Friday, August 29, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

six more days in my twenties

In preparation for the end of my twenties and in response to some people who've asked me what I'd be interested in receiving for a gift, I've compiled this list of things that interest me. Some things are far too expensive to ask even my closest friends or family to buy, and rest assured that some may not ever even wind up with me. But at least you can learn more about me by seeing things that interest me from
Click on this link if you'd like to see my wishlist. And if you buy something, that would be just snazzy.

My Wish List

Saturday, August 23, 2008

and now for something completely apropos and different

I haven't said much from the angle of my penchant for the contrarian mentality recently, but don't worry, it's still alive and kicking. I came across two stories this morning that had me laughing out loud.

The first describes the inanity of word and number puzzles, and bemoans the lack of actual reading in our country in a way that makes me jealous of its brilliance.

The second is even more hilarious, as two people in their late twenties have ravaged the national parks by, you guessed it, correcting any signs of poor grammar on park signs!!!
They have henceforth been banned from the national park system, at least temporarily.

Oh the huge manatee.

the eucharist

I have been reviewing a series of lectures by former Presbyterian Minister Scott Hahn. While my chief concern of the moment is to consider the basis (or lack thereof) for a belief in Sola Scriptura, I'm also interested in other points that may be of interest. Yesterday I heard Hahn defending the Catholic notion of the Eucharist using quotations from the Church Fathers, but what was even more exciting was to hear him share his thoughts on how Scripture presupposes the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. I had considered certain passages discussing the bread of life and the cup of blessing in places such as Paul's letters and John's gospel, but in addition to those words Hahn also pointed to a striking parallel to the liturgical structure of Passover and Jesus' words about certain cups. For example, when he said he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until doing so in His Kingdom (Mark 14), I had always assumed that this had some deep spiritual fulfillment (either in heaven or at the consummation of time). But in John 19 we read of His crucifixion and it's clear that He DID drink of the fruit of the vine while He was on the cross.
That little fact alone should have your interest piqued on the matter, and so I was about to come close to transcribing his arguments on the tape. Thanks to Google, I found an article of his that includes the substance of his arguments. I hope you take the time to consider these arguments here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

kyrie eleison

this video is quite shocking, and deserves your full attention. the background story to it needs researching, but its initial message to me is one of shock and sadness, especially given my own origins and my friends'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

further silencing of the silent treatment

Recently, I posted on the matter of how thinking about the Deuterocanonical (aka "Apocryphal") books does not just involve the acceptance or denial of particular data on religion, but that it also leads us to realize that God does not leave us for periods of time with no voice except for His written word. But what about periods of time where no authors of the Old Testament lived? There are less gaps in time when one accepts the Deuterocanonical books, but there are still gaps if one looks at when various authors lived. The idea that His fatherly care includes leaving a faithful witness to speak His word orally as well as in written form challenges the principle that since Christ's resurrection we are left to interpret and canonize Scripture on our own. It is the logical conclusion, of course, from thinking that no established religious order such as the Papacy or the priesthood (etc.) would be granted a gift of speaking or interpreting Revelation. But is it valid?

There are many sources of debate on this matter, and I am currently investigating these points of contention. In so doing, I was listening to some lectures on sola scriptura by Scott Hahn, and was pointed to a very interesting passage in the Gospel of John, in chapter 11.

47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Here we see that John takes a huge point for granted. He argues that as high priest, Caiaphas spoke prophecy by the nature of his office. Despite the fact that he plotted "eliminating" the problem of Jesus, he was still able to speak prophecy. In a sort of double entendre, Caiaphas' words meant that he was both approving the conspiracy to frame Jesus for a crime and speaking of Christ's sacrifice for our sins.

I do not have the time nor the space to argue whether this gift applies to the Papacy or other extrapolations from this basic point. The main thing that I would ask you to think about is this basic idea of how God has spoken to His people. Many have said that the Old Testament period was one plagued by the faithful fighting the establishment, and that where we stand today is no different. This passage shows that despite personal failings, the high priest of Israel was given a gift to speak prophecy.

It is similar to what Christ said to His disciples in Matthew 23:

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do.

The leaders of God's people historically provided a basis for sorting out disagreements by speaking reliable words to the point that even while they opposed Christ, Christ was able to commend their words (but NOT their actions) to His disciples.
And so we see that the idea that history is full of silent periods where we are left with sayings from the past is even further silenced.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing Your truth to all ages. Open our eyes to see all of Your truth.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

my "future" patron saint

The Lord knew of the skeptical words that Thomas had previously spoken to his fellow Apostles-another proof of His Omniscience. The wound in His side must have been very large, since He asked Thomas to put his hand into it; so also the wounds on his hands must have been large, as Thomas was bidden to substitute a finger for a nail. Thomas' doubts lingered longer than those of the others, and his extraordinary skepticism is an added proof of the reality of the Resurrection.
There was every reason to suppose that Thomas did as he was instructed to do, just as there was every reason to suppose that the ten Apostles had done precisely the same on the first Easter evening. The rebuking words of Our Lord to Thomas-to be doubting no longer-also contained an exhortation to believe and to shake off his gloom, which was his besetting sin.
Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; neither was Thomas. The doubter was so convinced by positive proof that he became a worshiper. Throwing himself on his knees, he said to the Risen Savior:

My Lord and My God! John 20:28

In one burning utterance, Thomas gathered up all of the doubts of a depressed humanity to have them healed by the full implications of the exclamation, "My Lord and My God." It was an acknowledgment that the Emmanuel of Isaiah was before him. He, who was the last to believe, was the first to make the full confession of the Divinity of the Risen Savior. - From Fulton Sheen's "Life of Christ"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bouyer on the Gospel

The first book that I read which presents the Catholic view from a positive angle was Louis Bouyer's "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism".

It is an amazing look at how the positive elements of Protestantism are truly biblical according to Catholic doctrine-namely, the free and unmerited character of our salvation, the sovereignty of God, justification by faith, our personal responsibility, and that Holy Scripture is the highest authority for the believer.

What Bouyer argues is that these seed principles that are positive in character degrade into negative denials of things such as the reality of principle, that grace changes us through justification, and so on and so forth. I would like you to consider this brief passage to get a feel for how he argues, and let me know what you think. Or at least, think about it among yourselves. Ask yourself if your notion of what Catholicism teaches is challenged by this passage. Ask whether this accurately portrays the Protestant view. Most importantly, ask Our Lord to make us one as He and His Father are one.

"Whether it concerns the sola ratia, sola fide, in one or other of its aspects, or the soli Deo gloria, or the supreme authority of Scripture, the negative element arising out of the polemical use of the positive principles seems invariably the same. It was apparently impossible for Protestant theology, as elaborated, to agree that God could put something in man that became in fact his own and that at the same time the gift remained the possession of the giver. Or else, what comes to the same thing, that even after the intervention of grace man could ever belong to God; it would seem as if man could belong to him only in ceasing to have a distinct existence, in being annihilated. That amounts to saying that there can be no real relation between God and man. Barth repeats incessantly that, according to the gospel, there is no way that leads from man to God. The Catholic theologian, contrary to expectation, finds it easy to agree with him in this. His objection to Barth, and to the whole of Protestantism as represented by him, is that he in fact disallows that God can himself come to man. It may be granted that there is no way from man to God that is not illusory. But the gospel is the way of God to man; and the charge against Protestantism, as a system directed against Catholicism, is that, whatever its intention, it does in fact bar this way. If the grace of God is such, only on condition that it gives nothing real; if man who believes, by saving faith, is in no way changed from what he was before believing; if justification by faith has to empty of all supernatural reality the Church, her sacraments, her dogmas; if God can be affirmed only be silencing his creature, if he acts only in annihilating it, if his very word is doomed never to be really heard-what is condemned is not man's presumptuous way to God, but God's way of mercy to man.
This, and this alone, is the ultimate reproach the Church levels at the Protestant system. This the Church refuses to allow, and, in fact, has no right to allow in virtue of the divine word whose sovereign authority is so much invoked. For it is clearly declared false by this word, not in rare and obscure expressions, but on every page; in terms, too, more clearly explained than ever by modern exegesis and relevant to each of the points mentioned, which all derive from the same initial error. The word of God categorically proclaims a grace that is a real gift; a justification by faith that makes man really just; a faith that does give itself, but receives, its content, proclaimed by the krugma [preaching] of the apostolic Church, in celebration of the Eucharist; a God who puts his greatness in giving, giving himself, by a fully effective gift, where there is no question of docetism or legalism, for his Incarnation is no more a pretense or a legal fiction than was the creation-he is the living God who gives life."

The best song of 2007

Awhile back I answered a survey and posted it to this site.

Watching this video this morning reinforced to me that the best song of 2007 was most definitely All I Need by Radiohead.

Anybody have a better contender?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

admitting my failures

Last December I wrote this post, lamenting the shoddiness of my communication skills as compared to the letters written by others.
In the past month I have let e-mails and IMs and even verbal communication degrade back to the standards of our culture (or worse, at times!).

Again, I would like to call us all to speak to each other as creatures worthy of the utmost respect.

And may the Lord have mercy on us for the times when we fail to do so.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


He is Peter
(the Latin translation of this post)

I have been thinking for a long time about considering Church History, and many important arguments about how to get Christians together to debate on fair ground have circulated in places such as here. But in a sense I'm even more interested in asking whether or how a reading of the Bible itself is altered when one is a Catholic Christian. Since a big difference is about the matter of the Pope, I thought it would be interesting to read the letters of Saint Peter and see how beginning a period of time meditating on that portion of Scripture with the knowledge that he is who Catholics claim that he is, the first Pope. As the picture above shows, Tradition also states that he was martyred via crucifixion, but did not esteem himself worthy of being crucified as His Lord was. And so legend has it that he faced the Cross with his head pointing towards the ground.

But what of the greater legend, that he was the first among the bishops? Does a reading of God's word point us in that direction? In sitting down with Peter's two epistles I will say that I was not overwhelmed by this notion. For a while I was slightly unhappy about this experience. Sure, maybe Peter was slightly more humble than the typical conception of a Pope, and so his writings were not overpoweringly emphatic about his position. But was there no glimmer of the truth of his primacy from Scripture? That was when I realized that there are other books in the Bible, and when I turned to the Book of Acts and the Gospels, I found myself overwhelmed. As I hope to explain in coming posts, these portions of Scripture (and even those letters by St. Peter himself) resonate with my newly gained perspective that for there to be unity, the Body of Christ on earth has been given a leader.

Be sure to prod me if I do not update on this, but as I said, this is just the beginning of my journey assimilating my love of the Bible with a love of the Church that gave me those pages. The scrolls that were copied by monks and the councils that stated what the canon was have lived in my heart largely in an abstract sense, and as they are becoming more concrete I look forward to sharing other new ways in which my completion in the faith has led to a more complete grasp of His word.

Or maybe some of you think this is an unnecessary addition. I hope to show that this is not the case, as elements of God's word are examined from the Catholic perspective. For now, my eyes are turned towards the one who turned his gaze upside down. The Church turned the world upside down, and may it continue to turn us all upside down when we are walking on our own notions, for then we will see rightly. As Chesterton put the matter in his biography of St. Francis of Assisi,

If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasize the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hanged the world upon nothing. If St. Francis had seen, in one of his strange dreams, the town of Assisi upside down, it need not have differed in a single detail from itself except in being entirely the other way round. But the point is this: that whereas to the normal eye the large masonry of its walls or the massive foundations of its watchtowers and its high citadel would make it seem safer and more permanent, the moment it was turned over the very same weight would make it seem more helpless and more in peril...Instead of being merely proud of his strong city because it could not be moved, he would be thankful to God Almighty that it had not been dropped; he would be thankful to God for not dropping the whole cosmos like a vast crystal to be shattered into falling stars. Perhaps St. Peter saw the world so, when he was crucified head-downwards.
It is commonly in a somewhat cynical sense that men have said, "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed." It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that St. Francis said, "Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything." It was by this most deliberate idea of starting from zero, from the dark nothingness of his own deserts, that he did come to enjoy even earthly things as few people have enjoyed them; and they are in themselves the best working example of the idea. For there is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset...."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

rhetorical pet peeve of the second

I'm just as guilty as others of this, but really people, do we think we're not mentioning something when we throw in a comment qualified by "not to mention"?

You'll be reading an argument about the flaws or merits of some system or idea, listing some points that one can stand up for in court. And then a weak but powerful if true argument is sort of slipped under the radar, and this all magically occurs with the phrase "not to mention".

Either mention something and stand up for it, or don't mention it. Doing the "not to mention" shuffle is just a way to say something you don't want to justify in the future. Not to mention, it makes you look silly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

....and I mean it too!

Monday, August 11, 2008


From the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 14. What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

From the Baltimore Catechism:

Q. 278. What is actual sin? A. Actual sin is any willful thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the law of God.

From Senator Obama:

Q. Do you believe in sin? OBAMA: Yes.

Q. What is sin? OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.

Not that there is anything to the chatter about Senator Obama’s “Messiah complex,” mind you.
Hat Tip:Mark Shea, quoting First Things Blog

A Quote to Start Your Day

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons/Humor


Many people have wrestled and struggled with the Christian doctrine of hell. That some would be excluded from the presence of a God who is good, even if those people had not professed faith in said God, has caused many a furrowed brow and plaintive heart saying "But God, surely you're forgiving enough to let even that one guy into heaven also?"

I had always hoped that maybe at some point those people who did not love God would come to do so when fully in His presence. Maybe on their death beds there is some sort of eye-opening universal experience that removes all doubt and unites all people?

Of course, these considerations are nothing new.
The issue of who exactly winds up in heaven or hell is debated among humans, too often with far too little humility.

And to be honest, I'm not writing here to defend my particular view. I want to delve into the other side of life and give some serious thought to hell as a concept to be denied. For a few weeks ago I took a friend down this road and it was enlightening.

John Lennon expressed this alternative view of life and death well:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

As one who has lived and hoped that the afterlife would make sense of the gross injustices, the first line of this song has always bothered me. Imagine no final reconciliation of those who were tortured and mocked with a loving God? Imagine the scales of justice being horribly skewed towards evil? No thanks, my gut would say. At the same time, that there is no hell appeals to base emotions as well. Living for today is a solution to dealing with the complexities of tomorrow.

Of course, tomorrow has a way of becoming today, so living for today per se cannot be the way.

And so we can see that the denial of the basic Christian scheme of heaven and hell has its own appeals and its own detrimental aspects.

For years I had left this comparison at such a coarse focus. It was one day while philosophizing and smoking cigars that this principle was zoomed into sharper focus, and as usual I was humbled by the clarity of thinking about issues on a simple level.

The conversation began with me discussing my openness to non-Christians going to heaven, which is part and parcel of my growing Catholicism. I thought that this friend who is skeptical of Christianity in general would be pleased to hear that there is a variety of opinions on the matter of hell within the community of believers. But I found that this was not true.

My interlocutor asked me to defend the notion of hell, using similar arguments as those that I just mentioned. Is it fair for so and so to go to hell? What about this religion and that? How dare Christians presume to consign a single soul to the flames of hell? Aren't we all made in the image of God? Doesn't He therefore love us all and why wouldn't he save a drowning soul?

It was at that moment that the words of John Lennon came back to me.

I quoted Lennon in the most unintelligibly intelligible manner possible, but my voice was nonetheless clear.

For the scratchy-voiced Beatle (who had nothing on Paul, to bring up an even more unrelated debate) speaks through his grave as a prophet of our modern mindset. Our 21st century digital thoughts claim to be a warmer and gentler view than the "barbarism" of Christianity.

But what of this claim, that the grave brings nothingness?

It was so clear to me at that moment that even if Christianity leads people to say that some go to hell (in varying numbers, depending on your flavor of faith), that what the song Imagine brings us is a world where we are all damned to hell.

Is not hell the separation of a soul from God? If we have denied our soul, we have denied that we ever were close to God. And even when we say that "today" matters, if tomorrow wipes away today, our existence is as meaningful as the sand on the beach. Traceless we ebb away and are forgotten if there is no one to remember us.

Thus, we are all separated from God and each other if we do not exist beyond the grave. So I hope that if I have accomplished anything in this post, that this somewhat rambling thought will lead you to remember that if you do believe in heaven and hell and find your picture of the universe challenged due to "cruelty", remember that your view envisages less people in hell than those who deny the afterlife. For that is the most damning view of all.

Friday, August 8, 2008

too cool for school-I AM

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

tres interesante

Sifting through documents that I scarcely think about
and telling the tales that surround their origin
brings up people who scarcely think about me. At least,
if I am mistaken and said pondering actually does occur
it translates into utter inaction and total neglect.

It's tres interesante, to say the least.

However, I suppose what is even more interesting is
how my change of heart towards both my friends and enemies will translate.
If I am "kata holos" in theory only please burn me at the
stake immediately. Do not pass go, or make any side trips
along the way to the gallows. Light your match and douse me
in the finest oil so that my memory may be scorched from the earth
but please don't let me cry out in blasphemy while my flesh melts and
chars to blackness of night. Let my final words be words similar to saints of old, that told of bliss as my eyes are taken off of my surroundings and are placed
back where they belong-on Reality, who is not an abstract concept
but a Person.

And if I make it through another day, may this same Person who would shine
in my eyes as I left this world in death do the same in my lingering life on earth. May He illuminate my view of all others who bear the image of this Person.
May the most insidious iconoclasm of all be struck from my heart, and
this whole world. We are far too worried about smashing images of God
that are made of stone or wood. The ones that walk and breathe and sin
among us are made of flesh, and we smash them to bits all too often.

If Catholics are right in venerating their brethren in heaven through images but fail to walk in awe among humanity in general and (more importantly) humanity in particular, the real crimes have not ceased.

As someone named John once argued,

11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

helpful friends

Just wanted to commend this blog to you my readers.

The author comes from a similar background to my own present one. His series called "my journey", which you can find on the right of the site, has many echoes of my own thoughts (which are not fully being stated by myself at the moment due to time constraints).


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Move over Stephen, Heather is here.....

Today I picked up Parched, a memoir of recent convert to Christianity Heather King.

Her book is beautifully accurate. At some point I'll write about my July reads, but for now let me say that Flannery O'Connor's spirit is alive and well on this earth thanks to writers like Heather.

This interview really shows how the more popular analysis of a life based on addiction as seen in the possibly fraudulent book "A Million Little Pieces" has nothing on Parched.

I knew my instincts were right when I a

blog round-up

I've gone through many url permutations through the years, and I just wanted to let you know why I still have multiple sites by describing each site of mine that happens to still exist.
1) The Mathoms This is my home base, where my various thoughts coalesce and crash with each other. Anything not particular to a focused thought will bounce its way here.

2) Contradictur I have only posted three times here, but I anticipate turning up the steam on this blog. My goal here is to evaluate early events in Church history, particularly the robber council of Ephesus in 449, and use them to shed light on how the Church should function today. I just updated it, and in thinking of its neglect I decided a good round-up may be of use.

3) Starvation Party This blog title's inspiration came to me during a recent visit to Richmond. It has no posts as of yet, but my goal is to channel my thoughts on war, politics, and justice here. Because those issues are so tricky, I have withheld writing thus far.

4) Tree on a Tree This is a blog dedicated to artistic endeavours of my children.

5) We Are The Deanes This is my family site, where I post infrequently. With that being said, it has full sanction by me, with grammatical/stylistic embellishments guaranteed to be performed by me even when I did not write a given post.

So if your RSS feed is lacking any of these five sites, you can now rectify the situation as you see fit.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

am i alone?

This simple internet game has an interesting way of making a powerful point.

I highly recommend playing it at least once (should take no more than 5 minutes).

HT: The American Papist

Friday, August 1, 2008

song of the moment