Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Maybe the Trinity Is the Reason

So has the culture entirely lost touch with Christian doctrine? Or has the New York Times completely lost touch with our culture. New York Times writer Andy Newman searches for the cultural power of the number three and the only mention of the Trinity is from a pop song:
Perhaps the wise man on “Schoolhouse Rock” said it best:

“Three is a magic number./Yes it is; it’s a magic number./Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity/You get three as a magic number.”

Whence, then, the lure of three? How did it become the perfect number of fairy tale characters, of stooges, of syllables in a loved one’s name — tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth?

Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Beginning, middle, end. Snap, Crackle, Pop.

Even the wise man of “Schoolhouse Rock” is mystified.

“I have no idea why three is a magic number,” Bob Dorough, the jazz composer who penned the song in 1972, said on Wednesday. “I just knew that it was, and my meager research bore me out, and the song after that just wrote itself.”
Even with the reason right there in front of them, Bob Dorough and Newman can't make the connection. Why not?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cornell Society...: "Silver linings"

UPDATE: The latest AP poll and others do put the race within the margin of error. But as the Democrats have learned the hard way, it's the electoral college that counts.

Here's a (slightly) condensed version of Clara's great post on the election. The bold is mine. My comments in red, Fr. Z style:

About two weeks ago, I realized that Barack Obama was going to be elected as our next president— and, indeed, that we’re soon going to see the advent of the most liberal government that the United States has ever had. It was a bitter thought for a few hours. I reserve the right to get bitter about it again sometime before election day, but mostly I think I’m over it. I mean, yes, this probably does mean that the laws protecting the legal slaughter of innocent children will be extended for a considerable period in the future. It’s also likely to mean a slate of policies of a sort that will further the dissolution of community and family life, particularly among the poor where the effects of this are most grim. These are great tragedies. And I haven’t so entirely given up that I’m not planning to cast my ... vote on election day, but frankly, at this point, I don’t want to dwell on this more than I have to. The world is full of pain and sin, and we’d drive ourselves crazy if we took it all personally.

Actually, we moderns are pretty good at blocking out pain and sin, which is necessary because our newspapers are filled with reports of them day in and day out. [And if that power ever deserts you for a time, it's not fun...] Most of the time we don’t even bother to read the details, knowing how powerless we are to do anything anyway. Elections feel more like our business if only because we’re supposed to vote in them, but honestly, we’re mostly impotent there too. I sometimes like to use them as an “apologetic moment” because of the heightened interest in politics at that time, and also because, in my mind at least, this is the closest a Catholic moral philosopher can come to fulfilling her civic duty. ... But the truth is, I just don’t feel at all connected to American politics. To be frank, it mostly feels like somebody else’s problem to me, so when liberals want to do fool things (like putting a young random with no executive experience, a raging Messiah complex, and a standard slate of naive liberal views into the White House) I’m somewhat inclined to shrug and say, “Well, it’s your funeral.”

Actually, it might really be my funeral too, but I think funerals are less scary for orthodox Catholics than they are for liberals.

And this is first of the “silver linings” that make me more stoical about the coming liberal heyday. When you’re a liberal, political defeat is agonizing because politics is really the primary sphere of goodness for you. If you think that our highest aspiration in life should be the building of a just political society, it’s hard to think what could compensate for failure in this realm. Those of us who realize that a fully just society will never be achieved on earth anyway, that every age will have a considerable share of suffering and sin, and that, for reasons somewhat mysterious to us, God sometimes deems it best to let the wicked prosper for a period, will find it easier to relax a bit about some little thing like an election. Bad times have often been a catalyst for some very good things — the raising up of martyrs, for instance, or the opportunity to win more converts to the faith. Anyway, the Book of Revelation assures us that the world will be steeped in sin and chaos just before the end of days. Perhaps it’s a sign of how much the human race has endured that quite a lot of people over the course of history have looked at the depravity of their societies and thought, “hey, we must be nearly there!” I won’t be so naive as to make any confident predictions, but it’s always a cheering thought when things start looking bad. “End of days coming, just perhaps?”

Even if we’re not at the end of days, though, the further dissolution of Western society can always open up other opportunities. Here’s the way to think about it: in the immediate future, our government is likely to sink further into liberal depravity, just as things are getting better within the Church. Our politicians have been looking pretty bad, but our much-maligned American bishops [Perhaps overly maligned, especially Cardinal Egan.] (not all of them, but definitely some) have been positively inspiring lately! Looks to me like the culture wars are just going to keep raging, but perhaps we’ve reached the point where our Catholic leaders will be willing to assume some prominent role in them. The worsening of American society could actually help to restore integrity to the American Church. That’s certainly a happy thought.


Let me be clear at the end here that this is not just a sour-grapes post. I don’t want Obama to be elected, and if something wonky happened and McCain pulled it out instead, I’d definitely be in a celebratory mood. (I was also very cheered to see that Proposition 8 in California has been making a comeback — to be honest, I’d given up on that one too, but I won’t deny that I would be quite delighted if the Protect Marriage people managed to win an improbable victory there.) On the other hand, it’s nice to realize that, for us Catholics (unlike for the liberals), unwelcome political developments can never be cause for despair. [See what she did there, contrasting Catholic and liberal.] Not to be all cliche, but when you’ve got God on your side, you really can’t be beaten in the long run. And when you compare our country to Canada our Western Europe (places, that is, where the conservatives have pretty much just lost), you realize how many reasons we have to be grateful. Even if we can’t save all the unborn children, or restore the institution of marriage to its natural dignity, our continued efforts might nonetheless help us to save the souls of some others. So get excited! Laborers are needed, and the fields are ripe for the harvest.
Deal Hudson also had a little to say about a potential silver lining of an Obama victory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's Crisis, Not the Triumph of Socialism

On "The Corner", Andrew Stuttaford draws our attention to "Simon Jenkins, no man of the right, writing in the Guardian on the current crisis":
"Socialism is now cock of the walk, capitalism mugged by reality.

It is rubbish, total rubbish. Market failure has been compounded by brain failure of the discredited profession of economics, overwhelmed by journalistic wish-fulfilment and glee. The banks have not been "nationalised", just deluged with money.

They remain pluralist and competitive institutions, with independent boards. Their workers are not civil servants. Investors retain their shares. The bonus culture will revive. The impresarios of greed have been punished, or at least a few of them. But this is not socialism in our time, just public money hurled at the face of capitalism."

"A Different Kind of Battlefield"

An interesting comment from the Wholly Roamin' Catholic over on Fr. Z's blog:
"There is no TLM-fitting church in most of my Archdiocese, since nearly all the proper rectangle churches were torn down to make room for the round spaceship churches. I’ve often sat in the pews wondering how a priest would properly offer the old Mass in our round spaceship church—thinking that it’d be easier to offer the Mass in a Baptist church than on the strange altar in the middle of the circle.

"But if brave military chaplains drug mobile chapels out to the battlefields of Korea for Catholic servicemen kneeling in the mud, certainly the Mass can be offered in the suburban spaceships—it’s just a different kind of battlefield."
Photo: Chaplain Gerald F. Clune says Mass for men of Heavy Mortar Co., 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, at Headquarters, 14 October 1951.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fun with Paulists...

In the context of an article on the desire of some devotees to canonize Audrey Santo, the Boston Globe argues that the Catholic Church is moving away from miracle-working saints.
In past centuries, the church regularly canonized saints such as Joseph of Cupertino, a 17th-century Franciscan known as "the flying friar" for his ability to levitate, and Catherine of Siena, the 14th-century mystic who received the wounds of Christ. But over the last century, the church has shifted, scholars say. Pope Benedict XVI "is more interested in models than in miracle workers," said Lawrence S. Cunningham, a theologian at Notre Dame, and author of "A Brief History of Saints."

Emblematic of contemporary candidates for sainthood, Cunningham said, is the Rev. Solanus Casey. A Capuchin Franciscan, Casey worked for 20 years at the door of St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, quietly counseling thousands, and earning the moniker "The Doorkeeper."

"When it comes to making saints, the Vatican is much more concerned that people are like us - that they live the virtues of faith over charity and wisdom," said the Rev. Paul G. Robichaud, who is leading a movement to canonize Isaac Hecker, who founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in New York in 1858. "And when you hear about these apparitions or levitations or weeping statues, this catches the public imagination, but it does not impress the Vatican."
This is typical nonsense. Here's a famous Solanus Casey story:
By far the most cool story was the multiplication of the ice cream cones. A woman came into Fr. Casey's office (a priest simplex because of his difficulty with languages, Solanus served as porter) with two ice cream cones for them to share. He thanked her, but, putting the cones in a desk drawer, said they would save the ice cream for later. Because it was a warm summer day and the desk was not refrigerated, she was understandably baffled by this behavior. A few hours later, however, four other people entered the room bearing some good news. "Let's celebrate with an ice cream party!" rejoiced Fr. Casey. He went to his desk draw and pulled out, not two, but six ice cream cones--which had remained perfectly cool and unmelted.

"It pleases Jesus and Mary greatly when we celebrate in this way," he explained.
But, you know, no miracles. Miracles during one's life, as with the case of the 20th century Saint Padre Pio who was both a stigmatist like St. Catherine and levitated like St. Joseph of Cupertino are key, because the first step towards canonization is a local popular cultus, this hurdle must be crossed long before the Vatican ever gets involved.

Meanwhile, being suspected of heresy during your life like Hecker was, even if later cleared, is probably not the best way to impress the Vatican. Particularly, when your postulator goes about making statements that deprecate the importance of the supernatural in the life of faith. These supernatural acts are seen as an important signal of sanctity because they can provide evidence for the perfection of the supernatural virtues. This is literally the faith that moves mountains (Matthew 7:14-21). The deprecation of supernatural virtue over natural virtue was one of the positions condemned in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It's a phone people!

Domino's Pizza's web page is trumpeting mobile ordering, "Order Domino's anywhere now by using your mobile phone." Hello! It's a phone; it's mobile. You can already use it to order pizza anywhere.