Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sir John PolkinghorneImage via Wikipedia
“If you don’t know what you believe, how do you know you believe it?”

That was a question posed to an adult Sunday school class by Rev Judd Wylie, back when I was still a Protestant in Texas. I’ve often thought that one of the wisest statements on faith I’ve ever heard and is probably one of the triggers that started me on the path to Rome. The other day, I came across this quote from the book Science and the Trinity, by John Polkinghorne, the English physicist turned Anglican priest.

“Broad general ideas are attractive (a divine Mind behind the order of the universe), but I believe that theism only becomes truly persuasive when it is elaborated in greater detail and when it is anchored in the experience and interpretation that are preserved and propagated within a religious tradition.”
I’ve known a few people in my time who profess faith in Christianity, yet refuse to participate in any kind of formal worship services or membership in any formal religious organization. They usually say they can worship God just as well on the golf course, or wherever, as I can in Church. I know then I’ve run across someone who has very little idea of what faith is, and cares less. Without some sort of definition to our beliefs, there simply is no belief.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, May 29, 2011, St Cyril of Jerusalem

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-centur...Image via Wikipedia
O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again, but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us, that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship of His pain He vouchsafed salvation.

On the Christian Sacraments.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Founders Friday, Friday, May 27, 2011, Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry in the House of BurgessesImage by Marion Doss via Flickr
"It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains."

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is from a good column by Stephan White at The Catholic Thing.  To me, the most astonishing thing about the progressive movement is it's inability to learn from experience.  It's to sacrifice the good simply for the sake of ideology.

It’s an astonishing failure of political imagination (or an extraordinary act of historical hubris) to insist that the only moral means for promoting the common good are to be found in the expansion of the massive social assistance programs devised in the middle of the twentieth century, the costs of which have put this country on the road to insolvency.

If more taxes and government spending were in fact better for society, it would be irresponsible to oppose them. If a larger, more active state with an expansive welfare apparatus constituted the social arrangement most conducive to the common good, we would, at least from a Catholic point of view, be morally bound to support it. Yet as a matter of empirical evidence and prudential judgment, not ideological preference, the current system is, to say the least, not entirely convincing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wacky Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Barney Miller - Hash

It's Wednesday, we've made it half way through the week, it's time to relax and enjoy a laugh from the old Barney Miller TV show.

Miscellaneous Musings, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This is certainly an interesting take on the current GOP presidential prospects, and I think William Kristol is right!

The Next President Isn’t Currently Running (Updated) The Weekly Standard

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Early Church Fathers, Sunday, May 22, 2011,Justin Martyr

We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these, but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

Wacky Wednesday, Wednesday, June 22, 2011, The Munsters: Everyday Living

It's Wednesday, we've made it half way through the week, it's time to kick back and enjoy a laugh with The Munsters.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Founders Friday, Friday, May 20, 2011, Samuel Adams

50 x 40 1/4" (127 x 102.2 cm)Image via Wikipedia
"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." 
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Thursday, May 19, 2011

An interesting article in the UK’s Guardian.  I, sorry to say, must be counted among those who see very little true intellectual promise among those commonly regarded as the intelligentsia.  Still, there is always the tendency to look back wistfully on “the good old days.” However justified the tendency may be.

The fact that a nation that lives by its considerable wits should be in denial about its reliance on the life of the mind is truly weird. It's what led the historian of ideas Stefan Collini to postulate what he calls the "absence thesis". This has two dimensions – temporal and geographical. In the first, contemporary figures are regarded as just pale reflections of the great figures of the past: thus Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis, say, are pygmies compared with George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Richard Posner, another student of public intellectuals, describes this as measuring today's average against yesterday's peak. In either case, it conveniently ignores the fact that the heroes of the past were often undervalued by their contemporaries as mere pale reflections of the "really" great figures of an even more distant past. The geographical dimension of the absence thesis is reflected in the belief that intellectuals begin at Calais. But, as Collini observes, "the frequently encountered claim that there are no intellectuals in Britain is generally advanced by those who, were they living in certain other societies, would unhesitatingly be regarded as intellectuals".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wacky Wednesday, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, Arte Johnson

It's Wednesday, we've made it half-way through the day, it's time to kick back and enjoy a laugh from Laugh-In

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I ran across this New Yorker story and thought it interesting. It’s about a researcher at Baylor, David Eagleman and an experience of time he had as a boy. I’ve shared a similar experience just one time in my life, in Viet Nam. In a time of danger, not great, I distinctly remember feeling that I was moving in slow motion. I had the additional feeling of watching myself, as if in a movie. It was quite strange. Anyway, the story, here, is worth reading.

The brain is a remarkably capable chronometer for most purposes. It can track seconds, minutes, days, and weeks, set off alarms in the morning, at bedtime, on birthdays and anniversaries. Timing is so essential to our survival that it may be the most finely tuned of our senses. In lab tests, people can distinguish between sounds as little as five milliseconds apart, and our involuntary timing is even quicker. If you’re hiking through a jungle and a tiger growls in the underbrush, your brain will instantly home in on the sound by comparing when it reached each of your ears, and triangulating between the three points. The difference can be as little as nine-millionths of a second.

Yet “brain time,” as Eagleman calls it, is intrinsically subjective. “Try this exercise,” he suggests in a recent essay. “Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you’re looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here’s the kicker: you never see your eyes move.” There’s no evidence of any gaps in your perception—no darkened stretches like bits of blank film—yet much of what you see has been edited out. Your brain has taken a complicated scene of eyes darting back and forth and recut it as a simple one: your eyes stare straight ahead. Where did the missing moments go?

The question raises a fundamental issue of consciousness: how much of what we perceive exists outside of us and how much is a product of our minds? Time is a dimension like any other, fixed and defined down to its tiniest increments: millennia to microseconds, aeons to quartz oscillations. Yet the data rarely matches our reality. The rapid eye movements in the mirror, known as saccades, aren’t the only things that get edited out. The jittery camera shake of everyday vision is similarly smoothed over, and our memories are often radically revised. What else are we missing? When Eagleman was a boy, his favorite joke had a turtle walking into a sheriff’s office. “I’ve just been attacked by three snails!” he shouts. “Tell me what happened,” the sheriff replies. The turtle shakes his head: “I don’t know, it all happened so fast.”


Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Early Church Fathers, Sunday, May 15, 2011, Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of AntiochieImage via Wikipedia

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.

(Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wacky Wednesday, Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Classic Honeymooners Golf Scene

It's Wednesday, we've made it half way through the week, it's time to kick back and enjoy a laugh from the Honeymooners.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Monday, May 9, 2011

I Gotta Be Me

The other day a co-worker asked me, if it were possible, what three things I’d change about my life. I gave some sort of flippant reply, thinking it one of those silly, “what if” kind of questions that people come up with, mostly to kill time. I thought no more about it.

Until, that is, a few hours later. I realized that, as I’ve gotten a little older, [ Ed Note: The author adamantly refuses to clarify this statement is specific terms, so the accuracy of “a little older” can’t be verified for truthfulness] every couple of years I’ve stopped to look back over my life, trying to gain perspective on the direction life has taken me. [Ed Note: We know for a fact that the author is nearly neurotic about this and does it on a daily basis.] Ahem, as I was saying, on occasion, I do review the events of my life. And there are times when I’ve wished thing might have been different. [Ed Note: He’s quite neurotic about this also.] [Author’s Note: You can’t possibly know that, so mind your own damned business! Please!]

Anyway, on these occasions, I sometimes imagine how much better things would have been if, say, I’d been born into a wealthy, highly influential family, in a different place, [Ed Note: London, New York, Paris . . .], [Author’s Note: NOT Paris, now please, BUTT OUT!] chosen a different career, and on and on. 

On the other hand, in recent years, I’ve spent time pondering the works of two saints, Benedict and Ignatius, and come to see that, in reality, my life is in God’s hands, and always has been. Things may not have been always ideal in every aspect, but in ways I don’t yet understand, it’s been perfect for me. In truth, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the life I’ve lived. I have my own unique perspective on the world and have made, done both good and bad. 
The answer to my friend’s question, then, is twofold. There are things I wish I’d done differently. There are many times when I could have been wiser, more mature, kinder, more compassionate, simply better. I don’t think there are many among us who wouldn’t say that. There are hurts I wish could have been avoided. I wish my father had lived just a few years longer, enough to see that I did, finally, fulfill his wish that I become a CPA, to my own great astonishment. Yet, there have been good times too, times when I acted maturely, wisely, compassionately. There have been times of accomplishment, achievement, joy. 

Thinking it over, I’m not sure it’s good to wish for great changes in the way we’ve lived our lives and to wish it all magically to be transformed into some vague ideal existence. Sometimes, when I think about making such changes, I’ve realized that if things had been very different, I wouldn’t be who I am. For better or worse, I wouldn’t be me. I have to trust that somehow, God is able to work for good through all of the chaos and confusion of my life. I believe that, when God made me, he knew what He was doing. I marvel that he went ahead and made me anyway. So, I’ll take what I’ve been given, acknowledge the past, my own weakness, and look forward to doing better in the future. There’s nothing I’d change. 

Oh, except maybe one thing. I might try to find a new editor. [Ed note: be my guest!]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, May 8, 2011

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the churches? (St Ireneaus, Against Heresies).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Founders Friday, Friday, May 6, 2011

Benjamin FranklinImage via Wikipedia
Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life, and virtuous Industry.

Benjamin Franklin, Positions to be Examined, April 4, 1769

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taxi:  What's New In Your Life, Latka?

It's Wednesday, we've made it half way through the week, so it's time to kick back and have a laugh with Danny De Vito and Andy Kaufmann

Monday, May 2, 2011

Miscellaneous Musings, Monday, May 2, 2011

The Cowardly Disciples

It’s hard to get through any Easter season without reading a comment, or hearing a word in a homily, about the cowardice displayed by the disciples at the time of Jesus arrest. It’s a point often mentioned but, I’ve noticed, not often elaborated on. Why were the disciples suddenly so afraid that they would desert someone so important in their lives? Someone they knew could be the Messiah? And, if they ran when the crunch came, what do we have to look forward to in the difficulties we, as Christians, face today?

I started thinking about not cowardice, but courage. I tried to think if I had seen any acts of real courage in my life? I honestly couldn’t think of any examples of what we typically think of as courage, someone facing real danger for a good cause or reason, bravely, despite the consequences. I was thinking strictly in terms of valor. Then, on Saturday evening at Mass, I noticed the young deacon who will receive priestly ordination in June.

I realized I was in the living presence of someone displaying real courage, defying conventional wisdom and all our society values and approves in the service of his deepest beliefs. Some would say he was throwing his life away for nothing. But he has something they don’t; he has something true to live for. I think that’s a display of true courage. It’s not just a reflexive act, done in a moment of crisis, it’s an oblation of self to God, for God’s will. What could be more genuinely courageous?

Perhaps the most courageous man I’ve known though was my own father. He had little education, but like most Scots, a great deal of talent and ingenuity. He came to America looking for a better life and found it. He worked 30 years in a Detroit stamping factory as a die maker. It was dirty, dangerous, sweaty work. He would go to work every day, even into his 60’s, in the dead of the Michigan winter or heat of summer. In the summer the temperatures would reach 120 degrees or more inside that factory. He never took a “sick day” or even much vacation. He did it to provide a living for our family and so I could eventually receive an education and become a CPA. I never wanted to be an accountant, couldn’t imagine such a thing, but that’s what he wanted for me. He didn’t live to see it. He was a true hero, a truly courageous disciple.

I realized that accusing those disciples of cowardice is to make a false accusation. Yes, they took flight at first, but they stopped, Jesus caught up with them, as he does with all of us. True, he “upbraided them for their hardness of heart,” but then he breathed on them, just as God breathed life on the first man, Adam, and offered them new life. They had the courage to stop and listen. The result was that all but St John gained the martyr’s crown. That wasn’t cowardice, it was another example of true courage.

I realized they weren’t cowardly disciples after all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, May 1, 2011

St. Cyril I, 24th Patriarch of AlexandriaImage via Wikipedia

Christ is Risen, and you (Hades) are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep… Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Saviour has set us free.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

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