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Cap'n Flynn (deviantART)
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De Fidei Oboedientia
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Flos Carmeli
For Keats' Sake!
Happy Catholic
John C. Wright's Journal
Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa
Scuffulans hirsutus
Shrine of the Holy Whapping
Summa Mamas, The
Troglodyte, The
The Stacks
Basia me, Catholica Sum
Corner, The
Fiat Lux!
I Am the Lizard Queen!
The Kawaii Menace
James Lileks
Wasted Words
Weirdsville, USA
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The Recliners
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29 April 2005
El Queso es Muerto
Several weeks ago, kashi and I went down to Austin with some friends to visit other friends and to see
the Recliners in concert. 'Twas a most enjoyable trip, but alas I was also left with a bit of sadness. You see, the Recliners, a band that does cheesy lounge covers of anything from Sinatra to Nirvana, is not what it used to be. They are down to one original member, and it's not the lead singer. Neal Mehta really was the heart of the band, with a smooth, crooning voice, and always just the right hint of cheese. Alas, Neal has recently gotten married (yay for him!), and has since given up the band. They're trying out new leads, and the music's still good, but it just isn't same. The guy singing the night we were there has a sleazy-cheese sort of thing going on. It's funny, but loses its charm fairly quickly. Kind of like a Kids in the Hall skit that goes on way too long--two hours too long. Also, unlike the more classy dives they used to haunt (The Velvet Elvis in Dallas, and Momo's in Austin), they seem to have been relegated to true holes-in-the-wall.

And so it was disappointing. I realise that these things happen in this transitory world of ours, but it's still saddening when a favourite band splits, or becomes a pale shadow of its former self as it has with the Recliners. Ah, well, c'est la vie. El queso es muerto.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:14 PM
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Troparion to the Holy Angels
O leaders of the heavenly armies, although we are always unworthy, we beseech you that with your prayers you may encircle us with the protection of the wings of your angelic glory. Watch over us as we bow low and earnestly cry out to you: Deliver us from trouble, O princes of the heavenly armies.

*from the Byzantine liturgy
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:51 AM
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28 April 2005
Requiescat in pace
For any UD alums out there, I just got word that Dr. Jack Paynter died two days ago. I only had him for one class, the basic Politics course, but far as I could tell he was a terrific professor. And anyone who uses the word "shockaroonies" in class wins many points in my book. Details provided by UD Alumni relations follow. He will be missed.

We received word yesterday that Dr. Paynter, former Provost and long-time politics professor here at UD, passed away Tuesday night at his home. Please join us in prayer for Peggy, John and Ellie Paynter in their mourning for their beloved husband/father.

The Rosary tonight, April 28th, at 7:00 p.m. and the Funeral Mass at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, April 29th, will both take place at St. John's Catholic Church, 601 S. Paris Street, Ennis, Texas 75119, phone 972/878-2834. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the University of Dallas Music Program (Collegium Cantorum). Mrs. Paynter has indicated that the family would be happy to welcome guests to their home before or after the services.

Cards and correspondence may be addressed to the Paynter family at the following address: 1127 Stacks Road, Ennis, TX 75119

Following is the text from Dr. Paynter's obituary that appears in today's Dallas Morning News.

PAYNTER, JOHN "JACK" PAYNTER, age 66 of Bristol, died April 26, 2005 in Ennis. He was born to William and Wilma (Franks) Paynter on November 30, 1938. Jack was a professor at the University of Dallas. He was a former Provost and retired in 2002 after over twenty years of service. Jack is survived by his wife, Peggy Bailey of Bristol; two children, Eleanor Paynter of Rome, Italy, and Jonathan Paynter of the U.S. Military Academy in New York; brother, James Paynter of Quincy, Illinois; four nephews, and one niece. The Rosary is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 28,
2005, at St. John Catholic Church in Ennis, Texas. Memorial Mass is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Friday, April 29, 2005 at St. John Catholic Church in Ennis. A memorial at University of Dallas will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the University of Dallas Music Program, 1845 E. Northgate, Irving, Texas 75062.

Boze-Mitchell- McKibbin Funeral Home 800 S. Kaufman Street, Ennis, Texas, 972-878-2211

Published in the Dallas Morning News on 4/28/2005.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:24 PM
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Random Curiosity
What sort of lunatic decided that putting pockets in pajamas was a good idea? I mean, why on earth would you need them while you're sleeping? Perhaps it's so you have some change handy in case you die and need to pay Charon to ferry you across the Styx. Or maybe you worry about waking in the middle night with dry lips and want quick and easy access to your Chap Stick. Or maybe, just maybe, you can only sleep if you keep one hand in your pocket, while the other is making a peace sign (thank you, Alanis Morissette).

Well, whatever the reason, all I can say is that it's one silly waste of fabric.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   3:27 PM
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Sayonara to Slack
So, I've decided to remove the comments for a while. This way, the only voice here will be mine ... all mine! Ha ha ha!

Ahem. Actually, work is just extremely busy and stressful right now, and I am far too distractible for my own good. And if I'm 100% sure there are no comments to look at, I won't keep checking for them all day long (at least, this is the theory). Work, alas, must come before play.

So, if you have anything terribly exciting to add, or if you just wanna be friendly, you can always
email me. The posts, which I can write up from home, should keep coming though, so, to quote Back to the Future, "Don't nobody go nowhere."
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:22 AM
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26 April 2005
Reflections on Horror
Good and interesting piece on relativism as warned against not only by our new pope, but also by horror movies. Check it out

*Hat tip to Flambeaux, who found it on The Curt Jester
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:44 PM
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25 April 2005
Quiz Time
Doesn't quite account for the Kansas Pause I've picked up from kashi, but this still seems fairly accurate. Of course, about 25% of the Yankee probably comes from my tendency toward pretentious words and phrasing. Good thing it's not an accent quiz, though. One mention of "coffee" and I'd be 100% Yank.

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

30% Yankee

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

*Via Zorak and O.O.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   1:21 PM
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21 April 2005
Invocation to Mary, Help of Christians
O Mary, powerful Virgin, you are the mighty and powerful protector of the Church; you are the marvelous help of Christians; you are terrible as an army in battle array; you alone have destroyed every heresy in the whole world. In the midst of our anguish, our struggles, and our distresses, defend us from the power of the enemy and at the hour of death, receive our souls in paradise. Amen.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:36 PM
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Celebrations, circa 23 April 2005
Since I'll be off from work on the morrow, and will likely not encounter an internet-connected computer again until Monday, this'll have to be a couple days early. Saturday's an important day for celebrating. First, 'tis the anniversary of Shakepeare's birth and death.

In honour of that, a fave quotation:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

Second, it is the birthday of friend and fellow former rockstupid student, Cob. As a testament to his enduring procrastination, please note that his blog, This Is Not Me, has not been updated in over a year, and probably won't be anytime soon. Ever hopeful, though, we keep the link up. Happy Birthday, Cob!

And last, but most certainly not least, Saturday is St. George's Day. Besides being kashi's Patron Saint, he's also the Patron of England, Greece, and the Boy Scouts, among many others. Plus there's that whole holy warrior of God, slaying the dragon thing. In short, he's very cool. There's a bit more info
here, or for some really in depth info, try here.

Happy St. George's Day!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   3:52 PM
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An Old French Prayer for Friends
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labours fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:12 AM
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20 April 2005
On the Borgo Pass
Today is the 93rd anniversary of the death of Bram Stoker. It's a shame his Dracula has been the source of so many lame movies, but then, its epistolary style doesn't exactly lend itself to great film. On the bright side, it has given us some of the best video games ever--the Castlevania series.

It's been many-a and many-a since I've read Dracula, but I still remember the story with fondness. Of course, Stoker also has the stigma of being a literary one-hit-wonder. Though he authored many short stories, and a couple other novels, he is really only remembered for the tale of the infamous Count. But that's all right--it's a tale worth being remembered for.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:51 AM
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Prayer for Guidance
O Holy Spirit of God, take me as your disciple; guide me, illuminate me, sanctify me. Bind my hands that they may do no evil; cover my eyes that they may see it no more; sanctify my heart that evil may not dwell within me. Be my God; be my guide. Wherever you lead me, I will go; whatever you forbid me, I will renounce; and whatever you command me, in your strength, I will do. Lead me, then, unto the fullness of your truth. Amen.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   9:17 AM
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Being a lover of all things Welsh, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find that today is the Memorial (optional) of St. Beuno of Wales.

If you're interested in a brief history, you can find it
Jelly Pinched Wolf   9:01 AM
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19 April 2005
Habemus Papam!
We have ourselves a Holy Father once more! The waiting is finally over ... well, except for the waiting until we find out who he is. Still, it's a comfort to know the election's been made.


Joey Ratz! Benedict XVI!
Let the smackdown begin!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:33 AM
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18 April 2005
My 16th Apology*
Due to an egregious lack of time for typing and editing this last week, Part Three has taken longer than intended. But it's done now, and it's a relief. I've learned much while researching and writing and reflecting on this, and am glad I did. I've also learned, though, that I am certainly not cut out for the theologian and apologist business. It's taxing, and I admire those who can do it professionally. To withstand the barbs and attacks with grace and aplomb is not a gift I possess. I am, after all, merely a poet. And perhaps Plato was right to banish us.

Anyway, on to the conclusion of this piece. Having established in Part Two what we're looking for when we examine our conscience, namely whether or not we've sinned mortally, we pick up from there with the reason for the necessity of examining our conscience and keeping it rightly formed.

*A somewhat obscure reference. It's a Shakespeare's Sister song--if you didn't get it, you're probably better off for it.

The Conscience of the Faithful, Part III

So, if we've examined ourselves in light of God's Law, and found that we're in a state of mortal sin, then where do we go from here? We want to receive the Holy Eucharist, do we not? If we wish to be faithful Catholics and follow the word of God, we ought to. It is through the sacraments, and most importantly through the Eucharist, that the universal Church is bound in unity--it is through them that we are brought into communion with each other, with our priests, bishops, and the Holy Father, and ultimately with Christ.
[42] It is through Christ that we are brought into communion with God the Father. And Christ himself is present in the Eucharist. As Pope John Paul II says, "The Eucharist, by perfecting our communion with God, is the culmination of all the sacraments."[43] The Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, which He freely gave up for us. It is for this reason that we call our liturgy the "Sacrifice of the Mass." Because Christ is God, He is outside time, and thus His sacrifice is an eternal event. His Passion is an event that happened, was happening, is happening, and will continue to happen, until He comes again. Hence the cyclical nature of the liturgical year. Quoting St. John Chrysostom, Pope John Paul II says, "'We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one.'" He then continues in his own words, "Therefore, the mass does not add to or multiply Christ's sacrifice. The mass, a 'commemorative representation,' makes this sacrifice always present in time. It is never independent from the cross, but refers directly to the sacrifice of Calvary."[44] Of course, inseparable from this sacrifice is His Resurrection, in which we find the source of our own future resurrection. As an eternal event, Christ's Passion and Resurrection play a huge role in our daily lives. When we say that He died for our sins, it is not only those sins which had existed at the historical time of the Crucifixion, but for all sins everywhere and everywhen. Those sins we have not yet committed in our lives will also contribute to the weight of Christ's cross.

Our sins affect Christ himself.... We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt.[45]
How presumptuous must we be to bring those sins to His table? To do this is a grave offense. As St. Paul himself says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."[46]

Our participation in Christ's sacrifice on the altar, to which He himself has invited us,[47] is central not only to the Mass, but to the whole of the Faith. It is participation in Christ's life, death, and resurrection; because he is made present during the celebration of the Mass, we can, through Him, offer the Father thanksgiving and praise for creation and for the redemption Christ has made possible for us. With Christ, we can offer ourselves to God as well.

The Eucharist is the "sum and summary of our faith,"[48] and when we partake of the Sacrament, we receive Christ himself.[49] This is why the Church obliges us to receive communion at least once per year[50]--we are called to live the life of Christ, for we live because of Him,[51] and in this Sacrament, we enter into the life of Christ, and he into us[52] so that we may be in communion with God the Father.

Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."[53]
The Eucharist is an essential and central part of our membership in the Church. It is we who make up the visible body of the Church and at the heart of that body is this visible sign of our communion with each other and in Christ. It is Christ, then, who leads us to God the Father. And so, while the Church obliges us to receive the Sacrament at least once per year, it is preferable, and indeed encouraged, that we should receive it as often as possible. As the Catechism states, "It is in keeping with the very meaning of the Eucharist that the Faithful, if they had the required disposition, receive communion when they participate in the Mass."[54] Note the use of the phrase "required disposition." The Eucharist is not something to be taken lightly, nor should we view it as something which we deserve to receive. We can't have it whenever we want it; we must be prepared. During the consecration, the Eucharist becomes the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.[55] This is no small event. We should be humbled that the Son of God should do this for us. To presume that one deserves the Eucharist, that if one's conscience says it's okay then it's okay, smacks of pride. This is also why those not in full communion with the Church of Rome should not partake of the Sacrament. It's not that the Church is selfishly trying to keep those people out, or deny them something special because they're not part of our club. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ, and so demands that we who partake of it believe fully in His presence in addition to following his commandments. To do otherwise is (as St. Paul said) to eat and drink one's own death. The Church doesn't want this. Like God, the Church does not want the spiritual death of sinners and of those outside the Church, but penance, conversion, and ultimately salvation. The Chuch wants all souls to join the communion of saints.

But even those of us who are of the faithful should not look at the Eucharist as something of which we are deserving. Before communion, we say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." The Eucharist is a gift. Christ gave his body and blood for our salvation. We are fallen, and it is only through the goodness and mercy of God that we can partake of the Eucharist. Therefore we should approach the altar with this in mind. The Sacrament requires reverance and humility of us. As Thomas à Kempis says:

If you had the purity of the angels and the holiness of St. John the Baptist, you would still not be worthy to receive or touch the Blessed Sacrament. It is not because of any merits on man's part that man consecrates and handles Christ's Sacrament and eats the bread of angels.... With reference to what pertains to this most excellent Sacrament you ought to believe Almighty God more than your own thinking or any visible sign. Therefore, you should approach this Sacrament with reverant awe.[56]
Most importantly, we must be in a state of Grace before partaking of the Eucharist. Though we can never be truly worthy, we are allowed to eat of Christ's body and blood because of His goodness and mercy. And so we should strive to make ourselves as worthy as possible. If the stain of grave sin is on us when we approach His table, we will receive it unworthily. The Church is very clear on this:

Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.[57]
Awareness is a key element here. We may receive the Sacrament if we are truly ignorant of having sinned. However, we are called to examine ourselves constantly, to prepare, to keep the puppy trained. We are called to live virtuous lives and walk in the footsteps of Christ. We are all called to be saints. That means knowing the Eternal Law, knowing what God wants of us, and thus knowing when we have strayed from that. Thus the sacrament of penance and the Eucharist are intimately intertwined. Mortal sin, whether it be willfully ignoring the Church's teaching, or breaking one of the Ten Commandments, or receiving the Eucharist unworthily, can be forgiven. As was said earlier, Christ has made this possible through that same sacrifice in which we can participate. In the Sacrament of Confession, if we are truly contrite and make a good confession of our sins, we are absolved, and returned to a state of grace. God does not just forgive--He wipes the slate clean, allowing us to start fresh and try once more to live according to His ways. This is a necessary step in order to receive communion. But remember: even the righteous man falls seven times a day. We can't let the puppy run amok. We must examine ourselves constantly. We cannot be sure we have not sinned mortally unless we take the time to consider what God's Word is, and what we have or have not done to follow it. Again, we must not approach the Blessed Sacrament lightly. If your conscience says otherwise, then it is wrong. The conscience must be clean--not according to one's own rules, but by those of the Church, which are those of God. Thus, if abortion, for example, is always evil, a Catholic cannot partake of the Blessed Sacrament worthily if he supports this evil through word, thought, or deed, until such time as he truly repents of his ways and returns to God through the Sacrament of Confession. Only then is he worthy.

The Catholic Faith requires much of us. We cannot follow it unthinkingly or reflexively. It does not require that each of us be a theologian or Doctor of the Chuch, but it does require us to know the true moral good from evil. In order to follow the way of Christ, we need to know what that way is. And once we know, we must examine our lives to ensure we are actually following His way in all we say, think, and do. We are, of course, free to do otherwise. That's the nature of free will. But Truth does not change--what is good by God's Law is always good, and what is against that Law is likewise always against it. Because our ability to perceive the revealed Truth is limited, we may not always see our bad choices for what they are--that we may see something as good does not make it good. God is the only true source of the Good. It's our job to do our best to live in accord with that Good. If we train our consciences to recognise what is good and to choose it instead of sin, we will become accustomed to the virtues. Remember Christ's two new commandments--love God above all things, and love our neighbour as ourselves. These do not supplant the old law of the Decalogue. They fulfill the old law. God has given us rules not to make us miserable, to keep us from enjoying good things like candy. He gave us those rules so that we might know how to love Him. If everything we think, say, and do tends toward the true good, then we will be living as Jesus Christ lived, which is the way to eternal life and joining the communion of saints. Part of living that life is participating in Christ's sacrifice, particularly in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is central to the Faith, and we must treat it as such. It is not a snackie that we deserve, like a prize in a Happy Meal. It is Christ's own body and blood, which He has given up for us. The sacrificial lamb was free from sin--ought we not strive to be the same when we offer ourselves up to God? To approach His banquet with a false sense of clean conscience is to place one's immortal soul in grave jeopardy. Though we can never be worthy of this gift, Jesus in his mercy and love has given it to us freely just the same. Do we not owe it to Him to thus make ourselves as worthy as possible, to keep his commandments and love Him? "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."[58] If you listen to your conscience, but your conscience has not heard His word, or has heard it and rejected it, then you cannot be certain you are following Christ. Nor can you be certain you are loving Him as he has commanded. If the conscience is not rightly formed according to the Divine Law, it will lead us away from Him. This is why we are given Reason in addition to Faith, so that we can train our conscience, and spot when we've gone astray. This is why the Church exists--to interpret God's Eternal Law, and to lead us to it. The tools are there, and easily accessible. We have but to humble ourselves before the Lord and reach out. He is always there waiting for us to turn back to Him and ask forgiveness.

[42] Catechism 815
[43] Pope John Paul II, "Ecclesia De Eucharistia" Simplified version. (USA: August 2003) Ch. 4, p.20
[44] Ecclesia, Ch. 1, p. 7
[45] Catechism 598
[46] 1 Cor 11:27-29
[47] Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26-28
[48] Catechism 1327
[49] Catechism 1382
[50] Catechism 1389
[51] John 6:57
[52] John 15:4
[53] Catechism 1391
[54] Catechism 1388
[55] Catechism 1374
[56] à Kempis, bk. IV, ch. 5, 190-191
[57] Catechism 1415
[58] John 14:21
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:40 AM
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15 April 2005
The Cruellest Month
My guess is that T.S. Eliot dubbed April thusly because he had allergies. Cursed be the allergies! A plague on both my eyeballs!

Actually, with the exception of a couple of bad days, this year's not being too terrible. So far, leastways. Still, I am already longing for the autumn to arrive. In light of that, I offer to you a poem by Dylan Thomas, he of the eternal autumn.

Especially When the October Wind

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea's side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees
The wordy shapes of women, and the rows
Of the star-gestured children in the park.
Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
Some of the oaken voices, from the roots
Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,
Some let me make you of the water's speeches.

Behind a pot of ferns the wagging clock
Tells me the hour's word, the neural meaning
Flies on the shafted disk, declaims the morning
And tells the windy weather in the cock.
Some let me make you of the meadow's signs;
The signal grass that tells me all I know
Breaks with the wormy winter through the eye.
Some let me tell you of the raven's sins.

Especially when the October wind
(Some let me make you of autumnal spells,
The spider-tongued, and the loud hill of Wales)
With fists of turnips punishes the land,
Some let me make you of the heartless words.
The heart is drained that, spelling in the scurry
Of chemic blood, warned of the coming fury.
By the sea's side hear the dark-vowelled birds.

Dylan Marlais Thomas, 1914-1953
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:37 AM
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11 April 2005
All Apologies
Took me a little longer than I'd thought to get my revisions to this part done, but here it is. Part Three requires far less tinkering, so it should be up by the end of the week.

So, in Part One of this piece, we established that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the perfect tool to determine what the Church, through its Apostolic authority, teaches. And what the Church teaches about conscience is that while we should follow our consciences in questions of morality, we are also obliged to train our consciences through examination because they can become ill-formed and thus make imprudent judgments that lead us into sin. Now on to Part Two.

The Conscience of the Faithful, Part II

What, then, ought we to be examining? In a word, sin. It is sin that takes us from God, which turns us toward the creation instead of the Creator. It is sin that stains our souls. We must examine our conscience daily to determine whether or not we are in a state of mortal sin. Sunday Mass, for example, is an obligation. If we miss it without grave reason, our conscience should tell us we've done wrong. Attending Mass occasionally (or only at Easter, as many are wont to do) is not sufficient balm for our souls. Though the Church requires that we make use of the Sacrament of Confession at least once per year, this requirement is too often taken to mean that we should only confess once; regular examination of our lives, however, would tells us we ought to hie ourselves to the confessional far more frequently. Yet pastors continue to lament the small numbers seeking penance and absolution. One begins to wonder how many Catholics know what even qualifies as a mortal sin.
[23] And if we do not know what we're looking for while examining ourselves, we cannot be sure we are making prudent judgments. Conveniently, Divine Law, as taught by the Church, tells us exactly what to look for. The Catechism defines sin as:
Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."[24]
This may seem rather general, but then we humans are not particularly limited in how we transgress the Divine Law. Man is terribly creative when it comes to new ways of sinning--except that when examined closely, all our sins are as old as the Fall. Though we may trip over the moral speed bump at a slightly different angle, it's still the same speed bump. Most sins are in disobedience to the Commandments--the original ten as well as Christ's new commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves--and it is in knowing these that we can begin to assess our words, thoughts, and actions. "The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God's call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil."[25] It is important to realise here that the Decalogue is far more complex than a mere ten charges. "Thou shalt not kill," for instance, has a much larger umbrella than murder alone (which is in no way meant to minimise the severity of the killing of an innocent). Anger, hatred, and vengeance are also forbidden by this law. Causing scandal by word or deed, thus tempting others to sin, can result in a spiritual death in the tempted one. This is no less heinous than physical murder.[26] Social concerns like food, clothing, housing, and education must be taken into account (insofar as we are reasonably able to care for others), as must the health of our own bodies.[27] And this is just a brief overview of one commandment. Likewise, the sixth commandment, prohibiting adultery, is concerned with more than just extra-marital sexual relations. Lust, too, is forbidden by this law[28], as is an absence of chastity--even within the marriage--or any offense against the dignity of marriage. And so on throughout the Decalogue. It is through Christ's teachings to his Apostles that this complexity becomes obvious; yet at the same time, His new commandments simplify things greatly. Love God first above all, and love your neighbour as yourself. When our own desires take precedence over those two commandments, then we are sinning. Knowing the Decalogue, and examining our lives in light of them, helps us to know better specifically in which areas we are failing to obey the Law and also helps us practice virtue.

The recent presidential campaign in this country, as well as the more recent case of Terri Schiavo, has brought to light several moral issues which have stirred quite a bit of controversy within and outside Catholic circles. These are issues that all Catholics ought to agree on, however this has not been the case. In order to demonstrate the difference between Church teaching and the sins that the unexamined or improperly formed conscience can lead us into, I will focus on three of these issues. The Church teaches that abortion is always and everywhere a grave sin, because it is the murder of an innocent. One cannot support abortion--by word, thought, or deed, in either public or private life[29]--and remain in a state of grace. The Church is very clear in its position on abortion, and always has been:
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to moral law. [30]
Murder is always wrong, as the Divine Law tells us, and the Catechism teaches that life begins at conception.[31]

Directly related to abortion is contraception, another controversial issue. Not only can the use of birth control result in abortion, but it is also sinful because it is a turning away from God, a refusal to accept the life He has created. Thus in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI calls it "intrinsically evil."[32] While any form of contraception is sinful because of its refusal of the gifts of God[33] and use of the sexual act removed from its rightful matrimonial purpose, [34] chemical contraception (such as the Pill) is the most insidious. The use of such a contraceptive as the Pill often results in non-doctor assisted abortions.[35] The effect of contraceptives is such that if they do not succeed in suppressing ovulation or preventing sperm migration, they then change the nature of the womb, making the endometrium hostile to life.[36] This last one is the most important here. If the drug fails to prevent conception, it will then work to destroy the life created. Some will argue that the Church's views on birth control are relatively new and can thus be discounted. This teaching, however, is far from new. Pharmakeia, the original Greek word used in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (5:19-26) and in The Apocalypse of John (9:21 and 21:8), is often translated as "sorcery" or "witchcraft," but actually refers to the practice of mixing potions for the specific purpose of birth control. Indeed, the Didache (an important source for the Catechism) from the first century also condemns the practice.[37]

Both abortion and contraception are examples of inflexible positions of Church teaching. They subvert God's intentions in favour of our own desires, and they involve the murder of innocents. To engage in either, or to support them, is then to sin. By contrast, support of the death penalty is not so black and white. Many argue that Catholics who support capital punishment at being hypocritical, that they cannot cry out against abortion and euthanasia and yet accept the execution of a criminal as permissible. It is a difficult issue. The Church has certainly made Her position clear--that executions by the State are not a good or desirable thing. Yet, they are also not condemned as a moral evil per se, and herein rests the important difference between the death penalty and something like abortion. The Church grants that the State has the right to execute those who pose a serious threat to the lives of the innocent should their own lives continue. However, it cautions that this right should not be exercised lightly. Rather, it should be avoided if at all possible.[38] To execute a person, no matter how heinous the crime, no matter how much a threat this person may yet pose, denies that person any chance at redemption--and we must always allow for every possibility of redemption. As with abortion, it is not only life the Church seeks to protect, but also souls. Every aborted child is another soul denied baptism in Christ. Humans are body and soul, intrinsically bonded and inseparable--why wouldn't the Church seek to protect both? And so every Catholic must consider the situation carefully as regards the death penalty, for if our support of it violates the Church's teaching, if we simply say, "Yeah, kill 'em!" out of hand, we do slip from Grace. Again, we should protect life, particularly innocent life, at all turns, however in certain particular instances, capital punishment, as well as the support of it by a Catholic, is not necessarily to be considered a grave sin.

So, here we've gone and dragged these sins out into the light, condemned them before the Eternal Law--what do we do with them? First, it is important to note that there is a difference between the sin and the sinner. It is said, "Love the sinner, but hate the sin." Part of loving our neighbour is being his keeper as well. Jesus does not tell us to ignore the speck in our brother's eye, but simply to tend to our own failings first, so that we might clearly and in good conscience help get that nasty twig out of the eyes of others.[39] We are still commanded to attend to our neighbours. Refusing to get involved in some way (even if prayer is the only way available) is to aid in a person's sin, and thus ourselves sin. It's dinnertime for the puppy, and if we don't stop it from making itself sick on candy, it won't want the kibble that is its proper nourishing food. If it is not repeatedly scolded for its bad behaviour, it will come to see what is bad as good, or at least permissible. One doesn't scold the puppy as if it is thoroughly evil and thus hopeless. One scolds to help it, out of love for it. Likewise, we all need help to stop falling into sin. We need the finger pointed at us once in a while--even if it's our own finger doing the pointing. We must know what is wrong so we can spot it quickly and then work to correct it.
Saying there's a kink in our nature isn't the same as saying we're evil through and through. Sometimes the way things appear is actually how they are, and simple observation tells me that I'm not all bad, and neither are most people. The idea that we're evil through and through is one of those pathological theological positions that has damaged millions of lives. We're created in God's image, so it's impossible for us to be evil at root. Even the worst, most vile human being still has a little shred of God's image within him. No, we're not totally depraved. But the image of God has been wounded or marred by our sinful inclinations. We need to be healed. The kink needs to be straightened out. The complex knot of our motives, desires, decisions, and actions needs to be untangled. [40]
And that's really what it's about--accepting God's Grace and turning back to Him so our kinks can be fixed. Recognition of the sin is just the first step. Just because the puppy knows it's wrong to eat all the candy doesn't mean it won't do it. The candy's pretty sweet, after all. In the end, the choice comes down this: do we want the candy, or salvation? For if it's salvation we want, and not the fleeting sweet, then it is to Christ and His Sacraments we must turn.[41]

[23] Catechism 1859
[24] Catechism 1849
[25] Catechism 1962
[26] Catechism 2284
[27] Catechism 2290
[28] Matthew 5:27-28
[29] Catechism 2272-2273
[30] Catechism 2271
[31] Catechism 2270-2274
[32] Catechism 2370
[33] Catechism 2366-2367; 2378
[34] Catechism 2361; 2363; 2390
[35] John F. Kippley and Sheila K. Kippley, The Art of Natural Family Planning, 4th ed. (Cincinnati: Couple to Couple League Int., 1996), 9-10
[36] Kippley, 9
[37] Kippley, 268
[38] Catechism 2267
[39] Matthew 7:1-5
[40] Longenecker, 140
[41] Catechism 1129
Jelly Pinched Wolf   1:39 PM
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08 April 2005
And I'll Make Ya Talk Funny, Too
Fun quiz I linked to from
Zorak. I've excised the statistical analysis part of the results because the code creates far too much empty space.

He... Helium.

You scored 32 Mass, 27 Electronegativity, 39 Metal, and 0 Radioactivity!

That's odd, our tests indicate that you did not just take this test. In fact, we're not even sure you exist. Oh, wait, no, somebody just found indirect evidence of you in the deep Earth and in the Sun. Okay, so you're real, but man, you need to get out more. Actually, you're pretty cool, always doing your own thing, but we kinda wish that you would interact with us a bit more. On a positive note, I think some research lab in Berkeley has managed to put you into a psuedo-stable relationship that, if you're kept very cold, you won't walk away from... or maybe that was Xenon. I forget.

The Which Chemical Element Am I Test written by effataigus on Ok Cupid
Jelly Pinched Wolf   1:17 PM
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04 April 2005
Sede vacante

There are times I wish I could channel my poet side spontaneously, that I did not have to labour over the words, slowly crafting for weeks, sometimes months. At times like this, on the death of John Paul II, I wish the words could be easily within my grasp, and that I could write something rich, yet simple. Something beautiful, yet plain. A lamentation that yet brings smiles. Something that is worthy of him. Thankfully, I do not have to. The man's life was far more beautiful than anything I could hope to put to paper. His life was a testament to the sanctity of life and the essential dignity of the human person. I can only hope to bear my own cross as joyfully as Karol Wojtyla.

He will be missed.

May he rest in peace.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:28 AM
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01 April 2005
Il Papa
Wonderful article on the Pope over at NRO. Worth a read.

The Blessed Sounds of Silence

Please continue to pray for the Holy Father.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:54 AM
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