Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"I came to cast fire upon this earth."

When we consider the mystery of Christmas presented to us by Holy Mother Church at this time of year, these words of Scripture jump out at me: "I came to cast fire upon this earth, and would that it were already kindled!" These words remind me of two particular things in relation to the coming of the Messiah.
In the words following the rest of this quote from Luke (12:49), Christ tells us that division and difficulty will be effects of His Evangelion, of His "Good News." The Son of God most certainly retains the title "Prince of Peace," but He did not come to give peace to men, but "pax hominibus bonae voluntatis," peace to men of good will. Christ's coming brings peace to men of good will, but not to all men. Hence the subsequent verses from Luke, describing strife and division. Those not properly disposed, who have not made the rough ways of their souls smooth; these will hate and revile true followers of the Newborn Babe. Even within our own being, we will war with ourself, for the rough ways of our fallen nature are not easily subdued and made welcoming to Our Redeemer.
If we can but overcome the struggle within ourselves, and reject the clamor and strife that assails us from without, then suddenly our hearts may be opened up as a fire of charity, burning with a renewed love of the Saviour of mankind. This is why Christ says, "And would that it were already kindled!" He came to encourage us to give us the burning heart that ever strains to be united with Him Who made all things. Ultimately, Christ as the Word of God and Creator of the World has made all things to rest in Himself, the "Burning Furnace of Charity," and this is why He came into the world. May we feel the heat of His everlasting love, and responding, be as sparks igniting this world with the love of the Most Sublime Trinity.

Christus natus est pro nobis! Glorificate Eum!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I am doing now.... (or What am I doing now?)

This week is midterm week. I believe that may be enough to indicate the cause of my hiatus. Christmas break will provide another hiatus, since we have virtually no internet at home, and then I have two weddings directly after Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Another week of teaching has ended. Now begins the wonderful part of the teacher's life known as correcting. As a teacher at a small, private Catholic school, I have to work with over seventy different students. Perhaps the difference in intellects and personalities keeps things interesting, but it also keeps things busy, to say the least. The rewarding part of teaching tends to be the process of "the light going off" in the minds of the students. Seeing them respond to my work, and seeing them grow as a result; this makes any amount of homework grading a more bearable thing. On the other hand, watching some student sit in his place as if he were a cow (some have even less reaction than a cow would), proves infuriating and makes one want to tear hair and abandon the pedagogical profession. Thanks be to God, I am fortunate enough to have students that engage the material, asking many questions ( some better than others). Now, onto a weekend of grading and trying to live a semi-normal life. . .


Saturday, November 29, 2008


I stumbled across this on another blog today (click on the title of this blog to access it). What immediately struck me was how true Chesterton was. But this euphemism does not hold true only to eugenicists, but to mankind in general. I myself "relax" by surfing the internet or watching a movie. What I am really doing is wasting time or procrastinating. Man seeks to excuse his actions by calling them something other than what they are. Ultimately, he ends up dreaming up a reality that fits the new names of his actions, and makes that his reality. Manichaeists, Protestants, existentialists: they all have done this. Let us be true to ourselves, not deceiving ourselves with new names or alternate realities. We only fool ourselves, while denying our nature. As the new liturgical year begins tonight, let us resolve to be honest, with the courage to live the truth, and the greatness of soul to want to live that truth.


Blog personality--for what it's worth

The analysis indicates that the author of http://amatorrerumcatholicarum.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Return from hiatus

It has been over two months since my last post. Several factors have gone into this lapse, none of which were intended. Teaching, which I began in September, has proved a full-time job and more. In addition sickness kept me out of circulation for over a month. Be that as it may, I hope to resume some posting here. I had a conversation with my friend over at thebarrelphilosopher.blogspot.com, and he said I should get back into posting. So, here I am, preparing to write. I still have an unending list of possible posts, so something interesting may come up.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Requiem aeternam dona eis domine.

Today I attended the funeral mass for Mr. Thomas Vander Woude. To tell the truth, although the liturgy was not in any way memorable, the circumstances of the liturgy were truly amazing. Mr. Vander Woude, as many may already know, died while saving his twenty year-old son with Downs Syndrome. Josie Vander Woude had been helping his father with yard-wrok, and fell through the cover of a septic tank. Mr. Vander Woude saw what had happened, and ran over to help his son. He jumped into the septic tank through a two-foot square hole, and manuevered around his son, eventually forcing his head above the contents of the tank. Unfortunately, it took over fifteen minutes for emergency vehicles to arrive. When they arrived, removed both Vander Woude's from the tank, and shipped them to the hospital, Mr. Vander Woude no longer breathed, having drowned while saving his son's life. The action alone was a wonderful act of love and sacrifice. But what stood out most about Mr. Vander Woude's action, was that it was normal to him. His entire life had been a life of self-gift to others. He raised seven sons, one to the priesthood; five others to the married vocation. He worked ceaselessly for his family, his community, and his church. Whenever one bumped into him, he was serving others. He volunteered as coach for the local high-school for years; with his own hands, he laid the floor for the gym. Actions such as these were a way of life for Mr. Vander Woude. Today, at the funeral mass, the fruits of Mr. Vander Woude's life were made clear. Well over one thousand-seven hundred people showed up to honor Mr. Vander Woude. Over seventy priests and the bishop of the diocese also came to honor him. Mr. Vander Woude's own son said the mass and gave the homily. He made clear that sacrifice was the way of life for his father, very much in the manner of St. Joseph, always giving himself, never drawing attention to that gift. He was, by all accounts a true man, one who lived entirely for others. Mr. Vander Woude is survived by seven sons, his wife, twenty-four grandchildren, and countless individuals touched by his quiet life of heroic self-gift. Here, then was a real man, a real Catholic. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The World is Turned Upside Down......

Well, it has been a very long time since I have posted. I hope to get back to doing it more regularly, now that regular employment is recommencing. Upcoming posts will include commentary on Mr. Berlinski's book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, a discussion of a discussion that took place on a plane with a lapsed Catholic, and a few last thoughts on peace and monasticism. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some thoughts about reality II.

The purpose of this post is to transcend the limited view on reality portrayed in the prior post. The following are thoughts from my visit, though not presented in a particular order.

--One of the main things that I noted about the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek was that there existed a curious blend of tradition and technology in the life of the inhabitants. The monks had use of electricity, running water, clocks, tractors, and other equipment. However, they used that equipment; technology served them, and they were not its slave. Thus, though I rode in a tractor driven by a young monk with a huge smile and what would be cheerful insouciance in a layman, the tractor was basically a replacement for a horse and cart. Indeed, were the property not so large, the monks could do much of the management with horses and carts. However, they need tractors to keep up roads, till fields, etc. The property is huge, and they have very limited time in which to wrest food or anything else from the rocky Oklahoma hills. The monks also use a wood-mill in helping them make furniture and in building the monastery. I also witnessed a monk herding a cow with a pick-up truck, and a gang of monks in work habits riding in a back of a truck like a gang of laborers. Other technology, such as electricity is sparingly used. The lights, for example are only lightly used, mostly in the crypt, their only place to chant the hours and say mass. The rest of their life closely resembles that of their medieval predecessors, with regular observance and the dual life of "Ora et labora." Life closely relates to the day, with them rising just before dawn, and retiring soon after sunset. The hours have been moved back and forth slightly from the original times, but not in an unusual way. The day is structured to make the most use of the time, with usually a half hour of recreation a day, consisting of a walk and conversation.
The work part of the Benedictine ideal results in their making most of their furniture, their habits, their shoes; they cook food that is donated or grown on the property, and they make and sell various goods, such as rosaries, prie-dieus. (The habits, by the way, are so much better than those of any other order I have seen. Most orders of religious wear habits that resemble halloween costumes, not religious habits). They rise at 5:15 every morning (earlier on feasts and Sundays) to chant Matins and Lauds, and chant the other hours at scheduled times. All told, their chanting occupies a good four to five hours of the day, not even including daily high mass, which is another hour's worth. The meals are also traditional, perhaps a bit more substantial than in ages past, due to the more extreme climate. Breakfast, after a minimum of an hour and a half of chant (Matins, Lauds and Prime) takes on a new meaning, though it scarcely totals a meal, being perhaps cereal or toast with milk. The guests do get coffee, though, a real need after getting up so early. Lunch and dinner are community-wide occasions, with everyone sitting down. After a reading of Scripture (lunch) and the Rule of St. Benedict (dinner), the community eats, but without conversation. Instead a designated reader reads from instructive and inspirational books. So, I had the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the life of Padre Pio read to me as I ate the excellent and humble fare the monks put before us. They were so efficient that three monks could serve all twenty nine brothers (about half priests, with five or so postulants), two new postulants, and ten guests. In fact, since I am not a frequent diner at high-class restaurants, the service was the best I have had in a very long time.

--As a guest, I had very little to do besides pray and read. I did go to all the meals, and helped in the garden every day save Sunday. Yet all told, that only totalled six hours of labor. The breaking of the day into parts by the chanting of the office resulted in a very easy flow of work, rest, and reading, punctuated by mass, meals, and the hours. I took relatively long walks along the paths the monks had made, or along the roads they used to travel to job sites. They have their own cows, sheep, goats, and garden. Unfortunately, the climate and soil are poor, and food is hard to grow. They may have grapes in a year or two, perhaps wine, if all goes well. A small orchard is in experimental stages with special hybrids. Their milk, however, is delicious, as is their butter and cheese. Anyway, to return to my stay, it was remarkably easy after the first day of adjustment. I could recommend it for anyone, though I am not sure how women would find it, since they cannot live the life of a monk as a guest. The other guests there were of varied backgrounds, and I noticed that one tended to bond quickly. I suppose we all had a good deal in common, since we had all heard of Clear Creek and had visited. I met a TAC graduate and CUA Master of Philosophy who entered as a postulant while I was there. I met an ex-army sergeant, several seminarians, and a graduate of Notre Dame from the bad old days of the seventies. Anyway, the last thing I can think of directly pertaining to the monastery was the wide variety amongst the monks. Some were very practical (one reminded me of a mix of Han Solo and Obi Wan in a Benedictine habit), some impractical, some good singers, others not so good. They had very individual characters, but one common aim, and it showed in their movements, prayers, and life in general.

--One quick note about the chant-- it was excellent for the most part. At times, I would notice them going flat, especially after a hard work period before lunch. I did make a recording, but they were having a bad day, by my own ear and the schola master's admission. They did a very good job of reproducing the Solesmes sound, but with only a few of them having been trained at Fontgombault, the French nasal/back-of-the-throat sound was minimal. Apparently, they have doubled (or more) in size since they came to the United States. Once they reach seventy monks, they will become their own foundation, the Abbey of Clear Creek. At the rate they are going, that would happen in under ten years. They will have barely enough room even in the gigantic church they are building. Currently, it will have a huge sanctuary, a choir section as large as the congregational section, and seating for about four hundred laymen. Construction is planned for next spring, as the capital campaign hits its stride.

--Concerning water: It really does symbolize grace. It carries everything before it, everything on it, shapes all things. All this it does at its own pace. Like Providence, it sometimes interferes with our plans, but is always needed. Sit and watch a creek sometime and think about it.

--Gardening/farming provides one of the richest metaphors for the spiritual life or life of the soul. Our Lord certainly thought so! All I can say is that in reflecting on this makes me realize that the world is in trouble. It is overgrown with weeds, and does not even realize it. But the weeds are not the worst. The grass is the worst. If weeds symbolize the sins or real flaws, they are hard to get out, but grass is worst. Weeds have a tendency, like bad habits, to break off before the roots, but to grow back quickly. Grass, however, seems innocuous, like modern culture in some of its aspects. It quickly gains control of the garden, and is so prevalent, you do not know where to begin to eliminate it. Eradicating grass or weeds is very difficult without tools (virtues?), but a lot, and I mean a lot of rain will really help. If water represents grace, this too makes sense. Try gardening, and thinking about this. The Gospels make so much more sense after a while.

--My flight for Colorado leaves soon, so I must go. One last thought: everyone should read or cover the material in Josef Pieper's The Four Cardinal Virtues and Only the Lover Sings. This material is essential to knowing who we are as humans and how to live life well as such. Until next post, farewell.

Bats in the belfry

Well, to be perfectly honest, there is no belfry at Clear Creek Monastery. There were, on the other hand, bats. Currently, the crypt is the only finished part of the church that the community plans to build, but it was very interesting. Having bats flying around before Compline was great, making you feel a little like a medieval monastery. I recently concluded my five day visit with the Benedictine monks at Clear Creek. My concluding thought is that self-cannibalism rarely pays off.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


To the readers of this blog, a warning: I will be offline for the next two weeks as I travel to Clear Creek Monastery for a retreat and then home to Colorado for a surprise visit. Thus, I will not have any posts, but you can expect some at the end of the month.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Peace & Quiet

I have been wanting to write something about silence for a long time, but have not had the opportunity. Then, the other day, while reading John Senior, I saw a line he had written about the "fullness of silence," or something similar. Then it really struck me that we in the world today have a very misguided sense of silence. For us, silence is the absence of noise, it is the bareness of sound, as it were. While this may be true in terms of sound, the silence of the soul practiced by the saints no longer exists. Modern culture fears silence, fears to be alone. It may be that they fear their own fears. They fear to confront themselves in the face of the infinite. One of the disturbing trends of the post-romantic movement in literature has been a simultaneous attachment to and revulsion regarding nothingness. Writers such as Baudalaire, Joyce, James, etc. all feared and were drawn to nothingness. In philosophy, this same relationship led to existentialism and despair ( a la Heidegger or Sartre). This attitude has filtered down into everyday life, and affects many Catholics today. But, silence is a fullness, it is an ordering of the soul. To do this we clearly must have our passions regulated by reason, and our reason turning toward the true good. If we need an image of silence, we can look to the Virgin Mary, or to St. Joseph, her spouse. Both lived lives of silence, of peace. In this we can see a profound connection between virginity/chastity and silence. Rather than a sterile nothingness, virginity, like peace, is rich and full of blessings. For me, this gives a whole new meaning to chastity, as well as the vows of virginity or celibacy made by consecrated religious or virgins. Such a state of life should clearly be one of silence, of freedom from distractions of worldly life. Instead, anyone living that state can turn to the mysteries of our Redemption, and as did the Virgin Mary, ponder them in his heart.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Life without a job

The ongoing dormition of this blog has finally stirred my guilty conscience and prompted me to once again leave an offering on the altar of blogdom. The problem is, simply put, that being unemployed takes up all of your time. I had more time when I was employed and busy, than I do when I am not. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, since I have been doing numerous odd-jobs, and have ailments not entirely conducive to movement. Be that as it may, regular posting appears the only way to both air my thoughts and organize them in a logical fashion. Since one cannot always find a like-minded person to speak with, I would suppose a blog is an opportunity to flesh out one's thoughts. That is my hope for this blog, with the added concern that they be thoughts, not merely opinion or feeling. Until next time, blogosphere, fairwell.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine.

A death of a grandparent of a friend the other day reminded me of past days of my youth, when to my mind, my grandparents were all-wise and powerful (they could even tell Mom and Dad what to do). I used to wonder how I could ever be so wise, let alone so old. Today, reflecting on what I owe them, as well as how I can be like them, I realize I have a long way to go. There is great hope and fear attached to that realization. The fear, of course, must be that I could fail. The hope, though also a fear: the venerable man I could be I am becoming with every choice and thought I have. Now that is scary thought. I don't mean that I define my essence, as an existentialist would hold. Rather, every choice, with its formation of my will, and every thought and the formation of my intellect; who I am now, with what I do now will make me as a man the father of the elder, just as the child is the father of the man. May we all recollect this, and the immense debt we owe our forerunners.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Good Man is Hard To Find

Individualism and Manhood

In the world today, where individual desires and needs provide the most obvious motivations for the actions of humans, an ideal of greatness and sacrifice can only be found in old books or movies based upon them. In men, especially, the call to greatness has been stifled by individualism and a consciousness centered on self-realization. Such trends, somewhat mitigated by contrary admonition of priest and scripture, plague all too many Catholic men. Despite many a good intention, too many Catholic men merely live lives with virtue, with their family, or with God, but not for virtue, families, or God. Such a life requires sacrifice and a heroism beyond ordinary. Now, why is this the case, especially in modernity? Clearly, since the time of the Fall, men have easily been persuaded from their manhood.

The primeval anthropological error into which Adam and Eve fell was an individualist and relativist theory. They thought that the individual good trumped a corporate good, that the point of reference for judgment could be an individual. Since then any individualist or relativist tendencies in dominant social or ethical theory only tend to increase selfishness and self-centeredness in fallen human nature. Yet the very nature of manhood (and indeed of all humanity) requires an outward turn. This outward turn must involve every level of that man, from his intellection to his action. Today, however, we grapple with the dominant intellectual strains from the past four-hundred years, directed man to look within himself for knowledge. From Descartes to current times, thinkers have relied on their own experiences of reality, their own perception of it. The far-fetched theories of Spinoza or Leibniz, the brutal realism of Bentham or Nietzsche; these come from a practical solipsism on the part of the knower. More recently, this became an explicit intellectual trend with existentialism.

In some ways, history since the turn to secular humanism during the renaissance has been a downward spiral of selfishness. Men thought up ways to justify the individualist turn, first in religion, then in knowledge, lastly in action. Thus, the selfishness in thought becomes selfishness in action; from justification for it, man derives it as a necessity, as becomes clear in the existentialist trap.

In the Catholic world, we can see an ongoing struggle with this throughout the latter half of the second millennium. The weapons the Church used were the sacraments, a strong tie to tradition, and a tighter communal identity. However, this battle, as St. Augustine presented it in The City of God, was destined to failure. The “long defeat,” which Tolkien mentions through Galadriel, truly parallels the war against the Evil one that the Church still wages. Despite the probable failure of our efforts, Catholics have no choice but to continue to fight the good fight. Thought he end be all too clear at times, Catholic men must step forward sacrificing their lives for their Lord who sacrificed His. The triumph of selfishness may never have seemed so close as during the middle of the last century, when the majority of Catholics abandoned much of the tried weaponry of the past. Instead, they embraced the individualism and secularism of the world around them. Much can be said of the subsequent fall-out of that choice, but manhood certainly suffered from this. The exaggerated personalism and phenomenology promoted by too many in the Church have led to the downfall of real manliness.

When one stops to think about Catholic men, there seems to be an underlying uneasiness with their position. This may not be voiced or understood, but exists nonetheless. How many Catholic men that we know are heroic? So many are “good men,” but not great men. We need great Catholic men, not just in stature or confidence, but in deeds, in virtue. We need men who are leaders, who do great things, even on a small scale. We need Catholic men as politicians, teachers, doctors, in great roles, who live their faith and their manhood every day. Such men must arise in the face of the challenges of today. Much if the Church has been defeated or wounded, we have lost contact with our basis for defense. The picture appears bleak, but hope lives on, albeit a small quiet voice, crying: “Awake! To arms!” These arms, the weapons of the past, those tools which God has seen fit to prosper in our hands: we must recover these. But they are worthless unless men of stature and worth are there to wield them. Men of value, men of courage and skill; the Church requires these to survive. Only when the Church can defend itself can She return to her Divine mission to sanctify the world, rebuilding what secular humanism and selfishness so easily destroyed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tradition Lives on

Zenit had a great story about the monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek, Oklahoma. For such a specialized and difficult mission, the monks there have been blessed with success. And to think that it all arose through the Integrated Humanities program of John Senior. To me, this wonderful labor serves as a great reminder of true humanism and its goals. When studied for the end of wisdom and true excellence, the great thoughts of western civilization lead us to God and to human flourishing as it can only be under His care.

Death comes as the end

Many thanks to the Ironic Catholic, who excels at pointing out the idiosyncrasies and incoherence of modern man. While done in a humorous fashion, Ironic Catholic's critique called to mind the obsession modern man has with earthly perfection. I suppose when that's all you believe in, you keep finding new excuses to returning to your failures.

Keep the door closed....

Curt Jester comments here on an article by Fr. Andrew Greely entitled "Fall Election Hinges on Race." As Curt Jester points out, such an assertion is ridiculous, and I would say that it is harmful. All this crying of "wolf" whenever racism could be an issue only leads to a hypersensitivity to any question of racism. Not that we should discount the possibilities of or problems with racism, but we must not keep opening every door with the intent of finding some racist bogey monster there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The End of the World is Here, on June 12th . . .

or there, or in Texas. Why is it that so many of these bogus prophets thrive? They live off the fears and emotions of others all the while lining their own pockets. This would be hilarious were not the human element so sad. I will check back with you on June 12th, either from here or the far side of the grave.


Overheard in the Sacristy: Christ Won, Satan Zero

Overheard in the Sacristy: Christ Won, Satan Zero
I recently had a conversation with a Catholic who had not really considered that demons could be active in the world. I am sure this person would admit their existence, but the ongoing struggle did not seem pressing to them. Yet this struggle goes on every day, in every place. The devil wants to be unknown, to be a nasty surprise for all of us. Too many even study witchcraft or black magic just for the fun of it, not realizing its deadly consequences. For further study, read Fr. Gabriel Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story.


In "beano" veritas

I wanted to publish a slight caveat to the effect that I was under the influence of two cups of excellent but strong coffee when I started this blog. The coffee, combined with a severe lack of sleep may have made me a little giddy. Come to think of it, the terrible pun I use as my post title may indicate the residual effects of said substance. Long live coffee! (And wine).


Monday, June 9, 2008

Losing a job on Sunday

As it so turned out, I returned home from a fifteen hundred mile trip, to find out that I have no more work waiting for me. I guess God means for me to do a lot more than I had been doing. Curiously enough, the sermon at mass today was all about embracing the cross that we each are given. The discussion of the beatitudes that today's Gospel related to us, was recalled to me in terms of abnegation and sacrifice. So, added stress equals new cross. Great.... I thought I had enough already. I can always add more and offer it up, like the soldier in Joyce Kilmer's "A Soldier's Prayer." The question then becomes: "What does a liberal arts graduate do while attempting to get into grad school?" Anyway, fairwell until next time.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Salve, mundum!

Hello to the putative many who may visit this blog. In starting this blog, I intended to start a blog commenting on all things Catholic, from within the richness of the Catholic heritage. The name derives from Paul's letter to the Hebrews (11:1). The reference is to Paul's understanding of Faith, which I intend to take as the substance underlying my thoughts and the end of my affections. The title of the blog, due to the reference, is therefore not strictly accurate, but hopefully forgivable. Regarding the content, then, this will be a primarily serious blog, though I intend to periodically take humorous excursions. As much as possible, then, this blog will attempt to present what a Catholic could reasonably and morally hold as his own understanding. I welcome all comments, whether ecumenical, grammatical, or piratical in nature; I only ask you to comment on what I write, in the spirit in which I write it. Until next time, I remain

Yrs Truly,