Saturday, September 27, 2003

Currently Reading?
Monsignor Ronald Knox's Pastoral Sermons, his uncollected and unpublished sermons that Evelyn Waugh (his literary executor) sent off to Father Phillipo Carman, SJ, to put into publishable order after Knox's death (c. 1959ish). Very orthodox, very solid sermons with lots of important insights.

Rumors Abound That New Cardinals Are To Be Named Soon
I doubt that Archbishop Sean will be among them. However, I think it is about time for Archbishop Pell of Australia to get his red hat.

Whenever this happens, and whether it is timed to coincide with the consistory that may or may not take place in late October is just a matter of speculation. But it would be wise for the Holy Father to name some additional cardinals, and men of his own way of thinking, if he wants to be sure that his successor approaches matters in the same way he has.

US Forces Holding 248 Foreign Fighters In Iraq: 19 Al Qaeda Members
One objective in war is to take it to the enemy. Iraq is were a significant portion of the enemy is. They had a presence there under Saddam, just as the Palestinian terrorist groups (which I consider no better than al Qaeda). Even more are being drawn into Iraq since we defeated Saddam's armed forces and kicked him out of power for an opportunity to take a swipe at us.

These individuals, coming as they do from all over the Moslem world, are our worst enemies, the people most enthusiastic about getting an opportunity to kill Americans, the people we have to efface from the earth along with the mindset that they represent. By coming into Iraq, they have made themselves vulnerable to us in a unique way. We ought to send them to the martyrdom they so richly deserve, though without the satisfaction of taking American lives with them.

That in and of itself is a good argument for not cutting and running in Iraq as the Democrats would have us do.

This Does Not Sound Like a Good Appointment To Me
The fact that Father Hehir addressed the Boston Priests' Forum is not a good sign.

He may be great at getting services to those who need them (which is the point, of course, of Catholic Charities). But one need not reach out to a "big name" in the charity business when someone less well known, but perfectly orthodox, could do just as earnest a job of getting resources where they ae needed.

What I am saying is that, it is all well and good that someone with a proven track record of doing good charitable work (or overseeing good charitable work) gets such a job. But it would have been better if an orthdoxy litmus test was used for the position. Given the statements from Father Hehir in the article about "treating adults as adults" and the choice of the BPF as an audience, I don't think such a test was applied. I don't thnk this bodes well for getting done what needs to be done in the Archdiocese.

Archbishop Sean is doing a good job settling the pervert priest crisis here. That was his primary task. He is, as far as can be seen, also setting a good example of personal holiness. But is this what the Archdiocese of Boston needs for the long term? I think not. There is too much liberalism, I fear, in our good Archbishop. What we need is a Bruskewitz, a fellow who really ought not to see retirement age without a red hat.

Now maybe the Holy Father might think of another archdiocese which needs his one-man fire brigade's services.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Tonight Rosh Hashana Begins
Happy New Year to our Jewish friends.

Requiescat In Pace
I just saw that George Plimpton, author of Paper Lion and many other books, died at the age of 76. Plimpton was one of America's more adaptable (and fun) inhabitants. Requiescat in pace.

Weekly Dose of Common Sense From Victor Davis Hanson
He really is quite valuable, indispensible in fact.

Ann Coulter Has This Great Take On David Limaugh's New Book

Well, the Red Sox Made the Playoffs
Last night they clinched the American League Wild Card berth. That takes the drama out of the final weekend of the season, as they have no hope of overtaking the Yankees for the division title.

As Chris said in the comment below, a true Red Sox fan, no matter how gratified at the team's making the playoffs, never loses his skepticism, and dares not express hope. After all, we have been sadly disappointed a few times too many to actually have hope.

So we savor this one small bit of glory, transitory as it may very well be.

Being a Red Sox fan is a penance, rather like wearing a hairshirt. It is irksome at times, especially during September and October. It is an acquired taste that very few but true New Englanders can acquire. The personal fortitude required to withstand constant disappointment is not something folks from just anywhere are blessed with. Rather, like the New England weather, the fortunes of the Olde Towne Team are something to be endured. One needs a very healthy dose of stoicism to remain sane while watching the Red Sox over the years.

And as Samuel Johnson was fond of pointing out, "There are more things in life to be endured, than to be enjoyed." The Red Sox fate has, unswervingly since Woodrow Wilson was president, been something to be endured. The number of times that they have managed to find a way to be defeated since 1918 truly beggars the imagination.

But New England has something to enjoy this morning. We should all enjoy it while we can. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I Think There Is Much To Praise In This Article
I've found my own way to traditional piety without the Latin Mass, though I respect it.

For years, I have tried to follow the three-hour fast rule, no meat on Fridays year-round (except for the day after Thanksgiving, during the 12 days of Christmas, and Saint Patrick's Day or Saint George's Day, should they fall on a Friday), no meat, alchohol, cigars, coffee, tea, cocoa, etc. during Lent, observing Ember Days, covering sacred images with purple cloth during Lent (Mrs. F. doesn't like this), having multiple crucifixes and other sacred images in the home.

I read the Psalms, My Imitation of Christ, and the Lives of the Saints as often as I can. During Lent, I have an even more demanding daily inspirational reading schedule.

So I would characterize my personal piety as traditional, with an emphasis on pious practices rather than on "deep spirituality." I'm not an "enthusiast."

Yes, I think the Latin Mass could be a gateway to traditional piety. It may even be the best gateway. But it was not the gateway I used to get there. I owe whatever piety I display now to my parents and my Irish grandmother. If I like to listen to chant now and then, that wasn't the source of my "high church" outlook. It is just a symptom of it.

Archbishop Sean Has Ordered the Monsignor Michael Smith Foster Case Re-Opened
To be honest, I never felt good about the "vindication" of this priest, or the vilification of his accuser. Maybe the fellow is a liar. Things happen to liars as well.

And I have the impression that the monsignor received an undue amount of benefit of the doubt because of his position on the Archdiocesan tribunal. Of course, that does not mean he abused this guy. What we appear to have is "he-said/he-said" and nothing more. In that case, one must look at the evidence and circumstances that exist outside the framework of this accuser's story. That is the only way i know of to get to the truth of the matter, without one side or the other recanting.

Now this will be the third investigation of this particular priest. If he is innocent, I feel for him. If he is not, the Archdiocese ought to have done a better job getting to the truth the first time.

The Red Sox Magic Number To Clinch the American League Wild Card Is Now 1
Any combination of one Red Sox win, or one Seattle loss for the rest of the season (it ends this weekend, I gather) means the Red Sox are in the playoffs. Not that they will go far in the playoffs, since they, eventually, will have to get past either the Yankees or Oakland, but at least they will be there.

Nearly 15,000 Died of the Summer Heat In France
All for a government policy that discourages air conditioning in the name of the environment!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Requiescat In Pace
Hugh Gregg, former Governor of New Hampshire, and father of Senator Judd Gregg, died today at the age of 85. Requiescat in pace.

Virginia's Episcopalian Bishops Catch Heck From the Folks In the Pews Over Their Support For New Hampshire's Openly Gay and Non-Celibate Bishop
But it won't matter, because those bishops know they are moved by the "vision of the anointed," and that they, therefore, know better than those hicks who pay the bills (never mind that the Episcoplians in Northern Virginia are a fairly sophisticated and well-educated crowd).

I Told You This Stuff Was Out There

Boston's Pervert Priest Cases Another Step Closer To Closure

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Two More Servicemen Suspected of Espionage At Gitmo

Feast of St. Padre Pio da Pietrelcina
There is so much known about this great saint, that I think I can leave his feast day without biographical background.

No Clapping, Dancing, Altar Girls, Poetry, Or Communion Under Both Species
This all looks great to me. The problem, however, is getting our bishops and priests to implement this.

And Now, The California Election Is Back To October 7th
Courtesy of an en banc ruling by the federal Ninth Circuit. Not much chance that the Supreme Court will intervene here, I think.

The Hock Cart or Harvest Home
By Robert Herrick
COME, sons of summer, by whose toil
We are the lords of wine and oil :
By whose tough labours, and rough hands,
We rip up first, then reap our lands.
Crowned with the ears of corn, now come,
And to the pipe sing harvest home.
Come forth, my lord, and see the cart
Dressed up with all the country art :
See here a maukin, there a sheet,
As spotless pure as it is sweet :
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies,
Clad all in linen white as lilies.
The harvest swains and wenches bound
For joy, to see the hock-cart crowned.
About the cart, hear how the rout
Of rural younglings raise the shout ;
Pressing before, some coming after,
Those with a shout, and these with laughter.
Some bless the cart, some kiss the sheaves,
Some prank them up with oaken leaves :
Some cross the fill-horse, some with great
Devotion stroke the home-borne wheat :
While other rustics, less attent
To prayers than to merriment,
Run after with their breeches rent.
Well, on, brave boys, to your lord's hearth,
Glitt'ring with fire, where, for your mirth,
Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef :
With upper stories, mutton, veal
And bacon (which makes full the meal),
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here all-tempting frumenty.
And for to make the merry cheer,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There's that which drowns all care, stout beer ;
Which freely drink to your lord's health,
Then to the plough, the commonwealth,
Next to your flails, your fans, your fats,
Then to the maids with wheaten hats ;
To the rough sickle, and crook'd scythe,
Drink, frolic, boys, till all be blithe.
Feed, and grow fat ; and as ye eat
Be mindful that the lab'ring neat,
As you, may have their fill of meat.
And know, besides, ye must revoke
The patient ox unto the yoke,
And all go back unto the plough
And harrow, though they're hanged up now.
And, you must know, your lord's word's true,
Feed him ye must, whose food fills you ;
And that this pleasure is like rain,
Not sent ye for to drown your pain,
But for to make it spring again.

Autumnal Equinox
Today is the first day of Fall. What a pleasure that season always brings me! Apple picking, fresh cider, colorful foliage, pumpkins, corn stalks, Halloween and its ghost stories, then Thanksgiving all rank very high in my list of favorite things. May this autumn harvest be bountiful as families gather together to enjoy each other's company again.

Lest I Forget
Today is the fifth anniversary of my mother's death. Kathryn Ann died of post-surgical pneumonia (complicated by senile dementia) at the age of 75. She was the last member of my family still alive, having been preceeded in death by a sister, two brothers, my father, and all four of my grandparents.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Howard Dean Is In Boston Today
I heard some of his supporters being interviewed today.

The lowest form of malicious populism is what his people practice. To the unemployed: "Vote for Dean, and you'll get a job!' 'Bush wants to spend $87 billion on Iraq. That means your kid won't be able to get a public education!'

It is pointlesss trying to refute the insanity coming from these quarters. It would be debasing oneself to even address nonsense like this.

But people ought to be aware that this sort of base gutter-politicking is being used by the supporters and campaign workers of a "major" candidate for President. And they ought to remember that come the primaries, and next November as well, since the insane drivel being used by the workers of a campaign is merely a reflection of the mind of the entire Democrat Party, which would be just as happy to give Iraq back to Saddam, and set Osama bin Laden up in a suite at the Park Plaza, and turn the White House into a mosque, just as long as we are not attacked again.

Requiescat In Pace
Another one! This time it was 71 year-old Gordon Jump, Mr. Carlson of WKRP in Cinncinnati, and the second lonely Maytag repairman. Requiescat in pace.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I Came Away With A Deeper Fellow-Feeling For Guy Crouchback
I just finished Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy (that was fast, as I was "at leisure" this weekend). Saturday, I said the trilogy were not "Catholic" novels, though they contained a good deal that would be familiar territory for Catholics of a somewhat traditionalist bent. I stand by that judgment, as modified by the discussion below.

The central character, Guy Crouchback, is the scion of a family of old recusant English Catholic gentry. Financially, they have seen better days. With one brother killed in the First World War, and another who starved himself to death after flipping his lid, Guy is the End of the Line for the Crouchbacks. He married in the 1930s a lovely fashionable girl, who, sadly, was not Catholic, and had no notion of the permanency of Catholic marriage. They had no children.

She left him. Of course, to someone of Guy's background, divorce (though they are divorced) is impossible and irrelevant. The only way out of a marriage is annulment, which, then as now, was seen as a cop-out (and was much more difficult to get then). His wife goes on her merry way with two or three more husbands, and other men.

Guy is alone, grows into a shadow of his former self. "Diffident" is the word I would use to describe Guy. And somewhat vacant. He confesses his sins early on:

"There was no risk of going deeper than the denunciation of his few infractions of law, of his habitual weaknesses. Into that wasteland where his soul languished he need not, could not enter. He had no words to describe it. There were no words in any language. There was nothing to describe, merely a void."

He has no real purpose in life. He has enough money to get by. His family's social position gives him de facto entre into the best circles. His family and social life are blighted by his shame. Sure others around him, non-Catholic friends from Oxford, can get on, marrying as they please, divorcing as they please, re-marrying as they please. But this is not the way of his family. He is set apart from all he knows even more than he realizes it, by the traditions of his family. A book I am reading by James Hitchcock (Catholicism and Modernity) described the cause of Guy's inhibition very well, without mentioning this situation: Catholics (I am paraphrasing since I can't find the quotation), are more rigid and stable than other people. Guy has made a mistake. He has married someone who does not understand that his Faith is a vital part of him, and that he will now be trapped in a loveless universe after the divorce. He is, to my mind, very like Charles Ryder after his conversion, the Captain Ryder we meet at the start of Brideshead Revisited.

This is who Guy is when we meet him. World War II is breaking out, and though he has been living in Italy in self-imposed exile, is hardly the sort one would readily credit as a soldier, and is 35, he returns to England to take a commission in one of the regiments being augmented for the war.

The first two novels, Men At Arms and Officers and Gentlemen, introduce us to Guy and take us through his adventures in the war. The quotation used by me and by other Catholic bloggers so much during our war on terrorism occurs very early in the first novel. Guy is leaving his home in Italy. He has been troubled by the fact that England is about to go to war with Germany. He dislikes Nazism and Italian Fascism. But he hates Communism. The announcement of the (brief) Nazi-Soviet alliance (for the purpose of dismembering Poland) has gladdened Guy's aching heart somewhat.

"Just seven days earlier he had opened his morning newspaper on the headlines announcing the Russian-German alliance. News that shook the politicians and young poets of a dozen capitals brought deep peace to one English heart. Eight years of shame and loneliness were ended. For eight years, Guy, already set apart from his fellows by his own deep wound, that unstaunched, internal draining away of life and love, had been deprived of the loyalties that should have sustained him....The German Nazis he knew to be mad and bad. Their participation dishoured the cause of Spain....But now, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle."

It is safe to say that his war service is hardly stirring. He is not having much more luck with his military career than he had with marriage. He has seen very little action, and that marred by the eccentricities of a senior officer. His easily-injured knee keeps him out of even more action. And, at the very center of British counter intelligence, there is a file on him in which some odd coincidences that occur around him are recorded. The absurdity that full-fledged communists were suitable for wartime employment in delicate matters, while the right-wing Guy is not is fully played out, and contributes to his idleness while in uniform.

With Britain allied to the Soviet communists by the end of June, 1941, and his own professional non-progress, it is safe to say that Guy has re-entered that void in his soul. It never really went away. Guy had merely temporarily papered over it.

Guy's father, Gervase Crouchback, a kindly, genial, and very devout man dies in the autumn of 1943. He had written Guy concerning that void he had detected in Guy's soul. We are given an insight into the emptiness in Guy's soul, the loss of deep love. Guy is struggling with that loss. He has been for a very long time, now more than a decade.

Waugh here comes to the heart of the matter: Why, God, am I here? Why, after this deep wound, am I still here on earth? What purpose do I serve? Am I supposed to do something? What? What can I do?

Who has not felt this way, particularly during particularly difficult tribulations?

We come in now with Guy's thoughts and prayers at his father's funeral Mass.

"I'm worried about you," his father had written in the letter which, though it was not his last-for he and Guy had exchanged news since; auditiones malae of his father's deterioriating health and his own prolonged frustration-Guy regarded as being in a special sense the conclusion of their regular, rather reserved correspondence of more than thirty years. His father had been worried about, not anything connected with his worldly progress, but his evident apathy; he was worrying now perhaps in that mysterious transit camp through which he must pass on his way to rest and light. Guy's prayers were directed to, rather than for, his father. For many years now the direction in The Garden of the Soul, "Put yourself in the presence of God," had for Guy come to mean a mere act of respect, like signing the Visitors' Book at an Embassy or Government House. He reported for duty saying to God: "I don't ask anything from You. I am here if You want me. I don't suppose I can be any use, but if there is anything I can do, let me know," and left it at that.

"I don't ask anything from You;" that was the deadly core of his apathy; his father had tried to tell him, was now telling him. That emptiness had been with him for years now even in his days of enthusiasm and activity in the Halberdiers. Enthusiasm and activity were not enough. God required more than that. He had commanded all men to ask.

In the recesses of Guy's conscience there lay the belief that somewhere, somehow, something would be required of him; that he must be attentive to the summons when it came. They also served who only stood and waited. He saw himself as one of the labourers in the parable who sat in the market-place waiting to be hired and were not called into the vineyard until late in the day. They had their reward on an equality with the men who had toiled there since dawn. One day he would get the chance to do some small service which only he could perform, for which he had been created. Even he must have his function in the divine plan. He did not expect a heroic destiny. Quantatative judgments did not apply. All that mattered was to recognize the chance when it offered. Perhaps his father was at that moment clearing the way for him. "Show me what to do and help me to do it," he prayed.

Guy's prayer is answered that winter. He is still stuck in England and essentially unemployed by the Army. His ex-wife, pregnant with the child of an utterly worthless man, comes to him, destitute. He re-marries her. She is received into the Church. She sends the baby to live with Guy's sister outside London. Then she is killed by a V-1 rocket bomb before she can cause Guy the sorrow one knows she inevitably would have. Thus he probably won his wife's eventual salvation (she dies in something close to a state of grace, having just confessed recently and not having done anything really worthy of damnation since then). He takes this other man's child and accepts him as his own. Something only he could do.

And Guy is not destroyed by the death of his ex-wife. He is not even deeply moved at his wife's death. But this is not the void that has operated in his life for so long. He knows that he has fulfilled, is fulfilling, the mission God gave him. He is eventually posted to Yugoslavia, and spends time working, not without sorrow, with Jewish refugees. When he returns to England, he marries the young daughter, a character that reminded my very much of Cordelia Flyte from Brideshead Revisted, of another old Catholic recusant family. In young Gervase, his dead wife's son, he has an heir and therefore is not the End of the Line for the Crouchbacks, at least not legally, though his bloodline will die out, unless he and his new wife can have children.

So the story of Guy Crouchback isn't so much a story of faith. But it is story, even more than Brideshead Revisted, about the inner void of those of us who do not think God has given us a purpose in life, those of us who wonder, "Why am I here? There must be a reason. What is expected of me?" It may have even more universal application than the story of faith regained that is Brideshead Revisted.

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