Monthly Archives: June 2011
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
We know this line from John’s Gospel so well that the radicalism of its otherworldliness perhaps escapes us most of the time. We see Christ’s encounter with Pilate while knowing that Christ was about to fulfill the purpose of His incarnation by suffering and dying in reparation for our sins. When Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” one can picture the glories of heaven and raise an eyebrow at Pilate’s belief that he truly stood in power as he “judged” his creator. We know that Christ only suffered at Pilate’s hands because He allowed himself to do so. Had He chosen to end it, in an instant He could have done so.
Yet as followers of Christ we are called to be like Him in being not of this world, but of His Kingdom, and if we think of Christ’s calmness and resignation in the fact of facing torture and death for a nonexistent crime in relation to ourselves, this idea of being of a kingdom not of this world becomes a whole lot scarier. It’s one thing to see Christ, secure in our belief in His divinity, responding to injustice and suffering with the statement that His kingdom is not of this world, but when we are faced with injustice and suffering our instinct is not to think of The Kingdom which is not of this world, but rather to fight back, to demand our rights, and if all else fails to complain and feel sorry for ourselves. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The first battle of the Civil War, Big Bethel was a classic example of the hazards awaiting untrained troops attempting to take offensive action. The first of many defeats of Union Major General Benjamin Butler in the War, Big Bethel started off the War in the East with a humiliating little defeat for the Union, an ominous portent of things to come over the next four years.
Placed in charge of Fortress Monroe on the southern tip of the Virginia peninsula on May 23, 1861, Butler began operations to extend Union control into areas near Monroe. On the night of June 9-10, Butler ordered 3500 Union troops in two columns marching from Hampton and Newport News, to perform a night march, and launch a surprise attack on Confederate positions at Little Bethel and Big Bethel. Butler’s plan would have tasked the abilities of well-trained veteran troops, as a coordinated surprise attack by converging columns after a night march is the military equivalent of brain surgery. Expecting the raw troops he commanded to carry this out was simply absurd and an invitation to disaster.
The disaster ensued. A friendly fire incident between the two columns gave the Confederates ample warning of the attack. The 1200 Confederates easily beat off the piecemeal Union attacks. Union casualties were 18 killed and 51 wounded. Confederate losses were 1 killed and 7 wounded. The Confederate press made much of the victory, although it had little meaning other than as the first example of the gross military incompetence of Benjamin Butler that would hamper Union operations for almost the entire war. Here is Butler’s self-serving report of this fiasco: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
What follows is the second part of a three-part piece. The first part can be found here.
3. Patristic Background from the Catena Aurea
Latin for “The Golden Chain,” St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is the Angelic Doctor’s compilation of commentaries by the early Church Fathers on each of the four Gospels. What follows is a gloss of the provided commentaries for Luke 6:20-23.
We begin with Ambrose. While I have not said much about the first part of verse 20 (“And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples”), Ambrose asks, “What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?” Christ is calling his hearers to a deeper understanding of God and His plan for mankind. If I could, allow me to briefly return to the Greek for the word “Behold” (idou). An alternate translation of the imperative is “Look!” or even “See!” While Luke is using a common Greek word, this command to “See!” is reminiscent of Christ’s observation, “they have eyes but cannot see.” The Lord is not simply calling us to pay attention, but rather he is calling us to see with the eyes of faith. He is speaking directly to the heart of man. In a way, he is telling his listeners, “My friends, you have heard the Prophets, you have read the Scriptures, but you know not their fullness. I will, if you let me, show you the fullness of the heavenly mysteries. Everything you think you know is only the beginning. You have heard the ethic in the Ten Commandments, but I call you to the ethos of these Beatitudes.”
Ambrose next observes that Luke mentions only four blessings, while Matthew eight. Nonetheless, “those eight are contained in these four, and in these four those eight.” He ties each of the blessings in a specific way to a particular virtue. Poverty yields temperance because it “seeks not vain delights.” Hunger leads to righteousness in that he who is hungry suffers with the hungry, and this brings righteousness. In weeping, man learns to weep for those things eternal rather than those things of time, which requires the virtue of prudence to distinguish between the two realms. In “Blessed are you when men hate you,” one has fortitude, a fortitude which allows one to suffer persecution for faith. These virtues are then paired with Matthew’s Beatitudes in order to demonstrate continuity between the two Gospels: “temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many.”
In both cases, each evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first. For Ambrose, this is indicative that “it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues.” In other words, the subsequent blessings depend on the condition of being impoverished. If one is overcome by the desires of the world, he “has no power of escape from them.”
In a similar fashion, Eusebius observes, “But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, ‘For yours is the kingdom of heaven.’”
Cyril agrees: “After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty.”
While Basil is consistent in placing the primacy of the blessings with that of poverty, he also warns that the blessing is not automatic but requires the correct disposition. “[N]ot everyone oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us.” Perhaps this is why Cyril notes that in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” I have noted above the textual variants in this regard, but it should be recognized that the Fathers in no way see “poverty of spirit” as mere detachment that can exist even in the absence of actual material poverty. Instead, they see material poverty as a pre-requisite for poverty of spirit, a disposition that must be had to convert the pre-existing material poverty into a blessing.
Each of the Fathers then shows how poverty leads to the other blessings in Christ’s sermon. Cyril says, “It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessities of life, and scarcely to be able to get food.” Continuing, “[P]overty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you that weep.’” Finally, Theophilus indicates, “He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you.’ For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they cannot injure the heart that is beloved by Christ.”
This gloss of the Catena Aurea is sufficient for examining the portion of the Beatitudes dealing with poverty. It is evident that each of the represented Fathers sees poverty as having a place of primacy among the beatitudes. This is indicated by both Gospel writers in their placement of the virtue first in their respective lists, lists that are renderings of the very words of Christ. However, we must not ignore the second part of the beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” For patristic background on this, we depart from the Catena Aurea and take up Origen.
Origen referred to Jesus as the autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. In other words, for Origen, the kingdom is not a geographical location; Jesus himself is the Kingdom, or rather the Kingdom is Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth insists (in light of his reading of Origen) that the phrase “Kingdom of God” is a “veiled Christology.” The Holy Father states, “By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence” (Benedict, 49). Delving deeper into the linguistic nuances of the word “kingdom,” Pope Benedict (quoting Stuhlmacher) says, “The underlying Hebrew word malkut is a nomen actionis [an action word] and means – as does the Greek word basileia [kingdom] – the regal function, the active lordship of the king. What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way” (Benedict, 55).
It should be noted that the Holy Father is not actually speaking of the Sermon on the Mount when he makes these linguistic observations. Instead, he is engaged in exegesis of Matthew 1:14-15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Nonetheless, the Greek word basileia that is used in Matthew 1 is the same Greek word found in Luke’s first beatitude. Therefore, not only are the linguistic observations still relevant for the current project, but establishing the connection (both spiritually and linguistically) between Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount will be of prime importance in the final part. I will have more to say about Pope Benedict’s thoughts in this matter, but this mention of Origen and his interpretation of the phrase “kingdom of God” as the person of Jesus is sufficient for this section on patristic background.
Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal. With one of my sons being autistic, it is little surprise that one of my favorite charities is Special Olympics. It allows people who too often spend much of life on the sidelines to compete as athletes and to be admired for what they can accomplish in overcoming the handicaps that life has dealt them. The whole Special Olympics program is magnificent for special people and their parents, relatives and friends. One would think that such an organization would be respected by all. I guess not. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Would you like to know where Republican candidates for President stand on the issue of preserving traditional marriage? Here they are, in their own words, in alphabetical order. Only those candidates and potential candidates who could be found expressing their position on video are included. If you find video for others not included here, send me an email and I will add them as an update.
Suggested things to look for include:
1) Whether or not the candidate is expressing a position that is in keeping with Catholic teaching on this issue.
2) Whether or not you believe the candidate is comfortable defending his/her position.
3) Whether or not you believe the candidate has an eloquent and convincing message.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:
Businessman Herman Cain:
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman:
Congressman Ron Paul:
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty:
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:
Former Senator Rick Santorum:
Roxanne Martino has resigned from the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees, effective immediately, in the wake of reports criticizing donations she has made to organizations that characterize themselves as pro-choice.
“In the best interests of the University, I regretfully have decided to step down from the Notre Dame Board of Trustees,” Martino said. “I dearly love my alma mater and remain fully committed to all aspects of Catholic teaching and to the mission of Notre Dame. I had looked forward to contributing in this new role, but the current controversy just doesn’t allow me to be effective.”
“Ms. Martino has served Notre Dame in many ways over the years and is highly regarded as someone who is absolutely dedicated in every way to the Catholic mission of this University,” said Richard C. Notebaert, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “She has lived her life and faith in an exemplary way, including the counsel and support she has provided to Notre Dame, many other Catholic institutions and Thresholds, an organization that provides programs for thousands of people with severe mental illness.”
Note the weasel words here. She doesn’t apologize for donating to an overtly pro-abortion organization – oh no, she resigns because the controversy is too much.
Whatever. At least she’s out. But the fact that she was even appointed says all you need to know about the current state of this “Catholic” university.
I will be interviewed on the radio today at 5pm (Eastern) on the In His Sign Network radio station. They are a lay Catholic radio apostolate located in Rosemont, PA. They broadcast daily live from 5 to 6pm (Eastern) WTMR-800 AM and on the Internet at www.inhissign.com.
The interview will be about The American Catholic and the other Catholic websites that I operate as well as my work on the National Catholic Register.
This is my first interview and it is an already humbling experience. Pray for me that I won’t make a fool of myself!
Kipling is often denounced as a thoughtless imperialist. That is a remarkable charge to make against the author of the poem Recessional.
More than once Kipling was offered honors from the British government, including the post of Poet Laureate of Great Britain, all of which he steadfastly refused. On the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 he composed one of his most powerful poems, Recessional, which perhaps helps explain why he never took up the post of Poet Laureate for the nation he so deeply loved.
God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
The poem opens with no patriotic effusion or praise of the Queen, but with a stark prayer to the God of our Fathers that Britain not forget something. What?
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Luckily, I have a bit of contrarianism that I’ve wanted to air, and a series of Kevin Drum posts on using estates to pay for Medicare that has inspired me to make (drumroll please) . . . the case for the 100% estate tax.
No, really, I’m serious. After all, why should kids be allowed to inherit? I know, you are about to say something along the lines of “I worked hard so that my kids could . . . ” That is a noble emotion. But at the point at which this question becomes relevant, you will be dead. And dead people don’t have rights. They don’t own property. They don’t get to make decisions.
This is one of those ideas which combines a leftist desire for leveling of economic and social classes with a strongly individualist line of thinking: Sure, your parents saved up a lot of assets, but what does that have to do with you?
In a world in which each person is a social atom, the idea of money or property being handed down through families is necessarily repulsive. If you didn’t earn it, why should you have it? Perhaps this is why this particular leftist idea has a certain appeal to McArdle’s libertarian sensibilities. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
As faithful readers of this blog know, I am not a fan of Neo-Confederates. These are individuals who are still fighting the Civil War on behalf of the Confederacy. They are to be distinguished from those who honor the Confederates who fought an uphill gallant struggle for a cause they believed right. Here follow helpful tips on discerning who the Neo-Confederates are. If you believe most of these you are probably a Neo-Confederate:
1. You deny that the Civil War was caused by slavery in the face of statements by virtually all the civilian leaders of the secession movement and the Confederacy at the beginning of the War that secession was undertaken to protect slavery.
2. You claim that the Union was fighting because Northerners were greedy for tariffs on the South, thereby showing ignorance that at the time of the secession movement of 1860-61 tariffs were at a historic low for the Nineteenth Century, and that tariffs were a relative non-issue North and South.
3. Your favorite Civil War “historian” is Thomas Dilorenzo.
4. The first thing that comes into your mind when you hear “Abraham Lincoln” is “dictator”.
5. You are absolutely certain that the Constitution grants an explicit right to secede if it is held up to a light and has lemon juice smeared over it. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
It looks like we’re going to be gaining a new Church in the Archdiocese of Washington.
After a period of deep discernment, the rector and parishioners of St. Luke’s Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland have decided to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church through a new structure approved by Pope Benedict XVI called an ordinariate. Saint Luke’s is the first church in the Washington metropolitan area to take this step.
The transition is being made with the prayerful support of Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic Archbishop of Washington.
“We welcome the St. Luke community warmly into our family of faith. The proposed ordinariate provides a path to unity, one that recognizes our shared beliefs on matters of faith while also recognizing and respecting the liturgical heritage of the Anglican Church,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “We also recognize the openness of the community to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their faith journey.”
Now if only some of those gorgeous cathedrals in the UK can take this step . . .
Mitt Romney is far from being one of my favorite presidential hopefuls, but I agree with Jim Geraghty that this Newsweek cover, portraying Romney as a dancing lunatic, is fairly appalling. Geraghty says that the article itself is very fair, but that doesn’t matter. Roughly 99% of the people who see this cover will never read the article. For better or worse – and almost certainly worse – our politics are dominated by optics. The story is secondary to the substantive issues.
One of my grad school professors, Mark Rozell (now at George Mason) liked to talk about an evening news report done on Ronald Reagan’s economic policies during the 1984 campaign. I don’t recall which network it was, but the report just decimated Reagan on the economy. It was a voice-over piece, and most of the images were of Reagan in various settings, mostly in places like Yellowstone or other grand settings. After the network aired the report, the head of the news division was contacted by a member of Reagan’s staff, and was thanked for the report. Why was this network being thanked for a hit piece? The images. The text of the story didn’t matter. What would stick in viewer’s minds were the images, and these were images of the president in majestic settings, showing off the trappings of power. Many viewers would tune out the content of the story and instead focus on images that were greatly favorable to Reagan.
It’s human nature to focus on imagery, and so I don’t necessarily fault those who ignore the broader context of such stories. That being said, I’m sure Newsweek didn’t choose this particular photo by accident.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau has always struck me as one of the most buffoonish and over-rated characters in American history. His aunt paying his taxes for him so his great tax protest over the Mexican War lasted all of one night, his accidental setting of a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden woodlands, Thoreau contracting the tuberculosis that would kill him as a result of a middle of the night excursion to count tree rings and the pacifist Thoreau writing a pamphlet in which he claimed that John Brown, a murderer, embezzler, cattle thief and congenital liar, was humane are only a few of the many episodes in his life that are worthy of a great satirical novel. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Julian and Adrian Riester were identical twins. They came into this world 92 years ago, on March 27, 1919. Their advent probably surprised their parents after a run of five daughters! They attended Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. They attempted to join the military during World War II, but were turned away due to poor eyesight. They became Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name province in New York. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I guess there’s a new kerfuffle related to Sarah Palin. This video was linked at NRO “without comment” by Andrew Stiles. It’s more evidence that she’s some kind of historical illiterate, or something, as she supposedly claims that Paul Revere rode to warn the Brits.
Admittedly Palin’s wording is incredibly garbled and she did not give a very articulate response. Here’s the thing: her comments are completely accurate. Here’s a letter written by Paul Revere himself:
“I observed a Wood at a Small distance, & made for that. When I got there, out Started Six officers, on Horse back,and orderd me to dismount;-one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where I came from,& what my Name Was? I told him. it was Revere, he asked if it was Paul? I told him yes He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the afirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and aded, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up. He imediately rode towards those who stoppd us, when all five of them came down upon a full gallop; one of them, whom I afterwards found to be Major Mitchel, of the 5th Regiment, Clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, & told me he was going to ask me some questions, & if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out. He then asked me similar questions to those above. He then orderd me to mount my Horse, after searching me for arms.”
Again, though spoken in mangled English, Palin’s comments are pretty much right on the money. Revere was in fact warning the British, but more as a way of bragging.
But hey, it’s so much easier to call Sarah Palin an idiot than bother with facts.