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Fair Pay Is Not Usury.

Apparently some segments of the Catholic blogosphere are worrying about usuria again. The same people who understand that the Bible teaches that the laborer is worthy of his pay, and that the Valiant Woman has textile and real estate businesses on the side, do not understand that it also teaches (on the side) that investment and earning interest is better than burying your money in the ground.

A laborer’s time and work (and risk of injury or other problems) is paid back with money. In undeveloped countries, he is often paid per piece of work: so many widgets or so many bales, for so much money. But this does not adequately compensate the worker for his time or insulate him against risks that would prevent him from doing as many pieces as he would like. This is why wages are usually paid per hour, or why salaries are paid per year.

The owner of a rental object or real estate is paid back with money for the time of the rental. Usually any damages must also be paid by the renter. This is fair, because the owner cannot use the car or the house while the renter is using it. (The owner also risks the destruction of his property. Even getting a replacement isn’t as good as keeping the original and not having the stress.)

An investor’s time and money (and risk of getting nothing) is paid back with money. (If he makes anything.)

A lender’s time and money and risk is also paid back with money. (Hopefully.)

If I lend money to Bob, and Bob does his business and gives back every penny to me in the next ten seconds, obviously I have not lost any opportunities to do other stuff with my money. (Unless I missed a really sweet stock market deal that was only open for ten seconds.)

But if I lend money to Bob for a year, I cannot spend or invest or lend that particular bunch of money to anybody else… for a whole year.

If he just pays me back the exact amount of money I lent him, I have not been compensated for that year. If Bob is my brother or son, then maybe we have enough of a gift economy going that I can give him a year as a gift. But if we are doing business, and I’m not giving out interest-free years as a loss leader to attract buyers… then Bob needs to pay me for renting my money for a year, just like he would pay me for renting a house for a year.

We cannot pay back in kind for time or opportunity, because humans are not God. Therefore, we pay rent and pay interest.

Fair interest rates are fair payment for time and risk.

Unfair interest rates are loan sharking.

In a gift economy, interest is irrelevant because it all evens out. In an undeveloped economy, it is not fair to expect that people will be able to pay much interest. So even low rates of interest could constitute loan sharking, or usuria.

But in a developed economy, interest rates are just fair pay for fair work.


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Tolkien on the Heresy of Soulmates

I have a lot of favorite blogs that I don’t read every day, but that I tend to explore every month or two. Video Meliora is one of them. I should read him more often, especially since he’s an Ohio blogger and thus has a lot of relevance to my immediate concerns. But I’m a slacker by nature, so I get my fun in widely separated doses.

Anyway, he pointed out a Time magazine essay that included some thought-provoking quotes from Tolkien.

“Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married,” Tolkien wrote. “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.”

Tolkien blamed our “soul mates” obsession on the Romantic chivalric tradition: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake. . . . It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man’s eye off women as they are” — that is, “companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.”

Our old notion of soul mates is not helpful. “The ‘real soul-mate,’” Tolkien wrote, “is the one you are actually married to.”

The desert monks used to teach that anybody you happen to be living around or working with is someone God has sent to you. Okay, sometimes as a penance… but sometimes to learn from, to teach, to pray alongside. Married people obviously have a pretty serious connection. Even if the initial connection was a mistake, people shouldn’t waste time looking for a redo. They should make things better where they are. (Unless you’re actually in a situation of danger, of course.)

We fans tend to get caught up in the romance of young John and Edith Tolkien’s persistence against the odds, and of course the whole Luthien and Beren motif. But we forget that there was a lot of nitty-gritty living between them, for years and years after they were young. Romance only counts if you do something lasting with it — and they did.

There is a lot of sense in the idea of a joint sainthood cause for John and Edith, and this is why. There are a lot of saints who became great individually; but usually people come from families of saints and communities of saints. Mother Teresa learned almsgiving out of poverty at her impoverished widowed mother’s side, not in India.

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Quiz Bowl: The Anime

Yup. Starting July 5, the ultimate sports anime begins airing in Japan. Nanamaru Sanbatsu.

Better yet, the novice guy is guided in the way of Quiz by his classmate Mari, a young lady well aware of the necessity of buzzing in before the question is fully read.

Ah, the pleasures of driving the enemy before you, and effortlessly smashing the arrogant who do not take one seriously… mwahahaha! And the bitterness of being schooled by others… argh, the pain! Yes, truly the ultimate sport of geeks.

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Lucasfilm’s Strange Magic (2015)

I saw it last night on DVD from the library. Strange Magic is a remarkable animated film that blends fairy tale magic, Lucas’ love of strange creatures, and a pop music opera/singspiel. It takes a while to get focused, but the ending is worth any amount of wait. Seriously, one of the most romantic and memorable kisses in screen history. No joke.

If you have not seen it, you should.

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St. Colman’s Poem on the Divine Office

Probably not actually composed by St. Colman. It appears in the late medieval collection of Fenian poetry, lore, and stories, Acallamh na Senorach, as Colman’s explanation of the Hours when asked about them by the ancient hero, Caeilte.

Translated by Standish Hayes O’Grady.

The eight carnal imperfections that gnaw us to the bone;
the eight choice Hours that vehemently banish them:

Prime, against immoderate gluttony;
Tierce, against anger born of many causes;
cheerful lightsome Noon we constantly oppose to lust;
Nones against covetousness so long as we are on the breast of weary Earth;
pleasant and profitable Vespers we oppose to sore despair;
Compline, against perverting weariness: this is a fair partition;
cold Nocturns that equally divides [the night] against inordinate boasting;
Matins of God’s atoning Son, against enslaving sullen pride.

Mayest thou, O judicial King, O Jesus,
save me for sake of the Eight!

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Servant of God Emil Kapaun

During the Korean War, as US armed forces and other members of the UN were defending Korea against Communist attack, Fr. Emil Kapaun served as a US Army chaplain. He had previously done the same thing in WWII, but this time his unit fared worse, getting captured by the Chinese and Korean Communists. They were placed in a POW camp that didn’t even vaguely acknowledge the Geneva Conventions.

Fr. Kapaun took it upon himself to keep his flock alive as well as keeping their morale up. He found them food and made them socks, as well as consoling them. He also inspired other soldiers to do likewise.

Fr. Kapaun eventually sprained his ankle. It became infected. The North Koreans provided no medical care and removed him from the helping hands of his fellow prisoners, sending him to a remote unheated cell to die. He passed away on May 23, 1951.

His fellow prisoners immediately hailed him as a saint.

His prayers have been credited with many miraculous cures, as well as other miracles, and his cause is progressing.

There were also many other Catholics martyred by the Korean Communists and the Communist Chinese, both before and during the Korean War. But they weren’t members of the US military, so I’m highlighting Fr. Kapaun for Memorial Day.

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St. Brandy?

Nope. Not in the calendars I can find, anyway. That’s not surprising, since “Brandy” is a name of recent vintage (heh), and refers to the alcoholic beverage. (The word “brandy” comes from “brandywine,” a transliteration of the Dutch “brandewijn,” which is literally “burnt wine.” The drink dates back only to the 1600’s or so.)*

If you are already named Brandy, or you are naming your kid after her godmother, etc., it’s not really anything that you can’t use. The Catholic Church is pretty relaxed about baptismal names, these days, as long as they aren’t actually anti-Christian.

That said… there are some very similar names that are older, and which would allow you to use Brandy as a nickname.

“Brand” is one of the Germanic words for “sword,” and there are a lot of names using that as an element. Most are male or have become surnames (“Hildebrand,” for example, which means “sword hilt”). But you can either ignore that or pick a feminine form. “Branda” or “Brandelina” would be the simplest female version, but “Branniardis” and similar forms are also pretty.

The Irish name “Brendan” can also be spelled “Brandon”, “Brandan,” etc. In fact, a lot of old medieval Germanic folks did have the name Brandanus or Brandan, after the saint.

What kind of patron saints do we have?

The most famous would be the Sts. Brendan. There’s also St. Maria Cristina Brando, who founded an Italian order of nuns when she was unable to join an existing one; and the famous martyr, Bl. Titus Brandsma. (And if you really have to, there’s the magnificently named Bl. Bramidanula of Marckdorff, a virgin of pure life.)

* Tolkien makes a linguistic joke in Lord of the Rings. Apparently amused by the American placename of Brandywine Creek (and the important Battle of Brandywine), he put a Brandywine River in the Shire. This name was a worn down version of its original name, the Baranduin (golden-brown long river).

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