Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, November 24, 2006


The Thanksgiving narrative usually starts with the Pilgrims' ship, The Mayflower, finally alighting on Plymouth Rock. What people never hear or read about is how miserable a voyage it was. The trip was long, arduous and, frankly, odiferous. Once the ship had landed, fires were set throughout the ship to smoke out the stench of 102 people crammed in there for months on end with no plumbing facilities. Then it got worse. The place was barren and desolate (even the indigenous types knew to give it a mighty wide berth) and during the first winter, half of the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness or exposure.

Finally, Spring sprang and the Indians showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish for cod and trap beavers for fur. And pretty much this is where the story stops, and we all skip ahead to Pilgrims eating turkey. The fact is the Pilgrims were managing to scrape out a survival existence, but not being much more of a hit than that.

Here's the part you didn't know. The Pilgrims didn't actually have the coin needed to swing the cruise from Europe to Plymouth Rock. So, they made a contract with some backers in London (the system was called mercantilism) and agreed to pay them back with whatever their community could produce. Being a starry-eyed bunch of Neo-Utopians, they had agreed to produce things in common and everyone was given an equal share of the total.

Of course, they didn't ask me and were therefore quite surprised this system of production and allocation sucked dead wombats. Gov. Bradford, desperate for a new system that would generate serious production, not only for survival but to cover their debts to the merchants in London, changed the scheme. He assigned individual parcels of land to each family to farm and control as they best saw fit.

About this whole matter, Bradford wrote: "The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God. For this community [this] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice." [Emphasis mine.]

Then came the changeover from common to individual property. Gov. Bradford wrote "This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was [harvested] than otherwise would have been."

By the late summer, the Pilgrims realized they had much more crops than could be eaten by their settlement. They set up a trading system whereby they exchanged goods with the local tribes. They experience such profits they were able to pay off the the merchants in London. They were so grateful to God for this turnabout in their fortune they held a fest of Thanksgiving.

A particularly apt thing is George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789

George Washington

It was, of course, Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving the yearly holiday it is now:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Now you know!


P.S. It seems ironic that you find more reference to God in the proclamations by Lincoln and Washington than you would in a whole month at your favorite "Progressive Catholic" blog. ;-)

Thanksgiving: The Aftermath

Here are the Thanksgiving Day pix (the ones that came out, anyway).
Y'start with the turkeys brining.

Then you get your turkey stock going (when I started the pot was to the edge with liquid, as in the 1st of these two pix)

This picture got mangled, but it was the picture of all the accoutrements needed to cook all this stuff. These are the tables for all the people who came. (Not shown: Kid's table.)

Top and bottom ovens, w. one turkey apiece.

The appetizer -- which is not my dept. -- leftovers. (The bacon-prune things came late)

The grilled turkey leftovers. (Note the tray with the heretic mashed potatoes is DAMNED NEAR EMPTY.)

The regular turkey leftovers.

The general leftovers.

A very tired namesake. (Yes, that IS a chef's jacket on the lad. Start saving for the dowry now.)


Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Pleased to meet you, won't you guess my name?"

Earlier today I was engrossed in an email discussion with someone I shan't expose. The premise of this discussion was that we ought hope and pray that Satan may be saved. I was horrified by this outlook. Granted, I am a cheerfully orthodox Catholic and so I take what the Church teaches au pied a lettre. Therefore, I hang my hat on the fact the Catechism EXPLICITLY says Satan is beyond redemption. By having beheld the beatific vision and yet still rebelled, he sinned against the Holy Spirit and that is unforgivable. (Mt. 12:32)

The fact is that angelic creatures are not like human creatures. They are purely spiritual beings and as such don't need to figure things out. They are created "pre-wired" and they are also beholding God in a way we can only hope to reach one day. For an angel to rebel is a LOT worse than for a human to sin. We sin because we are fooled by what we perceive or by our understanding of what we perceive. This means there are a zillion different variables that can cause us to go off the rails. Angelic creatures have no such excuse, therefore they have no such forgiveness.

I mean, it's kinda/sorta/maybe for the relatively well-informed to hear this sort of thing. A well-catechized person shrugs it off and keeps on chugging along. But what about the average person? The one who has other priorities than to sort out the differences between Thomism and Glassprism or to suss out the subtle nuances encoded between the lines of the encyclical Deus Ex Machina? That kind of "just folks"Catholic can get easily cowed by fancy academic and ecclesial plumage and go off believing, frankly, drivel at best and manifest heresy at worst. (Cf. St.Luke 17:1-2)

But at least now y'all know the deal and can catechize on the matter.



Monday, November 13, 2006

A game of inches.

As I type this, reports and rumors of reports dribble out of the Holy See regarding the possibility of a broader indult for the "Tridentine" Mass. It is no surprise the Usual Suspects do not care for this greater freedom.

As a libertarian, I humbly ask those who oppose the liberation of a perfectly valid Mass: "What's it to you?" If you want the Full Kumbaya, feel free to attend at St. William Sonoma and revel in the macramé, tambourines and the full-on choreography in the pews. If that draws you ever closer to God, then more power to you. Go nuts. Enjoy it in good health.

Personally, I don't know that I'd attend such a Mass as the Tridentine more than a few times a year. As I've stated before, I'm more of a moderate. Give me a Missa Normativa ad orientem and I'm happy. Why, even an "EWTN rite" Mass hits the spot.


I stumbled on the following:

Given that it's NPR, factual errors are unavoidable. (For instance, Vatican 2 permitted the vernacular Mass, it didn't require it.) But these errors are surprisingly small and the piece is rather fair and quite balanced; a good thing since my tax dollars paid for it. Go listen to it and then come back, I'll wait.



When you play it again, you'll notice that almost all those in favor of a more traditional liturgy are young. By the standards of the thing, I'm a geezer at 43. Those who oppose it seem to be of an age group where "new car purchases" are a diminishing* expectation. Some of the more outrageous opponents are probably wondering if GeritolTM will transubstantiate, but I digress.

This all leads me to believe that a ressourcement is taking root, and fast. It is a given that true leadership is a contest of results, and the results of these last 40 years in the wilderness have been uniformly abysmal. By no objective measure is there anything that has gotten better. It would appear that those who brought us these changes which have spawned the aforementioned results will be exiting the stage** in short order and will likely not leave many heirs...only successors.

Of course, the edifice that is the current mess didn't get built in a day. And it must be dismantled the same way. So roll up your sleeves, and take up your rosary against it.



* This is marketing-speak for "they will be passing away soon."
** The lovely and gracious Karen is of the opinion the greatest benefit the Baby Boomers could leave this world is leaving this world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"What have you learned, Dorothy?"

One thing I have been reminded by the elections is those of us along the Judeo-Christian spectrum oughtn't place our hopes any lower than in the Lord who made us. We often think this world could be massaged into the Paradise Lost with the right sort of policies.

Well, guess what?

This doesn't mean we should stop teaching, and thinking, and striving to bring God's justice to the unborn, to those oppressed by structures where there is no economic freedom, to those suffering under hatred end persecution. It means we shouldn't assume we can transform all this on our own, thereby supplanting God and his plan.

Our job is to have faith in His plan and do what He has asked of each of us. He will provide the results. In oder to hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" we need to have actually done (and well) what He has asked.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The seamless unseemly garment

After yesterday's vote, I am curious as to the position of the "seamless garment" crowd to the dawning realization said garment stands in peril; not from having a seam stitched through it, but of never getting a chance to be knitted.

To quote Forrest Gump: "That's all I got to say about that."

Trying SO.VERY.BLOODY.HARD to be charitable,


Monday, November 06, 2006

Saying what needs to be said.

Being the assiduous reader of this blog that you are, you know I'm all about the Ignatian thing. However, because I'm even more about the Universal Church thing, I believe in giving brilliance equal time.

Today's outburst of brilliance comes from Fr. Philip Powell, OP a man who is, frankly, My Current Favorite Living Dominican. That's his blog at the very top of my links. It is my considered opinion Fr. P's been used rather frequently by the Holy Spirit to proclaim things and his blog is an unalloyed, inexpressible blessing and joy.

Today I share with you Father's posts on vocations (Veritas, this is God talking to YOU, so pay attention) and I'd like to expand this to include not only the priesthood, but also the religious life to which God also calls men and women. (I know Fr. P's not slighting them either)

Check what it looks like when the Holy Spirit uses Fr. Powell to address us:



"...or has the world always been like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?"

Just to prove that Darwin got it almost exactly bass ackwards, the following bit of news has just assaulted my eyeballs:

"Doctors: let us kill disabled babies"

Let's set aside the whole Master Race/"I heard this same $#!+ at Nuremberg" aspect (itself a very rich vein to mine) for now. The real money quote is this pearl:

The college's submission was welcomed by John Harris, a member of the Government's Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University.
"We can terminate for serious fetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn," he said. "What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it OK to kill the fetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?
" (Emphasis mine.)

Well. Isn't this what I have been telling you since forever? This morally and ethically centered luminary has accidentally swerved into the hideous truth about abortion. Especially in teh case of perfectly healthy babies who have committed the capital offense of being inconveniently conceived. What, precisely, makes it OK to kill a baby in utero and proscribed (at least in civilized countries) ex utero, just a few inches away? That's right kids, not.a.thing. The child whose life is in danger of a contract hit in the womb is exactly the same child after seeing the light of day (no mean feat, that...esp. in certain corners of Europe).

What Mr. Harris has accidentally noted is what the abortion industry has been trying to hush up since Day One: It's the same baby, and his/her exact location doesn't matter when it comes to deciding when it's OK to kill him or her. (Hint: Never.)

Be it done to me according to Thy will, Lord...but if it's all the same to You, Judgment Day coming around 9:30am on the first Saturday of the month would surely be w elcome thing from my end.



Vote early and vote often.

Assiduous readers of this blog will note I almost invariably steer verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry clear of politics. This is simply not my politics* blog.


Here in the USA it's election time and several groups have published voting guides for Catholics. The USCCB reminded me of the way Tom Lehrer described Gilbert & Sullivan: "full of words and music and signifying nothing."

The one which makes the most sense to me is the one from Catholic Answers, titled Voters Guide for Serious Catholics. I like it because it highlights (and follow me closely here) those moral issues on which a Catholic may not compromise: abortion, assisted suicide, homosexual marriage, embryonic experimetation, that sort of thing; and putting on a back burner (quite correctly, in my view) prudential judgments along the lines of tax policy, military issues and those sorts of matter.

Put another way, no matter how sound Candidate A may be on these prudential judgments (we'll set aside for now what "sound" really means/ought mean) if Candidate A is on the side opposite Catholic teaching on the non-negotiables, well, then...that's that. The word "non-negotiable" has a very specific meaning, and for good reason.



* In the interest of full disclosure, it will come as no suprise I am not even remotely progressive...being rather fond of progress.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

St. Matthew 13:57b

Those of you who've been following this blog's posts on the matter will not be surprised when I say "Good grief, if even a devout Jew gets it, why can't the majority of Catholics-in-charge?"

To me, this is the money quote:

"Last Saturday was my father's yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death. I spoke aloud the ancient Hebrew words of the mourners' kaddish, as my English/Yiddish-speaking father did for his father, and his Polish/Yiddish-speaking father and forefathers before him for theirs. Declaiming it in English would have no heritage meaning for me. It is a comfort to know that I could have walked into any synagogue in the world on any Sabbath, recited the same prayer, and experienced the same sense of peoplehood as I do here." (Emphasis mine.)

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile/This day shall gentle his condition.



Feast of All Saints

It's pretty much axiomatic of Catholicism that Mary is the Top Saint. You carry Our Savio(u)r for nine months in your womb, and all that...well, there are perks.

Now, the thing that always had me a bit confused was how Mary was born without Original Sin. We know the remission of sin, both actual and original, is done through the redemption of Christ, and that He instituted Sacraments (Baptism & Confession leap to mind) for that very purpose. But, um, the timeline always threw me for a loop because, y'know, because Mary was conceived "ever sinless" before the Crucifixion.

An explanation didn't dawn on me until it finally hit me that Christ, being both true man and true God, is eternal and (get this) eternity is a two-way street. Like a twit, I always equated eternity with an endless future. The beginningless past never struck me. The best way I can describe the difference between the way we view time and the way God views time is the difference between a VHS (or Betamax, if you're schismatic) tape and a DVD. We, like the tape, grind forward and to access a given point in time have to spool up on way or the other. God, being a DVD (HD-DVD, probably) doesn't need to bother. EVERYTHING is laid out flat before Him and He just accesses it with His laser. Zap! vs. Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz.


Whereas for us the redemptive healing of Christ is given to us like a medicine to cure a disease, in Mary's case, it can be said it was applied to her like a vaccine. When we enter Heaven we will be free from all sin, but only because we had it removed. Mary, on the other hand was "innoculated" against sin.

There ya go.