Monthly Archives: August 2005

The Gospel According to Trolls

I am disgusted (but not surprised) to see idiots attributing Katrina to the sins of the Gulf Coast. The wrath of God is not something one wishes to mention lightly, much less judge as having occurred. Those who do it are tempting God to send a judgment upon them.

The only sin being punished here is the sin of under-engineering, and the defiance of natural laws. Like gravity. And Murphy’s.

Natural Theology
by Rudyard Kipling

PRIMITIVE
I ate my fill of a whale that died
And stranded after a month at sea. . . .
There is a pain in my inside.
Why have the Gods afflicted me?
Ow! I am purged till I am a wraith!
Wow! I am sick till I cannot see!
What is the sense of Religion and Faith?
Look how the Gods have afflicted me!

PAGAN

How can the skin of rat or mouse hold
Anything more than a harmless flea? . . .
The burning plague has taken my household.
Why have my Gods afflicted me?
All my kith and kin are deceased,
Though they were as good as good could be,
I will out and batter the family priest,
Because my Gods have afflicted me!

MEDIEVAL

My privy and well drain into each other
After the custom of Christendie. . . .
Fevers and fluxes are wasting my mother.
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
The Saints are helpless for all I offer�
So are the clergy I used to fee.
Henceforward I keep my cash in my coffer,
Because the Lord has afflicted me.

MATERIAL

I run eight hundred hens to the acre
They die by dozens mysteriously.
I am more than doubtful concerning my Maker.
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
What a return for all my endeavour
Not to mention the l.s.d.! *
I am an atheist now and for ever,
Because this God has afflicted me!

* Pounds, Shillings, Pence.
(l. for liber, d. for denarius.
What were you thinking this meant?)

PROGRESSIVE

Money spent on an Army or Fleet
Is homicidal lunacy. . . .
My son has been killed in the Mons retreat,
Why is the Lord afflicting me?
Why are murder, pillage and arson
And rape allowed by the Deity?
I will write to the Times, deriding our parson
Because my God has afflicted me.

CHORUS

We had a kettle: we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven�t had any tea for a week. . . .
The bottom is out of the Universe!

CONCLUSION

This was none of the good Lord�s pleasure,
For the Spirit He breathed in Man is free;
But what comes after is measure for measure,
And not a God that afflicteth thee.

As was the sowing so the reaping
Is now and evermore shall be.
Thou art delivered to thine own keeping
Only Thyself hath afflicted thee!

May the good Lord have mercy on us all, and continue to soften all the curses we bring on ourselves. (And don’t forget to donate.)

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Katrina’s Aftermath


aftermath: A somewhat delayed consequence or result, especially a bad one. [Root sense: “second mowing.” After, w. OE maeth, a mowing, a swath. Hence, at root, a second mowing of hay. And since in most of Britain the growing season is short, the second mowing is likely to be inferior to the first, whence the root implication, “lesser (bad) result”. As distinct from the upshot (which see), an aftermath is an eventual rather than immediate result.

A Second Browser’s Dictionary by John Ciardi.

Like everybody else, I feel horrified by the difference between the night after Katrina blew through and the horrors of yesterday. We still didn’t know quite how bad it had been in Mississippi and Alabama. We honestly thought it was going to turn out to be all right for New Orleans. We didn’t know the levees were still going to go.

Everybody’s freaking out about the looters. Yeah, stealing food when you’re hungry and penniless is morally permissible. (Though you ought to leave an IOU on the counter if you can.) Profiteering and stealing DVDs and computers is bad, unless you can prove you really needed a computer for some higher purpose. (And then you definitely have to leave an IOU. And bring the thing back afterwards.) But no policeman should be stealing from Wal-Mart. Not at all.

But to get to my point, what freaked me out about the Wal-Mart looting was that nobody was picking stuff up off the floor. Not even kicking it out of the way. They would go around it, rather than do anything remotely tidy. Now, I’m hardly a domestic goddess, but it drives me crazy to see clothes displays at Wal-Mart that hit a certain level of disorder! How can people stand to see this chaos and not do anything about it?

I guess I just want to see people pulling together to help each other, giving themselves a good memory of strength in the bad times instead of weakness and evil. When things are as bad as this, there’s just no point making things worse. When there’s damage everywhere, who can resist the impulse to pick some spot, however pointless, and start picking things up?

But I guess that’s not the kind of people who spend much time looting Wal-Mart.

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The One-Armed Man Did It

This is a very sad and shocking story. Like we didn’t have enough human misery today.

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Most Hated TV Show

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

Is it just me, or does everyone hate the commercials running for that new ABC drama, Commander-in-Chief? It’s a great concept for a show, and yet already I want to kill every character I’ve seen. So do they quit running these annoying commercials? Oh, no. They run them all the time on every channel, so the hate gets stronger.

Look, I don’t care if Alexander Haig were this chick’s staffer. If the President had just died or been assassinated in office, the staffer would stand behind the Vice-President. There might well be a feeling that the Vice President knew nothing and would be a disaster, as in Allan Drury’s real life account of Harry Truman’s succession to FDR, or his retelling of the whole thing as a novel. But nobody would call upon the Vice President to resign, even if the Vice President were dying or a real idiot. The succession of the office according to the Constitution, and the confidence of the American people that the succession will always go according to that constitutional plan, are more important than mere qualifications for the office. We all know this, instinctively, just by being American.

Furthermore, the idea that some staffer would object to the President being female is stupid. Nobody would even mention such a thing. It’s a nonstarter. Like someone said, if you have a problem with a woman in power, you obviously never had a mom.

Most of all, if you were an Evil Staffer(TM), you wouldn’t torque off your new boss as soon as she became your boss. No, you would rejoice in your new boss’ lack of qualifications, certain that you could make her dance like a puppet on your strings. You would become her Lord Melbourne and make her regard you gratefully as her political father, or her Disraeli and be all courtly and helpful. You would conspicuously defend her against all comers (especially in front of her), never letting anyone know how you really felt. (Until sweeps, anyway.)

So the commercials are advertising “Our show is going to be utter crap! With no connection to reality!” And obviously I know how to plot this show better than whoever’s in charge.

Sigh. I really would like a decent show about a woman president. Especially if she were allowed to be conservative, Republican, and a force for good. But the networks have something against giving me shows I want to watch. How did House get through?

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After Katrina

Well, the hurricane’s dwindling into just another storm. The rain’s coming our way to end our drought. (And my Nawlins uncle and aunt did indeed bug out — all the way to family in Atlanta. I slept a lot better last night.)

I was glad to see St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans come out okay (minus a couple of oldtimer oak trees). It looks like Biloxi got hit hard — yeah, it really looks like Xenia. That same unsettling mix of destruction here, houses standing there. (And my aunt and uncle have houses both in New Orleans and Mississippi…oops.)

But the people of Xenia rebuilt, and so can Biloxi. I promise.

Meanwhile, here’s a prayer from Ohio for you Mississippi folks, since your state patron saint is Our Lady of Sorrows:

Dearest Mother, before you could become the Consoler of the Afflicted, you first had to know true sorrow. I pause with you now, and meditate on that great suffering in your life, the death and burial of your most beloved Son.

Oh, how humble I am, dear Mary, when I see before me your Son in the tomb. He gave His life so we may know freedom from sin. Remind me always that any suffering in my life is passing, just as the suffering you experienced passed in the joy of the Resurrection.

Holy Mary, Mother of Sorrows, I mourn with you, knowing the certain joy of your Son and His gift of everlasting life. Through this act of His, you have become our Mother of Consolation. Amen.

May every tear be wiped from your eyes, and may your skies be clear.

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Katrina’s Not Looking Good….

New Orleans is just plain one of the best cities in the world, much less the US, and one of the lowest, too. They’ve got a giant hurricane heading right at them. There are a lot of other folks on the Gulf Coast also facing this trouble.

St. Louis, patron saint of New Orleans, pray for them. St. Barbara, patron saint of storms, pray for them. St. Gregory the Wonderworker and St. Florian, patron saints of floods, pray for them. St. Jude, patron of New Orleans’ fire and police officers, pray for them. St. Expeditus, pray for them. Mary — patroness of Biloxi; Star of the Sea; Our Lady of the Assumption, patroness of the Acadians; Our Lady of Prompt Succor, helper of New Orleans and patroness of Louisiana; Our Lady of Sorrows, patroness of Mississippi; Our Lady of the Gulf, patroness of Alabama — pray for them. And all you saints in Heaven who’ve lived in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, and all you souls still in Purgatory who’ve lived in these places, please pray with us for the people along the Gulf, and especially in those places you loved in your time on Earth. In Christ our Lord, Amen.

All things are tame to Him Who made;
He called their names and they obeyed.
Jesus can calm the stormy sea,
As once He did in Galilee.

So if it be Your will, please keep the storm surge from going over the levees, Lord, and comfort and protect those poor people who could not get out. Keep an eye also on all those whose jobs keep them in harm’s way: the doctors and nurses, the public safety workers, the reporters and camera handlers, the hotel employees, and all the rest. And may you bring anyone who dies safely home to You. Amen.

I realize that this may sound very hysterical to folks out there. To be honest, seeing as my nursery school and my dad’s workplace were destroyed in the Xenia tornado, I do have personal problems with big huge storms. I don’t know where my aunt and uncle who live in New Orleans are now, although I’ve no doubt they bugged out in good time. Beyond that, I really wish there was something I could do, and besides donating money to Catholic Charities, this is the only thing I can do that seems even vaguely useful. So if I’m being a bit compulsive, that’s why.

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Book: Our Lady and the Church

Somebody was just mentioning Our Lady and the Church by Hugo Rahner, S.J. (the other Rahner’s brother). I don’t know who it was, but when I find out I’ll give them a hat tip and many thanks. This is yet another awesome little theology book with lots of spiritual nuggets of information in it. Apparently there’s a lot to be said for taking the old puzzle pieces and putting them together into a coherent picture.

See, I’ve always had the vague impression that whatever you said about Mary, you could pretty much say about the Church, and vice versa. (I even remember saying this in a discussion with my friend Joy.) But Rahner takes that tiny old piece of information and goes forth and studies all kinds of interesting things which relate to it. He moves freely from the earliest Fathers to the Middle Ages to the stuff people said practically last week, and the richer and more beautiful the picture gets. I could quote from this book all day.

So yes, Mary is the Mother of God and Jesus’ first follower, and hence the Mother of the Church. Indeed, some early Christian people even called her Church; and back when she was Jesus’ first and only follower, she in fact was the Church. (Among other reasons.) But on the other hand, the Church carries Christ’s Word within her, and with much pain and labor, she is delivered of many newborn Christians, many newborn Christs. (Without having sex, even!) So you can even call the Church the Godbearer, the Theotokos.

(Of course, if you go around calling Mary “the Church” and the Church “the Theotokos”, people are not going to understand you without an explanation.)

On the way, we have some fun with Jesus telling Mary and John, “Behold thy son” and “Behold thy mother”. Well, considering John had just eaten and drunk Jesus the night before, he really was Mary’s Son. Similarly, when Jesus said that those who followed his word were His mother, he was not just complimenting believers (and His mom the perfect follower, of course!), but telling the literal truth. Apparently lots of folks have pointed out that at baptism, we begin to carry Jesus inside us, and hopefully we let Him grow. So the Christian soul becomes the Theotokos — another Mary. For this reason, St. Ambrose liked to point out that after his resurrection, Jesus just called Mary Magdalene “Mary”, and that it was the same thing with the newly baptized:

When the soul, then, begins to turn to Christ, she is addressed as ‘Mary’…for she is become a soul who, in a spiritual sense, gives birth to Christ…Not all have brought to birth, not all are perfect, not all are ‘Mary’; for even though they have conceived Christ through the Holy Spirit, they have not all brought Him to birth. There are those who thrust out the Word of God — miscarrying, as it were. See to it, therefore, that you do the will of the Father, that you may become the Mother of Christ.

All those wacky St. Ita visions of rocking Jesukin don’t seem so wacky now, huh?

(And maybe Rocco should be a little less snarky over at Whispers from the Loggia about “Bearded Marys”, ne?)

Another good bit I noticed is the importance of the baptismal font’s symbolism as the womb from which we are born again (both Mary and the Church’s womb). So no more of this “chalice as symbol of femininity” stuff. (I always thought it sounded dorky and wrong when applied to Judeo-Christian stuff, and now it turns out it’s in the whoooooole wrong part of church. So I laugh hard.)

You will notice just how far beyond feminism or any kind of -ism this sort of sacramental and Biblical imagery goes; everyone is Mary, everyone is Christ, everyone is the Church. Being male or female isn’t important to any sacrament of the Church except Matrimony and Holy Orders. (Which I’ve always thought was a nice and just balance.)

I just wish we’d learned all this back in CCD. They’re not exceptionally difficult concepts in themselves, and they give you a lot of deep implications to think about and discuss. There are times I just like to look around church and let my mind rove through the meanings of the symbols everywhere around us, one bright picture melting into another. Thanks to this book, I’ve picked up a lot more symbols to play with. Now I only hope they’ll inspire me to live up to those implications.

Btw, going back to Sor Juana below, she also had a good Mary/Church insight. She wrote a villancico celebrating Mary for being “black and beautiful” in the Song of Songs, and pointed out that the reason Mary (especially la Guadalupana and the popular Black Madonnas of Spain) was so tan was that she spent all day in the light of the Sun of Justice and was also clothed in the Sun; and also that anything, no matter how spotless, that’s held up against the Sun looks black by comparison. Fun, fun poem.

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