Latin phrase, as that will be beneficial. Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum... Which translates, word for word: Domine (Lord), non sum (not I am) dignus (worthy/fit) ut (that) intres (You might enter) sub tectum meum (under the roof of-me/my)...

Now, ICEL has rendered this phrase pretty well: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." And, thankfully, the Bishops have carried this translation into their "White Book." (Huzzah!) But Amy, from Florida, doesn't get it. She's hurt, troubled, even losing her faith. See, she doesn't have a roof...

Please understand, I am sympathetic to the poor woman and her lack of understanding. She has somehow (I can't quite understand how) grown very emotionally attached to this phrase. And I do commisserate with her. But with the 1970s translator-terrorists who put her in this position, I do not.

This moment in the liturgy has always been one of my pet-peeves according to the 1970s translation. When I first read that the line was supposed to be a quote from the Centurian in Scripture, I looked up the encounter. Knowing nothing about Latin at the time, I saw there was a difference between the Centurian's phrase "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof..." and the phrase we spoke in the Mass: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You..." And the difference struck me quite profoundly. You could say that I felt the difference - as deeply, or more so, than Amy from Florida felt the meaning of the words she's been saying for the past 16 years of her life.

Having already, in a previous post, made it clear that I believe the Missal authors deliberately quoted Scripture here and that it falls outside of ICEL's competency to change that intention, I'd like to take a deeper look at the actual words of the phrase - in Latin, in the old translation, and in the new one. We can even pretend, hypothetically, that the phrase is not a quotation at all - that it was simply written by the authors of the Missal and that they invented the symbol of a "roof." My case will be the same: there is a deep, fundamentally different position being adopted by those who pray the Latin words and by those who pray the 1974 English abomination. And this difference can be shown through a study of the English structure of the sentence just as easily for those who don't know any Latin.

Let me get right down into my practical argument, so it might be easier to follow me.

When we pray this phrase, we are just about to "receive" the Lord in holy Communion. This is a profound mystery, that we are able to consume the Lord, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This line of prayer should be, for all of us, a profound moment of contemplation and internal preparation for the Sacrament. Its words are thus very important, and say alot about what our disposition should be. Yet, there is a dichotomy between the original Latin and the currently-used English translation: they imply a different disposition. At least, to my mind, they do.

Take a look at the Latin phrase above, as I have broken it down. The word which I will be focusing on here will be the verb - intres. It is the most important word in the sentence, as it is in any sentence. A sentence requires a verb. Even if it is understood the verb must be there. The single-word sentence "no" really represents a verbal action of "being unwilling;" "Yes" means "I assent;" and when you answer a question with a noun or pronoun, there's always an "is," "am," or "are" understood. Verbs are the action. They are what really make our language. They are the realest parts of our expression because they, in a sense, have being. Anyway, this is besides the point. Just know that the verb here is important, too.

In Latin, verbs conjugate. They take on a different form in a sentence which indicates voice, number, person, and mood. The form intres comes from the verb intrare which means "to enter." Here, it is conjugated to the active voice singular second person, expressed in the subjunctive mood: "you may enter," understood not permissively, but tentatively or potentially. Now, the phrase "you may enter" or "you might enter" is a literal translation of this verb; hence, it is well translated by the 2006 ICEL version: "... that You should enter..." where the "that/should" combination sets up the same subjunctive mood as the word "might" would do out of context.

On the other hand, the 1974 ICEL version not only changes the verb itself - the action used - but it changes nearly everything else about the verb too. Let's take a look: "... to receive you..." The ICEL people place an infinitive into the sentence to relate back to the acting verb: "Am." But "I am... to receive you" by no means translates intres, roof or no roof. Rather, it is an expression of passive voice singular first person in the indicative mood. What on the surface appears to be a small manipulation to get rid of the "roof" has in fact changed the entire thrust and focus of the sentence. It now centers on the first person, rather than the second person (or, if you will, the Second Person.) What was a matter of Christ's volition in "entering under our rooves" has become a matter focused on me, on what I am doing.

So, scripture aside, we can see that there is something fundamentally different being expressed here. And, personally, I think that the difference is important. Our act of "receiving" is a response to an action which Christ has first undertaken. There can be no receiving unless He first comes to us. This moment of prayer provides us an opportunity to recognize our unworthiness, yes, but also to reflect on the free gift of God's only Son - on Him coming to us, freely, of His own action, both in the Incarnation and through the Paschal Mystery.

Now, people might take issue with my theological leanings on this point - and frankly, I don't care. I can afford to not care because, for whatever reason, Rome has chosen to put these words there, and now the Bishops have accepted an actual translation of those words. I'm merely pointing out that there are several ways in which translation can "differ" from an original, and who are we to say on which level the original was meant to communicate? Should we take the risk? Here, in this moment, Rome has willed to put into our minds the words (and the attitude) of the Centurian, humbly recognizing his unworthiness to have Christ come to him. And technically, our old translation has done a lot more than simply change the words of this Centurian - it has changed the entire mood and attitude of the sentence.

People might say that I am reading too much into this. But I don't believe that I am. Words are important, in any language. If I were a storyteller, and I wrote that "John threw me the ball," I would be irritated if someone rewrote my story to say "I caught the ball thrown by John." This irritation would not be merely the hatred of passive voice which gradeschool English teachers plant in their students (this tactic annoys me actually, as the passive voice is a valuable tool in writing.) My irritation would be deeper than that. Because "I caught the ball" and "John threw the ball" really do express different shades of reality, even if they reference the same situation objectively. In one expression, John is acting. In another, I am the main actor. And perhaps it's important to the storyteller than the action come from the Second Person.

Bottom line: in English, as it Latin, it matters how we say it, not just what we say. I thank God that, by the grace of the USCCB and the reformed ICEL, we'll be able to say here what the Centurian really said - and say it how we were intended by Rome to say it.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

English 101 & Liturgy 2006

Let's get right down to business, here. For a quick review of the proposed amendments to the Order of the Mass for use in America, please click here.

As I read through these amendments, I must say that I was - by and large - happily relieved. They were not quite as incisive as I thought they might be.

That having been said, something in my old English-teacher-wannabe blood was stirred up by certain changes, and I decided to vent a couple of these to see if I'm crazy in my observations. So, please respond.

1) First, the issue of flowery language. Ours is a beautiful language, despite what many say. This is the language of Chaucer and Spencer, Shakespeare and Marlowe, Donne, Keats, Byron, and Shelley. It is quite capable of communicate truth in a powerful, evocative way.

Now, I'll admit to being a bit of a throwback. I'll occasionally ejaculate a "forsooth" here and there to keep conversation interesting. So, I happen to like the usage of "prithee" and "pray" in place of the overused "if you please." So, my only complaint with the change from "May I have your blessing, Father," from "Pray, Father, your blessing" is that it sounds more common, and I like my liturgy - and my language - a little on the flowery side. But this is one of those cases in which the usage that was cut from the translation is, forsooth, a bit outdated, and I'm willing to admit that. But in the context of the other acoutrements of Mass, like incense and Gregorian Chant (because those are used everywhere in the US, aren't they?) does "Pray, Father" really seem all that out of place? But I digress...

2) I'm a little more convicted about my second complaint with the adapted translation. In the first Eucharistic prayer, the ICEL phrase Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ has been adapted to say "Mother of God and our Lord, Jesus Christ." The translation currently in use (1974) renders the phrase "Mother of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God." Now, I have to say, I like the 1974 version better here, although I could tolerate the new ICEL translation. I do not understand the alteration made by the USCCB. The reason for ICEL's re-rendering of the phrase seems to be that they wanted to remain closer to the original Latin word order: Genetricis euidem Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi. The USCCB adaptation, rather than resorting to the earlier ICEL translation, seems to want to remain closer to the Latin word order as well. What I don't understand is why the Bishops made any change at all.

The problem is that saying "our God and Lord Jesus Christ" as opposed to "God and our Lord Jesus Christ" applies the modifier across the copula. That is, God and Lord Jesus Christ are obviously One and the Same, ours. This is also captured by the 1974 version, "Jesus Christ, our Lord and God." However, the new Bishop's version leaves a little wiggle room by limiting the modifier "our" to the "Lord Jesus Christ." Thus, one could more easily be confused by the wording to think that Mary is Mother of God (one entity) AND our Lord Jesus Christ (another entity.)

Now, I know what your thinking: this is splitting hairs. Obviously, we profess faith that Jesus Christ is God. It is explicity stated in several other parts of the Mass. No one is in danger of drawing this inference. And of course, I'm not accusing the Bishops of deliberately changing this phrase to theologically alter its meaning. What I'm saying is that a needless alteration of the English word-order affects the phrase in such a way as to leave room for doubt, theologically. Why take the chance? What is the reason? To my ear and eye, the ICEL translation has just as workable a cadence and proclaimability as does the adapted form. Strictly speaking, the USCCB has captured the Latin word order more closely than ICEL - but they took liberty upon the word order in several other places where ICEL was closer, so I doubt that this was their justification for the change. So, again, I might be splitting hairs and talking about something which is 1/1,000,000th of a real chance. But even that little chance seems unnecessary when it could so easily be avoided. From the standpoint of the English language, and comparing the phrase to the original Latin, I can hypothesize no reason for having altered the ICEL version... anybody have any ideas?

3) My next complaint is with the very next alteration made by the Bishops, and is, coincidentally, a little more severe of a complaint. Again, it's something of splitting hairs, but like the previous case I can see no reason for why the change has been made. ICEL's phrase counted among the flock of those you have chosen has been made to say "counted among the flock you have chosen." But these English phrase really say two rather different thing. Now, here again, maybe Liturgiam Authenticam or some other source is a justification for trying to render the theological "spirit" of a phrase, or whatever, but I'm trying to play a non-theological, English-enthusiast role in this criticism, and I merely want to point out the rather significant difference in these renderings. The first speaks of individuals having been chosen to be members of a flock. It implies that each sheep has been selected individually. The latter phrase, on the other hand, generalizes by cutting the specifying genitive phrase out of the sentence. In this second version, the Bishop's adaptation, a "flock" has been chosen. The individual sheep might never have been looked at in this choice.

Now, as with our last example, in this case we seem to have broken even with the 1974 version. The Latin phrase "in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari" was, then, translated "count us among those you have chosen." They missed the grege. Well, now we have the grege back, but have missed the electorum, the "those." I don't mean to say, again, that the Bishops have tried to take a theological swipe at our "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" by this removal. But I do wonder why the removal, since it takes out a turn of phrase that could easily be used to catechize on that point which was so highlighted in the Council. We are individually chosen and called to be Christ's sheep. The Latin says so. The new ICEL translation says so. The adaptation, really, does not. Any thoughts?

4) Now my English hat is really on. Why, pray, has ICEL's "...dwelling in unapproachable light; yet you, the one good and the source of life..." been changed to say "...dwelling in unapproachable light. Yet you, the one good and the source of life...?" That's a rhetorical question, by the way; you don't have to answer it. I'll answer it. Call this just another chapter in a long and sad story called The Death of the Semicolon by Americo Mediocrito. I love semicolons; I love using semicolons; if semicolons were people, I would hang out with semicolons.

Why? Because semicolons are interesting. Who would you rather go to the bar with - a period, a comma, a semicolon? A period would be boring and just sit there in silence; a comma would speak in fits and starts, yawning frequently; but a semicolon would just ramble on and on until you had to beg him to shut up. At least he'd be interesting.

I have no real complaint with this phrase as it will be spoken in the Mass; my complaint is with the reason for its having been rewritten. Supposedly, the period in place of the semicolon "was adopted, in order to shorten the opening sentence for the purposes of easier proclaimability." Well, hell, I don't know how. A semicolon does break a "sentence," in the sense that is separates one complete thought from another; but it does not do so with the divorcing abruptness of a period. I'd like to know how the Bishops were intending upon proclaiming this sentence differently, had the semicolon been left in place, because it seems that they don't understand what that poor little punctuation mark does. I shudder to think of celebrants doing a confused pirouette in midsentence. Perhaps the change was better, all things considered. I just hope that I won't get rammed in my car by someone from the BCL speeding through a "yield" sign on a highway ramp...

That is all of my chagrin with the current translation. I know I promised you a word about the "Domine, non sum dignus..." and I will not reneg on my promise. However, my say on that will not be a complaint against the action of the BCL, but rather a defense, a-la Father Z's post, against the old version of this phrase, from a standpoint of English. It will hope to show why the "roof" is a necessary piece of this phrase, in English, if it is to have the full meaning of the original and a speakable, workable structure as a sentence. As such, I will put this in a separate post. Stay tuned!


Logic 101 & Liturgy 2006

This post is really an afterthought. While reading Gerald's expose on the amendments made to the MR by the USCCB, I decided that I wanted to address a few issues from the perspective of a passionate English student. One of these issues involves the "Domine, non sum dignus..." (O Lord, I am not worthy). However, I then found Father Z.'s post on that same phrase, answering an objection from a laywoman in Florida, and I realized that I might use a separate post to anticipate objections that will be raised in my treatment above. (NB: I see that, since then, Father has treated the issue in more detail. Maybe my own treatment here will be redundant, as I have not read his subsequent posts.)

Having said all that, let me try to set this up. In my later post, I am going to hypothetically consider removing the phrase "under my roof" from the proposed translation, and show, from an English student's perspective, why any way of translating the Latin with this removed would be unworkable, impractical, and substantively changed in meaning when rendered in English. This hypothetical treatment is an "extra step," beyond the argument that Father Z. makes, which is really the only argument necessary. In other words, my hypothetical treatment is illustrative of a different point, trying to prove a separate matter of principal. It should be inferred that I think there is any sort of flaw to the way that Father Z. treats the issue. But, that having been said, I'd like to anticipate an objection that some might raise to Father Z.'s argument. I suspect that a (false) accusation of hypocrisy might be made. And it is this accusation that I will take up now.

Let's move into the substance of the post, now.

The woman in Florida objects that she doesn't know what "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" means. Father Z. answers her rather well. In doing so, he explains the meaning of the phrase by appealing to the Scriptural source from which it comes. (I should note that I have made no attempt to analyze any Greek sources from which the English/Latin translations take this phrase - I hope, anyway, to show that such analysis would be superfluous to necessity, anyway.)

Now, certain people familiar with the backstory of the ICEL translation and its debate in the BCL might raise an objection to this appeal which Father Z. makes. In order to understand their objection, a brief review of the backstory is in order. It involves a similar argument being used by Bishop Trautman, the chair of the BCL. If you all remember, Bishop Trautman took issue with the phrase "precious chalice" in the Latin text of the Missale Romanum. His argument was that this was an imposition upon the Scriptural source. In three Gospels, we have Jesus taking a "cup" - not a precious chalice. So, why render the phrase praeclarum calicem in the Missal?

Now, on the surface, these appeals to Scripture might seem the same thing to some people. Why, then, does the translation going to Rome reject the Scriptural "cup" but maintain the "under my roof"? How can Father Z. and others use the same argument which they rejected from Bishop Trautman months ago? Isn't this cafeteria translationism?

Well, the answer is no. And the reason is that it's not the same argument. Let's analyze the two to show why.

The syllogism which our objectors might set up in order to illustrate their accusation for hypocrisy would look something like this:

1) Bishop Trautman's appeal to Scripture has been taken by conservatives to be an invalid in relation to wording used in the Roman Missal.
2) Father Z. argument is an appeal to Scripture.
3) Hence, Father Z.'s argument is, by conservative assessment, an invalid argument in relation to the wording used in the Roman Missal.

The so-called "middle term" in this argument is the vaguely rendered "appeal to Scripture." But the apparent similarity of the two arguments is misleading, and I will show why the above syllogism, valid though it may be, rests upon inferences that have been made imprecisely.

"Appealing to scripture" is not, in all cases, the same thing. The appeal takes on a specific nature. In Bishop Trautman's case, the appeal is argumentative. In Father Z's, it is explanatory. Bishop Trautman wants to make a case for the 1970 ICEL "correcting" the words of the Roman Missal. He challenges, in his argument, the authority of the Missal's authors to quote and paraphrase Scripture at their own discretion, placing that authority in the hands of the translating body of ICEL. Father Z., on the other hand, upholds Rome's authority to quote and paraphrase Scripture as She sees fit, and simply tries to show the fittingness of one place of quotation.

It matters very much here that Bishop Trautman is arguing against the wording of the Missal and Father Z. is arguing for the wording. Had the word in the Missal been "cup," then Bishop Trautman could easily appeal to Scripture to argue why ICEL may not render the phrase "precious chalice." Why the difference? Because, in the case that the Missal had said "cup," then that would be because the Missal had been intended to say "cup." And, likely, this intention would have been based upon Scripture having first said "cup." But since the Missal did not say "cup," we can infer that the authors did not intend to duplicate the Biblical language. And Rome's intention is only authority to which we can appeal for what goes into the Missal.

So the more precise way of rendering, in a phrase, Father Z's argument, is NOT to say that it is an "appeal to Scripture." But rather, his argument is based upon an appeal to an intentional quotation, by Rome, from the Scriptures.
To boil it down to the basics: the difference in the appeal relates to what the Roman Missal is, and what is the intention of the Missal "authors" in a certain passage. Given this more precise formula of the phrase, the middle term of our syllogism above ceases to exist - there is nothing to relate the major premise to the minor.

To use a little less "logic," and a little more common sense, just listen to it in regular, plain wording:

Father Z. says: "In this place, Rome intends to quote Scripture; and look was Scripture says."

Bishop Trautman said: "In this place, Rome DOES NOT intend to quote Scripture; and look what Scripture says."

Father Z's reference is appropriate and relevant - Bishop Trautman's is not.

And therein lies the difference.

Now, having covered these bases, I'm going to put on my English-teacher-wannabe hat, and approach some issues from a bit of a different perspective.


Why Did I Wait This Long?

... To link to Father Stephanos? He's now over on my blogroll. A great read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Interesting post by Dr. Peters as to why Michael Schiavo might find it hard to get married after murdering his wife.

It is unlikely that the good canonist, nor anyone else, could explain why anyone would want to marry him anyway.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Who Are You?

As I am busy with other projects right now, my output is going to decrease a bit. So I'll be reworking and posting some things that I have written in the past. This is an article recently published in our Diocesan newspaper, the A.D. Times.


"Who are you?" There is no more loaded question in our language. The answer seems simple; but when, in practice, do we answer it so simply? When can we merely provide our name, and let that suffice? Most times, the questioner is seeking some other type of information, and we understand this from the way in which the question is put. Asked with a tone of hostility, "who are you?" might become "what are you doing here?" or "what gives you the authority to say such and such?" More commonly, posed in a jovial way, the question really means "tell me a little about yourself; where are you from; what do you do for a living?" And we answer in accord with what we infer to be the real query, and generally think no more of it. Rarely, if ever, do we stop to unpack the question. But if we think about it for more than a minute, that brief interrogation becomes rather an unsettling one. Unsettling, because we realize that, after all of the various sub-questions have been answered, and the necessary blank spaces filled; after a seemingly suitable description of heritage, place of birth, residency, occupation, and annual income; after giving name, rank, and serial number and any other encyclopedic data which one might expect to find in his or her own obituary; still, the heart of the question seems mysteriously unsolved, in want of a better answer: "Just who, really, am I?"

"Vocational discernment," which sounds like another loaded phrase, is really just about journeying closer to the answer of this life-long question. The yearning to discover more deeply one's own identity is a universal experience. As Christians, we acknowledge that our identity is linked to the Person of Jesus Christ. There can be no understanding of ourselves without consideration of our relation to Him – and the vocation to which He calls us.

Imagine, for a moment, hands and feet that could talk – in all other ways, normal hands and feet, with only the special ability to vocalize. How might they introduce themselves? In all likelihood (although I can't say for sure, having never met a talking hand or foot) they would introduce themselves in relation to the person to whom they belong. A hand would not simply say "I am hand;" nor a foot, "I am foot." Rather, they would say "I am John's hand” or “I am Jane's foot." Because the full reality of their identity – what they are and what they do - would depend upon a relationship with a body. Otherwise, they would be simply severed appendages – without aim or means of action, anonymous and dead. From the body to which they belong, members draw nourishment and the means to operate with full potency. In turn, they cooperate in providing for the needs of the whole. If they would introduce themselves without reference to whatever body gives them the means for the proper existence, they would be foully treacherous indeed, and worthy of being cut off.

My own vocational discernment, thus far, has been mostly my coming to grips with my inability to answer "who I am," without first answering "whose I am." In baptism, my identity was forever bound to Christ and His Church – He claimed me by the sign of His Cross. I am, by far, on the better end of this deal. Yet Christ, infinitely humble, wills to require something of me. This requirement is my participation as a member in His body. This participation is my vocation. He calls me, like He calls each of us, to serve in some way the needs of the whole, to do a specific service in return for the inestimable service from which I have benefited first. I answer this call, primarily, by my fidelity to the Body – by living out the personal call to holiness embodied in everyone’s specific vocation – by avoiding any vagrancy that might bring harm or pain to me or the other members. Beyond that, I have endeavored for three years at the Seminary to discern whether Christ is calling me to serve Him specifically through a life of ministerial priesthood.

Answering Christ's call – both the universal call of fidelity to His Body and the more specific call of a personal vocation – is about discovering one’s own identity. We are not dead, dismembered hands and feet. God has given us the means to identify ourselves by granting us membership in the Body of Christ. And, unlike hands and feet, He has given us the physical power to vocalize this identity.

"Who am I?" We need not trouble over the answer if we properly endeavor to discern our vocation. In so doing, we greet the other members; we trace the bloodlines to the Heart; we acknowledge the glorious Head. And so, the answer begins with a clarification upon the question: It's not who I am, but Whose?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers Know Best

There are a couple of interesting posts over at Father Z.'s regarding the Church Fathers. First, a defense of the "dew" translation, a la Saint Ambrose.

And second, of more nerdy interest, a little bit on why Saint Ambrose didn't seem to hold the admiration of one of the other four, great Latin Doctors, Saint Jerome.

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 3 & 4

Logistical Stuff

We're going to have to pick up the pace a little bit, now, everyone, if we want to get this book done by the end of the summer. I'll be posting the discussion content for chapters five and six by this coming weekend. Try to stay on pace. Let me know if it's running too far ahead via email.

For those interested, our discussion of the last two chapters are available here. I hope those who were silent last time join in on this one.

Also, if it helps while you're making comment, there is a good online text of the work available here. That online library, by the way, has quite a lot of good stuff, including an extensive collection of the Church Fathers (albeit not in the best translations).

Discussion Points - Chapters 3 & 4

1) Chesterton's premise of men honoring an word-of-mouth oath is most challenged in its credibility throughout the third chapter. Do you think he pulls off the conceit?

2) Chapter three, "The Man Who Was Thursday," with the two speeched given by Gregory and by Syme, reads as a very entertaining scene - one which I would love to see acted out. My favorite aspect is that Syme is still a man of honor despite his "betrayal." I loved especially the double entendre behind the following lines:
Syme: "Comrade Gregory accuses me of hypocrisy. He knows as well as I do that I am keeping all my engagements and doing nothing but my duty. I do not mince words.
However, my favorite part of the exchange, and the part I would most like to see acted out, would have the be the very end. I'd like to see the expression on Gregory's face:
Almost in the act of stepping on board, Gabriel Syme turned to the gaping Gregory.

"You have kept your word," he said gently, with his face in shadow. "You are a man of honour, and I thank you. You have kept it even down to a small particular. There was one special thing you promised me at the beginning of the affair, and which you have certainly given me by the end of it."

"What do you mean?" cried the chaotic Gregory. "What did I promise you?"

"A very entertaining evening," said Syme, and he made a military salute with the sword‑stick as the steamboat slid away.
Haha! Brilliant! James Bond has nothing on Gabriel Syme in the way of coolness.

Please comment upon your own favorite moments of this memorable scene.

3) There are some very interesting notions in Chapter four, "The Tale of a Detective." Permit me to reproduce a sizeable passage:
We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater fulness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people’s.
Living in our modern "culture of death," I think this idea, which seems to be Chesterton's spoken through the mouthpiece of the detective, holds merit. We've heard many times that we need to change the culture before simply enacting laws will do any good. Some disagree. Your thoughts?

4) Of course, feel free to comment upon anything else that struck you from this section of the work. But I will suggest one more passage which seems to lend itself to discussion. Consider the third to last paragraph of chapter four. It seems to be Chesterton's theory of good fantasy literature - a theory against, perhaps, the surrealism and absurdism which was burgeoning at the turn of the century. If you happen to know a little bit about Chesterton's thought on "fairy land," and how it may have influenced later writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, please share.

Happy reading, til next time!

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Daring Dew Would Be Derring-Do

Or, so think the US Bishops who voted that the word "dew" would stay out of the lines invoking the Holy Spirit. Rocco has the scoop.

This is one of the many proposed "adaptations" that were made to the newly accepted translation of the Order of the Mass. For those of us who need help with translating complicated terms, like "substance" and, er, "dew," apparently: the term "adaptation" seems to be a variously-connotative one which might mean anything from a meaningful change taking into account the needs of the flock to a useless dumbing-down of liturgical wording.

The adaptation of the word "dew" comes despite a specific reference by the ICEL Chairman, Bishop Roche, during his comments yesterday morning:
It has been objected that this translation ‘does not resonate or communicate with contemporary Christians’. But surely, dew still exists. I noticed an advert on the street yesterday for a drink called Mountain Dew! Dew has a unique set of natural and scriptural associations: it speaks of freshness, new beginning, water (and hence life), beauty, descent from above (and hence divine blessing), and manna (Exodus 16:13-14) (and hence Eucharist). It still appears on the ground in the morning as it did in the time of Moses on the journey through the desert. American people know what dew is - rather better, I suspect, than Europeans, since so many of you get out of bed earlier than we do!
Apparently, his witticisms were lost upon the conference, who nixed the rich reference from the text they'll be sending to Rome.

One wonders, why the deletion? Did the reference interfere with the communication of some doctrine? Would people begin attributing a role of "Divine Sprinkler" to the Third Person of the Trinity?

No, I imagine instead that it has something to do with the general depravation in our culture of meaningful expression. I'm not accusing the Bishops of being culprits in this action, per se; rather, they are put in a tough position by a trend that is perhaps beyond their control.

Consider recent years' publications of Shakespeare in "common language." Pardon me, but I thought Shakespeare was already considered as writing in modern English?

But apparently, there's no good in saying "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks" when you can just as easily get your point accross by saying "Hey, I think Julie's light is on!"

But since when has liturgy been primarily about getting a point accross? Did David spare the Lord the best poetry when writing the psalms for fear that advanced generations might not "get it?" Did Palestrina and Tallis decide that two part harmony might be better, considering you can't hear the words as well when you layer eight voices atop one another?

No, thank God. And as for the extraneousness of the word "dew" - I hope the Holy See has still a soft spot for poetry like I do...


Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Except, apparently, Stephen Hawking. Obeisance to Mark Shea for the link.

I highly doubt that the Pope said "it's OK," let alone the rest. Considering that many rad-trads and fundies anathematize John Paul II for opening the door to evolutionary theories, it's unlikely that any of his remarks, particularly to a group of scientists, would manifest such a draconian fear of inquiring into the beginning of all things.

What I do know the late, great Pope to have said is this:
The Church does not fear the progress of science. She undertakes willingly a dialogue with the created world and applauds the wonderful discoveries that scientists are making in that world. Every true scientist is for her a friend, and no branch of learning is shunned by her.
That having been said, I'm no great fan of Stephen Hawking, and don't mind him walking in fear of the wrath of God. And no, no pun intended. I'm not that insensitive.

A Logical Gaff in the A.P.? Nooo...

Father Z. makes a good, syllogistic defense of lex credendi, lex orandi over at his place. Check it out.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Can Anyone Tell Me...

What is the purpose of parading around with an obnoxious, block-lettered word written across the seat of your pants? Please, tell me...

These are most popular with girls, but i've seen guys sweatpants that do the same thing (a la Abercrombie and Fitch).

I just don't get it...

I mean, I do get it, in a certain respect. I'm celibate, not deceased. But sex-appeal doesn't usually shut the brain off completely for me. Maybe I'm more advanced than many in society in that regard?

And they're always inane words, too. Or insulting, lewd ones. Why take an already inappropriate pair of short-shorts, muscle your way into them (and this must take some doing, for many of the girls who I see wearing them), and then stomp around with the announcement "bitch" upon your derriere? What's that prove? If you're that attention starved, join a softball league and buy a cat.

I'm going to market a pair that says "INCONTINENT" and see if anyone buys them. I bet they will...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

St. Cecilia Answers a Letter

Priceless. And with that, Ironic Catholic makes it onto my blogroll. Not that that's any great honor...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 1 & 2

Preliminary Remarks

For those from Saint Charles:
We are all philosophy majors, and G.K. Chesterton is certainly a great philosophical mind. This work is, in a sense, allegorical. It is a vehicle for some of the philosophical themes that Chesterton developed more completely in his non-fiction works (and there are quite a few of them.) So, while discussion about the plot and storyline is more than welcome, I think it would be even more beneficial to try to unpack some of these deeper themes running underneath the work. I'll do my best to point them out in my posts, and open up the discussion from there.

A note on commenting:
If there are any questions about place-names or clarifications of that sort that you wish to bring up, I invite you to email them to me. I will then post these on the main blog post, where everyone can more easily benefit from them. Reserve the comment box for the discussion of themes, and general impressions about the book as we read.

Discussion Points - Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter One

1) Comment upon Chesterton's writing style, if you like. Having been a fan of his essays and non-fiction work, I was pleasantly surprised by his skill and scene-painting in the opening pages of the work. His description of Soho in London, and his character introduction of Syme and Gregory, was quite well done in my opinion. So far, I'm finding Chesterton to be a better storyteller than I had given him credit for.

2) The first conversation between Gabriel Syme and Lucian Gregory is rather interesting, and does have philosophical overtones. Syme's defense of order is very reminiscent of Chesterton's Orthodoxy. His conversion to Christianity was very much based upon a natural experience of this, one of Thomas's five ways - he found that there was a definite "plan" behind creation. Comment on the conversation between these two. Would you agree more with Lucian - that poetry is good when it is unfettered - or Gabriel - that it is best when it is strictly ordered?

Chapter Two

1) Consider the conversation in the pub. Gregory comments about how anarchy seeks to "Abolish God." There is a bit of complicated history involved here, and an understanding of some of the social circumstances in which Chesterton was living at the time. Anarchy was a popular theme in fiction back then, and was one of the offshoots of Marxist ideologies that were creeping into the Western World. Feel free to comment upon this mentality, and whether you think that Chesterton's fear was a bit of a zany, conspiracy theory. Or perhaps, is the fear as real today as it was back then? Give special consideration to the fact that Gregory's "front," to avoid detection as a real anarchist, is his very radicality.

2) Chesterton's novel hinges upon a premise that we might not be able to "buy" today. That premise is that men honor oaths when they pledge them. This concept is a bit foreign in our day and age. Thus, the way that chapter two ends, and the progression of the novel, might seem a little incredible to us. Wouldn't Gregory simply turn Gabriel over? Or vice versa? Comment upon the fact that Chesterton apparently considered men's honor a plausible premise for constructing his thriller, and how he might have to change his approach if he were writing today.

Any other topics are more than welcome. Let's keep this fluid. Shall we try to have read through Chapter Four by next Wednesday, the 21st?

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Book Club - Attempt #2

Sorry about my tardiness in the posting of this announcement. My fledgling Book Club is working on our second novel right now, G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. The first deadline for the first two chapters of the work is... tomorrow. Like I said, sorry about the short notice. But still, anyone who would like to participate is more than welcome to post comments and engage in whatever online discussion may ensue. I'm hoping that we have a bit more active of a debate than with our last effort.

No particular version of the text is required, although I recommend the annotated one by Martin Gardner, available from Ignatius Press.

Happy reading! Deadlines will not be scheduled ahead of time, but simply updated as we progress.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Veni, Creator Spiritus!

Today, the Solemnity of Pentacost, my niece Catherine Rose Yeisley will be plunged into the holy waters of Baptism, dying with Christ and rising to new life in the Spirit.

It is fitting, on this birthday of the Church, that we commit her to the patronage of Saint Catherine of Sienna, whose tireless cooperation with the Holy Spirit brought about renewal for the whole Church. We pray also that baby Catherine experience the grace and protection of Our Lady of Knock, and of my two grandmothers of happy memory, Catherine and Rose Theresa, whose heroic virtues, more than any other living persons', inspired my vocation.

Prayers for baby Catherine on this great day would be appreciated. And may the Holy Spirit renew the whole Church and rekindle the fire of Divine Love in all hearts where there is prepared for Him a home.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ad multos annos!

Congratulations to Rev. Eric Tolentino, newly ordained priest for the Diocese of Allentown, 3 June 2006.

In honor of the ordination "season," I'm posting one of my favorite poems, which is a bit of a reflection upon the person of the priest. Enjoy!

Without father, without mother, without descent;
having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.

THRICE bless'd are they, who feel their loneliness;
To whom nor voice of friends nor pleasant scene
Brings that on which the sadden'd heart can lean;
Yea, the rich earth, garb'd in her daintiest dress
Of light and joy, doth but the more oppress,
Claiming responsive smiles and rapture high;
Till, sick at heart, beyond the veil they fly,
Seeking His Presence, who alone can bless.
Such, in strange days, the weapons of Heaven's grace;
When, passing o'er the high-born Hebrew line,
He forms the vessel of His vast design;
Fatherless, homeless, reft of age and place,
Sever'd from earth, and careless of its wreck,
Born through long woe His rare Melchizedek.

By: John Henry Cardinal Newman

Truth IS Stranger Than Fiction

Pakistan bans 'Da Vinci Code.' (Click for story)
Quote: "Although the film has not been screened in any theater in mostly-Muslim Pakistan, authorities decided to ban it out of respect for the feelings of the country's minority Christians.... Christians make up about 3 percent of Pakistan's 150 million people."

Good for them!

Friday, June 02, 2006

"I think it'll get through."

So says Cardinal Pell on the new Order of the Mass in the upcoming American vote.

Have I mentioned how much I am a fan of Pell?

Cuz I am...

(With obeisance to Gerald.)


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Administrative Note

Around the blogosphere people give various "tips" of various sorts of hats to other bloggers for links that they steal.

I don't wear hats.

So, to match my pretentious writing style and to use a fun vocabulary word, I will express future gratitude for borrowed links and tips by the phrase "With obeisance to [LINK]." Examples may be seen below. Thank you. Please drive through.

A Genuflection Reflection

UPDATE: The LA Times editorial on this situation is a good summary of the way this makes most sane people feel. (With obeisance to Jimmy Akin.)

Much has been said about the happenings in the Diocese of Orange. The debate raging across the web seems to have left a few stones unturned, however, and that is why I'm throwing in my own two cents.

Most people seem to have taken issue with the pastoral approach (or lack thereof) taken by the administrator of St. Mary's by the Sea. The questions have been of liturgical guidelines, or prudential judgement (on the part of the Bishop), or of canonical obligation (on the part of the faithful to follow the edict to stand after the Agnus Dei). One other point has often come up, but seemed in context to be a red herring. Many outraged by the affair have sought to defend the posture of kneeling itself. But that hasn't been under attack, has it? As I read the comments scattered accross various weblogs, I've wondered: "Aren't they missing the point? There hasn't been an all-out attack on kneeling qua kneeling here. This is a specific issue regarding a particular moment in the Mass, and the decision of one Bishop to impliment an allowable norm in accordance with the GIRM, with that decision's practical and pastoral implications."

So why defend kneeling itself? Isn't that missing the point?

But perhaps it was I who have been missing the point...
Lesa Truxaw, the Orange Diocese director of worship, said Bishop Tod D. Brown banned kneeling because standing "reflects our human dignity. It's not that we think we're equal to God, but we recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God." [SOURCE]
Now, one can hope that this is an example of poor journalism here. But it's irrelevant in the final assessment. Let's take another look at the situation. Bishop Brown has "banned" kneeling (or at least, that is the popular rhetoric in use, and its valence is indicative of the sense in which many people have interpreted his decision). People have refused to stand. They've been told that to do so is "mortal sin." Then they've been told that that was a mistatement. Some have been "offered" the opportunity to leave the Diocese. People have been dismissed from positions of service in the parish.

That's the situation. Now, I think, in light of the situation, that the Diocese owes some sort of explanation to the people. Whether one agrees with the decision of Bishop Brown or not, I think we could all agree that the pastoral thing to do in this situation is to offer the people an explanation of the rationale behind the decision. To the average laymen, who thinks a GIRM is something you wipe away with Lysol, an explanation is in order here. And as of yet, that explanation has been lacking.

So, as it stands, the only information coming out of the Diocese is the above quote (or possibly, misquote). More recently, the Diocese has issued a clarification of the mortal sin issue on its webpage. In this statement, there is a hint of explanation as there is a link established between the Diocese of Orange's liturgical practice and the entire province of USCCB Region XI. This is hardly an explanation, though, and, as Jimmy Akin points out, it might not even be true.

So, let's go with the only legitimate statement coming out of the Diocese representing a pastoral explanation of rationale, and let's try to see why people might be upset. People want to know why they're being asked NOT to kneel after the Agnus Dei. The answer? From a Diocesan official: because "standing 'reflects our human dignity.'"

Now, this downright infuriates me. First of all, this statement has nothing to do with a particular part of the Mass. It is a statement about the posture of kneeling in general. So where are the parameters? When the GIRM leaves an allowance for a Bishop to impliment a pastoral norm in regard to kneeling after the Agnus Dei, it sadly does not give an example of the rationale that would merit such a decision. But I'm pretty damn sure that this doesn't qualify. How, when we kneel at various other points throughout the Mass, does kneeling at this point represent a stooping of our human dignity? Have we come to be more in the "image and likeness of God" through our exchange of the sign of peace? What gives?

Furthermore, my understanding of the way the GIRM operates is that exceptions are granted out of pastoral considerations for cultural differences or practical necessities. If the Church has no room to kneel, for example, then an exception might be in order. Or, if somehow the posture of kneeling is regarded by a particular culture in a different way than the traditional understanding, a way that is at odds with our theological interpretation. Certainly, the Church doesn't want people thinking they're sub-human when they fall on their knees to adore God - not sub-human, just human. And some cultures might legitimately interpret kneeling in a much more pejorative sense. But, can this really be said of the "culture" of the Diocese of Orange? How is it that kneeling means something on the Left Coast that it doesn't mean throughout the rest of the nation? How is it that people are fighting tooth and nail, and writing letters to the Nuncio in order to be allowed to use this posture, if they see it as degrading?

The logic doesn't hold. It is too broad of a statement, and one founded upon a shaky view of a time-honored posture for prayer. (See here, for example.) So, the longer this explanation holds as the only official word on the matter coming out of the Diocese, the less sympathetic I will be to the administration of the Parish and the Diocese in the protests that they encounter. The people's "human dignity" deserves a clearly explained, rational answer on this matter. Now, let's see how long it takes to get one.