Saturday, December 20

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

[Hi-Res SOURCE]
Directed by Peter Jackson

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this movie that I haven’t said already in my reviews of the first two installments (An Unexpected Journey [LINK] and The Desolation of Smaug [LINK]).  Ultimately, for all its flaws, which are many, I loved this film.  For all its flaws, which are many, I love Peter Jackson’s vision of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and love to revisit it from time to time.  It saddens me that there are no more installments in the works despite a wealth of treasure that could be mined out of The Silmarillion.

Wednesday, December 10

The Child Martyrs

Today is the feast-day of St. Eulalia of Merida.  A short hagiography reads like this:

St. Eulalia of Merida, Virgin and Martyr (Feast day - December 10) Eulalia of Merida was born in Spain in the last decade of the third century. It is almost universally accepted that she suffered martyrdom for the Faith. What little else is known of her to date is based mostly on legend. It is believed that Eulalia, as a twelve year old girl, tried to remonstrate with Judge Dacian of Merida for forcing Christians to worship false gods in accord with the edict of Diocletian. Even though Dacian was at first amused and tried to flatter her, Eulalia would not deny Christ. Finally, Dacian ordered that her body be torn by iron hooks. Fire was applied to her wounds to increase her sufferings, and in the process her hair caught fire. She was asphyxiated by the smoke and flames, gaining the crown of martyrdom around the year 304.” [SOURCE]

The reason I highlight this is that as our priest was relating this story during his short homily this morning during Mass, my mind immediately leapt to the reality that although we typically think of the age of martyrs as being a feature of the early Church, almost two thousand years gone, the fact is that it is a living reality being played out in the stark horror that is engulfing the Middle East today.  Over the past several months – besides the well-publicized Youtube propaganda that has been put out by the barbaric Islamic State itself – reports have been pouring forth of the atrocities being perpetrated on the rapidly diminishing Christian minority population of that region.  Over the past several weeks, reports have emerged of Christian children being martyred for not renouncing their faith and proclaiming the false doctrine of Mohammad.  For whatever reason – a resurgence of “interest” or new reports I do not know – my Facebook feed yesterday contained a number of “shares” of news stories related to this, e.g.:

ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed’. The children, all under 15, four of them, said no, we love Yeshua, we have always loved we have always followed Yeshua, Yeshua has always been with us.  They said: ‘Say the words.’ They said ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.” [Canon Andrew White, SOURCE]

… And you ask yourself:  How long are we going to tolerate this monstrosity?  And, lacking any action against them now:  When they come for you (as they will), will you have the faith and the strength to affirm that you are a follower of Jesus, that Jesus is always with you, and that you will not forsake Him?

Seriously, do you – do we, do I – have the faith of one of these children? – St. Eulalia, or the Modern Child Martyrs of Iraq?

Saturday, December 6

St. Nicholas, Smiter of Heretics

St. Nicholas of Myra striking Arius of Alexandria at the Council of Nicaea, 325
Just because today is, of course, his feast day.

I wrote more about Jolly Old St. Nick last Christmas [LINK].

Saturday, November 1

Italy 2014

I just realized that I neglected to post something important, at least to me.  Of course, part of the reason for that is that that something and preparations for it have occupied most of my attention for the past several weeks so that I haven’t really given this blog much thought.  In any case, from 20-29 October my wife and I participated in a pilgrimage to Italy sponsored by our church, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  If you’re interested in following along, seeing what we did, albeit a little behind the times, an account can be found at my “Yeah, It’s Another” blog (more formally called The Absent-Minded Professor’s Travels) listed at right, or accessible via the link below my banner above, or directly here [LINK].

“Albeit a little behind the times” … well, so is my posting the account.  My intention was to “live-blog” the trip for the benefit of my students back home – this is, after all, the middle of a semester – but as you’ll see that did not work out.  So I’m furiously “back-filling” the travelogue, trying to get it completed this weekend.  My goal yesterday morning was to finish it off yesterday so that at least all the postings would be dated in October, but that didn’t work out either.  I’m still feeling the effects of jet-lag, and by early evening last night I conked out.  I’m hoping to finish it off today, though.

In any case, we had a wonderful time, and as a historian you can bet I incorporate some historical commentary into my narrative.  I invite you to join us – without suffering the inconvenience of jet-lag!

Ciao!

Monday, October 6

Third Orders and Oblates

Oblates Day of Recollection, 12 July 2014
St. Joseph Abbey, St. Benedict, Louisiana
This is lightly edited from a presentation I gave on Wednesday, 1 October:

I.                  Introduction

A while back, Fr. Ryan Humphries of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana, asked if I might be interested in taking one of the Wednesday night Adult Catechesis sessions at St. Mary’s School.  After a bit of thought and prayer – in part during a day-long “Oblates’ Day” retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey down by Covington – I proposed that I talk about the ways in which Catholic laymen can associate themselves with a religious order, as I do as a “Benedictine Oblate.”  Father said that sounded good to him, so here I am.

The actual title for tonight is, “Third Orders and Oblates.”  Those are the two most common “popular” terms for what I’m talking about.  But in reading up on them, I quickly found something that surprised me:  There is remarkably little information handy on the subject as a cohesive whole, probably because the subject is not a cohesive whole.  It’s a bit more complex than I suspected.  I’ve made up some information sheets [appended below], and the first thing I would direct you to on them is an online article that is the nearest thing I have found to an overview and is what I used as a starting point in my research:  An essay by Elizabeth Scalia entitled “Oblates, Tertiaries, Professed Laypeople” [LINK].  It’s a very good short introduction to the subject.

Friday, September 26

The Evil in Pemberley House (An Original Pat Wildman Adventure, 2009/2014)

By Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert

This is a book I knew going in I would have mixed feelings about coming out.  They are pretty much the same mixed feelings I have about Philip José Farmer as an author.  And this review is mostly going to be about that, as well as the larger context in which this novel resides.

On the one hand, Farmer is indisputably one of the grand masters of 20th-century science fiction, with a special place in my heart for his creation of the “Wold Newton Universe” in which this novel resides – the context I mentioned.  In case you don’t know, the Wold Newton Universe is a literary construct by Farmer which ties together most of the big names in literature, especially those in the genre of fantastic and heroic adventure fiction, via intricate webs of relationship that ultimately go back to a documented historical event, the fall of a meteor near the northern English village of Wold Newton in the 1790s [LINK] – according to Farmer, in close proximity to a number of members of the English upper class who happened to be riding by in a carriage at just that moment and who were affected by ionizing radiation from the meteor which caused a series of beneficial mutations among their descendants, literally creating an extended family of geniuses and supermen.  These include the “historical prototypes” of such literary characters as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Doc Savage – as well as Professor Moriarty and Captain Nemo (who may or may not be the same person) – and many, many more, both heroes and villains.  Farmer’s thesis first found expression, I believe, in two extended essays and genealogical charts appended to his faux biographies Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage:  His Apocalyptic Life (1973).  At least that’s where I first encountered it.  Those two essays are truly tours des forces of literary-historical synthetic rationalization and are well worth reading on their own.  Both have been reprinted in newly edited, by Win Scott Eckert, expanded editions within the past few years (2006 and 2013).  I devoured the paperback volume on Tarzan when I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven (and for a brief time, bought the thesis – hook, line, and sinker!), and the Doc Savage book within just a few years afterward (age thirteen?), and would not hesitate to hand either of them over to any young reader interested in those specific characters and a fantastic introduction to a world of great literature and a lifetime of great reading.

Tuesday, September 23

Random thoughts inspired by the “Satanic Black Mass”….

Well, the “Satanic Black Mass” went on as anticipated a couple of days ago in the Oklahoma City Civic Center.  It was attended by a few dozen – reportedly about half the number that were expected [LINK].  About the same time, near and far, various forms of reparations were being offered for the blasphemous sacrilege that was being perpetrated on the Body of Our Lord – from protests outside the Civic Center greatly outnumbering the “Black Mass” attendees within, to Masses and Holy Hours all across the land.  Our weekly Traditional Latin Mass was lengthened somewhat by the addition of prayers of reparation; when we arrived back home afterward, EWTN was in the middle of a Holy Hour.  Which means that, however demonic was the intent of “self-proclaimed Satanist” Adam Daniels (allegedly above) and his ilk, the event became the occasion for a great many much more powerful acts of public witness to Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – the center of our Faith.

Sunday, September 14

For the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross: The Dream of the Rood

The Ruthwell Cross, early 8th c.,
carved with lines from a
Northumbrian version of this poem
(19th-c. photograph)

[Source LINK]
Hwæt, ic swefna cyst     secgan wylle,
 hwæt me gemætte     to midre nihte
 siþþan reordberend     reste wunedon.
 þuhte me þæt ic gesawe     syllicre treow
 on lyft lædan     leohte bewunden, 
 beama beorhtost.  ….
(From The Vercelli Book, late 10th-c. West Saxon)

Although this has nothing to do specifically to do with the historical origins of the current feast [LINK], it seems appropriate….

"Lo! I will tell the dearest of dreams
That I dreamed in the midnight when mortal men
were sunk in slumber. Me-seemed I saw
A wondrous Tree towering in air,
Most shining of crosses compassed with light.

Saturday, September 13

A Generation of Terrorism

The other night, after I had posted my thirteenth-anniversary comments regarding 09/11 [LINK], my wife and I were talking to our son, who is now in his first term of college, living away from home for the first time.  And I realized something:  It was during my own first term at the same university, 35 years ago, that the Iranians treacherously invaded our embassy in Teheran and the Iran Hostage Crisis began, bringing the issue of Islamic terrorism home to the United States in a whole new way.  A “generation” is a very unspecific measure of time, of course, but the fact is that by the measure of my lifetime, with jihad now raging across the Middle East and acts of terror being perpetrated around the world, and although the 1990s seemed a lull that proved to be false, the world has endured a long, third-of-a-century-and-more, generation of Islamic aggression that shows no signs of abating, only escalating.  We are in a war, and have been since before 09/11, which at present We Are Not Winning.  I pray that a generation hence the world which my son has inherited and passed on to his children has not fallen before “the cruel children of the lonely God … who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 8).

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 11

09/11 plus Thirteen

1683:  The Battle of Lepanto
This the thirteenth anniversary of the World Trade Center/Pentagon Terrorist Attacks of 2001.  At no time in the past ten years has there been such danger of a repeat of that horrific day as there is today, I believe.  The reason is that any gains in the “War against Terror” that were made during the Bush years – however imperfectly, at least he realized that we are at war – have been thrown away by his unworthy successor.  All the tough talk that came out of Obama’s mouth last night cannot change the fact that the current mess in the world – domestically, yes, and internationally in more places than just the Middle East, but that is the most demonic and existentially threatening – is largely of his own making.  The so-called “Islamic State” – I refuse to call it “ISIS” or “ISIL” (“Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/the Levant”) because the geographical limitation implied by either is not in accord with Islamic ambitions, and anyone who thinks that Islam will be content with either and not total world submission is a fool; better to recognize it for what it is, Dar al’Islam, the “House of Islam,” that conceives itself in a neverending war with Dar al’Harb, the “House of War,” i.e., anything outside Dar al’Islam – has exploded onto the scene in the past few months largely due to the Obama administration’s criminous inaction.  The threat was predictable – and predicted [LINK] – and ignored.  And I believe darker days are ahead, because I see little evidence that Western Civilization realizes its true danger  or has the resolve to do what it will take to survive. 

That does not mean I have no hope – despair is a sin – but my hope is in the True Faith, feeble though it seems in today’s world.  In times past, when the West was so threatened by the very same enemy in the darkest of days, miraculous aid turned the tide (1571, the Battle of Lepanto [LINK]) – but that was when the West could still be called “Christendom.”  The concept of “Christendom” seems laughable today, and is in fact offensive to many, but without its revival I fear we stand no chance.  And so today, as every day, I pray for the Revival of Christendom and the Confounding of Her Enemies.  Deus vult!

Thanks for reading.

Note:  As you may know, I have been reading a lot of G. K. Chesterton lately.  Among his voluminous writings is a poem, Lepanto [LINK].
  
If you would like to read my thoughts from the tenth and eleventh anniversaries, follow the respective links.  [2011] [2012]

ADDENDUM:  Bill S. at RedState.com expresses the far more precarious state of the world today, and its cause, very well [LINK].

Sunday, September 7

Some Comparative Comments on the First Look at the Didache Bible

I’ve always lamented that there does not seem to exist a good one-volume study edition of my favorite (because I think it’s the most accurate) translation of the Bible, the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE).  There are, of course, the multivolume series of the Navarre Bible (with their inclusion of the Vulgate Latin and annotations based on the Fathers, Doctors, and Magisterium of the Church) as well as the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (similar to the Navarre Bible, but no Vulgate and annotations based more on modern scholarship).  Compilation volumes comprising various individual volumes of both Navarre and ICSB have appeared (in the latter case, mainly a one-volume New Testament which I have in the Kindle ebook edition), but neither is published in a one-volume full Old and New Testament edition.  All existing one-volume RSV-CEs have hitherto kept annotations to a bare minimum, mainly an occasional translation note and cross-references on the same page with some not very extensive “Explanatory Notes” relegated to a few pages at the end of the Old and New Testaments respectively.  That’s the case with both of the RSV-CEs that I own:

Tuesday, August 26

My conflicted feelings about the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge

I feel the need to say something about this newest Internet/Facebook sensation.  I’m really quite conflicted about it.  And my wife is even more so.

We have some “history” with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  In early 1998, my wife’s father was diagnosed with it.  It was heartbreaking to watch him decline, fairly quickly, over the next year and a bit more – he died in the summer of 1999, a wasted shell of a once-robust man.  My mother-in-law never really got over it, and his absence has been a hole in my wife’s – our – family ever since.  The first “Ice-Bucket Challenge” I remember seeing, just a couple weeks ago, was of my wife’s niece, who was only two years old or so when her “Poppa” died, taking up the challenge explicitly in his memory:  [LINK – but I don’t know if Facebook videos will show up].

My wife’s family’s story is not unique, by any means.  ALS is a devastating affliction, that seems to be on the rise for whatever reason.  My wife and her siblings have supported ALS research in many different ways through the years – ALS Walk-a-Thons, fundraisers, donations, and so forth.  And that support has pretty much all been channeled through the ALS Association, the organization that has been the major beneficiary of the Ice-Bucket Challenge.