Monday, July 30, 2007

"I know the beauty of our Lord by it." - Hopkins

Summer breaks are short around here and the past few days we've been dragging ourselves around, quietly mourning the fact that soon the Routine will again be the routine. Laura goes back to school on Wednesday.
     So we went to the North Carolina Zoological Park today for a few short minutes before rain and routine rolled in. The park's flowers and flowering bushes are, at the moment, simply stunning. As I walked through a small butterfly garden the zoo has built, I was again surprised at how a small plot of ground, well-tended, can completely untie you from the normalcy of your environment, whether pavement or busyness or loneliness. It's witchery. And it makes me want to be a gardener. Not someone who dabbles in his yard, but someone who takes hold of it, who tends it, who works in the midst of a garden to discover the joy of vocation and creation and Gardener. A gardener creates something good, a temporary beauty that tills eternity.
     It was a peaceful and good day. And the clouds passed and the sun shone brighter and gentler.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about centering prayer and how popular it is becoming among Christians today. (I'm not a fan, if you're interested.)
     I was not thrilled today, therefore, when a new priest in our parish began talking about prayer and said, in a nutshell, that how we pray is unimportant - whether as a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, etc. - but only that we pray.
     He said the catholicity of the "Our Father" teaches us that we're all God's children and that God just wants us to pray - however we please. (If you feel like praying to Kali, pray to Kali?) What's important is that it comes from the heart.
     And then, after the homily, we rose and said together, "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins."
     (We pray "Our Father" because we have been united to Christ, because we are His body and therefore may pray with Him, "Our Father.")
     And then the priest caps it off by saying, "Accept it or not, but that is Catholic teaching."
     I am frustrated.
     It is difficult to hang on to peace and participate in the Mass - to receive Christ in the Eucharist - after a homily that is so ... incoherent.
     I covet your prayers and suggestions.
     Lex orandi, lex credendi - How we pray is how we believe. That's the teaching of the Church. How we pray matters. Prayer is theology.
     Section 1124 of the Catechism says: "The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it."


from Liturgy of the Hours

Christ the Lord is our day and our sunlight, shining on all men and never setting. Let us praise him, saying:

R: O Lord, you are our life and our salvation!

Creator of the stars, we offer you in gratitude the first-fruits of this day, and we commemorate your resurrection. R

May your Spirit guide us today to do what is pleasing to you: may your Wisdom lead us always. R

Let us join together with joy at Mass this Sunday, at the table of your word and your Body and Blood. R

Our souls give you thanks for your immeasurable kindness. R

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's Friday Night

It's Friday night and here I sit. I was going to take the kiddies to the drive-in, but they backed out at the last minute. Laura told me I could still go, but I told her there's probably not too many things more pathetic than a grown man alone at a drive-in. At least that's how I felt then. Now I'm regretting my decision. Oh well. I've got better things to do than go out and watch a movie based on an 80s kids' cartoon.

Or I'll think of some.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Potter-Head Emerges and Speaks

Be at ease, there are no spoilers here.

So ends the Harry Potter series.

From start to finish these books are a ball. Many thanks to Jo Rowling for writing a series that is bloody brilliant - for making story fun again.

Now I've been reading a couple of reviews where people are talking about the many Christian allusions spread throughout the last book, and they are there, but let's not take them too seriously. I appreciate that they are there, don't misread me, but the books are and always have been for me altogether different than, say, spiritual meditations on our Lord.

I think the thing that is most often misunderstood about Harry Potter and Jo Rowling is her idea of story and fun - that's what these books are. They are not Tolkien or Lewis, and, at the other end of the fantasy-religious spectrum, they are certainly nothing like Phillip Pullman. They are Jo Rowling. They're tongue-in-cheek romps that eventually lead you into some rather dark and sobering stories about, well, death - nevertheless, all this talk about dying and living and temptation and (even) resurrection, however, are dealt with beautifully without feeling as if they are misplaced in a book that also contains bogey-flavored Everyflavor Beans.

Now, I have some literary complaints, technical complaints, but they ring hollow from a critic who has not done what Rowling has done. So, if you don't mind, I'll keep them to myself.

For those of you who don't like Harry, I'm truly sorry. If you don't like him and haven't read the books, read them. Or don't. But don't judge them by what you have heard or by watching the movies. (The movies don't capture the playfulness of this series. The movies are enjoyable, certainly, but I've found them to be very different tonally.)

And if you read them and don't like them - well, isn't it an excellent thing to make up your mind for yourself? And if you're indifferent about them - that's OK too.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Yesterday I headed out to Wal-Mart to buy some Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Back and there again is a 40-minute jaunt. For ice cream. Why? Well, they have a better selection and are about a dollar cheaper there (child labor, I suspect). But mostly, taking into account the price of gas, because they have a better variety. The favorite flavor, currently, is Pistachio Pistachio. What else needs to be said? It's pistachios.

I saw Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream and picked it up. It has bits of waffle cone covered in fudge with caramel swirl. And it has a picture of the man himself on it. Very good.

So on the way out to Wal-Mart, to get back to my story, Anna and I are listening to the *secular radio station* and "Bohemian Rhapsody" begins playing. I turn it up for Anna's sake, to educate her in the world of Rock-and-Roll music. As the song gets to the middle, bouncy, operatic section, Anna starts dying laughing. I swanny, if she hadn't been buckled up she would have rolled onto the floor. It was high-larious.

Her two questions about the song were (1) Why [do Queen] sound like girls? and (2) Why do they write silly songs like that?

I figured any thorough answer would involve a conversation about drugs, among other things, so I just said people liked to write silly music sometimes. A six year old, after all, is only a six year old.

And, finally, to wrap up my miscellany, I am expecting to receive the Harry Potter book today. I suppose it will be read by Monday, if not earlier. Mock away, mocking world. I'm a Potter-head - not an in-line-at-the-book-store-at-12:01-dressed-up-like-Hagrid whacko like some of you out there, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the series. I'm becoming quite excited to see what becomes of the Boy Who Lived.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Back Fence

Do any of you home educators have a specific lesson plan book that you're crazy over? Or, if there is not one that holds a special place in your heart, what are the basic elements you think a good planner needs?

Today I received a planner in the mail that, honestly, is not any more useful than a regular planner, so I was thinking about purchasing something like this Moleskine® planner+notebook instead.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


It's hot in North Carolina even when it's not hot.

Not being raised in the South, I find it somewhat less comfortable than others. But, Man! I can barely stand it outside long enough to take my Netflix movies to the mailbox. This whole mailbox system, by the way, seems like it could be done better, closer to the house. Meanwhile, I'll continue to use my children as my little mail-bearers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Catholic, XXIV


Untimely Ripp'd

The following is completely ripped out of its context, like Macduff. But it struck me as oddly relevant all the same, like Macduff.

As G.K. Chesterton put it: the modern young man will never change the world, for he will always change his mind. Western theologians were concerned to change their theology to fit the world, and the last thing on their minds was to change the world to fit any theological vision. They wanted a revolution in theology, not a theology of revolution.
- Steve Hayes, Notes from Underground

Monday, July 16, 2007

Children of Men?

Does anyone else find this article disturbing? Is it true? Apparently so: See here, here, and here for confirmation of the story.

So what do we do about this and other pollutants like it? Or perhaps better questions would be, What do we do about other pollutants with this effect? and Why aren't we doing the same with this one?

HT: Crossed the Tiber and Vox Nova

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Notes of Home

Avery has a crush on her older cousin Nathan. She has for some time. Today she was putting on some GloStick earrings and wanted me to put on a pretty dress that would go with them. (Put the dress on her, to clarify.)

"Nathan's going to love this," she said.

"Nathan's not here, Sweetheart," I said.

"I know but when Nathan sees me like this he's going to say, 'What the hell is that?' " she said with a cherubic smile, and then left the room.

Have I mentioned that I need to watch my language around my children? That or teach them how to do it better.

American Orthodox

HT: The W├śRD

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pope says Protestants hellbound

So the Holy Father has been busy this last week leading up to his vacation. There are always last minute odds and ends to tie up, I suppose, before one rests.

First, there was the motu proprio on Saturday that frees the pre-Vatican II liturgy to be more widely celebrated. He did so for unity's sake, out of charity, to heal some wounds caused by the establishment of the new liturgy, the Novus Ordo, some 40 years ago. "The old liturgy is fine for us, thank you very much," said some - I pray that the wound can begin to heal now. Now, the pope did not "undo" Vatican II. The liturgy before Vatican II has always been considered valid and good and holy. And it could be celebrated with the proper permission. But now it will be even more broadly available for those who want to still celebrate it.

Then, on Wednesday, he came out and said that Protestants are going to hell.

What? He didn't say that?

Let me go read it again. Give me a minute. Hmm. Wow, OK.

Well, I thought he must have because of the size of the turd some Prots were having over it.

Oh, I see now, he said Prots didn't have churches, but were simply "ecclesial communities"?


So why do some Protestants have a problem with this proclamation? I mean, Protestants, as I recall, don't accept the Catholic Church's teaching about what is the Church. In other words, the Holy Catholic Church says that at least the following is what makes up the Church: (1) apostolic succession and holy orders, and, consequently, (2) valid sacraments, specifically the Eucharist. Hey, and papal authority is important too.

Ironically, I've been told I was a heretic and apostate because I believed this stuff. Have these protesting Prots suddenly become Cats?

No? I didn't think so.

So what's the problem, brah? You don't accept the pope as your papa - use whatever word you want to describe your ecclesial community. When you say church, you mean something different than when Papa Benedict says church. That's all there is to understand here.

Now that we understand the essential difference between us, let's try to move forward together.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Great Cat Conundrum

We came home from vacation to find our cat outside. She'd been left inside. She'd been locked inside. We thought.

Of course our initial reaction was that someone had broken into our house while we were gone. But that fear, fortunately, was quickly dispelled.

Here are the facts: (1) My cat was outside. (2) The litter box was used all week, and the cat food was eaten. (3) The doors were untampered with and locked just as we had left them.

So I quickly thought through my options and realized that as much as I wanted to say that Laura had unwittingly let the cat out as she locked up nearly a week ago - the easiest way to resolve my outdoor-cat dilemma - it just didn't fit the facts. With the facts I had, there were three options, of the natural variety: (1) Someone had been in the house, (2) the cat had found a way out of the house by herself, or (3) I had locked another cat in our house, thinking it was Tula.

I sat down on my thinking chair (the toilet) and thought. And thought. The likeliest explanation, as all the windows were still closed, was that someone had been in our house. Not a nice explanation, but the most probable. I didn't find a strange cat in the house and I was pretty certain the cat I'd dragged into the house last Thursday was Tula. 99% certain.

But accepting the idea that someone had been in our house felt odd - it didn't quite fit. Everything was as we had left it. Nothing was missing. So, I wondered, perhaps someone had made an impromptu visit - maybe while on vacation themselves - and had found the door not all the way pulled to, and as they peeked inside, the cat (in a brave but foolish act of desperation) ran out the door.

It was possible. Not very likely, but nothing else was making sense.

I went upstairs to greet and console my computer, which I had left with the cat. I went to turn on the A/C window unit that I had cut off before leaving. (We have central air, but it just doesn't do much for the upstairs/finished attic/half story.) And it was at that moment that the riddle unraveled. The right sliding guard on the window unit had been slid open, leaving a four or five inch gap of open window.

Our stupid, stupid cat (in a brave but foolish act of desperation) had jumped out of the second-story window into the soft grass and a Nikko Blue hydrangea below the window.