Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Linus Said It Best

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part VI

After today, our office will be closed until January 5.

Thus, I won't be working until January 5.

Thus, I won't have a lunch break until January 5.

Thus, I won't be blogging until January 5.

So, I'll have to include not only today's installment of the Chesterton Advent Calendar (explanation here) but also those for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.

23 December

Fortunately, however, being happy is not so important as having a jolly time. Philosophers are happy; saints have a jolly time. The important thing in life is not to keep a steady system of pleasure and composure (which can be done quite well by hardening one's heart or thickening one's head), but to keep alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence. This is why religion always insists on special days like Christmas, while philosophy always tends to despise them. Religion is interested not in whether a man is happy, but whether he is still alive, whether he can still react in a normal way to new things, whether he blinks in a blinding light or laughs when he is tickled. That is the best of Christmas, that it is a startling and disturbing happiness; it is an uncomfortable comfort. The Christmas customs destroy the human habits. And while customs are generally unselfish, habits are nearly always selfish. The object of the religious festival is, as I have said, to find out if a happy man is still alive. A man can smile when he is dead. Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite goo dmanners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses. There is only one way in which you can test his real vitality, and that is by a special festival. Explode cracker in his ear, and see if he jumps. Prick him with holly, and see if he feels it. If not, he is dead, or, as he would put it, is "living the higher life." —Illustrated London News, 1908

24 December

Almighty God to all mankind on Christmas Day said He:
"I rent you from the old red hills and, rending made you free.
There was charter, there was challenge; in a blast of breath I gave;
You can be all things other; you cannot be a slave.
You shall be tired and tolerant of fancies as they fade,
But if men doubt the Charter, ye shall call on the Crusade –
Trumpet and torch and catapult, cannon and bow and blade,
Because it was My challenge to all the things I made." —A Christmas Song for Three Guilds

25 December

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world
But here is all aright.) —A Xmas Carol

Season's greetings! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part V

Explanation here.

22 December

Religion has had to provide that longest and strangest telescope - the telescope through which we could see the star upon which we dwelt. For the mind and eyes of the average man this world is as lost as Eden and as sunken as Atlantis. —The Defendant

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part IV

Explanation here.

19 December

The writer writes these words before Christmas; some readers will read them after Chrismtas; an awful thought. For I always dimly and dumbly think of life after Christmas as of life after death. I hasten to add that I believe that both will occur. I also add that, as becomes any healthy man, I fear death, but do not fear Christmas—no, not even if it result in death. But I do unconsciously count them both as the end of something and all days beyond them as comparatively vague and visionary. Whenever the year is ending I feel that the world is ending, and I desire to make a good end. I think the best end ever made by mortal man—better than Nelson shot through his stars or Douglas hurling the heart of Bruce—was the death of Faber, who confessed and received all the sacraments of his Church, and on being told he had an hour to live, said: "Then I can hear the last number of 'Pickwick,'" and died hearing it.

20 December

Meanwhile, it remains true that I shall eat a great deal of turkey this Christmas; and it is not in the least true (as the vegetarians say) that I shall do it because I do not realise what I am doing, or because I do what I know is wrong, or that I do it with shame or doubt or a fundamental unrest of conscience. In one sense I know quite well what I am doing; in another sense I know quite well that I know not what I do. Scrooge and the Cratchits and I are, as I have said, all in one boat; the turkey and I are, to say the most of it, ships that pass in the night, and greet each other in passing. I wish him well; but it is really practically impossible to discover whether I treat him well. I can avoid, and I do avoid with horror, all special and artificial tormenting of him, sticking pins in him for fun or sticking knives in him for scientific investigation. But whether by feeding him slowly and killing him quickly for the needs of my brethren, I have improved in his own solemn eyes his own strange and separate destiny, whether I have made him in the sight of God a slave or a martyr, or one whom the gods love and who die young—that is far more removed from my possibilities of knowledge than the most abstruse intricacies of mysticism or theology. A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished. —All Things Considered

21 December

Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity: He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. —Twelve Types

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part III

Explanation here.

18 December

When, in "[A] Christmas Carol," Scrooge refers to the surplus population, the Spirit tells him, very justly, not to speak till he knows what the surplus is and where it is. The implication is severe but sound. When a group of superciliously benevolent economists look down into the abyss for the surplus population, assuredly there is only one answer that should be given to them; and that is to say, "If there is a surplus, you are a surplus." And if anyone were ever cut off, they would be. —Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part II

Explanation in my last post.

17 December

Damn it, I sometimes think the only English thing left in England is cherry brandy. —The Quick One

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Chesterton Advent Calendar

In a post last week, I mentioned two friends of mine, Frank Petta (who died earlier this year at age 89), and his surviving wife Ann, whom I met through the Chicago Area G. K. Chesterton Society.

Every year in the mailing advertising the society's annual Christmas Party, Frank would always send along "A Chesterton Advent Calendar", a sheet containing excerpts from Chesterton's writings — a mix of prose and poetry — one for each of the ten days leading up to Christmas, and for Christmas Day itself. Some of the quotations are directly related to Christmas; others not so much.

Why, you may ask, didn't he include a Chesterton quotation for each day of Advent?

Beats me. That's just the kind of sui generis fellow Frank was.

For the next few days, I'll be including these quotations herein, with references whenever possible.

15 December

Here am I, Father Christmas; well you know it,
Though critics say it fades, my Christmas Tree,
Yet was it Dickens who became my poet
And who the Dickens may the critics be?

16 December

Comfort, especially this vision of Christmas comfort, is the reverse of a gross or material thing. It is far more poetical, properly speaking, than the Garden of Epicurus. It is far more artistic than the Palace of Art. It is more artistic because it is based upon a contrast, a contrast between the fire and wine within the house and the winter and the roaring rains without. It is far more poetical, because there is in it a note of defence, almost of war; a note of being besieged by the snow and hail; of making merry in the belly of a fort. —Charles Dickens

Gee, Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Financial risk for taxpayers jumps in 2016 Olympics bid

Worsening economy boosts chances of Chicago paying $500 million guarantee

Read it. And weep.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Catherine Doherty, Servant of God

Sunday next is the 23rd anniversary of the death of Catherine Doherty.

Catherine Doherty

Her Wikipedia entry begins:

Servant of God Catherine Doherty (August 15, 1896–December 14, 1985) was a social activist and foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate. A pioneer of social justice and a renowned national speaker, Catherine was also a prolific writer of hundreds of articles, best-selling author of dozens of books, and a dedicated wife and mother. Her cause for canonization as a saint is under consideration by the Catholic Church.

An amazing life story, hers.

Born in Russia, she and her family were nearly killed during the Russian Revolution. A website dedicated to her cause for canonization explains its impact on her:

The Revolution marked Catherine for life. She saw it as the tragic consequence of a Christian society’s failure to incarnate its faith. All her life she cried out against the hypocrisy of those who professed to follow Christ, while failing to serve him in others.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We Get the Elected Officials We Deserve

Given the events of today, I find it fitting, given the uber-corrupt nature of politics in our state, that Barack Obama's Senate replacement will be named by a man who's now in federal custody.

Just a few minutes ago, I happened to recall a related post I originally put up on the Generations for Life blog on 10/30/06 under the title "Shameless".

Said post follows:

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I received some mail from:

The Executive Mansion
410 E Jackson
Springfield, IL 62701-1719

It was addressed "To the Parents of Maria Jansen."

"What could this be?" we both thought.

Upon opening it, we found a card saying "Welcome, Little One" with a collection of stuffed animals looking out the window at an approaching stork carrying a bundle in its beak.

Opening it up, the right flap said, "The world is one baby sweeter now."

The main part of the card reads:

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby! Childbirth is an exciting event for every family, and we are proud to share in your joy.

A healthy child is a happy child. Therefore, it is important that your baby receive proper immunizations by two months of age. It will help to ensure protection against future illnesses.

Best wishes to your whole family on this very special occasion.

Rod Blagojevich

At this point, we had to chuckle. Honestly, we don't know which of our girls' births this card was intended to recognize, as all three of our daughters are named Maria. (We call each of them by their middle names).

Presumably, it was sent in response to the birth of our youngest daughter, Maria Lucia, who was born in September 2005. Which means the card is at least a year late (“…it is important that your baby receive proper immunizations by two months of age”).

I guess when your office is as scandal-plagued as Governor Blagojevich's is, these sorts of things get put on the back burner.

Monday, December 8, 2008

So You Thought Fox News Was Conservative, Did You?


I almost never watch Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends.” This past Sunday, however, I turned on the television for two minutes before leaving for church. The three hosts were reporting about a Chicago couple who had remained chaste until their wedding, and who had decided to save their first kiss for the wedding ceremony itself.

This was reported with the incredulity with which one might report a Wiccan moondancing ritual. The discussion went beyond the kiss question to chastity itself, with one of the talking heads announcing, “Try it before you buy it.”

..reminds me of this:

Kent Brockman is out of a job and is staying at the Simpsons' home. Homer, Lisa and Kent are watching FOX TV; a new reality show is being released.

NEW ON FOX. See if fifteen strippers can fly their own aircraft in the new reality series: Landing Strip!

Hey Laaaadies! Look what i can do with the airbags (attached to her push-up bra)

Homer: wow, this is what TV is all about. Real people with real problems.

(Changes the channel to FOX News)

Today on FOX News with the latest LIBERAL OUTRAGE. In Washington today, LIBERALS want to CHANGE the rules to allow NASA astronauts to ABORT space missions whenever they feel like it!

Homer: Ooh! Liberals ... I hate them so much.

Lisa: Kent, I've never understood why FOX can have such conservative views yet air such raunchy shows.

(Changes to Landing Strip)

Homer: Woo Hoo!

(Changes to FOX News)


Homer: Liberals!

(Changes to Landing Strip)

Homer: Woo Hoo!

"Without Stain"

In honor of today's solemnity, it never hurts to remind ourselves what Holy Mother Church teaches (and what she does not teach) about the Immaculate Conception:

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain.

It's interesting to note that the Church places greater importance on this day, when she commemorates the conception of Mary in the womb of St. Anne, than on the day she commemorates Mary's birth — celebrated, appropriately enough, nine months from today, on September 8.

In honor of the celebration of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, I've included below what is, in my opinion, the most cogent paragraph ever written on Marian devotion.

It's from The Everlasting Man, my favorite work of G. K. Chesterton.

Given that we're in the midst of Advent, it's also rather timely:

If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.

Whither Goeth England?

Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children's dictionary

Oxford University Press has removed words like "aisle", "bishop", "chapel", "empire" and "monarch" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Student-Government Should Take Off, Eh?

There are, of course, so many worthwhile charities to support that it's simply impossible to support them all.

But sometimes, the reasons for choosing not to support a given charity are rather doltish:

The student-government association at Carleton University, in Ottawa, is drawing widespread criticism for withdrawing from a nationwide fund raiser for cystic fibrosis after deciding the disease was not “inclusive” enough, The Charlatan, Carleton’s student newspaper, reported.

Freshmen at 65 universities and colleges in Canada have raised millions for the disease over the past 50 years in a traditional event held during student-orientation week. But Carleton will no longer participate, after the association adopted a motion on Monday erroneously stating that the disease “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men.” The motion directs student leaders to select a more “broad reaching” charity to support. [source]

Courtesy of Bryan Kemper

After the release of the Live Action Films video I wrote about earlier this week, our good friend Bryan Kemper has created this:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mass in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Next Friday, at the twelfth hour of the twelfth day of the twelfth month, the Pro-Life Action League will be co-sponsoring a solemn Mass at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

This Mass, the first ever in Federal Plaza, is a significant exercise of our religious freedom, right on federal property—directly in front of the building where Barack Obama has his transition team office!

The Mass will be offered by Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller (who, I might add, is an amazingly gifted preacher).

One might say it shows more guts than brains to schedule an outdoor Mass in Chicago in December. (Indeed, it's already snowed twice this week, and the forecast high for today is a mere 24°.)

This is all the more reason why we're asking anyone and everyone—no matter where they hang their hat—to beseech God to grant Chicago good weather on December 12.

And, if you live close by, join us! There's more information here.

Federal Plaza is located at 50 W. Adams St. in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Polyhedrons (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Check thou out Proposition 47, the blog of self-styled "polyhedron enthusiast" Nate Scheidler. (Nate is also the son of my co-worker Eric Scheidler.)

Indiana Planned Parenthood Covers Up Sexual Abuse of 13-Year Old Girl

Just released this morning, here's the first installment of The Mona Lisa Project, a series of undercover investigative videos from UCLA student Lila Rose and Live Action Films:

Indiana Planned Parenthood Covers Up Sexual Abuse of 13-year Old

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent in the Little Things

I just posted this on the Catholic Dads blog:

A few years ago, Jocelyn and I started making a conscious effort during Advent to celebrate it in such a way as to distinguish it from Christmas. (We had always had an Advent wreath, but we were looking for more.)

While I admit we have a long way to go in making this distinction at Haus Jansen, one of our family's now beloved customs—courtesy of a suggestion from some friends of ours—is to adorn our Christmas tree during Advent with purple and pink ornaments exclusively. Come Christmas Eve, we take them down, and only then do we put up our regular ornaments.

And because they get to decorate the tree twice, our kids have come to love this custom we have in our home every year that begins during "pink and purple time", as our five-year old daughter Teresa put it the other day.

We're always open to suggestions, so I'd be curious to hear about any of the ways other families commemorate Advent.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Would That I Had His Courage

"In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England -- the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter."

Thus spake St. Edmund Campion upon being sentenced to death as a traitor.

He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on this day in 1581.

St. Edmund Campion, ora pro nobis!