Because These Words Paul Wrote Are Worthy of Shakespeare

Especially compared to the “weak tea” of the speech heard ’round the world yesterday.

Of course, this passage from his second letter to the Corinthians isn’t just some dramatic idea that the Apostle Paul dreamed up. They are after all an account of his personal experience witnessing for Christ.

But they are more than that too. They are the words of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Long time readers know of my favorite speech from Shakespeare’s play Henry V. I love how Kenneth Branagh delivers the St. Crispins Day speech so realistically. Just the other day in a post about friendship, I shared a video scene between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they imagine dialogue from a costume drama set in the hills of Northern England.

I’ve probably watched that scene two dozen times now. I’ve been driving my kids crazy with it too as I improvise more things to say after the rousing “Gentlemen to bed!” introduction.

So with the flair for the dramatic still reverberating through my brain, I turned to the Daily Readings and came upon what follows. Interestingly, I had shared them with you before just a fortnight ago. But as I read them today, I hear a classically trained actor delivering them with verve and dripping with pathos. Maybe it’s just the newly revised edition of the New American Bible.

Reading 1
2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

Richard Burton

Brothers and sisters:
Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
To my shame I say that we were too weak!

But what anyone dares to boast of
(I am speaking in foolishness)
I also dare.
Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they children of Israel? So am I.
Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ?
(I am talking like an insane person).
I am still more, with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, far worse beatings,
and numerous brushes with death.

Five times at the hands of the Jews
I received forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked,
I passed a night and a day on the deep;
on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers,
dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race,
dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;
in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights,
through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings,
through cold and exposure.

And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me
of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

And the saga continues on into the next day.

Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.

About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.

Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

How can the scriptures not come to life when such inspired words as these are read as if they were spoken directly to a blood brother? Read the Bible!

To Run Against the Wind -UPDATED

What do you seek? I mean once you come to grips with your mortality. Especially when your best laid plans fall apart in an instant via illness, an accident, or perhaps a death in the family. There you were sailing along majestically, deluded by your own good fortune to the point that you actually thought you were controlling your destiny.

Perhaps you felt you had figured out the game of life. You believed you could will your way to an earthly heaven. Yes, you are a winner, and winners never quit. And then everything you had mapped out for yourself slipped away from you.

Your dreams slipped past you like a stranger in a crowd. Or just when thought you knew what would make you happy, and when your idea of what you would spend your life doing was coming to fruition, it became unobtainable through no fault of your own, either for the reasons outlined above or because the economy takes a dive.

The gifts given to you are not yours, see, but they are on loan to you. Besides that, your gifts span various disciplines, while the world forces you to specialize in one discipline to the exclusion of the others. Surely you’ve noticed that. The jack-of-all-trades is lampooned as a “master of none.” “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” And so it goes.

Suppose, for example, that the occupation you think will bring you the most personal satisfaction becomes impossible for you to do. Or perhaps there is no market for that pursuit which brings you the most personal fulfillment or happiness. Or it’s likely that many share the same calling you love, but the competition is so cut-throat that only a few actually succeed. Ideas of “follow your bliss” ring hollow then. Folks who are disabled due to an accident encounter this moment of truth in a rude awakening every day.

Or suppose the person you love reneges on their promise to love you back. Often that is how you come face to face with the supposed virtue of selfishness. Which brings me to this scene from the movie Forrest Gump. Remember it? Forrest’s mother has died, the love of his life is gone, so he goes running back and forth across the country. Why?

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There you are running back and forth through this life for no apparent reason. And then it dawns on you that the winds of the world are going every which way. They are blowing you hither and yon. At some point you realize that you need to stop. Time to head home.

Did you here that last song in the clip? That’s from Bob Seger’s eleventh album. It came out a few month’s after Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In a way, it is a song-story exactly like what I’m writing about here, only better. The album went to number one on the charts because it resonants with our experiences in this world. This could be a theme song for YIMCatholic.

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G.K. Chesteron, in his biography of Charles Dickens, weighs in with some thoughts to conclude this post with.

“If we are to save the oppressed, we must have two apparently antagonistic emotions in us at the same time. We must think the oppressed man intensely miserable, and at the same time intensely attractive and important. We must insist with violence upon his degradation; we must insist with the same violence upon his dignity. For if we relax by one inch the one assertion, men will say he does not need saving. And if we relax by one inch the other assertion men will say he is not worth saving. The optimists will say that reform is needless. The pessimists will say that reform is hopeless. We must apply both simultaneously to the same oppressed man; we must say that he is a worm and a god; and we must thus lay ourselves open to the accusation (or the compliment) of transcendentalism.”

And that is about all I have to say about that.

Because the Sexual Abuse Scandal is Like The Ribbon Creek Incident

All of you who have never heard of the Ribbon Creek Incident, say “aye!”

Now, all of you who remember those pesky SAT analogy questions that went like this,

apple is to tree, as fish is to _________. a) Christians; b) water; c) sharks; d) pole

say “aye!”

I hope when reading that expression, you went with “b” as your answer.

Otherwise, I’m going to have to take all of you out as a group to the sand pit behind the squad bay and p.t. the lot of you until you can see yourself in the reflection of your own pool of sweat. Black Flag conditions be damned!

If you haven’t guessed it by now, this post is being brought to you by my alter-ego,  Joe Six-Pack, USMC. Remember the first time he showed up? And as the poor, hapless, civilians that you are, I (he?) probably lost many of you by using the jargon that every Marine knows like a second language. And I’m not gonna give you the scuttlebutt on those terms either. That is what Google is for! Go look up the words you didn’t understand on your own.

So, where in the world is this post going? Well, Archbishop Dolan recently said something very wise regarding the sexual abuse scandals that have occurred aboard His Majesty’s Ship. To paraphrase His Excellency, he says we can never forget.

Never Forget!

So what is the Ribbon Creek Incident and what does it have to do with the Church? The Ribbon Creek Incident took place in 1956 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in lovely Parris Island, South Carolina. P.I., see, is across the Port Royal Sound from it’s polar opposite, Hilton Head Island. The one is where Marines are made, and the other is where tourists forget their cares for a week or so. It’s analogy refresher time.

Hilton Head Island is to Heaven as Parris Island is to ___________ a)Fort Dix, b)Fantasy Island, c) the Emerald Isle, d)Hell.

You guys are getting better at this, but you’re still too slow. Yes, this time “d” is the correct answer.

On April 8, 1956 at approximately 20:00 (that’s 8:00 PM) a Drill Instructor named Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon took his platoon of recruits on a little punitive march into the wetlands around Ribbon Creek. Six of his recruits didn’t make it out because they drowned. And that is when the Marine Corps started aggressively fixing the problem of overzealous Drill Instructors destroying the raw material for the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

Would the Mothers of America continue to allow their boys to become Marines if sadistic D.I’s killed them in the process before they had even earned the title? That is highly unlikely. Just a few short years before this incident, the First Marine Division destroyed 8 Chinese Red Army divisions during it’s fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir to the coast at Hungnam. And don’t forget the successful, though brutal, island hopping campaign in the Pacific during the recently concluded World War. Would you believe this storied history was sullied by the disaster at Ribbon Creek? The tabloids were having a field day, as were the mainline newspapers.

In reaction to the incident, did the leadership of the Corps cover it up? Not no, but hell no! Because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that recruitment would be harmed by more incidents like this. And thus, national security would be put at risk.

Another institutional perspective that caused the leadership to act swiftly to correct abuse of recruits in training was the ever threatening prospect of the dissolution of the Marine Corps altogether. Lot’s of bright, well meaning folks continued to point out how redundant it was to even have a Marine Corps. These whiz kids could always break out ideas, and the budget numbers to support them, for folding the Corps into the Army, Navy, and that new-fangled branch called the Air Force.

Do you think I’m kidding? Check out this quote from an Amazon review of John C. Steven’s book Court-Marshal at Parris Island:The Ribbon Creek Incident,

An extremely informative & detailed read! Stevens iterates a tragic event in Marine Corps history with a direct, thought provoking style. As the current Commanding Officer of the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island, I am encouraging my officers & drill instructors to read this book in order to better understand how close we, the Marine Corps, as an organization, came to being disestablished because of the actions of just one man.

Another book of interest on the same subject matter is Keith Fleming’s, “The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis: Ribbon Creek & Recruit Training.” That is another important book in helping to understand how the recruit training process has evolved.

So being entrepreneurial, and forward looking, and bent on survival, you see, the Marine Corps changed. You can read all about it in the two books mentioned above by the Colonel, as well as briefly over at Wikipedia. But suffice it to say, for the purposes of the simple analogy I have proposed here, that the Marine Corps decided to fix the problem ASAP. The Corps moved swiftly to address this issue. Now true, the actions taken would never bring these dead recruits back to life, and never restore them to their families. However, the Corps takes care of her own, and changes were made at every level to insure that these six young men did not die in vain.

Now, swiftly is a relative term. It took years, nay, decades for Headquarters Marine Corps to effect institutional changes to successfully prevent on-going abuse of recruits. Ribbon Creek was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the immediate actions the Marine Corps took only began the long, slow, crawl away from the abyss of institutional extinction. I was at Parris Island in 1981, and by that time many training changes had been put in place. Ribbon Creek happened 25 years before I arrived on the Island, and yet the institution continued to tune and fine tune the process of how Marines are made for another 20 years after I graduated. I would argue that the transformation in recruit training from the time of the incident in 1956, and the amount of time that elapsed until its gruesome effects on the reputation of the Marine Corps subsided, is about 40 years.

So by no stretch of the imagination am I saying that the Church is in the 9th inning of the game here. If anything, She is in the second inning, and for all we know, she may be playing a double-header. But I can tell you this assuredly. The Marine Corps never forgot Ribbon Creek, just as surely as she never forgot Belleau Wood, Tarawa, or Iwo Jima. Nowadays, training recruits isn’t done by the seat of the pants, but it is done as 1/4 art and 3/4 science. To even become a Drill Instructor nowadays is one of the hardest schools to successfully complete as an enlisted Marine. The future of the Corps depends on high quality recruits being successfully transformed into high quality Marines, by impeccably qualified Drill Instructors and Officers. Mistakes still occur, but the organization is intent on discovery of personnel problems. Transparency is the rule.

And that’s it folks. Joe Six-Pack, USMC’s analogy is complete.

The Ribbon Creek Incident is to the Marine Corps, as the Sexual Abuse Crisis is to the Roman Catholic Church.

It isn’t pretty, and it won’t be quick, but the change that has to come about to identify the causes of the sexual abuse crisis, identify the parties involved in propagating it, rooting out and turning over to authorities those who engaged in this criminal behavior, has arrived.

With leaders like Archbishop Dolan, and Pope Benedict XVI at the helm, I have confidence that the changes and procedures needed to root out abusive priests, and keep them out going forward, are being developed and will be implemented, and they will continue to evolve. Like the Marine Corps and Ribbon Creek, the Church must never forget is right! And might I remind you that this means us lay Catholics especially. We must be ever vigilant going forward, much like the passengers on Flight 93 were back in 2001. It took everyone in the Marine Corps, from the Commandant to the lowliest Privates, and every rank in between, to change the culture of the Corps after Ribbon Creek. Similarly, this participation at every level will be required by Mother Church if indeed She is to avoid the lee-shore of scandal that she found herself heading towards. “All Hands, Prepare to Wear Ship!” is the command, and incidentally, you are one of the hands, savvy?

And if the leadership needs an example for best practices in this department, please feel free to forward this post to Headquarters, er, I mean the Vatican. You might even recommend Dr. Zimbardo’s book too.

Semper Fidelis

UPDATE: I just saw, An Archbishop Burns While Rome Fiddles. Regarding that article, some clarity (and footnotes)from Elizabeth Scalia.

For the Seed Planted by a Chinese Confucian Diplomat

The Holy Father has asked us to pray for the Church in China today. News reports are saying that security is tight in Sheshan. Of course, we must not forget that Mainland China is still under the control of a form of government that is not altogether friendly to the Church. Militant xenophobia has run through China long before she fell to the Communists. [Read more…]

“Post-Rapture Scare” Music (Caritas in Veritate Edition)

Like a champion athelete that should retire when they are on top, I probably should have quit when I was ahead when it comes to the most recent Rapture scare. But the thing is, this isn’t the first prediction of the end of the world and it won’t be the last.

The Bible may not guarantee it, but I will. And we get to do this all over again in 2012 too? Sheesh! But wait a second; the Bible does guarantee something: there is no knowing when the end will come, so stop with the guessing already.

Not only does Christ the LORD state this clearly (see Photoshopped billboard above) once, but He does so repeatedly. Here, here, here, and here. For good measure, the Apostles Peter and Paul do so as well, here and here, respectively. And did I mention Christ said it again here? Practically everywhere throughout the New Testament! Sorry to engage in Shock and Awe scripture tactics but beware the Catholic who reads his Bible regularly.

So, you see, I’m still going to have some fun with this event while hopefully spreading the Truth with Charity (see above links, por favor). Oh, and before we get any further, the Catholic Church (the one founded by the Just Judge Himself) has stated unequivocally that what Christ and the Disciples said about all the end of the world stuff is absolutely and unchangeably true. Catholics believe in the end of the world. It will happen once, and for all. But not on the time-table of any charlatan who thinks he can decipher the mind of God the Father. Even the Son didn’t go there. So that idea is most assuredly laugh-out-loud funny.

So let’s get to some of the music that my friends and I thought of while waiting for this most recent bout of end-times silliness (see you again next year) to pass. First up, the best pop song I can think of that makes light of Apocalypse now!

It’s the End of the World, As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. No set up for this is needed, right? I felt fine, how about you? I didn’t even break out my stash of spare bricks for the post-Rapture looting I invited everyone to attend. Yep, I was that confident that God wouldn’t satisfy the pride of a huckster by showing up on the schedule (say that the British way, for effect) of a mere mortal.

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Rapture, Blondie. A number of my friends posted this one on their Facebook walls. About all that this song has in common with the end of the world is the word “rapture.” Deborah Harry helped bring rap music mainstream with this song. The Mars Attacks! theme sort of reminds me of the zombie apocalypse (see my “Theology of the Zombie” post for details) scenario in a way.

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Dueling Banjo, from the movie Deliverance. See, God is subtle, and as the scriptures (and the Church) clearly teach, the end is unknowable. And your personal end is unknowable too. But something like this happening might be a sign that you should pay attention to. Just sayin’.

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One of Us, Joan Osborne. Several of my friends shared their “If this was the last day on Earth” music as the clock ticked down. This tune made Catholic author Mary DeTurris Poust’s play list. She also wrote a little post about the event you may enjoy as well. Have a look while you listen to Ms. Osbourne.

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Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears. The idea for sharing this song just came over me. Perhaps it’s the name of the band, which fits this event to a “t”, as well as the general idea behind the song. Harold Camping, and his ilk, have a problem with letting the Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, rule the world, see? Yo! Mr. Camping—get your hand off the tiller.

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Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pete Townsend. This song is about politics on one level, and about being duped (with startling regularity) on the other. A huge hit for Pete’s band the Who, he’ll go a little softer with his acoustic version. But not much.

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I Will Always Be True, Third Day. Rounding out this seven song set, the gang from Third Day puts this whole episode into the proper perspective for us. After all, Truth Incarnate said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

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Next week, I’ll get back to the Jesus Goes Mainstream series.

For Stuff Non-Catholics Say About the Church Like This

No, this isn’t  a photograph of Karl Marx. That’s Walter Bagehot, former editor of the Economist and a fellow who could write his fanny off. I stumbled upon what follows while tracking down a quote attributed to Blaise Pascal. I’ve become something of an unbeliever in the attributions for quotes that can so easily be found on the internet these days. I want to see the footnotes, or the original text nowadays.

So I was snooping around the electronic shelves of Google Books and found the quote, “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room,” buried in an article written by Bagehot that was published in an astonishing place.

Would you believe a literary journal of sorts published monthly by the Traveler’s Insurance Company of Hartford Connecticut, Circa 1887? I kid you not.

The piece where Blaise’s quote (from thought #139) was used by Bagehot (how do you pronounce that name!) in a selection entitled Thoughtless Activity, the Curse of Society. Some things never change, do they? The article was taken from a chapter in Bagehot’s book of essays Physics and Politics. And though it was a good article, I was mainly bowled over by the idea that a for-profit insurance company even bothered to publish poetry and essay’s alongside their annual financial and mortality tables. What would Sandy Weill have thought? Fire that guy and hire another actuary! Click on this title line and have a look.

Poking around for more on Bagehot, it seems that he may have been fond of the Catholic Church for a time, early in his career, you know, before more important things took up his time. In his Literary Studies, published several years after his death, his biographer Richard Holt Hutton had this to say about him,

I have no doubt that for seven or eight years of his life the Roman Catholic Church had a great fascination for his imagination, though I do not think that he was ever at all near conversion. He was intimate with all Dr. Newman’s writings. And of these the Oxford sermons, and the poems in the Lyra Apostolica afterwards separately published—partly, I believe, on account of the high estimate of them which Bagehot had himself expressed—were always his special favorites.

Perhaps Bagehot’s brush with Rome was a near-miss, but he certainly wrote favorably of her from France here,

Walter Bagehot on The Catholic Church, from his essay The Coup d’Etat of 1851

I do not know that I can exhibit the way these qualities of the French character operate on their opinions better than by telling you how the Roman Catholic Church deals with them. I have rather attended to it since I came here. It gives sermons almost an interest, their being in French, and to those curious in intellectual matters, it is worth observing. In other times, and even now in out-of-the-way Spain , I suppose it may be true that the Catholic Church has been opposed to inquiry and reasoning. But it is not so now and here.

Loudly from the pens of a hundred writers, from the tongues of a thousand pulpits, in every note of thrilling scorn and exulting derision, she proclaims the contrary. Be she Christ’s workman or Antichrist’s, she knows her work too well.

“Reason, reason, reason!” exclaims she to the philosophers of this world. “Put in practice what you teach if you would have others believe it. Be consistent. Do not prate to us of private judgment, when you are but yourselves repeating what you heard in the nursery, ill-mumbled remnants of a Catholic tradition. No; exemplify what you command; inquire and make search. Seek, and we warn you that ye will never find, yet do as ye will. Shut yourselves up in a room, make your mind a blank, go down (as you speak) into the depth of your consciousness, scrutinize the mental structure, inquire for the elements of belief,— spend years, your best years, in the occupation,—and at length, when your eyes are dim, and your brain hot, and your hands unsteady, then reckon what you have gained.”

“See if you cannot count on your fingers the certainties you have reached; reflect which of them you doubted yesterday, which you may disbelieve tomorrow; or rather, make haste—assume at random some essential credenda,—write down your inevitable postulates, enumerate your necessary axioms, toil on, toil on, spin your spider’s web, adore your own soul, or if ye prefer it, choose some German nostrum; try an intellectual intuition, or the pure reason, or the intelligible ideas, or the mesmeric clairvoyance, and when so, or somehow, you have attained your results, try them on mankind.”

“Don’t go out into the byways and hedges; it is unnecessary. Ring a bell, call in the servants, give them a course of lectures, cite Aristotle, review Descartes, panegyrize Plato, and see if the bonne will understand you. It is you that say Vox populi, vox Dei. You see the people reject you.”

“Or, suppose you succeed,—what you call succeeding. Your books are read; for three weeks or even a season you are the idol of the salons. Your hard words are on the lips of women; then a change comes—a new actress appears at the Theatre Francais or the Opera; her charms eclipse your theories; or a great catastrophe occurs; political liberty, it is said, is annihilated. Il fauti se faire mouchard, is the observation of scoffers. Anyhow you are forgotten. Fifty years may be the gestation of a philosophy, not three its life. Before long, before you go to your grave, your six disciples leave you for some newer master, or to set up for themselves.”

“The poorest priest in the remotest region of the Basses-Alpes has more power over men’s souls than human cultivation. His ill-mouthed Masses move women’s souls—can you? Ye scoff at Jupiter, yet he at least was believed in, you never have been. Idol for idol, the dethroned is better than the unthroned. No, if you would reason, if you would teach, if you would speculate,— come to us.”

“We have our premises ready; years upon years before you were born, intellects whom the best of you delight to magnify, toiled to systematize the creed of ages. Years upon years after you are dead, better heads than yours will find new matter there to define, to divide, to arrange. Consider the hundred volumes of Aquinas. Which of you desire a higher life than that;—to deduce, to subtilize, discriminate, systematize, and decide the highest truth, and to be believed? Yet such was his luck, his enjoyment. He was what you would be. No, no, eredite, credite. Ours is the life of speculation. The cloister is the home for the student. Philosophy is stationary, Catholicism progressive. You call. We are heard,”etc.

So speaks each preacher, according to his ability. And when the dust and noise of present controversies have passed away, and, in the interior of the night, some grave historian writes out the tale of half-forgotten times, let him not forget to observe that, profoundly as the mediaeval Church subdued the superstitious cravings of a painful and barbarous age, in after-years she dealt more discerningly still with the feverish excitement, the feeble vanities, and the dogmatic impatience of an overintellectual generation.

You’ll find Bagehot’s report from France on the electronic stacks of the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

To Introduce Blaise Pascal to Stephen Hawking? Why Not!

Photograph courtesy of NASA.

Photograph courtesy of NASA.

All over the news we read (and hear) that Stephen Hawking says Heaven is “a fairy tale story for people that are afraid of the dark.” The darkness of death that is. By the way, this isn’t some new stance of his, in case you missed the interview he did with Charlie Rose back in 2008.

It’s ironic that in that clip he mentions there not being much room for miracles because the first time I mentioned Hawking in a post, it was the one I wrote about St. Joseph of Cupertino. I reckon he figures all the miracles documented by the Church are just fairy stories though. No matter.

You see, I have a soft spot in my heart for Stephen Hawking. [Read more…]

For Abusive Ad Hominem Attacks…Not!

I’ve mentioned in passing that for my day job, I work in an archive. What Fr. Barron relates below about the documents, and hard to read handwriting, etc., reflects a wonderful experience that I have daily at my workplace. Sharing documents with folks as they do family and historical research is an intangible benefit of working in an archive as well.

Did I mention that I also get heaping helpings of silence and solitude at work too? It is a long way from the noise I endured on the flight line and the gun line when I was a Marine. And it’s a long way from the controlled chaos of a trucking fleet’s dispatchers office when I was a logistics manager too.

But none of that is the reason why I am sharing this video of Father Barron’s that I saw posted over at Aggie Catholic (thanks Marcel!). The most important part of the video that helps explain Why I Am Catholic kicks in towards the end of the clip below.

I mentioned in a post recently that I have become increasingly fond of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Full credit for pointing me in this direction goes to Jacques Maritian’s The Peasant of the Garonne, which I picked up in a used book sale recently.

There is another reason to share this clip now though, and it has to do with some of the comments Allison’s post on the movie Bridesmaids generated, most of which were never published. Why? Because they were exactly the shallow stuff that Fr. Barron describes starting at the 4:00 minute mark below. Have a look,

Ad hominem attacks…emotional responses driven by anger…Aquinas read everybody, heretics, Islamic scholars, Jewish rabbi’s, etc. It’s like I said in the Bridesmaids post commbox (forgive me for quoting myself),

to ignore the secular culture, and turn away from it, and in the process calumniate it, is not what Christ did. To do so would be to ignore the huge field of souls whom Our Lord came to save. To attempt to save them is hard work. Work in which we need to roll our sleeves up in order to do properly.

St. Thomas rolled up his sleeves, for sure. So must we.

P.S. For those of you who are new to our blog, or just stopping by for the first time, you’ll find helpful hints for acceptable commbox etiquette in the righthand sidebar, courtesy of St. Paul.

Jesus Goes Mainstream, Classical Music Edition

Over the last several weeks here on Music for Mondays, I’ve been exploring Jesus in mainstream culture through music. So far I’ve covered pop hits from the 1960’s and 70’s, as well as the 1980’s up through the early 2000’s. Last week I took you back to the times of Spain shortly after the Protestant Reformation.

Yes, I’m zig-zagging all over the timeline. For this week, I’m moving forward a bit starting in 1723 with pieces by Bach, then to the mid 1700’s with Handel (that’s him in the portrait above) and ending in 1825 with something by Franz Schubert.

First up is a selection that I always remember fondly because my wife chose it for our wedding. What, you too? Ain’t it grand?

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach. Performed to a standing ovation of proud parents and admirers, kids from the Joven Orquesta del Club Argentino do Bach’s piece justice here,

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St. John’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1724). Performed by The Chamber Orchestra of Kazan State Conservatoire. You know what is neat about this performance from Russia? It’s so well done, and since the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was last Friday, what better than to hear classical Jesus music from Russia? Thank God folks are able to worship there again! And play music like this too.

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St. Matthew’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1727). Bach also wrote a Passion from the gospel of Matthew. Possibly the gospels of Mark and Luke as well. This selection is performed by the Brandenburg Concerto with tenor Martyn Hill. I love the oboe in this piece, don’t you?

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Behold the Lamb of God, George Frideric Handel. This is performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Handel wrote this in 1741, and revised it in 1754. FYI, Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey and has a feast day on the Episcopal Church calender.

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And the Glory of the Lord, George Frideric Handel. Also from “Messiah,” this time performed by the Bow Valley Chorus, from Alberta, Canada.

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Ave Maria, Franz Schubert This was played at my wedding too (I married a Catholic girl, remember?). From Schubert’s Lady in the Lake, based on poems by Sir Walter Scott, this is the prayer of the character Ellen Douglas, sung to Our Lord’s (and our) Mother. Led by violinist Joshua Bell, this is the Verbier Fesitval Chamber Orchestra, with guest Angelika Kirchschlager as the mezzo soprano. Bravo!

That’s about all the time we have for today. I promise more for next Monday. Ciao!

Musings After Seeing the Movie “Bridesmaids”

My husband invited me on a date tonight – dinner at our favorite diner, followed by a movie. The movie he had in mind was Bridesmaids, a comedy Universal Pictures released on Friday. My husband warned me it’s rated R, because he knew I likely would become uncomfortable with at least some aspect of the movie. And I was.

I also laughed so hard at some of the over-the-top gross-out humor in the movie that I was crying. And some of the events in the movie tugged at my heart. The movie also provoked me to question how best to live in a world that doesn’t always reflect my beliefs.

Bridesmaids is full of profanity as well as sex between unmarried couples. It also offers slapstick humor and a sweet, budding romance between the maid of honor (played by Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig) and a state trooper. I was touched by the appearance of Jill Clayburgh in this movie. She plays the lead’s lonely divorced mother. (Clayburgh died before the film was released.) In short, I’d recommend this movie to my middle-aged friends.

But what troubles me is that this movie is being marketed as appropriate for older teens. The producer is the same guy who produced “Knocked Up,” and “The 40-year-old Virgin,” movies I have assiduously avoided. One review says: “Older teens, especially girls, may be drawn to the film’s R-rated antics and female-heavy cast.”

What is the world of relationships like in this movie? In Bridesmaids, every male-female relationship we see forming begins with sex, and then ends with the possibility of love or romance. Sex is in no way sacred here. The married women are miserable. Except for the bride-to-be, played by Maya Rudolph, the single ladies are unhappy, too.

Ultimately, the movie tells us a hook-up culture and crass materialism won’t make us happy. The good guy in the movie turns out to be a Wisconsin state trooper with a radar gun. But in order to send this message, we see plenty of gratuitous scenes of icky relationships. If you plan to see this movie, don’t bring the kids along.

Watching Bridesmaids provoked my thinking. It served as  a reminder to me. It made me wonder: how do we live in this broken world? How do we seek the face of Christ in those we encounter?

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman answers this question much better than I can:

Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be you who shines through me upon others…. Make me preach you without preaching – not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do – by my visible resemblance to your saints, and the evident fullness of the love which my heart bears to you.

Update: How come my comment wasn’t published?