30 September 2011


"I conclude that Christian theology in conversation with Darwinism has to part company with the notion of a perfectly good initial creation that was corrupted by some mysterious process.  It has to accept the profound ambiguity of that creation—as "very good" in the words of Genesis 1:31 but also "groaning in labor pains" in the words of Rom. 8:22.  It does well to abandon the perfect impassibility of God so beloved of classical tradition, in favor of a God who grieves and laments with suffering creatures, very possibly in the very same process in which God takes joy from the flourishing of other creatures.  And it should also abandon the conviction—also strong in the tradition—that animals, having no souls, know no redemption, in favor of a view of a heaven rich in creaturely diversity.  In accepting the way in which Darwinian thought forces Christians to re-read some of their most foundational texts, I end with the radical suggestion that re-reading a key biblical text might invite us to recognize a calling to be part of the eschatological healing of creation, and hence to seek to subvert the process of biological extinction, up to now one of the key mechanisms of evolutionary change."

— Christopher Southgate, "Rereading Genesis, John, and Job: A Christian Response to Darwinism" in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, June 2011.

29 September 2011


In case you didn't know.


28 September 2011


For I love much this kind of usury, in which we engage to pay that which we owe and which enriches him who receives, without depriving him who gives.  He who dispenses spiritual treasures reaps a twofold advantage.  He is employed not only in that ministry in which he excites him who listens to advancement in virtue; but he also instructs himself while instructing others; and in animating others with the desire of perfection, he animates himself.  Thus your ardour is my advancement; and the eagerness which you testify for your salvation, is a spur to my negligence.

— Cassian, Conference XXII

27 September 2011


We do not bring up a child by giving him lectures in morality and deportment, but rather by placing him in an environment having a high tone of conduct and good manners, whose principles, rarely expressed as abstract theories, will be imparted to him by the thousand familiar gestures that clothe them, so to speak, in the same way that the spirit informs the body and is expressed by it. Education does not consist in receiving a lesson from afar, which may be learned by heart and recited, thanks to a good memory, but in the daily contact and inviting example of adult life, which is mature, confident of foundations; which asserts itself simply by being what it is, and presents itself as an ideal; which someone still unsure and unformed in search of fulfillment and in need of security, will progressively come to resemble, almost unconsciously and without effort. A child receives the life of the community into which he enters, together with the cultural riches of the preceding generations (tradition!), which are inculcated by the actions and habits of everyday life.

— Yves Congar, OP, The Meaning of Tradition

26 September 2011


I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore, it says: "He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men." What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.

Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love. So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.

That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his (own) hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need. No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

24 September 2011


Everyone agrees that Mr. Ledger’s Joker steals the show, but really, what’s there to steal? The film was the Joker’s to begin with. Scene after scene presents a sensual essay in taking good-guy torture and a crumbling social and economic infrastructure equally for granted. No one in this Gotham can remember a time before the town’s ruin, and the movie declines to hint at a way out, only noting that our hero’s bitterness was predetermined by his failure — or was it the reverse?

Like the fogey I’ve become, I felt brutalized as I watched, but after the tide of contradictions had receded behind me I wasn’t stirred to any feeling richer than an exhausted shrug, as when confronted by headlines reminding me that we no longer have a crane collapse or a bank failure, we have the latest crane collapse, the latest bank failure.

In its narrative gaps, its false depths leading nowhere in particular, its bogus grief over stakeless destruction and faked death, “The Dark Knight” echoes a civil discourse strained to helplessness by panic, overreaction and cultivated grievance. I began to feel this Batman wears his mask because he fears he’s a fake — and the story of his inauthenticity, the possibility of his unmasking, counts for more than any hope he offers of deliverance from evil. The Joker, on the other hand, exhibits his real face, his only face, and his origins are irrelevant, his presence as much a given as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or Fear Itself.

[Excerpts from "Art of Darkness" by Jonathan Lethem, a NY Times column on The Dark Knight (2), published 7/21/2008]


A.  He who delights in observing evil acts is far from the love of God.

B.  It's the mark of extreme naiveté to think that the crucifixion could become "cheesy", or that God's love for humanity could be a cliché.

C.  There is a unique terror in walking through a Catholic gift shop, surrounded by hundreds of ornamental crucifixes. 

D.  That final line of The Dark Knight: "He's not the hero we want; he's the hero we deserve," reflects an awful pessimism.  Correcting the layers of philosophical error that underly any acceptance of such a thought would erase the entire film and the possibility of enjoying it.  We deserve no hero at all.  We should not therefore put up the wicked man on the pedestal reserved for the good.  Nor should we cease to remember what would constitute the only possibility for our salvation.  Gary Oldman's line is certifiably evil, since only the devil would want to re-order our hopes and understanding of the good to some mere Achilles or Odysseus.  True, we deserve nothing.  This is why hope is a theological virtue.

23 September 2011


In all the world what compares to the joy of hunting?


A list of all the posts to date which include one or more movie reviews: 5, 24, 26, 27, 33, 27, 42, 43, 45, 48, 49, 51, 62, 76, 78, 82, 83, 86, 90, 104, 112, 129.

Or you can just click here.


"We'd be thrilled if it's right because we love something that shakes the foundation of what we believe," said famed Columbia University physicist Brian Greene. "That's what we live for."  — AP article, "Roll Over Einstein: Pillar of Physics Challenged"

What a strange thing to live for.  On the other hand, I hope the foundation of what physicists believe is challenged, too.

21 September 2011


Some good things, according to St. Gregory the Theologian, taken from Oration 14, "On the Love of the Poor". (N.b., Fr. Daley, whose translation I'm quoting from, uses "good" everywhere, but the greek is kalon, which has the connotation of "fair" or "beautiful".  Also, Gregory's text contains two or three times as many virtues as I have listed here.  The whole is worth reading.)
  1. Patience is a good thing; again Christ is our example, who did not only decline the help of legions of angels against those who had risen up against him to opress him, nor only rebuke Peter when he drew his sword, but who restored the ear of him who had been struck.
  2. Gentleness is a good thing; its examples are Moses and David, who embodied this virtue before all others, as well as their teacher, who "did not quarrel or cry out, or make his voice heard in the streets," nor struggle against those who led him away.
  3. Solitude and Silence are a good thing; my teachers in this are Elijah's Carmel, or John's desert, or Jesus' mountaintop, to which he often seems to have withdrawn, to be by himself in silence and peace.
  4. Mortification of the body is a good thing; let Paul persuade you, who continued to keep himself in training, and who was fearful for Israel, because they relied on themselves and indulged the body; Jesus himself fasted, and in time of temptation conquered the tempter.
  5. Prayer and Watching are a good thing; let God himself persuade you, who stayed awake to pray the night before his passion.
  6. Self-control is a good thing; let David persuade you, when he gained control of the well at Bethlehem and did not drink, but only poured out the water on the ground, not being willing to slake his own thirst at the cost of others' blood.
  7. Humility is a good thing, and there are many examples of this on all sides; before all the rest is the Savior and Lord of all, who did not only humble himself as far as "taking the form of a slave," or simply expose his face to the shame of being spat upon, and let himself be "counted among sinners"—he who purged the world of sin!—but who washed the feet of his disciples dressed as a slave.
  8. To put it more concisely concerning all these virtues, contemplation is a good thing, and action is a good thing: the first, when it raises up and leads us to the Holy of Holies, guiding our mind upwards towards what is akin to it; the second, when it receives Christ as its guest and looks after him, revealing the spell of love by its works.


I will invent a man composed of all the virtues. He would rise at dawn every morning, take up the beginning of each virtue, and keep God's commandments. He would live in great patience, in fear, in long-suffering, in the love of God; with a firm purpose of soul and body; in deep humility, in patience, in trouble of heart and earnestness of practice. He would pray often, with sorrow of heart, keeping his speech pure, his eyes controlled. He would suffer injury without anger, remaining peaceful, and not rendering evil for evil, not looking out for the faults of others, nor puffing himself up, meekly subject to every creature, renouncing material property and everything of the flesh. He would live as though crucified, in struggle, in lowliness of spirit, in good will and spiritual abstinence, in fasting, in penitence, in weeping. He would fight against evil, be wise and discreet in judgment and chaste in mind. He would receive good treatment with tranquility, working with his own hand, watching at night, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness and labour. He would live as though buried in a tomb and already dead, every day feeling death to be near him.

20 September 2011


Gregory's response to the perceived betrayal was, in fact, passive resistance: he apparently never took up residence in Sasima, and ostentatiously refused to engage himself either in the affairs of the district where it was located or in Basil's ecclesio-political struggles.  So he writes defiantely to Basil, shortly after his episcopal ordination:
You reproach us with inactivity and laziness, because we have not taken posession of your Sasima, and are not making motions of a duly episcopal kind or helping arm all of you for your struggles, like some scrap of food thrown in the midst of the dogs!  For me, the main form of action is inaction.  And to let you know one of my good qualities: I am so ambitious about my inactivity as to think it should be a law for anybody aspiring to magnanimity in this whole affair.  So much so, that if everyone were to imitate us, there would be no dispute among the Churches, nor would the faith be swept away in the flood by becoming the weapon of each one's private ambitions!

— Brian Daley, S.J, Gregory of Nazianzus

19 September 2011


“Herr, ich wollte es in den ersten Tagen meiner Kindheit in deinen Kreaturen suchen (wie ich es vor mir tun sah), und je mehr ich suchte, desto weniger fand ich es, und je näher ich ging, desto mehr entfernte ich mich davon. Denn bei einem jeglichen einströmenden Bilde hatte ich, bevor es ganz versuchte oder mich mit Ruhe dem hingab, eine Eingebung derart: Das ist nicht das, das du suchst.”

— Heinrich Seuse, OP


It turns out that because the existentialists are all wrong, St. Thomas must be correct.  (There are a couple of errors in here but nothing major as far as I know.)


17 September 2011


"Take up your cross," the Saviour said,
"If you would my disciple be;
Take up your cross with willing heart,
And humbly follow after me."

Take up your cross; let not its weight
Fill your weak soul with vain alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
And brace your heart and nerve your arm.

Take up your cross; nor heed the shame,
And let your foolish pride be still;
Your Lord refused not e'en to die
Upon a cross, on Calv'ry's hill.

Take up your cross, then, in his strength,
And calmly sin's wild deluge brave;
'Twill guide you to a better home,
It points to glory o'er the grave.

Take up your cross, and follow on,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.


Consider how similar the Incarnation of Christ is to the descent of Orpheus into Hades.  And how extraordinarily different.

16 September 2011


"Readers should be alerted that the book suffers from some poor proofreading.  I was frequently distracted by errors, as many as three or four on a single page (e.g., pp. 41, 155, 168, 171, and 175).  Some mistakes are howlers, such as this Christological affirmation: "there is one Sin and not two" (8).  Others require a theological eye.  Genesis 1:3 does not say "Let us make man in our image" (15), and it is misleading to speak of the Council of Ephesus occurring in 433 (6 and 136).  The back cover even misrepresents  the prodigious work by Edwards.  He has a very useful translation of Optatus, Against the Donatists, not Optatus, Against the Gnostics."

— from a review of Mark Edwards' Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church
by Andrew Hofer, OP in The Thomist, Apr 2010


A.  A hermit said, "The prophets wrote books.  Our predecessors came after them, and worked hard at them, and then their successors memorized them.  But this generation copies them onto papyrus and parchment and leaves them unused on the window-ledge.

B.  Antony also said, "I saw the devil's snares set all over the earth, and I groaned and said, 'What can pass through them?'  I heard a voice saying, 'Humlity'."

C.  Poemen also said, "They smoke out bees in order to steal their honey.  So idleness drives the fear of God from the soul, and steals its good works.

D.  He also said, "A monk was told that his father had died.  He said to the messenger, 'Do not blaspheme.  My Father cannot die.' "


A.  Syncletia also said, "It is dangerous for a man to try teaching before he is trained in the good life.  A man whose house is about to fall down may invite travellers inside to refresh them, but instead they will be hurt int the collapse of the house.  It is the same with teachers who have not carefully trained themselves in the good life; they destroy their hearers as well as themselves.  Their mouth invites to salvation, their wey of life leads to ruin."

B.  One of the monks said, "If a laborer remains where there are no other labourers, he can make no progress.  The true labourer struggles that the work may not deteriorate.  If an idle man works with a labourer the idle man becomes less idle; and if he does not make progress, at least he does not get idler by seeing someone else working.

C.  Some hermits used to say, "If you see a young man climbing up to heaven by his own will, catch him by the foot and pull him down to earth for it is not good for him."

14 September 2011


So, some guys were out hiking and they found a cave, and because they were stupid they went inside to explore it.  While they were inside, though, a bunch of rocks fell and hit them in the head, so they got knocked unconscious and trapped against a wall.  When they woke up, they couldn’t remember ever having lived outside the cave, and they couldn’t move because they were trapped by the rocks.  All they could do was stare straight ahead at the wall across from them.  Now, there was an old hobo who lived in the cave, and he was sort of crazy, and liked puppets.  So at night he would have puppet shows by his camp fire in the cave, and the shadows from puppets got cast onto the wall in front of the trapped hikers.  Because these stupid guys couldn’t remember anything else, they assumed that the whole world was just shadows moving along the wall, and so they thought that the shadow-horse was what a horse was, and that a shadow tractor was what a tractor was, and so on.

This went on for a  while, and the hobo, being crazy, never noticed the guys trapped in his cave or said anything to them.  Now, eventually, the rock that was pinning one of the guys in place shifted, and suddenly he realized he could get up and move around.  Everything hurt and he was really stiff, but after he got over the pain he struggled to his feet, and discovered the fire and the puppets sitting on the ground behind him.  After spending so long staring at shadows on a wall, he thought the little camp fire was blindingly bright, and concluded that the light of the fire must be TRUE light, since it was what illuminated all the shadows on the wall, and even now illuminated the horse and tractor puppets on the floor.  He also took the puppets for the real things, figuring that a tractor puppet was a real tractor and so on.  And he decided that the universe, which he used to think was just a wall, was much bigger than he thought, since it was a whole cave.

While he was sitting there, the free hiker tried explaining to his trapped friends that there was a whole cave and a fire, and not just one wall with shadows.  But they thought he was just making fun of them and trying to trick them into believing something stupid, since they didn’t understand how there could be anything more than what they saw with their own eyes.  So the free hiker gave up on them and sat staring into the fire for a while.

Now, after a while the hobo came back to his cave from his latest round of chicken-thievery, and found the freed hiker sitting by the fire.  The hiker greeted him and started praising his wonderful camp fire and the amazing horse and tractor puppets.  The hobo agreed with him and, because he was crazy, didn’t challenge the hiker when he was talking about the puppets as if they were real.  When they were finished talking, the hiker fell asleep, and in his sleep he rolled around a bit, so that his back was turned away from the fire and toward the entrance of the cave.  Up to this point he hadn’t noticed the entrance to the cave, because it was evening and he’d been too interested in the fire.  But when he woke up, the moon had come up and there was a glow of light in front of him from outside.  Curious, he left the fire and walked toward the glow.

At first, the glow seemed faint and distant compared to the flickering light of the fire, but as he got closer to the mouth of the cave, the light was stronger and clearer, until at last he stepped outside.  There was a small pond in front of the cave, and he stepped up to the edge and saw all the stars and the bright moon reflected in the pond.  For a second he stared at the reflected light and said “Aha! This has to be the REAL light.  The campfire was just an imitation.”  And he saw an abandoned tractor near by in the dark, and realized that he had been mistaken about the puppets.  Then he fell asleep again.

Finally, morning came, and the sunlight, and the hiker woke up again.  Then he saw the tractor illuminated by the sunlight, and saw the brightness of the world, and again realized how mistaken he had been: about the moon, and about the campfire, and about the shadows on the wall.  He understood that the world was much bigger and better than he’d thought, and so he wanted to return to the cave and help his friends who were still trapped staring at shadows on a wall.

When he went back inside, though, he had trouble seeing and finding his way around, since his eyes were used to the sunlight.  And when he finally found his friends, he tripped over a rock and fell.  They laughed at him and made fun of him.  So then he tried to explain about the sun and the outside world, but they didn’t understand because all they knew were shadows in the cave, and again they thought he was either crazy or trying to make fools of them.  So they refused to let him move the rocks off of them, and insisted on staying where they were.  Frustrated, the freed hiker got up and walked away, unsure of how he could get his friends to come outside and see the light before they starved to death in the cave.


Est autem participare quasi partem capere; et ideo quando aliquid particulariter recipit id quod ad alterum pertinet, universaliter dicitur participare illud; sicut homo dicitur participare animal, quia non habet rationem animalis secundum totam communitatem; et eadem ratione Socrates participat hominem; similiter etiam subiectum participat accidens, et materia formam, quia forma substantialis vel accidentalis, quae de sui ratione communis est, determinatur ad hoc vel ad illud subiectum; et similiter effectus dicitur participare suam causam, et praecipue quando non adaequat virtutem suae causae; puta, si dicamus quod aer participat lucem solis, quia non recipit eam in ea claritate qua est in sole.

But participation is, as it were, to take a part.  And therefore when something receives particularly what belongs to another universally, it is said to participate in that, as main is said to participate in animal since man does not possess the intelligible content of animal according to its entire community (i.e. universality); and in the same way Socrates participates in man.  Similarly, a subject participates in its accident and matter in form, since a substantial or accidental form, which is common from its intelligible content, is determined to this or that subject.  Similarly, too, an effect is said to participate in its cause, and especially when the effect is not equal to the power of its cause, as for example if we say that air participates in the light of the sun, since it does not receive light with the brilliance it has in the sun.

— St. Thomas, Commantary on De Hebdomadibus, lect. 2

13 September 2011


Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers, so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

— 21st Ecumenical Council, Dei Verbum

12 September 2011


While we're at it, here's the formatted text of Volume I from Philip Hughes' History of the Church to the Eve of the Reformation.  It, like Cassian below, is formatted for printing on half-sheets, which means that if you have some imposition software, you can easily print it into little booklets which could then be read individually or bound up into a primitive (or nice, if you made a project out of it) book.


A.  We all need some Cassian, right?

Conference Sixteen

B.  But wait!  Here it is as a formatted and readable pdf!


This is the best sandwich bread I've had in the U.S. The recipe was stolen from some website, which stole it from Julia Child.
INGREDIENTS (for 2 loaves):
2 1/2 cups water (105-115 F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups bread flour or 7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  1. Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a bowl and mix with yeast and sugar til foamy.
  2. Let sit for 5 minutes until creamy.
  3. Put the yeast mixture, rest of the water and 3 1/2 cups of the flour into the mixer with the dough hook.
  4. Mix slowly until blended then add the rest of the flour.
  5. Increase speed and scrape down the sides til the dough comes together.
  6. (If it doesn't add a tbsp of flour at a time til it does.) Add salt and mix at medium speed for 10 minutes (or do half in mixer and half kneading) til dough is smooth and elastic.
  7. Back in mixer add butter 1 tbsp at a time (dough may come apart, but mixing will pull it back together).
  8. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball then place in a large buttered or oiled bowl.
  9. Turn dough so it is completely coated in the fat, then cover in plastic for 45 minutes to an hour, til it has doubled in size at room temperature.
  10. Butter 2 loaf pans.
  11. Deflate the dough, cut in half and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  12. Roll out into a 9 x 12-inch rectangle.
  13. With the short end facing you, fold the dough into thirds like a sheet of paper to go into an envelope, creating a roll.
  14. Pinch the seam closed, and pinch the ends enough so it will fit in the loaf pan.
  15. Drop in the loaf pan seam side down, and repeat.
  16. Cover the loaves with buttered plastic wrap and allow to rise again in a warm place (80°F) for 45 minutes, until they double in size.
  17. Preheat the oven to 375°F and put the rack in the center of the oven.
  18. Bake for 35-45 minutes til they are honey brown.
  19. Immediately turn out of pans onto a rack to cool.
  20. Once almost completely cool, they can be cut.
  21. Store in a brown paper bag for a day or two.
  22. Once cut, turn cut side down onto a cutting board and cover with a kitchen towel.

11 September 2011


There was in Lombardy a woman leading a solitary life, who was very devoted to our Lady.  When she heard that a new Order of Preachers had arisen, she longed with all her heart to see some of them.  Now it happened that brother Paul and his companion were passing through that part of the world, preaching.  They visited her and, in the usual manner of the brethren, they addressed her with the words of God.  She then asked them who they were and what Order they belonged to.  They said they belong to the Order of Preachers.  But when she noticed how young and good looking they were, and how fine their habit was, she despised them, reckoning that people like that touring round the world could not last long in chastity.  So the next night the blessed Virgin appeared to come and stand over her, looking annoyed.  "Yesterday," she said, "you offended me seriously.  Do you not think that I am able to look after my young men who are my servants, even while they run around the world for the salvation of souls?  But to make you quite certain that I have undertaken a special responsibility for them, look, I will show you the men you despised yesterday."  Lifting up her cloak, she showed her a great crowd of the friars, including those whom the the anchoress had previously despised.  So the anchoress was duly contrite and ever after loved the friars with all her heart, and published this story throughout the Order.

09 September 2011


A.  The chief purpose of theology is to provide an understanding of Revelation and the content of faith. The very heart of theological enquiry will thus be the contemplation of the mystery of the Triune God. The approach to this mystery begins with reflection upon the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God: his coming as man, his going to his Passion and Death, a mystery issuing into his glorious Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of the Father, whence he would send the Spirit of truth to bring his Church to birth and give her growth. From this vantage-point, the prime commitment of theology is seen to be the understanding of God's kenosis, a grand and mysterious truth for the human mind, which finds it inconceivable that suffering and death can express a love which gives itself and seeks nothing in return. In this light, a careful analysis of texts emerges as a basic and urgent need: first the texts of Scripture, and then those which express the Church's living Tradition.
— Pope Bl. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

B.  Fides et Ratio gets a lot better starting around paragraph 80.  Much of the rest is sort of redundant.

07 September 2011


Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker,  and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, "Why are your faces downcast today?" They said to him, "We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them." And Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me."

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, "In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand." Then Joseph said to him, "This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit."

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, "I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head." And Joseph answered and said, "This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days.  In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you."

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants.  He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.


It seems I forgot to post anything yesterday.  Here's a snippet from Fr. John Corbett, OP:

(It's only about 10 minutes.)

05 September 2011


Reading essays on the textual sources of the Pentateuch one gets rather fatigued.  I found this post amusing.


Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God; not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low; and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.

Not to all men, because it is permitted only to those who have been examined, and are passed masters in meditation, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified. For the impure to touch the pure is, we may safely say, not safe, just as it is unsafe to fix weak eyes upon the sun's rays. And what is the permitted occasion? It is when we are free from all external defilement or disturbance, and when that which rules within us is not confused with vexatious or erring images; like persons mixing up good writing with bad, or filth with the sweet odours of ointments. For it is necessary to be truly at leisure to know God; and when we can get a convenient season, to discern the straight road of the things divine. And who are the permitted persons? They to whom the subject is of real concern, and not they who make it a matter of pleasant gossip, like any other thing, after the races, or the theatre, or a concert, or a dinner, or still lower employments. To such men as these, idle jests and pretty contradictions about these subjects are a part of their amusement.

Next, on what subjects and to what extent may we philosophize? On matters within our reach, and to such an extent as the mental power and grasp of our audience may extend. No further, lest, as excessively loud sounds injure the hearing, or excess of food the body, or, if you will, as excessive burdens beyond the strength injure those who bear them, or excessive rains the earth; so these too, being pressed down and over weighted by the stiffness, if I may use the expression, of the arguments should suffer loss even in respect of the strength they originally possessed.

— St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop and Doctor, Oration 27

04 September 2011


Several important themes in ancient moral thought have disappeared from modern ethics precisely because of the latter's emphasis on the concept of obligation.  First there is the theme of beatitude, which we are presently considering.  Then there is the theme of friendship, discussed by Aristotle in Books 8 and 9 of the Nichomachean Ethics.  This is how he introduces it: "[Friendship] is absolutely indispensable: even though possessed of every other good thing, without friends a person would have no desire to live."  According to him, the whole point of law and the political life, over and above justice, was to provide for friendship among citizens.

The theme of friendship was prominent among the Greek Fathers, even those who lived in the desert, as Cassian attests in his sixteenth conference.  It reached its climax in St. Thomas, who defined charity as friendship with God (IIaIIae, q 23) and who described the work of the Holy Spirit in the world as a work of friendship (Summa contra gentiles IV 21-22.)

This theme has completely disappeared from modern books on morality.  The reason is obvious: friendship, being essentially free, could hardly be considered an obligation.  Friendship can create obligations, but the inverse is not true.  As a result, friendship has been excluded from the field of morality as an indifferent sentiment—mistursted by moral theologians, moreover, because of "particular friendships."

Likewise, we will look in vain for a simple allusion, still less for a full treatment, of the virtue of courage in many of the manuals.  Courage is not a matter of obligation.  Yet it is numbered among the four cardinal virtues.  St. Thomas associated it with the ideal of martyrdom, the inspiration of the early centuries of Christianity.  Everyone knows from experience how great is the need for courage throughout our moral life.

It is easy to reinstate friendship and courage in moral theology if we begin with the question of happiness.  Can a person be happy without the harmonious relationship we call friendship?  It is a concrete form of charity.  Again, how can we be happy without the courage that strengthens us in the face of difficulties and keeps us steady in the day-to-day grind?  This is all the more true when our goal surpasses human power and calls for an audacious faith and trust in the Word of God.

—  Servais Pinckaers,  The Sources of Christian Ethics

02 September 2011


Another (partial) alphabet, but quickly this time, and more impulsive.  Truly this says a lot about the scope of my film-watching.  Mostly made since 1970, and the exceptions are all widely-celebrated "classics".

  1. Annie Hall (5)
  2. Babette's Feast (5)
  3. Children of Men (4)
  4. Dead Man Walking (4)
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (5)
  6. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (4)
  7. Gandhi (5)
  8. Howard's End (4)
  9. Ikiru (5)
  10. Jumanji (3)
  11. The King's Speech (5)
  12. La Strada (5)
  13. The Matrix (5)
  14. The Navigator (4)
  15. Orange County (4)
  16. Pleasantville (4)
  17. Ratatouille (5)
  18. Seven Samurai (5)
  19. The Thin Red Line (4)
  20. Up (5)
  21. The Virgin Suicides (3)
  22. Wild Strawberries (5)


Found inscribed in the front leaf of an old copy of John of St. Thomas's Cursus Theologicus, Vol. 1.

O Mary, Mother of fair love, of fear, of knowledge and of holy hope, by whose loving intercession, full many otherwise rude in intellect have wonderfully advanced in knowledge and in holiness, thee do I choose as the guide and patroness of my studies, and I humbly implore through the deep tenderness of thy maternal love and especially through that Eternal Wisdom who deigned to take from thee our flesh and who gifted thee beyond all the saints with heavenly light that thou wouldst obtain for me by thy intercession the grace of the Holy Ghost, so that I may be able to grasp with intellect, retain in memory, show forth by deed, and word, and letter, and thus teach to others all things which bring honor to thee and thy Son, and which for me and for others are healthful to eternal life, Amen. 
Our Lady of Good Studies
Pray for us.

01 September 2011


I don't have anything in particular to write today, so why don't you take an hour to listen to this hilarious lecture about the making of the KJV.