Sunday, April 27, 2008

From St Vincent of Lérins's Commonitory, 5th Century

A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity


But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bike by Bike

When my wife picked me up from the bookstore on that fateful February afternoon, I opened the truck's door to find a tangle of gaudy steel, rubber, and self-dressed children. Thrift-shop bikes were packed into every nook and cranny of the vehicle, sharing seats with and providing footrests for children. One child complained that the handlebar was digging into her ribs.

"They're ugly," I protested as I re-arranged the bikes the best I could. "The tires are bald." I slammed the tailgate and pulled myself into the driver's seat. I gave Laura my best look of exasperation and I turned the ignition. "They're crap."

"Fix them for the kids," she said in soft Marian tones.

"I hate crap from thrift shops," I wanted to bellow, though the stores often clothe my family.

And, until spring, the bikes lay in a pile under our carport on the red lava rocks that pave our drive. Spring comes easily in North Carolina. One of the bikes was picked up, the one with training wheels, by a child visionary who dreamed of freedom, of wind in her hair, who had fire in her legs. She cajoled her parents into supervision. She rode back and forth in front of our house and the others heard the whoosh of her bike and saw the joy radiating from her cherubic cheeks. Once, as she passed closely by, the breeze stirred the latent embers of desire in other small chests, chests that also yearned for freedom regardless the cost.

I saw the flame in their eyes; I shook my head silently. I turned and looked at the pile of broken bikes that needed fixing. "Shit."

It happened nearly as soon as a thrift-shop bike was ridden, the tire would go flat. One after another, as systematically as bubble wrap. So I went to the bike shop and laid out big money for a quality floor pump. (It also inflates automobile tires easily and has an accurate gauge.) Next, I stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up new tires and inner tubes, bike tools, and helmets (after a brief conversation with a police officer who stopped by one afternoon while the kids were riding bareheaded). All told, I spent nearly as much as I would had I bought all new bikes for the kids. Of course, to be fair, they still wouldn't have helmets, and I wouldn't have my bike tools and my expensive floor pump.

So I made a sign and officially opened Fat-Ass Bike Repair, the red-neck branch (is there another?), and went to work. I changed multiple inner tubes and put on new white, BMX style tires. The floor pump worked beautifully. Having the proper tools for the job was a dream. Soon the girls were riding. And within days, all of them were riding without training wheels. With Vulcan still sweating furiously in my breast, I retrieved my 25-year-old Raleigh 12-speed. It's moved with us everywhere across the Southeast, but hasn't been ridden since college. It needed a new tube for the front tire. It will also eventually need new brakes, as the old ones brake softly, and new shifters, which don't work (or perhaps derailers - I'm not sure yet). The seat is fine, if too small and too hard - a bit like bull-riding on a birch stump, I would imagine - and my large ass looks as if it is on the verge of swallowing it. But the bike works. (It was this bike that gave me piles my freshman year in high school. We have memories.)

Still, my wife needed a bike also. When we bought our house, two old bikes were parked under the carport. One was a men's 10-speed and the other was an old Huffy BayPointe 3-speed, a vintage cruiser, for a woman. The BayPointe was in need of some air and care, but that's about it. And soon, after adding a basket, and after a good rust scrub and wash, the bike was ready to go.

The girls rode their bikes at every opportunity. They gained the confidence and skills necessary for a trip down to the locally owned grocery (about a half mile down the road) and rode down yesterday for soda and candy with their mama. (Laura's basket detaches from its mount and can be used as a grocery basket inside the store, which is cool.) They made their daddy proud - especially when they brought him a Snickers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In and Out

I took Will for his checkup this morning. Everything looks great. And that was, Lord willing, the last time he needs to see anyone about his finger. He needs to keep Band-Aids on it for another week, and then he's free and clear. I'm so grateful for all your prayers.

From the moment we walked into the doctor's office to the moment we walked out was exactly ten minutes. That's some kind of sweet. Of course, we were on the road for two hours, there and back again, but I'd rather not dwell on that part.

The kids are setting up a beach party out on the front porch, so that's what my afternoon is looking like.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spiders and Stitches and Stuff

Will's doing well. Thanks once again for your prayers. His finger seems to be healing properly, but he blanches at the sight of blood now - a picked scab will send him out of the room with his good hand over his eyes. I suppose time will take care of that scar. Will has a checkup Thursday morning, but everything seems fine. We had to change his bandage while he was sleeping on Sunday (the blood had adhered the gauze to his finger - so we had to dampen it to remove it) because the thought of removing his bandage sent him into some hysterics. He now has some cleverly placed Band-Aids covering his finger and will probably have to have those changed today. Thankfully, he's a sound sleeper - during a nap, I could probably roll him around the house without him waking.

Saturday I removed a dead bush from the yard. While digging out the roots, lo and behold, a black widow spider crawled out. I don't know where the nest of this wee beastie was, but it was a little unsettling finding the country's most venomous arachnid in my side yard. With some regret, I killed it. Understand, while I would prefer to let be natural things in nature, I had two little ones with me at the time and their safety took precedence. (Plus, spiders scare the bejabbers out of me.) There are, of course, probably others in the yard, but I will not be engaging in a witch hunt to discover and eradicate them.

I was reading a critique of a book I had, at one time, loved, when the critic began to compare the bad theology of the book to Rome's theology of justification - infused righteousness (bad) rather than imputed (good). Invariably, as a reader, you come across these things. It initially got my heart racing out of frustration, and then it made me rather sad. Rome does not see infusion and imputation as an either-or issue. But books have been written on this subject, so I won't. Nevertheless, it often strikes me that the misunderstanding that many in my family (and others) have with Rome's view of justification largely happens because Rome does not distinguish between justification and sanctification as Protestants do. Eternal life is purchased by Christ's work alone - there is no argument from Rome here. But when Rome speaks of justification, it is speaking, by and large, to the faithful and to the obligation of the faithful to love. And love works. Therefore, in speaking to the faithful, she gives direction on how the faithful should live. She presumes salvation (justification by faith in baptism) for the faithful and then tells them how they should therefore live. Often, and stereotypically, these same people, such as the critic, are preoccupied with salvation - with getting someone saved. Stereotypically, most Catholic theology is preoccupied with what to do with people after they're saved. In other words, again stereotypically, Protestant talk of justification is about saving, whereas Catholic talk of justification is most often about keeping. And while it is more complicated, because people are complicated, it seems to me, somedays, just so simple. Perhaps, then, the biggest difference concerning justification that ought to remain between the two groups, at least for some Evangelicals, is the Catholic belief that one can lose one's salvation. (I hope all of that is clear; I'm being rushed by the lunch-lady heavy in my head.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Post-Op Update

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers. The news is good as we wait for Will to wake up: The tendon was only nicked and though the sheath around it had some damage they were able to make the needed repairs. Apparently, he will not need a splint and they want us to keep his finger covered only in Band-Aids in order to encourage movement. This news is far better than what we'd hoped and certainly far better than what we'd feared, so I appreciate your prayers.

I'll let you know more later today.

The Lord is good; his love endures forever.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Update on Will

Will will be in surgery, or going into surgery, early tomorrow morning. He needs to be at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem at 6 a.m. for anesthesia consultation and for warming chairs for later patients. We suspect he'll be in surgery between 7 and 8 a.m.

If you would, pray for him while you're brushing your teeth, getting dressed and driving into work. We'd appreciate it greatly. He was quite traumatized by the shots and stitches on Sunday night and is deathly afraid of having to be "poked" again. (Though he will be under general anesthesia, which only makes sense, but is a great relief knowing anyhow.)

Yesterday, we had a consultation with the hand surgeon. Before the doctor arrived I unwrapped Will's bandage, and Will wouldn't even look at his finger. He didn't want to see it. (I can't say that I blame him; it looks like something out of Frankenstein.) The hand surgeon told me that he would be opening up the finger to see what kind of internal damage has been done (nerves and tendons). He said sometimes, if the tendons have been crushed rather than sliced, fingers never regain full mobility. This scenario is a possibility in Will's case since everything happened in the door of a truck.

Anyway, as it stands, Will is wanting Mommy to be with him tomorrow, so there will be a very anxious daddy at home with the rest of the brood.

Will's doing fine, but he is scared. It comes out in little ways that perhaps only my wife and I would recognize, but it's difficult to watch, and difficult to communicate comfort in anything more than a hug, a kiss, and being close. Maybe that physical expression of our nearness and love is the best sort of comfort we have to offer anyway.

I'll let you know what we find out tomorrow. Thank you for all your prayers; keeping a three-year-old boy's finger somewhat immobile and dry and bandaged takes a good bit of Providence.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pray for Us

I opened the truck door (he must have been holding the hinge) on my son's finger yesterday afternoon and just about took it off. I wish I were exaggerating. He needed a million stitches to close it up (I don't know the exact number, but it was a lot) and will probably be going in on Friday to have his finger operated on in order to reattach the tendon. I have never experienced so much pain, holding my son for twenty to thirty minutes while he screamed and cried and begged the doctor No, no, no. It was as if he were being tortured, and I couldn't do anything to ease or take away his pain. The finger was anesthetized, which was extremely painful (so many shots directly into the wounds), but the anesthesia was insufficient to keep the pain from him during the stitches.

He seems himself now, but my heart is going to take a while to heal. And his finger will take about four to six weeks until it's wriggling properly again.

Please pray.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Something Beautiful Has Begun"

There's an excellent article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal (4/11) about Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul the Great. It's worth reading, and so I'm linking to it here. Here's an extract:

"John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think."

HT: Jeff Vehige

Friday, April 11, 2008

What You Get at 4 #@(*% o'Clock in the Morning

Sometimes I wonder whether the real trouble with postmodernism in our church communities is not that we've subverted the truth, but that we've subverted love. We've entered our father's tent and we mock his nakedness. And love is a covering.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Root Cellar

Has anyone out there ever built a root cellar? Ever had one? We've been toying with the idea of building one in order to better use the little bit of land we have, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the time, labor, and, most importantly, cost. And how technical of a job is it?

"It seems a wee bit more than just a simple hole in the ground, Dear," he calls down the stairs to his wife.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

And ... There It Goes.

No matter how I decide to vote in November, I've suspected for a while that it is time for me to officially give up my Republican affiliation. Therefore, today I changed my party from "Republican" to "Unaffiliated." This way, if I so desire (and I believe I do), I can vote in the upcoming Democratic primary in North Carolina. At least now my primary vote will actually count for something. (North Carolina's primaries are so late in the game, that the nomination is normally settled by the time we go to the polls.)

(Three thousand brownie points for anyone who can guess the obscure allusion in my title. Hint: Sir David.)

A Letter from the Holy Father before His Visit

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.

At this point I should like to add some words of thanks, because I am conscious that many people have been working hard for a long time, both in Church circles and in the public services, to prepare for my journey. I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavours would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.

Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: "Christ our hope". Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world.

Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This "golden rule" is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.

I direct a cordial greeting to Spanish-speaking Catholics and manifest my spiritual closeness, in particular to the youth, the ill, the elderly and those who are in moments of difficulty of feel themselves in need. I express my heartfelt desire to be with you soon in this beloved nation. In the meantime, I encourage you to pray intensely for the pastoral fruits of my imminent apostolic trip and to keep high the flame of hope in the resurrected Christ:

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May the Virgin Mary accompany and protect you. May God bless you.

May God bless you all.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Our holy and God-bearing Fathers

A quick note on the Early Fathers of the Church. For some of us, they are the end of our arguments, our resistance, against Mother Church. Many converts to Catholicism and Orthodoxy are such because of the testimony of the holy Fathers. But their writings are only writings and, as such, are open to interpretation and misinterpretation as easily as the Scriptures. And they, perhaps, even more so, for they have not the authority of the Scriptures. What I mean to say is that everything an early Father said or wrote or preached is not necessarily orthodox. So while we accept most of their teachings, all of it is still received as right teaching only through the authority of the Church. (As a fundamental example, they are Church Fathers because the Church has recognized them as such.) I have seen the Fathers used to justify all kinds of beliefs; not as often as the Scriptures merely because they are known to a lesser extent.

We rely on the Church and what the Church teaches us. Certainly the Church does not tell us how to think on every issue, but as it concerns many doctrines of the Church she gives us guidance. She sometimes tells us what we must believe; she sometimes tells us what we may not believe. In this way, she saves us from error.

For me, the Fathers were a powerful testimony to the shape of the Church - what it was meant to be, what it looked like from the earliest days. And that shape is shamelessly Catholic, shamelessly Orthodox - sacramental and episcopal (small e): One holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Fathers speak of sacraments and bishops, they give us liturgies. To me, therefore, the Fathers were instrumental in my understanding of authority and of the Church's authority. But, and here is my point, just as they are necessary to the Church, so too is the Church necessary to the Fathers.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Glory to God

Glory to God for Imitrex. I'm still struggling through this headache - Day 3 or 4? Last night was killer, so much so that I went to my precious stockpile of drugs for terrible temporal pain. (Only one past-due-date Imitrex left!) Killer became killer-er as I stubbornly refused to turn off the movie I was watching. And not because it was a masterpiece, but because I wanted to send it back to Netflix this morning.

He he he. I probably deserve the pain for being such an idiot.

The movie was Into the Wild, and I felt like I was dying with Mr. Supertramp. My eyes were watering from the pain - not tears, you understand. I wanted to shout at the TV: "Give me some of those poisonous wild potato seeds, Wolf Boy!" Man, medicinal marijuana never sounded so good.

Maybe I make stupid decisions like this because I'm hanging on too tightly to nighttime being my time, with all the kids in bed. Or it might could be that I just ain't too bright, coz.

"Last night, however, won't be repeated," he says with, perhaps, a modicum of resolve.

By the way, the medicine didn't work as fast as I'd have liked. But while I went to bed in what felt like my death throes, I woke up feeling brand-spanking new. And that makes even a nearly thirty dollar pill seem worth the price.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Goofiest Shoe You'll Ever Love

I love these shoes. Yes, they're butt-ugly. Yes, it seems a lot to pay for what seems so little. Otherwise, they're Oh So Nice.

My feet have never been happier.

Less Than Human

I just finished reading The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. It's not the first time I've read it, and, this time, I read it twice in as many weeks. Sometimes a second or third reading is warranted in order for the murkiness to be plumbed, in a manner of speaking.

I picked up the little book again after many years at the recommendation of Fr Thomas Hopko, an Orthodox priest, in one of his many lectures I'm working through on my iPod. This book is phenomenal. If you haven't read it recently, read it. Please. Because I want to talk about it. And while it speaks of the necessity of the objectivity of Values and Reason it also addresses issues more ecclesial. I suppose that is no surprise.

If you've read the 80-page book recently, I'd love to hear your thoughts. This book needs reading. I'm not even sure what kind of questions to ask for discussion, but I'm sure it will find itself relevant as the days pass. Perhaps I'll post as it does.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Church Signs

Here are two signs in neighboring cities that have made me shake my head in dismay every time I pass them. Lord, have mercy. (And take down those signs!)



Six Word Memoir

True Vyne tagged me to write a six word memoir. A difficult proposition, as there are so many ways to go about it. I contemplated being pious, but thought better of it. So I decided to simply be myself - genius and profound and witty and humble, all at once - as I often am guilty of being:

He changed many, many shitty diapers.

I hope I counted correctly. Granted, it sounds more like an epitaph than a memoir. But I only had six words. And it works either way.

Here are some people who I'd like to carry this meme forward: Robin, Alison, Dan, Sherry, Penni, Chad, Jared, Scott. You know who you are. Get busy. (By the way, all these people can be found in my blogroll. I didn't link to them because I'm recovering from a migraine.)