Friday, December 30, 2011

But . . . I don't have time to pray

I have not met one Christians who agrees that prayer is not important.  In fact, most Christians I have met complain about not praying enough or not having time to pray.  Time is the issue at hand.  What is time?  Like Augustine, I find that I know exactly what time is until someone asks me, "what is time"?  We all have a finite amount of time -- a non renewable resource for ourselves.  What I do know is that when we take time out of our life to pray or be with another person, it is not mere seconds or hours we give.  It is a pice of our life we give away.

We complain about not having time in our day for those activities in our life that we know are important: prayer, church, reading scripture.  Time is the problem.  "If only there were more time in the day.  Then I would pray," we might say to ourselves.  As if it is time's fault that we don't pray.  As if time is preventing us from praying.  Yet, there are over 86,000 seconds in a day.  86,000 seconds!  Still we complain about not being able to take one second our of the day to say, "Thank you God."  Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton called "Thanks" the highest form of thought.  Briefly, this is because the expression of gratitude is a realization that for what we are thankful is truly a gift.

Likewise there are 168 hours in our week.  WE sleep about 63 of those ourse which leaves us with 126 waking hours of our week.  Yet, we complain about having to give up one hour a week to go worship God in Church.  We moan and groan over giving up less than one percent of our week.

But, we can't be bothered now to pray.  There's another stupid cat video on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"A Child is Born: Chesterton Comes to South Louisiana

What happens when a Late nineteenth/early twentieth century Catholic writer meets a twenty-first century Cajun band from South Louisiana?  Beautiful music.  Perhaps one of the best Christmas song I have heard in recent years.  L'Angelus, French for "The Angelus", is composed of 4 siblings from the Rees family and has a signature stylemade of elements of South Louisiana Cajun, Swamp Rock, New Orleans R&B and Country music.

On their first Christmas album, O Night Divine, The family quartet plays many traditional Christmas songs, but the album has one special fresh surprise that was new to me: a poem of G.K. Chesterton's (you can read it below) set to music.  The song, titled A Child is Born, is highly original, very entertaining, beautiful in its simplicity, and lifts both the mind a soul to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  In fact, after listening to the song the first time, I went back and listened to it three more times before proceeding through the rest of the CD.  Even while listening to the remainder of the album, my thoughts drifted back to the Chesterton song.  Take a moment today to listen to the song.  You will have to go to the L, Angelus website in order to listen to it, but it is worth the trip.

Go here to buy and/or listen to the album.
Go here to sign up for their mailing list and have your choice of a free download from the Album O Night Divine .

The Nativity
By: G.K. Chesterton

“For unto us a child is born.” — Isaiah

The thatch of the roof was as golden,
Though dusty the straw was and old,
The wind was a peal as of trumpets,
Though barren and blowing and cold:
The mother’s hair was a glory,
Though loosened and torn,
For under the eaves in the gloaming –
A child was born.

O, if a man sought a sign in the inmost
That God shaketh broadest his best,
That things fairest are oldest and simplest,
In the first days created and blest:
Far flush all the tufts of the clover,
Thick mellows the corn,
A cloud shapes, a daisy is opened –
A child is born.

With raw mists of the earth-rise about them,
Risen red from the ribs of the earth,
Wild and huddled, the man and the woman,
Bent dumb o’er the earliest birth;
Ere the first roof was hammered above them.
The first skin was worn,
Before code, before creed, before conscience –
A child was born.

What know we of aeons behind us,
Dim dynasties lost long ago,
Huge empires like dreams unremembered,
Dread epics of glory and woe?
This we know, that with blight and with blessing,
With flower and with thorn,
Love was there, and his cry was among them –
“A child is born.”

And to us, though we pore and unravel
Black dogmas that crush us and mar,
Through parched lips pessimistic dare mutter
Hoarse fates of a frost-bitten star;
Though coarse strains and heredities soil it,
Bleak reasoners scorn,
To us too, as of old, to us also –
A child is born.

Though the darkness be noisy with systems,
Dark fancies that fret and disprove;
Still the plumes stir around us, above us,
The tings of the shadow of love.
Still the fountains of life are unbroken,
Their splendour unshorn;
The secret, the symbol, the promise –
A child is born.

Have a myriad children been quickened,
Have a myriad children grown old,
Grown gross and unloved and embittered,
Grown cunning and savage and cold?
God abides in a terrible patience,
Unangered, unworn,
And again for the child that was squandered –
A child is born.

In the time of dead things it is living,
In the moonless grey night is a gleam,
Still the babe that is quickened may conquer,
The life that is new may redeem.
Ho, princes and priests, have you heard it?
Grow pale through your scorn.
Huge dawns sleep before us, stern changes –
A child is born.

More than legions that toss and that trample,
More than choirs that bend Godward and sing,
Than the blast of the lips of the prophet,
Than the sword in the hands of the King,
More strong against Evil than judges
That smite and that scorn,
The greatest, the last, and the sternest –
A child is born.

And the rafters of toil still are gilded
With the dawn of the star of the heart,
And the Wise Men draw near in the twilight,
Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened,
His spirit is torn,
For a new King is throned of a nation –
A child is born.

And the mother still joys for the whispered
First stir of unspeakable things;
Still feels that high moment unfurling,
Red glories of Gabriel’s wings.
Still the babe of an hour is a master
Whom angels adorn,
Emmanuel, prophet, annointed –
A child is born.

To the rusty barred doors of the hungry,
To the struggle for life and the din,
Still, with brush of bright plumes and with knocking,
The Kingdom of God enters in.
To the daughters of patience that labour
That weep and are worn,
One moment of love and of laughter –
A child is born.

To the last dizzy circles of pleasure,
Of fashion and song-swimming nights,
Comes yet hope’s obscure crucifixion,
The birth fire that quickens and bites,
To the daughters of fame that are idle,
That smile and that scorn,
One moment of darkness and travail –
A child is born.

And till man and his riddle be answered,
While earth shall remain and desire,
While the flesh of a man is as grass is,
The soul of a man as a fire,
While the daybreak shall come with its banner,
The moon with its horn,
It shall rest with us that which is written –
“A child is born.”

And for him that shall dream that the martyr
Is banished, and love but a toy,
That life lives not through pain and surrender,
Living only through self and its joy,
Shall the Lord God erase from the body
The oath he has sworn?
Bend back to thy work, saying only –
“A child is born.”

And Thou that art still in the cradle,
The sun being crown for Thy brow,
Make answer, our flesh, make an answer.
Say whence art Thou come? Who art Thou?
Art Thou come back on earth for our teaching,
To train or to warn?
Hush! How may we know, knowing only –
A child is born?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hey! That's Not Fair!

Gearing up for finals next week, so while I was giving my students a run down of the exam, I head a couple of students enthusiastically proclaim, "That's not fair!" in response to my exam being 168 questions in length. ( All my other tests have typically been 50-60 questions.)  To which I reply, "Not fair?!  What are you talking about?  120 of those questions are from your old tests.  Do you want to know what's not fair?  Babies that have cancer.  Puppies without paws.  Abortion.  Being eaten by a Shark.  Bear attacks.  Ebola."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Quick Take 7: Marian Edition

  1. Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without the effects of original sin and not to Jesus being conceived in Mary.
  2. Mary’s Assumption is related to her being born without original sin, for death is the result of sin.  Therefore at the end of her earthly life, she was assumed by the power of Christ into Heaven.
  3. Our Lady of Good Help is the only approved Marian Apparition in the United States.
  4.  Mother of God is a poorly translated phrase from the Greek “theotokos” which more accurately means ‘God bearer.’  This phrase was coined in response to Nestorian heretics who taught that Jesus was not God from the moment of His Conception but only later became God later in His life.  So the title “Mother of God” has little to do with Mary and more to do with who Christ is: fully divine and fully human from the moment of conception.    According to historian Jarslov Pelikin, “theotokos” is a title unique to Mary the Mother of Christ.
  5. An image of Mary is the Unburnt Bush.
  6. The message of Mary is simple: “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you.”
  7. Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, are not mentioned in Scripture.  Their names are mentioned in the Apocryphal Gospel of James.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kill Your Conscience: Pelosi as Elmer Fud

From the Article
Pelosi says [following one's conscience] is akin to having hospitals “say to a woman, ‘I’m sorry you could die’ if you don’t get an abortion,” she told the Washington Post. [Can you provide us with an example?  Often times, the doctors are trying to address the disease and not abort the child; however, the result of treating the disease may sadly result in the loss of the child.  This is not an abortion.  This is the case with treating an ectopic pregnancy.  I think the real question is why aren't the doctor's and hospitals bold enough to try and save both?  I'd guess they'd rather play to not lose than play to win.] 
“Those who dispute that characterization “may not like the language,’’ she said, “but the truth is what I said. I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it . . . but they [Isn't it interesting that she says she is a "devout Catholic" then goes on to call Catholics 'they' as if she is not part of the Catholic Church or as if the others who believe differently from her are not the devout Catholics?  Perhaps a "we" should have been a better pronoun to use.] have this conscience thing” that the Post said Pelosi “insists put women at physical risk, although Catholic providers strongly disagree.”  [Really?  A conscience puts women at risk?  I thought conscience helping by not putting our soul at risk.]
For some strange reason, this brings to mind the old Looney Toons Cartoon where Elmer Fud is out trying to "Kill the Wrabbit" set to the tune of Wagner's Ride of the Valkaries.  Except Pelosi might be singing "Kill your conscience."

So what is the conscience?  Here is a refresher.  
It is often a good maxim not to mind for a time how a thing came to be, but to see what it actually is. To do so in regard to conscience before we take up the history of philosophy in its regard is wise policy, for it will give us some clear doctrine upon which to lay hold, while we travel through a region perplexed by much confusion of thought. The following points are cardinal:
  • The natural conscience is no distinct faculty, but the one intellect of a man inasmuch as it considers right and wrong in conduct, aided meanwhile by a good will, by the use of the emotions, by the practical experience of living, and by all external helps that are to the purpose. [Definition of Conscience]
  • The natural conscience of the Christian is known by him to act not alone, but under the enlightenment and the impulse derived from revelation and grace in a strictly supernatural order. [Don't leave God out of the equation.  You cannot not, from the Catholic perspective, ignore Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium.  All of which say the same thing about life.  It is sacred and precious.  There has been a consistent ethic on the teaching of abortion.  Simply, do not do it.  The Romans were aghast at the early Christians who did not kill their children, their elderly, or their disabled.]
  • As to the order of nature, which does not exist but which might have existed, St. Thomas (I-II:109:3) teaches that both for the knowledge of God and for the knowledge of moral duty, men such as we are would require some assistance from God to make their knowledge sufficiently extensive, clear, constant, effective, and relatively adequate; and especially to put it within reach of those who are much engrossed with the cares of material life. It would be absurd to suppose that in the order of nature God could be debarred from any revelation of Himself, and would leave Himself to be searched for quite irresponsively.  [This is like saying, "Thanks God for life, this beautiful gift you have given me.  However, I'm not going to seek your input on matters pertaining to life."  Which in turn is like not asking your car manufacturer as to why your car is driving funny and making odd noises.]
  • Being a practical thing, conscience depends in large measure for its correctness upon the good use of it and on proper care taken to heed its deliverances, cultivate its powers, and frustrate its enemies. [In other words, we have to work at forming our consciences.  An ill formed conscience results in a skewed viewing of the world.] 
  • Even where due diligence is employed conscience will err sometimes, but its inculpable mistakes will be admitted by God to be not blameworthy. These are so many principles needed to steady us as we tread some of the ways of ethical history, where pitfalls are many. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Un-Official OWS Hand Signals

Whatever you do, don't call them "spirit fingers."  The correct OWS is twinkles.  Just watch the video and learn the 7 hand signals for OWS.

I recently came across the un-official OWS hand signal book.  Here is a sampling of the OWS hand signals.  If you don't like this post, please down twinkles it.

Time to form and begin the drum circle. 

I slept till noon today, and I'm still tired.  Do you want to go to Starbucks and get a Frapachino?

I haven't showered in 7 days.  Do I stink?

Your drumming is righteous!

I am looking for a place to relieve myself.  AKA: The PeePee Dance
I respectfully agree to disagree with your opinion, but I will not tell you you are wrong as I know that the only truth is that there are no truths.

Lets wrap this up and get a pint at Ben & Jerry's.

Rocket Ship Pew.

Has anyone seen my watch?  It appears to have been redistributed.

The vegan and organic food you are serving is only so-so.
Who wants a body massage?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Theology is simply . . .

that part of religion that requires brains," says G.K. Chesterton.  Now you no longer have to say it to your friends.  You can wear it with this fancy shirt.  Order one today.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

PETA: Eat Dog This Holiday Season

This season, PETA is asking the question "If you wouldn't eat your dog, why eat a turkey?"  I am offended by this add, in that Peta is encouraging people to try dog this holiday season.  However, To answer the question easily:
  1. Turkey tastes good.
  2. Turkey is an economical meat.
  3. Thanksgiving just won't sound the same when Uncle Bill says, "I'll have the puppy paw.  It's my favorite part." 
  4. There isn't any other meat that will help people get through the holidays by flooding their bodies with L'Tryptophine, which in turns put them into a sleeping stupor and eases the tension.
  5. The Turkey Bowl would have to be renamed the Canine Bowl.
  6. Turkeys don't hump your leg.
  7. Dogs are cute and your can play fetch with them.  Ever tried teaching a turkey to fetch?
  8. Turkey taste better than eating nothing.

Wait, which PETA is this?  Is this the People for Eating Tasty Animals?  How do we know dog isn't a tastier meat? Here are some reasons for trying Dog this holiday seasons:
  1. New wine pairings.
  2. Playing with your food takes on a whole new meaning.
  3. Better alliteration: Puppy Pie.
  4. You'll be awake for the final Touchdown of the Cowboys game.
  5. Mostly dark meat avoids the embarrassing question "light or dark meat"
  6. Adopt your dinner from the SPCA, no need to spade and neuter your pets.  
  7. One word: Tur-dog-ken. I smell a new best seller.
I've eaten a lot of strange things living in South Louisiana: squirrel, alligator, snake, rabbit, dove.  If it moves, there is a Cajun who eats it.  It dogs were not out pets, we'd probably be eating them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not Said by Jesus Sunday: 10 Talents

This week's Sunday Gospel, got me thinking about the whole Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Of course, greed does not fit with the Gospel message, and neither does the sense of entitlement that is become the norm amongst parts of the younger generations.  It calls to mind what is written in Acts where all Christians received and were given according to their need.  There are many things in our culture that we want but we do not really need (though they really do make life a bit more enjoyable): Cable TV, a high paying easy job, a 1,500 sq ft house, an iPad, a cell phone, and the list can continue.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Satan is Kind of Like a Infomercial Salesman.

There is Jesus.  Wandering the the desert, fasting, praying, and minding his own business.  When, out of nowhere, this obnoxious dude show up.

It all does tie into the threefold lusts or the triple concupiscence.  It relates the old testament for Adam to the new testament temptation of Jesus (the New Adam).  Here is a diagram.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Basically Zero

Neat info graph about the possibility of your existence.  Keep in mind, this is not postulating creationism.  This is numbers.  Of course, I have no idea if these calculations are correct, but it is interesting.

Monday, November 07, 2011

16 Year Old Latin Wiz is not a Theological Wiz.

As I am home sick today and feeling a little better, I decided to take a moment to respond to a recent article over at the NC Reporter.  At the NC Reporter, they featured an essay from a 16 year old Latin wiz kid.  This kid has problems with the new translation. Most of his problems come not from a lack of language training but from a lack theological training.  Overall, I give him an "E" for effort.

He Writes, 
"The other change is that the Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" is now translated "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." This is pretty much a literal translation. So the Latin is solid. 
The problem, though, is that the Latin itself seems to be hyperbolically critical of humanity. It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma."  
[The Latin is not hyperbolic.  The triple repetition of "mea culpa" should bring to mind two things.  First is Peter's triple denial of Jesus, and his later triple reunion with Christ.  The second is the Trinity.  The number three in a number meaning often meaning completion.  Peter completely denies Christ.  Peter then completely reunites with Christ.  The tripple repetition of "mea culpa" is like saying that "I have sinned completely" and that every sin is indeed a sin against all three persons of the Trinity.  Janesenist believed that they could do no good; humanity is depraved and corrupt.  I fail to see how saying "mea culpa" three times aligns a person with a Janesenist view.  This is like believing that the tax collector who beat his breast and asked God to have mercy on his soul is aligned with a Janesenist view of humanity, which it is not.]
An apologist of the translation reminds us that "the guiding principle of the new translation is a closer adherence to the Latin--not a sharper critique of our virtue." But this makes absolutely no sense. Who cares what the "guiding principle" was? [The guiding principle is VERY important.  It puts things into perspective.  By not caring for what the guiding principle is like saying "I care not of the guiding principles of the lines on highways.  I will drive as I like."  The end result is that the Latin is more condemnatory for no discernible reason. [No it isn't.  Just because you do not understand something and haven't taken the time to look into does not mean there is no reason for something]  And there is no scriptural grounding for this “sharper critique” either [As mentioned above: Peter's triple denial of Christ and every sin is a offense against the Trinity] -- the first appearance of the prayer is in 1100 AD, over a millennium after Christ. [The Church is Alive and Young.  Doctrine develops.  Liturgies change over time.  What is the purpose of poing this out other than to insinuate that the prayer is of little importance as it's first appearance is in 1100 A.D.]
He Writes:
The next major change is to the Gloria. Most of the changes are innocuous enough, but there's one at the beginning of the prayer that seems bizarre to me. The familiar "and peace to his people on earth" is changed to "on earth peace to people of good will." Not only is the latter far more awkward in English, but there's also a problematic sentiment implicit in the new phrase. Why are we only praying that people "of good will" receive peace? This seems to say that people who are without "good will" are not deserving of peace. [This is actually very simple.  Only those of good will are capable of peace.  It is not that peace isn't offered to those who are not good willed; however, it is the case that those who are not of good will reject the offering of peace.]

He Writes:
Furthermore, there are two bizarre translations of particular words in the Latin that sound awkward and even obscure: "consubstantial" and "was incarnate." The former is a translation of the word "consubstantialem" in the Latin, so it certainly resembles the Latin the most. But does that make it a better translation?  [This is because in the philosophical world "being" and "substance" aren't necessarily the same thing.  Instead of poopooing a word choice it helps to realize that when words are missing in one language to express an idea from another language the original usually borrows and makes a new words for the other language.  This is the case with "consubstantial," which is meant to express not just "one in being with the Father" but "with the substance" of the Father, which is trying to show that Jesus is as much God as God the Father is God.  There was and is no real one word in English that can accurately translate "consubstantialem;" therefore, the word is anglicized and kept as close to the literal meaning of the original as possible.    "Incarnate" is a theological term which indicates that God became flesh (echoing the first few verses of the Gospel of John).  Again there is no English equivalent to this dense theological terms.  "Incarnate" was for a while translated as "born," which is far too light of a word to express God being flesh.  Also, "incarnate" gives more weight that Christ received his body, his flesh, from a real person and wasn't simply born of a woman.  As a person who teaches theology and as one who used to work in a parish, I see this as an excellent catechetical opportunity to catechize the parish in the proper understanding of Catholic teaching.]

He writes:
Finally, I think the changes to the Nicene Creed merit some discussion. As before, all of them have good grounding in the Latin, but it's the Latin that's problematic. The first is the fact that all of the "believe"s are in the first person. This destroys the sense of communal vision found in the "we believe" of the previous translation. Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness. [The Latin "Credo," which is how the creed begins, means "I believe" and not "We believe" (credimus).  The reason for the change is simple.  I cannot exprese what another person believes.  The person next to be might not even be Catholic; yet, the assumption is that the "we" speaks for all present at the Mass.  The Creed was never meant to be a general expression of what all Christians believe, but it was written for what every individual Christian believes.  This is also why the early Christians taught to the elect the symbol or rule of faith, that is the Creed, during their preparation for baptism.  It is what the individual must express.  This expression of "I" can be further linked back to the baptismal font when it is "I" who stands before the Lord and make the baptism on my own, that is no one is speaking on my behalf -- unless you were baptized as a child-- during a communal celebration and into a community of believers.]

He writes:
Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. [How does it beg the question?  The author has done nothing than mostly give his own misunderstanding.  Doesn't he realize that he is speaking about the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church?  If I were in a Greek Rite, which was translated into English, I'd hoped they would go back to the Greek to translate.]  It's certainly not Scripture [Why does it have to be Scriptural?  What about Sacred Tradition?], and it's often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community's needs [This is often how the Catholic Church received it's different rites.  Appealing to this out of historical context does little good.  Doctrine develops.  The Church develops.  There was a need for Bishops writing their own translation many years ago.  Is the need still there?  "Yes,"  but it is done in a different way.  Moreover, it is those individual translation that led to the need of one translation.  We can't have people praying wrongly as wrong prayer leads to wrong belief.]. And that's the essence of Mass [The community's needs were not and are not the essence of the Mass.  This makes the Mass about us and not about God or others.  The essence of the Mass is the Liturgical setting in which the people perform a work on behalf of others.  We receive the Eucharist and then go to bring He whom we have received to those who do not yet know Him.  In this case it is a prayer for the salvation of all people which is emphasized in the word "mass" which comes from the Latin "Missa" which means "to go forth.".  The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.” [Yet, we cannot be many without the one.]

He Writes:
The problem with the new translation and indeed the notion of a codified Latin Mass at all is that it destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the act. [Woah there.  Egalitarianism is a far cry of what the mass is.  Equality, yes.  Sameness which is what egalitarianism tends to lend itself, no. We may be equal in the eyes of God, but we are not the same.  The priest does not preform the same acts as the congregation] Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome [I guess this is like those bishops who made their own translations for their own community.  How dare that one expert make a translation for his community.  How dare he impose his knowledge and intellect upon others.  Communities aren't 100 people anymore.  The Catholic Church is world wide.  When the Church was smaller things were done differently due to the circumstances in which the Bishop found himself.  This is no longer the case.  With the ease of communication it is now possible to have a codified mass as the Jews had codified celebrations.  The same celebrations in which Christ himself participated]. It sets certain people above others in terms of their knowledge of a dead language and of dogma [And this is bad because . . .?  Should we have people who have no knowledge of Latin or dogma writing the new translations?]-- concerns that clearly distract from the message of God. If the Mass has any meaning, it must be grounded in communal concerns and vision [The Mass is about communal concerns.  It is called "sin" which hurts the body of Christ.]-- not an effort to include as many four-syllable words as possible [Seriously?  Let me get this right.  Language matters, then it doesn't matter, than it kind of matters, and now word choice doesn't matter.  Which is it?].  

NC Reporter must be really grasping at straws by letting this 16 year old write for them. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hey Kids! Your Parents Just Ate All your Halloween Candy!

The X-Men Were Gay!?

According to some of the writers and directors of the recent X-Men movies, "mutant" was a metaphor for "gay."

From the Article:
Zach Stenz, one of the First Class screenwriters, explained ona Facebook comment posted in June: “I helped write the movie, and can tell you the gay rights / post-holocaust Jewish-identity / civil rights allegory stuff was put in there on purpose. Joss Wheldon designed the whole ‘Cure’s storyline in the comic books specifically as a gay allegory, and Bryan Singer wove his own feelings of outsiderdom as a gay man into the movie series. The whole ‘Have you ever tried NOT being a mutant’ coming out scene in X2 [released in 2003] is even particularly subtle, while it is effective.”

I've seen the X-Men movies, and I've read the comic books.  If the intention was to promote a gay agenda, they missed the mark.  Moreover, it seems strange saying this with the story line in the first movie where Magneto was attempting to turn the city of New York into mutants.  Were the directors and writers trying to say that a person can be changed into being gay a mutant but one cannot unchange from being gay a mutant?

Lesser Known Proofreading Marks

I'm in the middle of working on a project with my students.  As I look over the rough drafts I wish I could use some of these proof reading marks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Church of the Living Dead

(Lack Jackson, TX) – Every Sunday morning Reverend Pat Cooper stands at the entrance of his church and is greeted with groans and moans from his congregation as they come shambling into services.  This might seems like a typical Sunday at any church; except, most of his parishioners are unusual to say the least, and they might more rightly be called “perishioners.”  Pastor Cooper is the pastor of the First Church of the Reanimated Lazarus, which is called by locals "the Church of the Living Dead."

When asked why a church of this nature was need, Pastor Cooper said,  “Ever since the Zombie Apocalypse a few years back, church attendance had been dwindling and most of our congregation had been turned into zombies.  One night, I was reading the Gospels and was inspired by the story of Christ resurrecting Lazarus.  I thought, ‘Heck, Lazarus is like a zombie.’ So that is where the idea first began.  Looking at Lazarus and the current state of the world, I realized that the Gospel was for all people, even the living dead.  Who are we to deny the message of Christ and to discriminate against others for no fault of their own and for the mere fact they no longer have a pulse?”

First Church of the Reanimated Lazarus has been a real learning experience for Pastor Pat.  It has required him to change the make up of ministries and church events offered at the church.  The Tuesday soup kitchen was change to a Tuesday Reattaching-Limbs sewing circle because the perishoners keep trying to eat the homeless.  Candy was not a big draw for the zombies, so the Easter egg hunt in now the Easter Live Critter hunt – which consists of hiding various small, still living, critters around the church property in cages for the perishoners to find and enjoy.

New challenges are certainly there. When asked about the dangers of this endeavor, Pastor Cooper said, “Of course there are dangers.  No one is denying that.  Occasionally, one of the living takes the rank of the unliving, but that is just a price to pay for this great new endeavor.  The early Christians didn’t shy away from the lions’ den; I’m not going to shy away from those who are life-challenged.  Besides, this parish really has been breathing life into the community.  The butcher shops are booming with business.”

Despite the new challenges, Pastor Pat says the average member, living or non, hasn’t changed much.  “The singing is about the same,” says the Pastor.  “ Groanings as before, and groanings now.  The difference is one might now argue that the non-living carry a better tune.  Before the outbreak, most of the congregation dressed wildly inappropriately in clothing that was worn and ill fitting, so the dress of the church hasn’t changed much either.   When I preach from the pulpit, zombie or not, I get the same glazed look of boredom, almost like nothing is going on up here, in the mind.  Lastly, no matter how much I talk or tell them or teach them, neither group has a sense of moral right and wrong.”

Whether this new church will continue or Pastor Pat will come to his demise at the hands of his own perishioners remains to be determined.  In the mean time, Pastor Pat will continue preaching to the living-dead.  If you happen to be in the Lake Jackson area, stop by and say hello to Pastor Cooper.  First time visitors receive a free t-shirt of their choice.  You can choose from shirts that have the the following sayings on the front, “Jesus ’s zombies”; “Lazarus was a zombie”; and “The undead is the new living.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Teacher's Dream Answering Machine Greeting

No one is perfect, and obviously this school must have had some real problems to use it for a couple of weeks.  However, something high school isn't only about teaching students, but it is also about training parents.

Angelic Doctor, Scripture, and Homily: A Study

The Summa Theologica is pseudonymous with St. Thomas Aquinas to the extent that it is forgotten that Thomas was a member of the Order of Preachers, and he himself did preach and give homilies.  One of my favorite homilies of Aquinas is his Hic Est Liber (This is the Book).  This homily is a run through sacred scripture and the various books and overall messages of those books.  It is well worth a read, and it is an easy read.  I've decided to teach this homily to my class before diving into scripture.  If you want to follow along, you can read the homily and follow along with the questions.  Answers will appear next week.

  • On what three things is the authority of Scripture Founded?
  • What two ways does Sacred Scripture lead a person to live and which way is taught according to the New Testament and the Old Testament?
  • What are the two principal parts of Scripture?
  •  According to what is Old Testament Divided?  What are the two types of commandments?
  •  What are the Three Subdivisions of Sacred Scripture?
  •  What is the fourth kind of book is mentioned by Jerome?  Why did the Catholic Church adept these books if the authors were in doubt?
  • What are the Two Parts of the Law?  What is the focus of each part?
  • What two things are the prophets herald to do?
  •  What is the threefold divine beneficence that the prophets expose to the people?
  • What, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas is the difference between the Major and Minor Prophets?
  •   How do the following prophets lead: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel?
  •   In what way might the prophets in the previous question be arranged in a second manner (Include Daniel in the mix.)?  Also, to what New Testament books do these prophetic books correspond?
  •   The third part of the Old Testament is broken up into two ways fathers instruct.  What are those two ways?
  • What are the two ways deeds instruct?
  • What are the four principal virtues?  What Old Testament books do they correspond with?
  • What are the Divisions of the New Testament?
  • What is each of the four gospels chiefly concerned?
  • What is another way we can speak of the four Gospels and what is the symbol of each?
  • The Execution of the power of grace is shown in which three New Testament books (or grouping of books) and what is each books main focus?

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Souls Novena Begins Today

Today begins the Novena leading up to All Souls Day, which is celebrate on November 2.  All Souls day is primarily a day in which Christians remember those who are faithfully departed who may already be in heaven and to pray for the holy souls of purgatory.

All Soul's Novena

O God, the Creater and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Ora Pro Nobis

[This is a talk/lesson I gave my students before we went and prayed the rosary together in the chapel as a class last week.]

The Rosary is a simple and beautiful prayer.  Prayer in the singular sense as it is one prayer composed of many smaller prayers.  The rosary as we know it today appeared in the late 12th and early 13 century.  There were similar methods of prayer that existed before then, when Christians would count 150 Our Fathers in place of reciting the 150 Psalms using corded beads or stones.  However, the Rosary as we know it in its most early formulation really does appear out of nowhere.  The story of the origin of the Rosary is that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic and taught him to pray the rosary and instructed him to preach and pray the Holy Rosary so as to convert the hardened hearts of sinners.

Composed of four groups of mysteries in which we meditate on the Life of Christ, the four mysteries act as a frame in order to draw out attention to what the frame incases.  Just like a picture frame, the frame lets us know that what it contains is important.  It is beautiful.  It is worthy of respect and a place of honor.  So what does the Rosary frame?  The life, death, resurrection, and mysteries of Christ.  The rosary in no way detracts from Jesus.  Instead; it is meant to enhance the image, for a beautiful frame draws our attention to what has been framed and in doing so makes for an even more beautiful image. 
The rosary is a simple prayer.  It is a prayer of prayers.  Composed of the Sign of the Cross, which reminds us of our Baptism; Hail Mary – known as the Angelic Salutation; The Our Father, the prayer Christ taught us; The Doxology or Glory Be, which honors the everlasting nature of the Trinity; the Apostles’ Creed, which is the universal expression of belief of all Christian; and the Hail Holy Queen, which expresses Mary has the Mother of the Prince of Heaven.

The Hail Mary is the most prominent prayer of the rosary and it is composed of 5 parts:

The first part is the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary: Hail Mary Full of grace the Lord is with thee.  These are heavenly words from the Angel Gabriel, words not of human origin.  In its essence, it expresses Mary’s sinless nature, for Mary has been filled sometime in the past with God’s grace and we know that one cannot have God’s grace dwelling in the soul if one if full of any kind of sin.  Also the salutation of the Angel attests to the fact that Mary, though fully human, has been chosen and was granted the special favor from God to be the mother of God made man.

The second part is the words of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth: Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  By referring to both Mary and Jesus as ‘blessed’ it can be said that it again attests to both Mary’s and Jesus’ sinless natures as well as the intimate union between mother and Son.

The third part is the divine name of the Son of God: Jesus.  At the heart of the Hail Mary is Jesus.   Jesus is the center and core of the mysteries of Christianity.  No Jesus.  No Rosary.   

The fourth part is when we ask Mary to intercede for us sinners in the name of Mother of God: Holy Mary Mother of God Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  The title in Greek, Theotokos, is, according to Joslarv Pelikin a title through the ages unique to Mary the mother of Jesus.  The Greek word for Mother of God can more rightly be translated as “God bearer,” and is not a statement about who Mary is but about who Jesus is.  By calling Mary the “mother of God” we are in turn saying that Jesus was fully God and fully man from the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The final and fifth part of the Hail Mary is a simple and powerful word “Amen,” which translates into “so be it” or “Let it be.”  Here we affirm what it is we have prayed.  It is the plea of a child to his Father.

Padre Pio, the famous Franciscian mystic who had the wounds of Christ, had the ability to read souls in the confessional, and a famous ability of bi-location (to be in more than one place at the same time) called the rosary his “weapon.”  Drawing on a long history of knights, it became customary for knights to wear their swords on their left hand side, likewise, seen as a weapon, it became customary for monks and religious to wear the rosary on their left side.  As it is a real weapon and the war they fight is not against people who pass away but against principalities.  The Rosary, this is your weapon against the devil.  You would be wise to use it.  Only a fool would not raise a weapon to defend himself when attacked.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's On My Running Playlist?

 I've been toying with the idea of entering a half marathon. Something I have not  done since I tore cartilage in my hip, and since then it has been a slow road to recovery.  I find myself having to spend more time stretching and warming up and cooling down than I did before the injury some 5 or 6 years ago.  As I get back into training, I do 6 miles several times a week at a leisurely 10:00 min mile.  Far slower than my pre injury time of 8 min mile.  I find myself debating over the usefulness, or lack there of, of listing to music while running.  There is a great debate over the advantages and disadvantages of listening to music while you run. Runner's World has even included a number of articles on the pros and cons of such practices.  Some of the pros include motivation and distraction from the actual process of running.  Some of the cons include danger if running on the street and being distracted form the running process by not listening to your body.

So what am I listening to when I run with music?  This is in the order as found on my iPod.  (All links to songs are on YouTube.)

Ants Marching: Dave Matthews Band (I listen to the Live at Red Rocks version)
Viva la Vida: Coldplay
Through the Fire and the Flames: Dragon Force
Fight for LSU (LSU Fight Song): LSU Tiger Marching Band (I did my undergrad here)
Notre Dame Victory Marcy: ND Marching Band (I did my graduate studies here)
Roll Away Your Sone: Mumford & Sons
Three Little Birds: Bob Marley
Here it Goes Again: OK GO
Cave: Mumford & Sons
Eye of the Tiger: Survivor
One Love/People Get Ready: Bob Marley
Digee Dime: Burlap to Cashmere 
Bounding Round the Room: Phish
Crazy: Gnarls Barkley.

My current Delemma is that I actually run longer than the time of my play list.  So I'll have to add a few songs in the coming days.  If you have any suggestions of good songs to add, please leave a note int he annotations.

I don't recall where I got the images from.  I closed the browser before making note.  None of the images are mine.

Down, Down, and Into the Dark: Evil in the Hobbit [Part 3]

Part III: Smaug, Satan, the Seven Deadly Sins, and His Answer.

Toward the end of the adventure, the reader and travelers encounter the Lucifarian Smaug: the evilest evil, the trickster, most proud, and exemplar of the seven deadly sins.  Smaug is Lucifarian in the most obvious of ways -- first in that he is a dragon.  The dragon, in the literary tradition as well as in the Bible, is always an image of Satan.  So, drawing on biblical illusions, to speak of a dragon in literature is to refer to Satan.  Bilbo is not encountering a mischievous demon as with the goblins. Bilbo is now encountering Evil incarnate. Furthermore, Smaug’s dragon nature, redness and greatness might bring to mind the great red dragon of Revelation 12.  Second, Satan’s angelic state before his fall from grace, Lucifer, means “light bearer.”  Satan was a bringer of light likely part of the choir of seraphim angels, whose name means “burning ones” (Gigot).  This is of note because not only does Smaug bring light in the form of fire from his breath, but Smaug also glows, “a great glow” (215).  That is, Smaug literally is a light bearer.  Where he goes he bears light;  though the light he bears is a warning of the destruction to come.  Third, Satan is often casually referred to as “the bringer of death,” for it was by his persuasion that death entered the world, and is echoed in Tolkien’s Smaug.  The obvious is that Smaug is a destroyer of towns and kingdoms. The red worm describes himself in the terms of a military battlement, and Smaug’s last statement is that his “breath [is] death” (226).  This calls to mind biblical images of the angel of death who is commonly identified as Satan.  Fourth, Smaug, like Satan who is the prince of lies, the great slanderer, the great deceiver, does his best to trick up the noble burglar’s trust in his dwarven companions.  Smaug begins by telling Bilbo that he’ll “come to a bad end, if [he] go[es] with such friends” and ends by recounting a similar situation in which Bilbo finds himself at the moment (224).  Smaug’s “overwhelming personality” implants doubts as to the dwarves’ intentions; but it is Bilbo’s loyalty to his friends that allow him to see through the lies of the dragon (225).

The evil and Lucifarian imagery of Smaug is further developed in that Smaug is a committer and propagator of the seven deadly sins.  In brief, the seven deadly sins are sins that can lead to the death of a Christian’s soul.  These sins are also known as the cardinal sins because every other sin hinges upon these seven.  Though a long historical development, the current list of the seven deadly sins – coming from Pope Gregrory the Great of the sixth century – are greed, lust (luxuary), sloth, envy, pride (hubris), anger (rage), gluttony.

Greed, the desire to have something to excess while ensuring that others have not, is one of the first things the reader learns about dragons.  As Tolkien writes that dragons seek out gold and jewels, yet they “never enjoy a brass ring of it” and can make nothing from their horde of gold (23).  It is a greed that gives way to a compulsion of an excessive knowledge of something that they themselves do not need.  It is greed for the mere sake of depriving others of the beauty found in the dragons’ hordes.  Likening it to a passage in the New Testament, one might recall the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man, in all his greed, deprives Lazarus of all monetary assistance to the extent that the rich man is damned to Hell.  St. John Chrysostom, in a series of homilies on wealth and poverty, commented on this passage in which he saw the rich man’s denial to help Lazarus as a form of theft from the beggar (Chrysostom 35-37).  Lazarus’ life was stolen from him due to the greed of a rich man.  Tolkien makes it clear that the dragon is a thief and he steals his treasure from dwarves, elves, and humans, but it is also a theft of hording and depriving the dwarves and humans of what is justly theirs (23).

Lust, known contemporarily as an excessive obsession with sex, sexual thoughts, and sexual desires, was not always associated with sex.  Coming from the Latin luxuria, lust in one of its earlier understanding is an excess of extravagance.  In other words, lust is a sin of possession; it is a desire to possess things not needed and not rightfully one’s own property.  The sin of lust is related to greed in that they are both sins of excess.  An excess of extravagance is something Smaug depicts in a way he himself does not understand, for he has no need for extravagance yet is compelled to seek it.  Smaug has even encrusted himself with jewels of various sorts and seeks to possess extravagant things for no other purpose than possession.  Moreover, the sin of lust, might be further exemplified by calling to mind the lustful of Dante’s “Inferno” who are caught in the strong winds of a hurricane when Smaug says of himself, “my wings a hurricane” (226).  The winds of the hurricane are present in Dante because it makes present the wild lack of self control contained in those who lust.  It is only too clear how Smaug’s lack of self-control leads to his hording and rage, which causes him to destroy towns.

Anger (rage or wrath), the desire to seek out vengeance upon another for a perceived wrong committed against the self, is what leads Smaug to destroy and devour Lake-town.  Tolkien describes the worm’s anger as “the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long and but have never before used or wanted” (217).  The anger expressed by Smaug combined with his pride leads him to blindly burn the Lonely Mountain, its surroundings, and to attack the people of Lake-town.  It is this temporary madness that will ultimately lead to his demise, but not before being a glutton.

Gluttony, the excessive eating of food, is not one of Smaug’s great down falls, but nonetheless it is a deadly sin he possesses.  Smaug comments to Bilbo, “Let me tell you I ate six ponies last night and I shall catch and eat all the other before long” (224).  It is important to note that a pony is not necessarily a young horse.  A pony is a breed of small horse measuring slightly less than five feet in height when fully grown.  Though consuming six whole adult horses the dragon finds himself wanting to devour more, not for the sake of nourishment, but because he is angry and wants to show how frightful he is to others. 

Sloth, the inordinate laziness that prevents a person from performing good acts, is what Smaug exemplifies when Bilbo finds the worm lazily glowing in the dark.  Smaug is a lazy dragon who has spent many years sleeping on his treasure without emerging from his lair.  In fact, Smaug has slept for such an extensive period of time the people of Lake Town have begun to doubt whether or not a dragon actually dwells under the mountain.  Smaug is so lazy one must wonder how often must a dragon feed.  As it appears that until Smaug devours six ponies of the dwarves he had not emerged from his lair to eat for many years.

Envy (jealousy), the resentment of others for what they have and what one does not to the extent that one desires what it is the other has, is the driving force behind Smaug’s treasure stealing.  In brief, he is envious of the gold of men, elves, and dwarves, and he desired to have it for himself.  It is not a resentment and desire to make useful items for being a superior goldsmith as dragons do nothing with their gold but horde it.  Furthermore, his own envy is what drove him to attack the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the men of Dale in order to steal gold. 

Pride (hubris), the viewing of one’s self too highly that faults are ignored, is what leads Smaug to show Bilbo his underbelly.  Smaug, believing himself to be invulnerable, rolls over and in doing so reveals to Bilbo his one weakness  -- “a large patch in the hallow of his left breast” (227).  It is this moment that helps Bard, the captain of the Lake-town guards, in disposing of the flying worm.  It is also Smaug’s pride in his intellect that blinds him into assuming that the men of Lake-town are the driving force behind the dwarven expedition.  Smaug wrongly guesses and is sent off into a fiery rage.

It would be futile to make a poison without providing the reader with the antidote.  Luckily Tolkien gives us such an antidote in the person of Bilbo Baggins.  In the Catholic tradition the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride) have always been balanced by a virtue.  The pairing of a deadly sin with its counter virtue has always varied as one virtue might serve to counter multiple sins, but there has been some consistency to the pairings over the years.  The seven virtues that counter the seven deadly sins are Chastity, Temperance, Charity/love of neighbor, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.  Like the seven deadly sins being present in one character, the seven counter virtues are also found in one character: Bilbo Bagins. 

It is important to know that virtues are formed in the pursuit of something.  If the Virtue of Chastity, the virtue associated with right relationships with others,  is to be acquired, Chastity is not pursued.  Instead, knowledge is to be pursued so that chastity will be formed.  Knowledge leads to the understanding of the proper relationships one is to have with others.  It leads to a correct use and not an abuse of another.  Bilbo exhibits his pursuit of knowledge in his fascinations of maps and languages.

In order for temperance to be had in order to counter gluttony, strength of will is pursued.  Bilbo exhibits his strength of will by pushing through tough times.  Though forced into self denial, Bilbo never turns from the pursuit of strengthening his will.  Greed is overcome by the virtue of Charity.  Charity is formed in the pursuit of Generosity.  Bilbo exhibits his generosity in dealing with the dwarves: giving the dwarves plenty of food, goes beyond what the dwarves ask and what the reader expect.  Where most would have given up and left the dwarves stranded to fend for themselves, Bilbo generously rescues them.

To counter Sloth, the most basic remedy is to get up and do something productive.  In other words, doing the right thing at the right time in a manner of diligence.  Therefore the virtue to counter sloth can be either prudence or diligence.  The virtues of prudence and diligence are formed in the pursuit of ethics.  That is, ethics in seeking out the right action, which incorporates an element of justice into the pursuit of the virtue.  As Bilbo is interested in what is rightly owed to others as seen in his releasing the wrongly imprisoned dwarves by the hands of the Mirkwood elves and in the desire to give the humans and elves their gold back that Smaug had collected of the years.

Countering wrath with peace is perhaps one of the more obvious as to what the antidote to wrath might be.  However, peace is not the virtue contrary to wrath.  Patience is the virtue contrary to the vice of wrath, as only time quenches wrath.  Moreover, patience comes from the Latin pati which means “to suffer.”  Implying that where there is wrath so too will there be suffering.  The virtue of Patience is formed by the pursuit of peace.  The prime example when Bilbo pursues peace is when he gives the Arken Stone to Bard in order to ensure that a battle does not errupt between the men of lake-town, the elves of Mirkwood, and the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

Envy (jealously) is countered with the virtue of kindness.  Kindness is formed in the pursuit of Love.  For where envy seeks to take and devour what another had, love seeks what is best for the other and seems not to take what is not one's own.  Bilbo exhibits the pursuit of love in his relationship with the dwarves, which takes the form of a brotherly love.  His love of the shire which urges him to the end of his adventure and the desire to return. 

Finally, pride, sometimes seen as the root of all sin, finds its remedy in the virtue of humility.  Humility, the virtue in which a person takes a modest view of themselves and sees themselves for who they really are, is formed by the pursuit of modesty.  As it appears to be the case, perhaps due to their statue, that modesty is a virtue that comes easily to hobbits – at least Bilbo anyway.  For Bilbo hides the knowledge of his magic ring until he is required to reveal it.  Even once the little hobbit has the ring in his possession, he does not use it without good cause in the story.  Bilbo seems himself never as a hero but only as a hobbit.

In conclusion, Tolkien gives a defined view of evil using the classical theme of darkness.  He draws a line between good and evil using hospitality, or the lack of, as the measuring rod.  Finally Tolkien presents to his readers the self destructive power of evil in the Lucifarian Smaug.  Tolkien does this by primarily appealing to the exterior actions of characters.  The reader knows a character is evil by how they act or fail to act.  In doing so, Tolkien confirms, decades prior, much of the theology of Pope John Paul II in that persons are people of action.  That is, a person becomes what it is they do:  One who steals is a stealer; one who runs is a runner. Therefore the person who does evil – the person who is a perpetual vacuum absent of good which then might be filled by all sorts of evil things – is in turn an evil creature. 

Lastly, being a children’s tale, the didactic novel given to the reader – as all children’s stories have in nature a lesson – is a simple lesson, but a necessary one that should be repeated over and over.  The simple lesson is that evil is real, and it is present not only in the world created by Tolkien, but also in the world in which Tolkien and we too now live.

Chrysostom, John. “On Wealth and Poverty.” Trans. Catherine P. Roth. Crestoow: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984.
Gigot, Francis. "Seraphim." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 21 Apr. 2011 .
“Goblin.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionlary. Sixth Edition.  2007.

“Murk.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionlary. Sixth Edition.  2007.

New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible Press, 1986

Tolkien, J.R.R. “The Hobbit.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
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