Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent and the Cross

So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  (Heb. 13:13)

Can we ever get over worrying about our own self-worth?  Can we ever be glad to be despised, to be rejected, to be abandoned, to be cheated, to be hated?  If we stopped fearing that - indeed if we embraced the cross instead of shirking it - we would be true Christians.

And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:37) 

There is an awful truth at the heart of life that we dare not face.  We have crucified Our Lord.  We always have the best intentions, but we eat one another up like wolves devouring wolves.   And sometimes we catch a glimpse of this.

We know who we are.  We are ashamed of it.  We busy ourselves so as not to see it, but we tear at one another with ravenous fangs, and we are torn apart even by those closest to us.

We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash--right up to the present moment. (1 Cor. 4:13)

I have treated people like this.  People have treated me like this.  And the more we are wronged, the more they wrong us.  We cannot bear to look on Him whom we have pierced.  We cannot stand to see the reproach we leveled on Him outside the camp.  We hate no one more than the one who stands as a sign of contradiction; we avoid no one more than the one who loved us and to whom we responded with hate.  That alone makes us hate Him, for his goodness stands as a witness against us.  For He took it as we spit upon Him and pummeled Him.  We pierced Him and He bled for our sake.

So in all the pettiness and glibness of the Advent season, remember that it's not merely God who comes to us in a manger, it is the One we hate the most, the One we would do anything to avoid, the One we have betrayed again and again, offering in return for his kindness a vicious contempt, offering in return for his open-armed embrace the mockery of an open-armed crucifixion.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our Infinite Sadness can only be Cured by an Infinite Love

Forget the right wing rage over Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation.  It's hardly about politics and the economy, anyway.  It's all about Jesus.

If you only read one paragraph from the Exhortation, read this one ...

Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it: “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for mission because we forget that the Gospel responds to our deepest needs, since we were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters. If we succeed in expressing adequately and with beauty the essential content of the Gospel, surely this message will speak to the deepest yearnings of people’s hearts: “The missionary is convinced that, through the working of the Spirit, there already exists in individuals and peoples an expectation, even if an unconscious one, of knowing the truth about God, about man, and about how we are to be set free from sin and death. The missionary’s enthusiasm in proclaiming Christ comes from the conviction that he is responding to that expectation”.[208] Enthusiasm for evangelization is based on this conviction. We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love.

A Thanksgiving Exhortation

While reading the remarkable Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, the Spirit has struck me.

Today is Thanksgiving.

Give thanks for what you have, but do so with a troubled conscience.

That's right, a troubled conscience.

Fellow sinner, you know how God has blessed you.  You know that you deserve nothing He has given you.  You know how kind He is to you, how patient.  You know the overflowing goodness of your family, your friends, your health, your work - in spite of the fact that all of those things also annoy you and fall shy of perfection.  You know all the same that they are seeds of heaven, bits of glitter fallen from the sky, and that they shine forth a far greater joy to come.

At the same time you know this - you are fooling yourself, and trying to fool Him.

You have a "precious", a darling sin that you covet and protect, a hateful selfish thing that you sacrifice to, a little homemade god that you worship.  It gives you passing pleasure, but it makes you and everyone around you miserable.

Your "precious" is not just a sin, it is the seed that is at the root of a cluster or a constellation of sins.  It might be a fear of abandonment and it makes you jealous or demanding or withdrawn or exacting.  It might be a hunger for power and it makes you seek out porn or "love affairs" in which you manipulate and control others.  It might be a great hunger for love, but it makes you show off or slander or betray your friends so that other friends like you more.

The list of sins is endless.  They are legion.

But you know what your sins are.  You know them intimately.  You know them even more so today, a day that puts them in relief against the backdrop of gratitude.  And you know the source of your many sins, the bad seed that makes them all grow, the thing you cultivate in the dark when no one's looking.

Here's the deal - you'll be able to rationalize your "precious" forever; you'll always be able to excuse your sins.  Quit telling yourself that good is coming out of the evil that you do.  Of course some good comes out of sin (by the grace of God) and of course there's good in it, or you wouldn't seek it out, deadly though this thing may be.

But you know the truth.  You know it's a cancer.

My wife had a brush with cancer, as my regular readers know.  We found out last week that the tumor in her uterus was small and non-invasive and contained, that her hysterectomy has "cured" the cancer, having removed it entirely from her system.  This is tremendous news, and I am very grateful - for the cure and for the many prayers and consolations my readers gave me along the way.

But the analogy holds.  Sin is a cancer.  It is a tiny seed, a tumor, that spreads and kills.  The only way to treat it is to mortify it, to stop making excuses for it and to kill it, without compunction or misplaced compassion.  If your eye offends you, pluck it out.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  If you have a tumor that has begun to grow, get rid of it.

Pope Francis says ...

Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. 

People get mad that he dares to criticize our social or economic system, but the true insight here is not about politics but about the nature of life itself.  Both good and evil share this ontological trait - they cannot be contained; they have effects, consequences; they spread.

We are told that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny bit of leaven mixed with a lot of dough.  We are also told to beware the leaven of the Pharisees.  This is because the tiny seed, if good, can bring forth unimagined good fruit; while the tiny seed of evil can spread like a cancer and bring forth horrific suffering and death.  From the little things - and from our silent interior intentions - grow the greatest consequences.

So cut it out.

Cut out the evil seed.  Repent.  You know what you're doing.  You know exactly what it is as you read this.  Five minutes from now, you'll tell yourself (again) that it's no big deal, that it brings you joy, that your intentions are good.

But it's a sin, and it has no place in the life of a Christian.

On this Thanksgiving, bring forth the fruits of goodness to the table.  The evil that you harbor and cultivate in shame has no place there.  God's bounty sustains us; our sins do not.

For we are more than sin.

The devil does not want us to know this, but we can trust in God, who gives us everything anyway.  We are nasty, selfish, hateful people who are not to be trusted.  But He redeems us, and in the end we can grow to be like Him - even the worst of us, even you and me.

So show your thanks on this Thanksgiving.

Repent.  The Kingdom of God is among you.  Give up your precious, your secret sin, and let Him make you even more precious than you are.

Let Him make you a saint.

For that's the best way of saying Thanks.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Faith-Filled Interview with Joseph Pearce

There's No Place Like EWTN for the Holidays

I'll be on my favorite network a lot this Advent ...

  • Bilbo's Journey - A Catholic Travel Guide to the Hobbit featuring Joseph Pearce with Yours Truly as J. R. R. Tolkien.  
    • Thursday, Dec. 5 at 10:00 pm Eastern / 9:00 Central - WORLD PREMIERE
    • Friday, Dec. 6 at 8:30 pm Eastern / 7:30 Central

  • The Surprise by G. K. Chesterton - a play with a fairy tale theme about the Incarnation.
    • Saturday, Dec. 21 at 3:00 am Eastern / 2:00 am Central
    • Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 1:00 pm Eastern / Noon Central
    • Thursday, Dec. 26 at 11:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 pm Central

  • A Morning Star Christmas - our Christmas episode of my series The Theater of the Word

    • Saturday, Dec. 21 at 10:00 pm Eastern / 9:00 pm Central
    • Thursday, Dec. 26 at 11:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 pm Central

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Dancing with Devils

    The title of this post is from a phrase Sean Dailey used, when commenting on my troubles with Facebook ...

    You should have seen some of the hate leveled at Bishop Paprocki last week in some Facebook comboxes. I refused to join in. It would have merely been dancing with devils.

    Now a man is never a devil, but we can be tools of devils, and there is a diabolical influence at work in people's minds today.

    For instance, would an "argument" like this make sense to you, or to anyone?

    A: That's a beautiful sunset - it makes the sky rose colored.  I'm glad we can see it.  What a shame if there were a shopping mall here obstructing our view.
    B: The sky's not rose colored!  You're wearing rose colored glasses!  And what an arrogant jerk you are to suggest that shopping malls are not as good as sunsets.  All things are equal. The sky is always equally blue - always and everywhere, even at night.  Look at how much patience I have in dealing with someone like you, who are an irrational, smug prideful twit.  People like you drive me crazy.
    A:   Well ... maybe it's not exactly rose colored, but it's not blue right now, and how can you simply shut your eyes to the fact of this sunset that's staring us in the face?  Just look at it.  Don't you see it?  And as for shopping malls, they're fine for what they are, but when compared with sunsets ...
    B:  You're a racist, too.  You see different colors in everything. And you HAVE NOT RESPONDED TO MY CRITIQUE OF YOUR ARGUMENT!  I hate dealing with people like you.  I'm out of here.  You're being irrational.  
    A:  What exactly did your critique of my argument consist of?
    B:  I refuse to repeat what I said.  It's not worth my time.  Scroll up and read it again!  But you won't - proof that you're not interested in seeking the truth, but only in making your own bigoted case.
    A:  I have scrolled up and I'm still confused.  Really, what did your critique of my argument consist of?  For one thing, I'm not making an argument, just pointing out something we both should be able to see, if we both look at it.  For another, our mutual "argument" consists of me saying the sunset is rose-colored, and you saying it's not.  And calling me names.
    B: You're the name caller!  You just called me a "name-caller"!  Name caller!

    ... and so on.

    But the fact is that this is the way people argue on the internet.  Seriously.  This is the level of conversation you can expect to have on serious subjects on Facebook and elsewhere.  You may think I'm exaggerating, but if you do, it's probably because you've never experienced this.

    Let me analyze what's going on above and then show how it applied to my latest foxtrot with the devil.

    Contempt for Reason is shown in the following ways during any internet discussion ...

    1. WEARING BLINDERS.  Refusing to see what's being pointed out; refusing to acknowledge what is right there before our eyes.  Denying that the sky is blue - or whatever color it happens to be.
    2.  ASSERTING SUBJECTIVISM.  Claiming that an opponent's position is merely his own private illusion.  You're wearing rose-colored glasses when you look at that rose and call it rose-colored.
    3. SNEERING.  It's not enough to assert subjectivism, an internet opponent will not simply
    • Refuse to see what you're pointing out (#1 above),
    • State or imply that what you're saying must be a private mirage (#2 above),
    but also
    •  Sneer at you for having some sort of intellectual or moral handicap for seeing this so-called mirage.  If you see colors in nature, you're a racist.

    So how does this play out in real life?

    Yesterday I posted a series of Observations, one of which made the apparently radical claim that men and women are different and that when women go wrong sexually it's usually a sign of a more deeply seated psychological problem than when men go wrong sexually.  Clearly, that's a bold conclusion that can easily be argued, but what happened was far from an argument.

    This observation was shared by a Facebook friend, and a number of secular folk outside my circle saw it.  There followed dozens of livid comments, all of which missed the point.  Some people were mad at me for saying women were better than men.  Some people were mad at me for saying that men were better than women.  Some people were mad at me for suggesting that there was anything wrong with sluttish behavior in women.  Some people were mad at me for suggesting that there was anything wrong with sluttish behavior in men.  Some people were mad at me for suggesting that there was anything wrong with sluttish behavior at all in either sex.  Everyone was mad at me for saying that there was any difference at all between men and women.  When I foolishly responded and said, "Why are people angry that I'm pointing out that there are differences between men and women?" people got angry because I said they were angry.  People called me a bigot.  People dismissed me for being a neanderthal.  A relative of mine even commented and said that I should only write about baseball - the implication being that I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to men and women.

    And the most indignant of my opponents said more of less the following ...

    How dare you romanticize women in such a way!  There is obviously nothing at all different between how men and women look at sex.  To suggest that there is, is bigoted, prehistoric and offensive.  Not only that, but then you jump in the comment boxes and say that you're simply pointing out something that's obvious.  You say we're foolish to argue that men and women are the same.  BUT NOBODY'S SAYING THAT!  WE'RE SIMPLY SAYING THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM!  Don't put words in our mouths!  And respond to my argument!  You refuse to respond to the points I am making! I have no time for people like you.  You are despicable.  You are why I hate the Catholic Church.

    Funny, perhaps, but really not so much.

    Because you can't argue with anyone any more in the world at large, it seems.  Reasoned discourse has vanished because we hate loathe and despise Reason.

    God is truth and that infuriates us and the demons who make us dance.  We hate the whole idea of truth - particularly the truth that is imprinted in Nature, which is the evidence of God.   And this is true whether I'm right or wrong about the psychology of sex; it's not the validity of my original assertion I'm defending, but the very process of rational thinking itself, which has not only been abandoned, but which is more and more held in contempt.

    And if you are foolish enough to do what I did, to suggest that men and women are different and that unchastity is a sign of a psychological disturbance, particularly in women - if you do such a thing on Facebook you are apparently casting pearls before swine, and when they turn to rend you, you see the glare in their eyes, you feel the heat of their breath, and you catch the froth of their pig-slobber - and you know that the fury behind their barrage of nonsense is not of this world.

    A Triolet for Swine

    Cast not your pearls before a pig
    For he will turn again and rend you
    Because he does not give a fig.
    Cast not your pearls before a pig,
    Before a Philistine or prig,
    For truth they all disdain (or tend to).
    Cast not your pearls before a pig
    For he will turn again and rend you.

    The Moral Law and White Trash

    White Trash are not hillbillies.  They are not rednecks.  They are not hicks.

    White Trash are what we call "hoosiers" here in St. Louis.  (I am an expert on hoosiers, as The Riverfront Times demonstrates here).

    White Trash differ from all of those other groups because of their moral turpitude.

    This is important to note.  It is one of those truths that a bit of reflection will reveal to you.  Think about it.  What do these White Trash characteristics have in common?

    • Filth and squalor
    • Deliberately living on the dole, despite being able to work
    • Explosions of wrath
    • Sexual promiscuity to the point of skankiness
    • Incest
    • Drug abuse
    • Alcoholism
    • Anti-intellectualism
    • Immodest dress and behavior
    • Lying at will

    They are all examples of bad morality, character flaws, moral failings - in short, sins - or a culture that grows from habitual sin.

    Our critique of White Trash is really a disguised critique of a lifestyle of sin.  Such a thing is possible - even today!

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Evil at Work

    You want to get attacked by the forces of darkness and irrationality?

    Make observations about nature - particularly human nature, particularly virtue as it relates to human nature, particularly to the obvious difference between the sexes.  Let a secular audience on Facebook find out that you actually believe that men and women are different, and you'll simply be crucified.  My blog readers will ignore such an observation; normal people from the outside world will quite literally want to kill me for it.

    We hate nature in this society.  We hate it.  With a passion.  We like trees and whales, but we hate what nature really is - the form of God around us.

    And we hate it most violently when it reveals itself to us in sex.  We hate the fact that nature made sex to make babies; we hate the fact that nature made women to be different from men; we hate the fact that nature constrains us in any way.  We hate the very laws of physics.  We hate nature; we spit at God.

    The world has gone insane.

    And there is a malevolent and hateful legion behind it.


    And if we hate anything more than nature, it's Reason.

    The Irrational looms large and we are lining up to sacrifice to it.  (If I've learned anything from Facebook, it's that).


    • There are certain people who will treat you with contempt no matter what you do, no matter what you offer them in the way of graciousness or good will.  It is a mistake to think that by offering kindness and forgiveness we will get similar treatment back in return.  We should offer without thought of return, and without bitterness when our graciousness is spurned - though that requires a kind of heroic virtue.  
    Rather, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind even to ungrateful and evil people. (Luke 6:35)

    • Women's sexuality is a much deeper and more mysterious thing than men's.  Guys don't really care what they do with their naughty bits, as long as they do something.  Women, however, understand instinctively on a very deep level the connection between sex and love and sex and motherhood and sex and the family.  Thus, when women go wrong sexually, it's a more disturbing thing, both in its origin and in its result.  Sexual perversion or acting out in guys is a more superficial symptom than it is in women.

    • The reform of the culture is happening, though you'd never guess if you looked at the overall picture.  It's happening independently, all across the country, here and there with grass roots origins.  It's happening because of people who are called, who are answering the call, and who are suffering in order to answer the call.

    • The key is to love without expecting to be loved in return, even though we have a claim to reciprocation in justice.  But this does not mean squandering His seed by continuing to sow where the seed is being habitually rejected.  We must love, but disinterestedly, which is to say without investment or hope of interest or return.  For God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7).  This is why we are to kick the dust off our shoes and move on when his word is rejected (Mat. 10:14) - because the increase is not our business, and if we get too invested, we are less able to give God the credit; we are more tempted to take ownership and to make the actions of others our own business.

    • People will sometimes forgive you if you have harmed them.  They will almost never forgive you if they have harmed you.  Shame and the attempt to distance ourselves from it causes most of the problems between people.  The easiest way to avoid shame is to blame the other person somehow for the wrong you've done to him or her.

    • To illustrate that, I've told this story before.  Once I had a client who owed me $600.  They went months without paying, lying to me that the check was in the mail, etc.  When I finally had to get a bit nasty with them, I suddenly became the villain, the source of all the trouble.  They were in debt to me and I was the bad guy for insisting upon my rights.  

  • Likewise, when clients neglect to promote our shows (except maybe to put up a flyer in the bathroom as below), it's always our fault that the show doesn't draw a large audience; it's never their own fault for dropping the ball.  I've learned that there's simply no way to argue this.  Just let them blame you and move on.

    • Thursday, November 21, 2013

      The Hobbit and EWTN

      Joseph Pearce writes ...

      I'm at EWTN at the moment and had a sneak preview of the forthcoming Hobbit special on which we worked. It's truly superb and you are as wonderful as ever! It's being aired on December 5th.

      Can't wait to see it!

      We filmed two specials - one on The Hobbit and one on The Lord of the Rings.  I have not yet heard when the second one will air.  I play Tolkien in both specials and Joseph offers his insightful commentary on the Catholic elements in Tolkien's works.  I'll pass long more info as it's passed along to me.

      Here I am with Joseph in the marvelous Hobbit Hole set at EWTN when we filmed last spring ...

      Socrates Meets Jesus

      Here's the full video of my play Socrates Meets Jesus performed at the American Chesterton Society national conference in Worcester, Massachusetts on August 2, 2013.  The play is based on the book by Peter Kreeft, who was in the audience watching the show.  

      A DVD of the performance, as well as DVDs of all talks at the Conference, is available from the American Chesterton Society.

      Wednesday, November 20, 2013

      Shakespeare - Private Papist

      Blog reader Rob Crisell, who is affiliated with Shakespeare in the Vines in California, sent along something I have never seen before - an icon of William Shakespeare.  I imagine it's the only one that exists.  The Latin phrase means Private Papist, a reference to the fact that Will was a secret Catholic at a time that this was against the law in England.  As you can see it's very well done.  The artist (or "writer" in iconography terms) is Nicholas Ivins.

      Belloc, Lewis, Chesterton - Sailing, Sinking and Rising

      [NOTE: My post from this week that was critical of C. S. Lewis has indeed sparked some controversy, at least on Facebook, and so I thought I would elaborate more by reprinting this article that was originally published in the St. Austin Review, an excerpt of which I had posted back in March.]

      Belloc in his old age.
      The three writers who led me from atheism into the Catholic Church were, in chronological order, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and Hilaire Belloc.  Reading one will lead you to the other.   The final piece of the puzzle that led Lewis to Christ was Chesterton; Chesterton is the great giant of the Catholic Literary Revival (and in my opinion of the New Evangelization); and Belloc (Chesterton’s close friend) is a kind of destination.  If you haven’t hit the rock – the rock of Christ – by the time you get to Hilaire Belloc, the solid, foundational, confident, healthy, sane rock of Christ – you never will.  
      That Rock – Jesus Christ - is the foundation for all three writers.  But the differences between them are really quite amazing.  The houses they built on this rock are very different sorts of houses, architecturally and even functionally.  Grace perfects nature, and the nature of these three men – their characters, their insights, their styles – are quite distinct and separate.
      I’m going to attempt to explain what I mean, but I’m hesitant – hesitant because I love these three men, as writers, but also as men.  I ask them to pray for me.  I aspire to write as well as they do, and though I never come close, having them as my models and mentors has been the greatest intellectual blessing of my life.  

      “There’s no need to read C. S. Lewis,” Dale Ahlquist’s brother-in-law Larry Norman (famed Christian musician) told him.  “Everything in Lewis is also in Chesterton, and Chesterton says it better.”
      There is much truth to that.  
      Indeed, Lewis has a kind of diffidence about him.  There is a shy withdrawn quality about some of his work.  His fascination with fantasy worlds does not have about it what Tolkien’s did.  Tolkien’s fantasy world was more manly and solid, as it was based on a faith that was Catholic, that was there whether you liked it or not, and that served as a grounding for all of the intricate fiction that Tolkien built up.  
      Lewis’ fantasy worlds were based on a Protestant faith.  That may sound like nit-picking, but it makes all the difference in the world.  A Catholic may ignore the reality that underlies his faith; it’s there whether he acknowledges it or not, whether he sins against it or not, whether he creates a fictional elaboration of it or not, whether he “feels” it or not.  A Protestant must, to some extent, keep pumping up the reality behind his faith; he must gin it up and he ends up doubting how solid it is.  Lewis was occasionally scrupulous in prayer, wondering if he had prayed with enough emotion or focus.  Such is typically a Protestant fear, since “faith alone” cuts the believer off from the moorings.  “Faith alone” puts us afloat without the ropes that tie us to the dock.  It makes one suspect, even darkly and subconsciously, as one floats untied, that the shore is no longer there, and that the bark of faith and the anchor of hope are the most important things about the vessel.  The reality of the solid land – of the destination for which the boat was built – becomes in the mind more sandy and shifting than solid, more like a mirage and less like a Rock.
      This is not to say that Lewis was a bad Christian – but it is to say that there was something a bit squeamish about him.   Fantasy for him, when he was a child, had about it the unhealthy aspect that it does for those among us we call “nerds”; it was a make-believe world compensating for loneliness, a small child’s unwillingness to play outside or scuffle in the sandbox.  I’m not saying that this element defines everything Lewis wrote, but that element was always present.  We see this played out in his adult “marriage” to Joy Davidman, a word I put in quotes because there was little about it – at least at first – that was the solid, sacramental union of two bodies and souls in Christ, and much more that was make-believe, playing house, pretending.  Yes, “Jack” and Joy loved one another, and their marriage and short life together ended up being blessed, but early on they were both simply working the system – and this willingness to manipulate spiritual things out of fear or diffidence is never wholly absent from the writings of C. S. Lewis, brilliant as those writings are.
      On the other end of the spectrum is Hilaire Belloc.  Belloc was the kid in the sandbox “Jack” Lewis wouldn’t want to scuffle with.  A bloody nose might ensue.  Belloc’s prose has a quality that can only be described as “virile”.  There is something simple, unaffected, and insistent about it.  But Belloc’s poetry takes that same virile sensibility and opens up to a world of feeling and an ocean of melancholy longing; his poetry is tremendous and shows that this man was not the bully or the boor some make him out to be.  Still, Belloc is not the evangelist CSL or GKC are.  He has no interest in your conversion, or even in diplomacy.   Join him if you’d like, but if you can’t stand the pace of the hike, or if you don’t know where you’re headed, or if you can’t bother to stop and enjoy some beer at an inn along the way, you’ll simply be left behind and he won’t mind the loss.  You were a difficult companion to begin with.  Consequently he is the least appreciated of the three writers, for we live in a world that loves to be cajoled and convinced and pitched to, in a world that loves advertizing and flattery, in a world that demands more attention to our precious doubts and sensitivities than Belloc is willing to pay.  Belloc would say “to hell with that” and hop on his sailboat while saying his prayers.
      Still, there is something you’ll find in Belloc that you won’t find in the other two.  There is a kind of unadorned worship.  The thrill of his prose and the beauty and delicacy of his verse is not an adornment for Belloc; he doesn’t play with words as Chesterton does, or delight in metaphor and analogy as Lewis does.  He simply looks at God and honors him; admires Our Lady and praises her.  And from this comes Belloc’s ability to prophecy, from this comes his insight into history.  From this comes his humor, his great and wry humor, missed by most readers, especially when they’re not familiar with him.  From this comes, even, his sadness.
      But the greatest of these is Gilbert.
      I will say little more here, for I stand a bit speechless before a man of loquacious wit and profound philosophy.  I stand in awe - joyful awe (which he taught me), but awe.  Not only was G. K. Chesterton the greatest writer of the 20th Century, and the greatest of the three here mentioned, but he was much more than that.  
      For I, too, can prophesy.
      In 300 years, when Chesterton has been canonized, and historians look back at the dark days of the Culture of Death, they will see that the Church began to rise again, even though it had appeared, like the Titanic, to sink and send mere bubbles up from below.  They will note that a kind of “under water” movement began with John Henry Newman, a movement called by Newman himself the Second Spring.  And they will see that amidst the Catholic Literary Revival – something which began with Newman and ended with Waugh or Greene, but which perhaps transmutes itself into things like the American Chesterton Society and the St. Austin Review – they will see a gigantic figure – physically big when he was living, spiritually big after his death.  They will see G. K. Chesterton, and they will see an influence spreading.  They will see something take root in darkness and sprout into light – they will see something rise from the depths that appeared to have sunk and rusted away – they will see a new expression of the Spirit:  an expression of love for God and for life that is intelligent, joyful, funny, witty, grateful, profoundly philosophical and profoundly sane.  And they will see that the foremost figure of this Second Spring, this New Evangelization, a figure who influenced C. S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and many more after them, was Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

      And they will see in his life, in his work, and after his death in his patronage and prayers, the beginnings of a new and at first hidden resurrection; arising from the cold dark waters, they will see the Church alive again, when we needed it the most.

      Science and Philosophy - the Wrench and the Piano

      Science is the wrench and Philosophy is the piano.  You can't play beautiful music on a wrench and you can't play a piano that's out of tune.  The narrower tool serves the greater tool.  The wrench tunes the piano.

      When people try to turn science into a philosophy of life, they are trying to play music on a wrench.  I explain this in a heated debate on Facebook ...

      To recognize purpose in the universe is good philosophy, but bad science - for science can not measure purpose - and science can only deal with things that can be measured. 
      This is why Materialistic Darwinism is poisonous; it's philosophy masquerading as science. 
      So is Intellectual Design. 
      Darwinism denies God; ID affirms God - but both get in the way of science.

      Both, in other words, are trying to play a sonata on a wrench.

      Tuesday, November 19, 2013

      Love and Truth, Beauty and the Beast, Hamlet and the Rest of Life

      Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. (Ps. 85:10)
      The meeting of love and truth is truly divine.  Sometimes this is translated "Mercy and truth will meet" or "Love and Fidelity will meet".  Either way, the point is that loving kindness can overcome the ugly truth, and faithfully so.

      There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.  - G. K. Chesterton

      The fact is we are not lovable - until we are loved: loved by God, but also by others.

      And there are always reasons not to love - I can think of a thousand reasons not to love you, dear reader.  You get on my nerves, for one thing.  And I'm certain you can say the same for me.  We can always hold back our love out of a kind of squeamishness.  This tends to be more the case in those who are sanctimonious, or even those who are virtuous but who can't stand the thought of embracing sinners - or real life, which is the same thing.  What with everyone being a sinner, and life being a complex mess, there's no reason to embrace anyone or anything if you really think about it.  So we are tempted to hold back in a picky and particular kind of way.  Hamlet is like this in the beginning of Shakespeare's great play - a sulking adolescent for whom nothing is quite right that Mom and Dad do.

      But of course Hamlet's dear old Mum and Dad do very little right and quite a bit wrong.  Stepfather-Uncle has murdered the real father and Mommy, probably complicit, is lusty to get to it in the bedroom and is saving some money by using her old husband's funeral meats for her new husband's wedding appetizers.

      In other words, if Hamlet is squeamish, he has a right to be squeamish.  It's not only as bad as Hamlet suspects, it's worse.

      I have known two people who opened up to me the kind of horrible vistas that Hamlet sees in Mom and Dad as his stomach drops.  One is a stranger, the other was a good friend.  They both revealed a stunning depravity of character that made me want to renounce life and become a hermit and a cynic (like Timon of Athens, another Shakespearian hero).  The temptation is to hold out hope for such people - they can improve, they're victims of an abusive upbringing, they're not happy being selfish ... until you begin to realize that they sin as deliberately as you do, and that they would rather nurture their "precious" than sacrifice it and do good.  You they'll sacrifice, their "precious" they won't.

      And, barring cooperation with Divine Grace, this is probably a lifelong pattern.  Most people never change.  Some do, but most don't.

      But here's the kicker - a thing is never lovable until it is loved.  And love is not divine until it meets with truth, and only then will "justice and peace kiss" (as the next line of the Psalm exclaims).

      Only when we can love someone despite seeing the ugly truth about him or her can we really begin to call it love.

      This does not mean we have to put up with ugliness or abuse.  But it does mean we must be realistic.

      And love anyway.

      Monday, November 18, 2013

      C. S. Lewis at the Threshold

      OK, this will offend some of you, but please understand, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis, that while he was the first writer who opened the door of the Faith to me, and not to begrudge him in any way, still something needs to be said.  I wrote to a friend of mine, whose admiration for Lewis knows no bounds ...

      I'm sorry I get a bit defensive about my writers.  Lewis is certainly very gifted, and as I say in my video interview from the conference, makes the best use of analogy of any apologist in modern times.
      But he stopped short.  For understandable reasons, his Ulster background perhaps foremost among them, his squeamishness, his too precious and peculiar sensitivity.  He stopped at the doorway gazing in.  Ahead of him passed giants - there are things in Chesterton, Belloc, Tolkien and O'Connor that tear into the very fabric of existence.  Lewis catches a glimpse and plays around and gives us a share - but farther, deeper, richer go the others.

      Even More Ordinary!

      OK, the best show on Grunky by far is Ordinary.

      You can help Timothy Quigley and Key Row Pictures produce Season Two!

      Here's the info!

      A Dangerous Trailer

      The trailer for FATHER DANGEROUS - BIONIC PRIEST, in which Stanford Nutting will be one of the recurring villains ...

      Chesterton Chats

      Here I am talking about G. K. Chesterton, Distributism and a number of different things ...

      Dawn on Patrol

      A week ago Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Dawn Eden speak at St. Louis University High School on "Sexual Recreation vs. Sexual Re-Creation" at an event sponsored by the Parent Network of Catholic High Schools.  Dawn is the author of The Thrill of the Chaste and My Peace I Give You - Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.  She spoke at the event in a talk show format, taking questions from the audience.

      Statue of St. Louis the King at St. Louis University High School

      Dawn Eden being interviewed by Dan Buck at St. Louis University High School.

      One of Dawn's best replies was to a question on contraception.  "If the parents are using contraception, can they effectively teach their children about sex?"

      Dawn's response was, "If you're using contraception, your problem is more than with your parenting.  It's with your marriage.  You are not giving yourselves to one another wholly, and that will have an impact on more than just how you raise your children."

      Later, Dawn spoke on her odd apostolate - traveling the country and speaking on theological matters.  She said that Scott Hahn once told her that although it is more appropriate for priests and bishops to be theologians, since Vatican II the baton has been passed (by default) to the lay folk.  "Hahn's point was that the job of faithful lay theologians is, in a sense, to put themselves out of business by passing on the truths of the faith and thereby helping to ensure that we will once again have faithful priests teaching theology," Dawn observed.  "Part of our job is to help return the Church to the point where there will be a larger number of qualified clergy teaching theology."

      She added her own observation that, in fact, the special position of the laity and their familiarity with worldly matters and married life offers an opportunity for a new kind of evangelization.

      And it struck me how difficult such a calling is.

      When I travel the country with my Theater of the Word actors, we experience all of the ups and downs of life as itinerant missionaries - loneliness, wonderful experiences, not so wonderful experiences, self-doubt, wondering if we're doing any good - but it's relatively easy for us because we're in it together.  To hit the road alone on such a mission is not an easy thing.  But Dawn is doing a marvelous job, witnessing not only with what she says and what she writes - but by who she is.

      For more on Dawn Eden, check out her blog The Dawn Patrol.

      And check out her appearance on EWTN's Life on the Rock ...

      Tuesday, November 12, 2013

      Jesus Christ and Hell

      How can we deny hell when so many of us have been there and back again?

      There's a story by Flannery O'Connor called "The Artificial Nigger".  That title is certainly offensive, but it needs to be.  The story is about the most offensive thing in the universe - sin; and not just the word sin, but a deep, personal, vivid sin, the kind of sin that we know intimately, the kind of sin that keeps us up nights, the kind of sin that sends us to hell long before we die - a living hell.

      The story also features a pervasive low-level sin from start to finish, a pride that is shared by a grandfather and his grandson, a pride that is expressed in the bickering and haughtiness that passes between them, a pride that is cured in them only after a hellish incident and a strange salvation that follows.

      Without spoiling the story, I can tell you that O'Connor manages to illustrate a sin that is more shocking and disturbing than Peter's denial of Jesus, and that echoes that most shameful of moments in all of Scripture.  As soon as he commits this terrible and most personal of sins, the grandfather (the sinner) and the grandson (the victim) both see the old man metaphorically naked - but not "naked without shame"; no, he is seen shamefully naked, his true self revealed - a self that is utterly worthless.

      And this is the point.  This is point of salvation.

      The grandfather, physically lost and wandering through the big city with his grandson, and spiritually lost, wandering through the pit of despair, experiences a moment that maybe only those who have struggled with depression or abuse truly know; or those who have betrayed an intimate love or had their own love intimate love betrayed by others.  The grandfather finds himself in hell.

      He felt he knew now what time would be like without seasons and what heat would be like without light and what man would be like without salvation. 

      Time without seasons is a dreadful eternity; heat without light is the fires of hell; man without salvation is a prideful bigot lost in a big city and finding diversions to calm his panic - which is what "The Artificial Nigger" is about.

      And it's what hell is about - the conviction that we are utterly worthless.

      This is the heart of despair.  This is the devil's great lie, which is whispered in our ear and which, though based on a grain of truth, is what takes away all hope.  When we are not loved or when we have failed to love another - when we abuse or when we suffer abuse - our entire being is called into doubt.

      Existence itself seems worthless in such a place, at such a moment.  The very gift of being, the most basic and incomprehensible of gifts, the gift that flows from the nature and essence of God, who is Being itself - this gift is overcome by regret.  We reach a moment where "it had been better had we not been born".

      The heart of despair is this worthlessness.  If heaven is love and the self-sacrifice of the cross, if heaven is a mercy that flows from the side of Jesus, a mercy that literally "redeems" us, that assigns us a value and purchases us back, then hell is the opposite of this.  Hell is a selfishness that says, "You are useless to me" or "I am useless to you" or "Existence is useless in itself".  Hell is the utter and complete lack of value, the absence of love that is only expressed by denial and betrayal.

      In O'Connor's story, the grandfather and the grandson do a little dance.  They are almost two aspects of the same person.  The one looks like an ancient child and the other like a miniature old man.  In a way, they victimize one another, and in an existential tango the heart of their shame is exposed.  It is a shame that is not without foundation, not without cause.

      But they are saved.  Saved by an "artificial nigger".

      It's something that can't be explained; you have to read the story.  They are saved by their encounter with inner ugliness and with the grace of Jesus Christ, who comes to them almost (if you'll pardon the phrase) as the "nigger of the universe".  They are saved from their own haughtiness, saved from wandering lost and in despair, saved from hell itself.

      And when the grandfather finally experiences this mercy ...

      He understood that it grew out of agony, which is not denied to any man and which is given in strange ways to children.


      And without this agony - without hell, without the heart of despair that this story reminds us of, without the cross that we build and the love and loyalty we mock and nail to it, our Faith is but a hollow shell, our liturgies a Mass of confusion, our lives a prideful aimless wandering through a dangerous and loveless jungle built by worthless men who value and redeem nothing.

      Monday, November 11, 2013

      The Multiplication of the Nothing

      Jesus and the apostles fed the multitudes with only a few loaves and fishes.  But they started with real loaves and fishes and made more.  And the crowds were fed.


      Yesterday we went to the Teen Mass, as it was the only Mass we could make it to.

      The homily conveyed Christ without the cross, heaven without hell, joy without suffering.

      The music was worse than usual, and it's always bad.

      The congregation were hovering somewhere between outright somnolence and simple boredom, closer perhaps to "quiet desperation".

      And at one point I thought,

      Why are so many people here?  Do they believe in the Real Presence of Christ?  But even if they do, they are never told who He is.  How can they receive in communion someone they don't know the first thing about?  
      The first reading, from Macabees, was gelded, sanitized, vitiated - with the stamp of approval of the bishops.  
      The three girls singing at the mic up front the whole time are out of tune, over-amplified, shrill, annoying - and the center of attention.  The songs never stop and they're performing, not serving.  The Mass is about them, and if not about them, then what is it about?  
      The 15-year-old lector mispronounces and stumbles over words and hasn't a clue of even the superficial meaning of what she's saying. 
      At the homily, we are assured by the priest that we will all attain eternal life in heaven and that it will be wonderful - meaning, I assume, nothing like this.  
      And speaking of nothing, there is nothing here that bears any relation to real life.  There is not only no miraculous feeding of the multitudes, there's no small basket of loaves and fish to start with, no small supply to fret over.  There's simply nothing.   
      Why are these people here?  If Catholics weren't required to go to Sunday Mass, and if we didn't have this strange credulity toward anyone in a collar, we'd simply find something that was substantial and real - as more than 70% of Catholics do every Sunday anyway.
      Yes, Christ is on the altar - but hidden and in a very tangible way denied.
      Why on earth is anyone here?  Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." (John 6:26) But is it not more miraculous that they are still there even when they are given no loaves and sent away hungry - week after week?

      The Emperor's New Lack of Clothes

      The Emperor has no clothes on.  He's naked for all to see, but not all want to see it.

      The World's Most Zealous Defender of Christopher West writes

      Is it "possible" to look upon someone naked not your spouse without lust? Not only is it "possible"--it's "required" for purity of heart. It's *necessary* that we be able "see rightly" in this regard if ever we are to pass through the active and passive purgation of the senses and toward the deeper "illuminative way" of the spiritual life. 

      Now he's not saying merely that lust is a sin and that we should mortify it.

      He's saying that in order to approach mystical union with God, one is required to look at naked ladies without lust.   

      That's your homework, in other words.  Get to it.

      If you stumble upon a popup ad featuring a naked lady and you avert your eyes, you are a coward who is far from the illuminative way.  Avoiding a near occasion of sin is peanuts compared to engaging near occasions of sin head on - perhaps even bookmarking them, one might imagine.

      Well, I hope to leave this subject for a while, for normal people have been spared this pathology.  Normal people simply lust and get over it.  Normal people have no need to spiritualize lust, to rationalize it and turn a sin of the flesh into something far worse.

      This strange Gnosticism only works on Catholics of a certain ilk, Catholics who can only exist in a peculiar cultural and intellectual ghetto where the Faith no longer seems to address real things or real life, a ghetto where we have fashioned a god to serve our desires.  Yes, we fashion such a god, and we wear our fashion, spun from the invisible and make-believe cloth of charlatans, leaving us Naked without Shame, strutting about like fools through the City of God.

      Thursday, November 7, 2013

      Thank You All!

      Thank you all for your prayers for my wife Karen.

      Karen with son Colin

      Today we experienced the best case scenario.  The doctors were able to perform a vaginal hysterectomy, which means Karen should be able to come home from the hospital tomorrow, and should have a very brief recovery period.  There were no incisions, and consequently the chance for complications and infections are low.  They didn't know if they would be able to do this, and we were prepared for other possible scenarios, but this one was the best.

      The surgeon told me that he examined the uterus. The tumor was small and appeared non-invasive.  Please continue to pray that this is so, and that the pathology report confirms it.  If the cancer was indeed confined to the uterus, then the removal of the uterus has cured it.

      Your prayers and support have really meant a lot - even to an old curmudgeon like me.  Lots of comments on Facebook in particular, and one of the comments on this blog really stuck with me ...

      Sending prayers. Also praying that you will have a sense of the infinitely tender care of Christ for you both, especially during today's medical stuff. - JayDee

      "The infinitely tender care of Christ for you both" - that is such a bold thing to say and to pray for, and it cuts right through all the theological and cultural bickering on this blog and elsewhere.  And it cuts right to your heart and the source of your hope when you're anxious and suffering!

      I did indeed have a sense of that "infinitely tender care" today, a very strong sense of that.


      I grabbed a Rosary from the bottom of my nightstand the other day, one of many down there.  I don't know where I originally got it from or how long it had been in my drawer.   It has shiny green beads and a large white cross with no corpus.  I don't think I've ever used it to pray.

      But I did today.  I prayed the Rosary, using this particular green one, in the surgical waiting room, and at one point, I looked at the cross.  It was plain and white, and printed on it are two simple words ...


      Wednesday, November 6, 2013

      Prayers Please

      Last month my wife Karen was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

      Today she will be undergoing a hysterectomy.  Please pray that the surgery goes well and that the cancer is confined to the uterus.

      Thanks to all of you.

      You? You're a Vile Beast. Me? I'm United with God.

      From an email to a friend ...

       I find it hard to imagine anything other than the following, though it's speculative.  If a man can convince himself that he has achieved "mature purity" and "domination over concupiscence", and if Christopher West is saying that "custody of the eyes" is not an issue for such a living and breathing saint, then it simply follows that such a man would do the rather naturally sinful thing of looking at naked ladies - maybe even at porn.  I don't quite imagine what such a man would do once the inevitable sexual arousal occurs, unless he really manages to tell himself that he's appreciating the beauty of the naked body "without shame" and that his physical symptoms upon doing so are not lust but a "seeking of God."   

      It's Gnosticism.  It's the Illuminati all over again.  If a pop-TOB devotee is "in on the know", if he has the special esoteric illumination, if he's achieved "mature purity", well looking at naked ladies for him is not what it is for you, you vile beast.  
      Meanwhile, "Naked without shame" is such a strange concept to me.  Chesterton points out that not only is nakedness shameful in fallen man, it's positively un-natural.  What was natural in Eden is not natural now.  Clothes are now a part of the nature of man.  Since the Fall, the first thing one should do to get "back to nature" would be to put a pair of pants on.  

      Theological Rewrite

      I've been hired to rewrite the above ad to reflect a greater theological accuracy.

      "Sadly, many of our beloved senior customers have gone to heaven.  Or possibly to hell.  Old Lady Bernice - yeah, she's in hell.  Purgatory for some, I imagine - though von Balthazar would suggest that there is the outside shot that all of them are in fact in heaven; personally, I knew these women well and old Hans can Ur my Von Balthazar, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, we need some new angels to fill our chairs.  Not angels, per se, who don't have hair - at least not physical hair (after all, how many angels can dance on the end of a hairpin? ha ha - but I digress); but moral angels, by which I mean people of good behavior who tip me well.  In brief, we need new customers.  OK?"

      Tuesday, November 5, 2013

      The Poet Speaks, though Locked in the Cellar

      The stairs to my cellar, where Fr. Corapi hid out, and where I've sentenced The Poet.

      The Poet, who often shows up here drunk and writing annoying things about his Lady and his longing for her, is finally locked in the cellar.  I put him down there with the cat and the wine.  He refuses to clean the litter box, but he's happy to drink the wine.

      But I miss him, and I really miss his Lady, though I've never met her.  I can't tell by listening to him, though, whether she's celestial or psychotic.  One thing I know - she utterly, completely, deliberately and maliciously destroyed him.  She's a piece of work.  But he forgives her, for she "knows not what she does" (yeah, right).  Anyway, he really cares for her and he's really forgiven her and he really holds her dear.  He's even made up with the Princess, who had him arrested, and somewhere I suspect he may have a wife who's a better woman than the other two put together.  Maybe she's down there with him.

      Anyway, because he sings every night and keeps me up, he's starting to influence me.  I'm starting to write like him.

      I wrote to my actors the others day ...

      Actors, artists, writers - acedia (sloth, despondency, depression) is a great temptation.
      Our longing is so great. We hear the far off song more than others. That's why we do what we do. We try to communicate it. Sometimes it seems we can't, or that the song is an illusion, or that our longing is neurotic or merely selfish. Those four lost chords - will we ever play them?
      Will they get lost in our scramble for a career, in the harshness of the business, in the dull light of the daily grind?
      Yes, our lives are painful, painful because we hear God singing and we try to imitate him and we open our mouths and we croak and can't even find the right key. But to deaden that pain and to stop singing that song is to "accede" to acedia.
      I have never done anything as glorious as it ought to be, never loved without selfishness, never gone a day without sin. But every now and then I am touched with God's Spirit and I pass along that touch. Every now and then a flicker of the eternal glory shines through.


      The Poet and I agree on one thing.  And it is this: God is so very real, my friends.  If we let Him, He'll fill our bodies with light.

      Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you. (Luke 11:36) 

      Maybe it's not as dark in that cellar as I had thought.  Maybe I should let The Poet out.  Maybe he would shine, like a light.  (He's lit.  That much I know.)

      I've Just Discovered Sex!

      The Church's teaching on sex called Theology of the Body is new, and John Paul II and Hugh Hefner (according to Christopher West) have freed us from the Church's past sexual repression, right?  The Church has just discovered what sex means and is now sorry that it repressed it for so long, right?

      Well ... John B. Manos responds to that claim.

      What I first did when I discovered sex ... it's actually quite orthodox!

      The Great Evil of Daylight Savings Time???

      My Conspiracy Theory friends are (strange as it sounds) very angry at Daylight Saving Time, claiming it's the government's way of asserting arbitrary power over us, that it represents man's insane assertion of human will over Nature.  After arguing with them all day yesterday, I've finally come up with a post that should suffice.

      You might say I've sprung forward to the truth and fallen back on a handy explanation of it ...


      If you're using anything other than a sundial (and we've been using mechanical clocks since the 13th Century), noon by the clock is almost NEVER noon by the sun at any place on the earth on any given day. Perhaps twice a year sun noon will correspond to mechanical clock or digital clock noon within a few seconds.

      And this correspondence is rarely on the days of Spring or Autumn Equinox. This is because your location on earth will never be matched up with the "time zone" to the exact minute. Solar noon for Eastern Standard Time Maine will be far earlier than noon for Eastern Standard time Indiana. For that matter, solar noon for western Maine will be later than solar noon for Eastern Maine.

      My point is we count hours for the sake of convenience, so that we can all plan things. The hours we count have some relation to the sun, but not an exact correspondence. This has been the case for about 700 years. Therefore Daylight Savings Time is really no big deal. It's just a way of adjusting a somewhat arbitrary system that is never in exact accord with nature to begin with.


      But even making this case has been a struggle.

      We live in strange times, whether Daylight or Standard.

      Salisbury Cathedral, home of the world's first mechanical clock.

      Monday, November 4, 2013

      Happy Reformation Day! - A Bit Late

      Here's Chesterton on Martin Luther burning the works of St. Thomas Aquinas ...

      It is said that the great Reformer publicly burned the Summa Theologica and the works of Aquinas ... All the close-packed definitions that excluded so many errors and extremes; all the broad and balanced judgments upon the clash of loyalties or the choice of evils; all the liberal speculations upon the limits of government or the proper conditions of justice; all the distinctions between the use and abuse of private property; all the rules and exceptions about the great evil of war; all the allowances for human weakness and all the provisions for human health; all this mass of medieval humanism shrivelled and curled up in smoke before the eyes of its enemy; and that great passionate peasant rejoiced darkly, because the day of the Intellect was over. Sentence by sentence it burned, and syllogism by syllogism; and the golden maxims turned to golden flames in that last and dying glory of all that had once been the great wisdom of the Greeks. The great central Synthesis of history, that was to have linked the ancient with the modern world, went up in smoke and, for half the world, was forgotten like a vapour.

      h/t Sean P. Dailey

      If I Said You Had a Beautiful Theology of the Body, Would You Hold It Against Me?

      From a post to my friends ...

      Alice Von Hildebrand has come out with a new book - critiquing Christopher West. If I were a Catholic Rock Star (I am) and a 90-year-old theologian who escaped the Nazis and was recently knighted by Pope Francis spent her prodigious intellectual talents writing what might be her last full-length book taking direct aim at me and my bad theology, I ... would simply soil myself.

      So, maybe the Westians will rouse themselves again.  If so, remember blog reader JVC's handy Angry Combox Comment on Christopher West Checklist.  (Check those that apply if the comments begin appearing).

      Angry Combox Comment on Christopher West Checklist

      - Irrelevant personal anecdote involving Christopher West

      - Confound criticism of West with sedevacantism or opposition to John Paul II

      - Baseless accusation of a lack of evidence, despite numerous, readily available writings by the accused

      - Reference to a clergy or lay member who has endorsed West (i.e. argument based on authority): 

      - Calumnious suggestion of calumny

      - Excerpting something from another language, to demonstrate one's intelligence:

      - Demand that the accused go to Confession:

      - Sneering suggestion that the accused be charitable

      - Insincere Christian greeting/blessing (e.g. "God bless you.")

      The Theology of the Truth

      Pornographer Hugh Hefner, whom Christopher West
      says is his hero.
      I have sometimes wondered why the most virulent defender of Christopher West and his pop-Catholic obsession with sex also defends Lying When Convenient, in flagrant opposition to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium.

      John B. Manos gives us an insight at the Bellarmine Forum, where he zeroes in on the main truth of the real Theology of the Body ...

      POINT ONE:  the practice of chastity begins with telling the truth.  That’s easy to comprehend.  I really meant it when I posted this article last year – the problem of chastity, even in instructing young people today, is one caused by the crisis of truth in people’s minds and speech.  It’s an easy concept — to delve into the life of promiscuity requires internal lying, and a choice by the unchaste to accept and develop the lies.  If lies are at the root, then telling the truth begin the remedy.  Like all the virtues, it’s such an easy idea to comprehend, but that’s not so easy to practice.
      POINT TWO:  there is no defect or grand discovery in Pope John Paul II’s lectures.  The very point of honesty and telling the truth, both with the tongue and with the body was a major assertion by John Paul II.  In several places across many of the lectures, John Paul II makes the point that fornication is but one work of the flesh, that Purity begins in the heart, yet, says John Paul II:
      “Impure works in the same sense are defined not only as adultery and fornication, and so the sins of the flesh in the strict sense, but also “‘evil thoughts…theft, false witness, slander.’”
      False Witness and slander are lies.  John Paul II makes this connection in many places — why?  Because Catholic tradition has always made this observation of basic human nature!
      I challenge you to find such in the “MOVEMENT” afoot today, however.
      It follows that liars cannot be intimate with someone, because there will always be a false basis to the things shared between them.  Thus, if a person habitually lies, they cannot, without reformation to truth telling, have a relationship with another person as God intended and made us to.

      ... and fornication, pornography, sodomy, etc. are forms of lying - lying about the purpose of the Body.

      Read more here.