Summary of the Law (said at every Sunday Mass)

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Five Quick Takes


I am feeling tired and lazy, so, even though it's been more than a week since I wrote a real post, I'm going to also not write a real post right now. You're welcome.

In the spirit of not doing things, or at any rate of not having ideas, I have been thinking hard about what content to make as a special thank-you for my Patreon sponsors, and frankly I'm stumped. About the only idea I've had thus far is to video some kind of pencil-mounted-puppet show -- thus demonstrating that a preoccupation with puppets is not the exclusive preserve of left-wing liturgical nutjobs, but in fact a temptation common to all wicked men. If you have any suggestions, patrons, I welcome them; otherwise, you're probably getting a puppet show.

Why yes, I did discover this Zoidberg meme years behind the rest of the internet.

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I am rereading Pope Benedict XVI's Introduction to Christianity, and I just can't do justice to it. The first time I read it, my reaction was primarily, I have read A Thing written by A German Academic Theologian, followed by finding something that seemed more accessible, like theoretical astrophysics. The second time, it clicked, and I loved it. And this third time, it's speaking to me even more deeply. His grasp, and vivid communication, of the act of faith -- the act of entrusting oneself to the invisible -- is helping me through a very strange and difficult period with my own faith right now, if only because it makes the difficulty less strange. Entrusting yourself to anyone or anything is, after all, a risky business, and, like any coward, I don't like it. But, like it or not, it is a problem posed to us not only by Christianity specially, but by simply being a human. To quote His Holiness (from pp. 55-57):
God has come so near to us that we can kill him and that he thereby, so it seems, ceases to be God for us. Thus today we stand somewhat baffled before this Christian "revelation" and wonder, especially when we compare it with the religiosity of Asia, whether it would not have been much simpler to believe in the Mysterious Eternal, entrusting ourselves to it in longing thought; whether God would not have done better, so to speak, to leave us at an infinite distance ... 
[I]s it still permissible to believe? Have we not a duty to break with the dream and to face reality? The Christian of today must ask himself this question; he is not at liberty to remain satisfied with finding out that ... an interpretation of Christianity can still be found that no longer offends anybody. When some theologian explains that "the resurrection of the dead" simply means that one must cheerfully set about the work of the future afresh every day, offense is certainly avoided. But are we then really still being honest? ... Let us be quite plain about it: An "interpreted" Christianity of this kind that has lost all contact with reality implies a loss of sincerity in dealing with the questions of the non-Christian, whose "perhaps not" should worry us as seriously as we want the Christian "perhaps" to worry him. 
If we try like this to accept the interrogation of the other side as the everlasting self-questioning of our own being, which cannot be reduced to a treatise and afterward laid aside, then, on the other hand, we shall have the right to observe that here a counterquestion arises. We are inclined today as a matter of course to suppose that only what is palpably present, what is "demonstrable," is truly real. But is it really permissible to do this? ... [O]r is ascertaining perhaps only one particular method of making contact with reality, one that can by no means comprehend the whole of reality and that even leads to falsification of the truth and of human existence if we assume that it is the only definitive method?
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Please, nobody tell me why Fifty Shades of Grey is popular. I am begging you.

Though I guess, if we're lucky, we might get one of these out of it:

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The terrible thing about being a writer, at any rate of fiction, is that you have to make things up. Of ideas, Douglas Adams said something like, "You can't go and rave it up in a field whenever you need one, so you just have to sit there and think of the little bastards. And if you can't think of them you just have to sit there."

I'm running into precisely this problem with the second installment of a three-part (of course) story that I'm working on, about Victorian vampires (sure) as understood through the lenses of Catholic theology (lolwut?) and esoteric alchemical symbolism (I give up). I have the characters, and about enough plot to sustain perhaps six chapters of actual action, which would be fine if the previous installment weren't something more like twenty chapters.

However hard it may be to believe, this is not only confusing when you don't understand it, it's also boring when you do.

So I have to find a way of making a whole bunch more things happen, and worse, I have to find a way that isn't cheating -- not just throwing arbitrary difficulties at my characters, but actually structuring the story so that it produces a plot that, well, takes more time.

I may have had a point when I started this take, but apparently it was not a very compelling one.

Which may not bode well for the story. Oh dear.

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After a Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption a week or two ago -- it's only a few blocks from my house, so I go there fairly regularly -- I spoke with the priest, asking him to pray for me because I was having (and continue to have) difficulty in discerning my vocation. He told me that that was related to not knowing myself adequately, and I have to admit that that makes a good deal of sense. Of course, being an introvert with a tendency to obsess over identity, I always feel that way, but it seems like it's actually objectively true here in particular. I think one of the tough things about vocations (and, coincidentally, something I don't consistently encounter when I read or hear encouragements to consider priestly and religious vocations) is that they grow from within: they are not arbitrary impositions on God's part, but flowerings of the inner character that He implanted within us in making us.

That's not to say that they develop perfectly and with no input from our own free will. Our free will is as organic as our inner character. But I suspect that one thing that makes discernment harder than it needs to be, though it will always be hard, is the tendency to think of it as trying to discover a secret God is keeping from us, rather than of trying to discover our natural place -- natural to us because He crafted our nature for that place, and vice versa.

The other thing that makes it hard is our hard hearts. That is, not just sins, but our tendency to sin, our tendency to divert our attention from God to anything else, or even to nothing at all. The fact that we are naturally drawn to God as creatures made in His image does not wholly counteract that. Earlier today, my roommate was trying to reattach the cover on his wing mirror, which had been knocked off, and gotten slightly warped in the process. Try as he might, it wouldn't quite fit in the way it was supposed to, even though it had of course been constructed for the specific purpose of fitting there. Human brokenness is like that. My brokenness is like that.


  1. You can gain a plenary indulgence on any day of your choosing, once a year, by visiting a minor basilica and reciting an Our Father and the Creed there in addition to going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion and praying for the Pope. You have a unique opportunity living so close to a basilica! I wouldn't miss it if I were you!

    1. I didn't know it was any day; I thought it was only on the patronal feast of the church (I'm probably mixing it up with a different indulgence). Thanks for the tip!

    2. You are right about the patronal feast for a church. It's actually under the same Grant. The once a year, any day indulgence applies to minor basilicas and international, national or diocesan shrines. All three indulgences are listed under Grant 33, Section 1 of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum.

  2. Well, I have accidentally deleted a comment that I meant to publish once again. Sorry, Jenna St Hilaire. Derp. Feel free to re-enter it if you want, and I'll try harder; regardless, thank you for the vote of confidence!

  3. Wait, you're telling me you're not a left-wing liturgical nutjob?

    1. Far from it; I'm an Anglican Use liturgical rigorist, smells and bells, wear the lace or punch your face sort of guy.