About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

De Nomine Festi Nativitatis Domini: Christi Missa

In three short weeks, that day will come again when little children will excitedly clamber out of their beds on Christmas Day, the sugar canes dancing in their dreams replaced by the genuine articles pouring out of their stockings, accompanied by their shouts of glee to see what Santa has brought them this year.

As we lead up to that happy morn, we are once again faced with the unfortunate tendencies of modern political correctness to sterilize that day of any religious meaning. It’s no longer to be a “Merry Christmas,” but merely a “Happy Holidays,” and the presents Santa has stashed will no longer lie beneath a “Christmas” tree, but only under a “Holiday” one. Once again, we would like to register our disappointment that our society feels the need to cleanse this day of cheer and glad tidings with bland titles expressive of anything but the true joy that only Christmas can bring.

Indeed, Christmas, the day on which we commemorate the sublime day of Christ’s noble birth, is a day of hope and joy for all mankind. It is sad that secularists are so frightened by the Christian message that they feel compelled to deny it even in its most inclusive and hopeful season.

The Christmas message is simple: on this day, a child was born in Bethlehem, a child whose only mission was to love and cherish every single human being to ever walk this good earth. This is no message to frighten: it is a message to comfort even the loneliest heart, the most sorrowful soul. It is a message of purest joy, given to every man and woman, to young and old, of all creeds, of all colors, of all orientations.

Come, friends, let us rejoice and be glad; let us remind each other of this greatest gift ever given; let us call out to each other a hearty “Merry Christmas,” regardless of our own creed, for the cheerful day on which the Prince of Peace brought peace to all men of every creed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

In Tempore Adventus Domini: Preparing for the Christ Mass

The Christmas decorations went up fast this year; in fact, the Christmas wreath on the Dustbowl corner of McElroy was hung before Thanksgiving (it seems now that Christmas starts sometime in November). The lights are burning on the trees, the boughs tied to the railings of the staircase, and finally, we woke up to snow yesterday morning (though it was so very short lived).

But something has gotten lost in this hubbub and humming of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. Now, we’re not ones to tread on the Christmas spirit of others, but for many people, that Christmas spirit seems to have neglected a very key component, that the season of Christmas (which actually begins on the evening of December 24th) is preceded by the season of Advent.

What modern society seems to celebrate as “Christmas” is actually the time of preparation for the coming of Christ in the one Mass of the year specially named for Him. Advent is a time for recollection and renewal, a time to turn inwards and to examine ourselves in the light of the oncoming Incarnation.

Although the incomparable joy that awaits us on Christmas day is omnipresent, we nevertheless are called in these four weeks to look back at our lives, both now and over the past year, to see in what ways we have succeeded and in what ways we have failed to live out the promises of the Incarnation in our everyday lives. We joyously look to the glory of the Lord prophesied by Isaiah, but we must equally be mindful of the gross darkness of sin that covers us, the black pitch of iniquity from which the coming of the Lord of Hosts is to free us.

Let us attend, therefore, to the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” For indeed, as John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, so it is for that reason that the virgin conceived and bore a son whose name is Emmanuel. Let us reflect on the words of Isaiah, who tells us, “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” (Is. 3:8-9) He seems especially to have been talking to BC students when he said, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! ...but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.” (Is. 5:11-12)

But even as we recognize the sin into which we have fallen, let us not lose sight of the pivotal and eternal mystery of God’s intervention into human history, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

De sancta sexualitate

When I read today Kara Jesella's article on CNN.com's Health section on the female orgasm ("The Big O: Fireworks? Or is your sex life less than explosive?"), I was most dismayed that she seemed to accept out of hand the assumption that the modern trend to have multiple sexual partners out of wedlock is not only acceptable but considered "healthy" and "liberating". It is not the so-called "repression" of abstinence before marriage that is wreaking havoc both physically and emotionally on our modern sexuality; rather, it is the disrespect with which we treat our sexuality, which we see no longer as a sacred gift from God to be shared only in the tightest bonds of human erotic love, that is, in holy matrimony, but as just another of the tools of selfish "individual expression".

A full understanding of one’s sexuality can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom and in whom all things were made and are, therefore, understood. In this context, one comes to understand that one’s sexuality is not some independent department of the self; rather, sexuality is inextricably bound up in the whole being of body and of the soul. The modern idea of "sexual liberation" is deeply flawed because it lacks the central focus of creatured sexuality: Christ.

A new sexual revolution is needed to correct the degrading and dangerous excesses of the old; a second revolution to recontextualize sexuality within its complex relationship with the body, with the soul, and ultimately, with Christ; a spiritual as much as physical revolution to renew the sexual bond in which man and woman become one flesh, both physically and spiritually, a bond which must be found within the setting of the marriage covenant, its license signed and sealed not by the official at City Hall but by the supreme magistrate, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Der arme Heinrich, ll. 163-232

Here is the next installment of my translation of this poem. If you are interested, the full Middle High German text can be found here, and an online knowledge database can also be found here.

Any and all feedback is requested and welcomed.

Introduction & lines 1-132
Lines 133-162

A bit yet took he of good cheer
For yet a comfort did appear:
165 For oft to him it had been said
That this same sickliness so dread
Was very varied and diversed
And sometimes curably reversed.
And so a many were the kind
170 Of hopes and thoughts about his mind.
He thought himself, that he could be
But curable, just possibly,
And set he out without delay
To seek advice at Montpellier,
175 The counsel of the doctors there.
But quickly he became aware
Of nothing more than deep despair
That never would he health repair.
This news took he not happily
180 And to Salerno journeyed he
And sought there too for healing’s pow’r
The wisest doctors’ art to scour.
The master whom he found there best
Forthwith gave answer to his quest
185 A strange, remarkable story
That curable indeed were he
Yet ever would remain uncured.
He said: “How can that be? Your word
And speech is quite impossible.
190 If cure there is, so shall I heal:
Whate’er on me will be enjoined
Of hardest work or cost and coin,
So that I trust to bring about.”
“Now give ye up such hoping stout,”
195 The master then yet answer gave,
“In this way is your sickness grave:
(To what avail to tell you this?)
A remedy belongs to this
Through which you could again be healthy.
200 But yet there is no man so wealthy
Or of such mind of strong intent
That he could make th’ achievement.
So sickly will ye e’er remain,
But God to be a doctor deign.”
205 Then poor Sir Heinrich answeréd:
“Why leave ye me so dejectéd?
Indeed have I wealth’s greater part:
Unless ye would your master art
And your own doctor’s oath forsake,
210 And even more refuse to take
My precious silver and my golden,
I shall make you to me beholden,
That gladly will ye cure my ill.”
“‘Tis not an hindrance of my will,”
215 Said yet the master in reply,
“And were there of such cure supply
That one could find it bought or sold
Or that one could by giving gold
Or any other means attain,
220 I would not suffer you to wane.
But none of this can sadly be.
So of my help and aid must ye
Be of necessity denied.
A virgin must ye have, a bride,
225 That is, a fully nubile maid
Whose will indeed were fully staid,
That she for you would death’s way go.
‘Tis not the people’s custom so,
That any, willing, would it do.
230 Requir’d be nothing else thereto
Except the heartblood of a maid:
‘Twould be your ailing’s only aid.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Der arme Heinrich, ll. 133-62

Here is the next batch of lines from my continuing efforts to translate this poem. An introduction, together with the first 132 lines, may be found here. If you are interested, the full Middle High German text can be found here, and an online knowledge database can also be found here.

Any and all feedback is requested and welcomed.

And when the dear Sir Heinrich poor
First hit upon that fact so sore,
135 That he the world did horrify,
As all they do who likely lie,
Then did his bitter suff’ring mark
Him diff’rent from Job’s patience stark.
For Job the Good did suffer it
140 With patient resolution fit,
When he the torment underwent
For peace of soul and betterment
The gross disease and dishonour,
Which from the world he did endure:
145 Rejoice did he and praisèd God.
But sadly did poor Heinrich not
In any manner likewise act:
So sad was he, and joy he lacked.
His soaring heart now stopped and sunk,
150 His floating joy now drowned and drunk,
His arrogance now had to fall,
His honey changèd into gall.
A dark and louring thunder quake
Did in the midst of his day break,
155 A darksome shade of cloudy night
Hath blotted out his sunny light.
Quite heavily did he lament
That he so many honourments
Had to forsake and leave behind.
160 Accursèd, damnèd, and maligned
Oft was that day, beshrewed of mirth,
That day whereon did lie his birth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Congratulations to The Boston College Observer

At the annual Editors' Conference of the Collegiate Network over the weekend, The Boston College Observer (whose Catholic Issues Editor I am) was named CN's 2006 Best Paper! The Collegiate Network is a consortium of over 100 conservative campus publications across the nation, and is supported by National Review.

Congratulations, Observer!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quid est exemplar Iesuiticum?

Jesuit values and Catholic doctrine are one and the same: they are inextricably linked, and to attempt to separate them is to destroy both. If you are not Catholic, then you cannot ipso facto be Jesuit. Furthermore, the lauded ideals of the Jesuits imbue us with a sense of wonder at the majesty of creation, with a sense of vocation, with concern for all of the human family, with tolerance and charity: these ideals are utterly Catholic, and you cannot be Catholic except that you hold and follow these ideals.

Is this a call that all Boston College students be Catholic? Certainly not; it is simply to make clear that one cannot separate the Catholic identity of the University from its Jesuit identity.

Furthermore, we must see this Catholic, Jesuit identity as a strength of Boston College, not a weakness. Our stature as a top-flight national University is, in fact, all the more reason for the University to stand firm in its ideals. A few decades ago, the theology and philosophy core requirements were reduced and the Crucifixes were removed from the classrooms in an attempt to make Boston College more appealing to the secular elite of national standings. This was a mistake.

The time has come for the University no longer to bow its Catholic identity to the beliefs of a secular world just because it aspires to the top levels of recognition in that secular world. The time has come for this University to stand, as Fr. John McElroy, S.J., intended it, as an institution of higher learning true to the banner of the Catholic Faith.

The University necessarily cannot reflect the views of all of its students by the very fact that not all of its students are Catholic. This, however, should not be seen as a weakness on the part of the University; rather, it should be considered a strong foundation, for the unique strength of Boston College is its Catholic identity. It is what differentiates Boston College from BU or Northeastern or Brown, and provides for us a firm moral foundation committed to the service in God’s name of others. Let us all learn from this identity, and act with the compassion and love our Lord taught to us, to His greater glory.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Der arme Heinrich, ll. 1-132

As some of you may know, for my Senior Thesis I am writing an English verse translation of the late 12th-century German didactic poem Der arme Heinrich by Hartmann von Aue, accompanied by a commentary. As I complete the translation of each chunk of the poem, I have decided to post each one here so that you can read them and give me feedback on them.

But first, some background. German vernacular literature experienced its first great Blütezeit in the period between ca. 1150 and ca. 1250, that is, under the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Friedrich Barbarossa and his successors. This period of literary output, all centered on the courtly society of the High Middle Ages, was to go unmatched in Germany until the Enlightenment under the likes of Goethe and Schiller and saw the production of such literary masterpieces as Das Nibelunglied, Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg, and Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Two principle genres flourished under the patronage of the courts: Lieder, that is, songs; and works of epic. The Lieder were further categorized according to topic: political; courtly love, called minne; and Christian songs, especially focused on the Crusades, called Kreuzzuglieder.

One of the great poets of this period was Hartmann von Aue (ca. 1160 – post 1210). Hartmann was an accomplished poet in both of these genres; his epic works (Erec and Iwein) are especially notable for, as adaptations of the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes, a French poet of the previous generation, they introduced the Arthurian romance to Germany. In addition to his epic romances and his Lieder, Hartmann wrote three other works: Gregorius, an epic, mediaeval Christian Oedipus tale; Diu Klage, a lamentatio on the nature of minne; and Der arme Heinrich. At 1520 lines, Der arme Heinrich is far longer than any Lied, yet far shorter than his epics, e.g. Erec at over 10,000 lines. Furthermore, the subject matter of Der arme Heinrich is unique among extant literature of any author from this period. It is the story of a great knight, Heinrich, who excelled in every aspect of knightly virtue, in youth, loyalty, good breeding, charity: in a word, honor. His pride in these virtues, however, became excessive, and God punished him accordingly: Heinrich was made a leper. The story follows his journey as he falls from grace and searches for a cure: according to the doctors, only the beating heart of a virgin willingly sacrificed can cure him. Such a girl is found in the most unexpected of places, but Heinrich loves her too much to allow her to make the sacrifice; in the end, their devout love for each other saves them both. In some ways a mediaeval take on the story of Job, it is both a theodicy and a presentation of mortal moral strictures. It explores the conflicts between a mediaeval courtly society that values virtues of honor and pride, and a Christian call, omnipresent in that same society, to humility. While other works of the day, most notably perhaps Parzival, also deal with this dichotomy, Der arme Heinrich is unique in that it does not fashion itself within the romance epic genre. It is, rather, a didactic poem fashioned in the form of a prayer; the poem begins and ends with an exhortation to the reader to (1) pray to God for the soul of the poet and (2) to use this poem as a didactic tool in living a moral life. In this way, it serves as perhaps the most striking example of the intersection of secular and sacred in this period of High Mediaeval courtly literature.

I present you now the first chunk of the translated text; if you are interested, the full Middle High German text can be found here, although it is not fully accurate to the most recent critical edition (which I am using); an online knowledge database can also be found here (it includes linear translation/grammar and context dictionaries).

A knight there once was so learnèd,
That in all of the books he read
What’er he found scribed thereupon:
And callèd was his name Hartmann,
5 Vassal was he to Aue’s lord.
Many a glance took he toward
Varied volumes, some thick, some thin.
And he began to search therein,
If anything he might reveal
10 With which woeful times into weal
He might fashion, rough into silk,
And it would be of such an ilk
It would with God’s glory accord
And that therewith he might afford
15 Himself among the folk loved well.
Now he begins ye to retell
A tale, one which composed he found.
Therefore hath he his name made sound,
Lest he for his toiling passion,
20 Which he for it did so fashion,
Be from his great reward deprived,
And whoe’er after him hath lived,
Should read it or hear someone say,
That he for him might ever pray
25 To God hence for his soul’s probate.
They say he is his own legate
And doth thereby himself set free,
Whoe’er doth pay other’s sins’ fee.
He read that selfsame story’s word,
30 Of how there was a noble lord
Enthroned in Swabia, his seat:
For whom ne’er was any of meet
Virtue forgotten which is right
That in his youthful prime a knight
35 Should for complete esteem possess.
Then one did none so well address
In ev’ry corner of the lands.
He held quite fast in his own hands
Earthly power and noble birth:
40 His virtues, too, were of great girth.
Howe’er replete was his table,
Howe’er his birth impeccable
And well equal to princes’ pitch,
Not nearly ne’ertheless so rich
45 In lineage and property
As in bearing and dignity.
Far ev’rywhere wide was his fame:
Sir Heinrich was he called by name,
To Aue Manor was he born.
50 His noble heart hath e’er forsworn
Deceit and all ill-manner coarse
And to the oath hath held with force
Until his end steadfast perfect.
Without any stain or defect
55 His way of life and bloodline stood.
To him was giv’n all that one could
Wish of worldly honouring praise:
And this he knew how well to raise
With ev’ry kind of virtue clear.
60 He was of youth a flower dear,
A mirror of the joy earthly,
A diamond of fast loyalty,
A complete crown of good breeding.
He was refuge of those needing,
65 A buckler of all his kinsmen,
Of bounty a balance even:
Neither in want nor in excess.
He bore the burdensome oppress
Of all honour upon his back.
70 He was counsel’s connecting track
And sang full well of love a lay.
And so could he win in this way
The world’s great praise, glory, respect.
He was courtly and circumspect.
75 And when the noble Heinrich lord
Engaged himself so much toward
Trappings, honour, glory, esteem
And spirits that with joy do teem
And pleasure of the earthly sphere
80 (He did before his ev’ry peer
Receive honour and greatest praise),
Transformed now were his prideful ways
Into a humble life lowest.
In him was it made manifest,
85 As, too, with Absalom’s story,
That the haughty crown’s vainglory
Of ev’ry worldly pleasure sweet
Doth fall by far beneath the feet
From its exceeding high grandeur,
90 As telleth us Holy Scripture.
In one passage there doth it say:
Media vita
In morte sumus.
And this may be renderèd thus,
95 That hover we in death’s dark nest
When we think we live all the best.
This firmness of the worldly clime,
Its strong steadfastness and its prime
And its greatest power mighty:
100 It is beyond our mastery.
This in a candle can we see
Example happen verily,
That into ashes doth it turn
E’en while it doth a bright light burn.
105 We are of brittle substance made.
Come now, see how our smile doth fade
With flowing tears extinguishèd.
Our dulcet pleasure is mixèd
With bitterest acidic gall.
110 Our flower blossoming must fall
When it most verdant doth appear.
This in Sir Heinrich was so clear:
Whoe’er in highest station’s worth
Doth live upon this very earth,
115 He is ‘fore God a reprobate.
Down fall did he by God’s mandate
From his exceeding high grandeur
Into a despisèd dolour:
Of him did leprosy take hold.
120 When they God’s scourge e’er did behold,
The hard penalty corporal,
To man and woman general
Became he then quite repugnant.
Now see how charming and pleasant
125 He was to the world in the past,
And now become so foully cast
126a To hay his once green grass changed o’er,
126b Who one time the world’s banner bore.
That none gladly on him did glance:
As, too, it was Job’s circumstance,
That man, so rich and so noble,
130 Who, so wretched and so woeful,
Became a foul dung-hill’s portion
In the midst of his life’s fortune.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mensa Mea In Bibliotheca (Mea?)

I know that I haven't updated in a long time - in a really long time, in fact. I apologize for that, but events have conspired to leave me with literally no time to post. These events include but are not limited to: classwork (and far too much reading); extracurriculars (the most time consuming of late being The Observer and covering for it the extraordinary events of our time, e.g. the rise of racial tensions at Boston College sparked by an alleged "hateful incident" the night of the Virginia Tech football game, and racking my brain to come up with a solution to this terrible problem); and that omnipresent leviathan, my senior thesis, which could, if given the chance, consume every waking moment of my existence.

As some have asked, I have included with this a post a picture of my table in the Honors Library. For those of you who don't know, some say that I live in the Jenks Honors Library of Gasson Hall. It is true: I spend most of my time at this table, for I find the library's environment more conducive to studying than my dorm room - it has become rather like my "base of operations" if you will. Because the Honors Library is a private library of the Honors Program, it never closes, and, provided you get into Gasson Hall before they lock its doors at about 11:00 pm, you can stay all night if you'd like. I've adopted this table as my own, and in this photo, you see it decked out as it is often is when I'm working on my thesis. You'll note that the two shelves in the cases above it also contain my notebooks and books - because I have so many books and materials, it's far more economical just to reserve those shelves to my use than to lug all of it to and from campus every day.

I hope to have more thoughts of a more substantial nature to post this weekend - but don't take that as a promise :-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quo modo differt homo sapiens?

UPDATE: My response to this TIME Magazine story was printed amongst their Letters, available here and here.

The October 9 TIME Magazine cover story, "What Makes Us Different?" examines the current trends in comparative genetics to try to discover what exactly makes humans different from our common evolutionary ancestors, the great apes:

"Agriculture, language, art, music, technology and philosophy—all the achievements that make us profoundly different from chimpanzees and make a chimp in a business suit seem so deeply ridiculous—are somehow encoded within minute fractions of our genetic code. Nobody yet knows precisely where they are or how they work, but somewhere in the nuclei of our cells are handfuls of amino acids, arranged in a specific order, that endow us with the brainpower to outthink and outdo our closest relatives on the tree of life."

I, however, am struck by one very bold assumption: that the answer to the great achievements of humanity must lie encoded in the amino acids of our DNA. Is it possible that the mystery of human thought and creativity is simply that: a mystery beyond our own comprehension? When I revel in a Mozart adagio or sit captivated beneath the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I wonder by the very fact that I cannot explain how Mozart or Michelangelo accomplished what they did. Genius amazes because it is a mystery: if you could explain to me why, after all these years, I keep picking up a book of Milton’s poetry, I would stop picking it up, because the wonder would be gone.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

De Dolendo: Platte Canyon High School

At 3:45 Wednesday afternoon, the ground fell out from under my feet. My grandmother had left me a voicemail: “I want you to stop what you’re doing and pray. Platte Canyon High School and Fitzsimmons Middle School are – well, there’s a gunman inside Platte Canyon and there are students being held hostage. We don’t know yet what’s happening, who they are. They’ve gotten all the other students out of the high school. You’re mother doesn’t know anything nor does your father. Just get busy and pray – wherever you are, pray.” My brother is a sophomore at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado.

It was the first time in my life that my legs simply gave way and I found myself sitting on the ground in the Dustbowl, unable to move. In hindsight, I recognize this reaction from stories I’ve heard friends tell – stories from the day an airplane flew into the building where their parents worked. But I had never felt this before.

I finally managed to stand – or rather, commanded myself to stand – and wandered up to my original destination: Campus Mail Services; a bit in a daze as I passed through the Eagle’s Nest, until a friend’s call broke through it. I sat down next to her, eyes empty, face and body slack. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I collapsed in her arms: I cried, she prayed.

My grandmother told me to pray: my friend did, but I couldn’t. I mouthed the words and held her hands; but there was nothing but hot tears. And when the tears ended, I could talk and engage in conversation; I could even for a while lose conscious thought of the crisis 2000 miles away. But then it would return, not now with tears but with nothing: emptiness inside.

I remember the next few hours as a series of wanderings, interspersed with conversations, condolences, and prayers: but none of the prayers were mine, and the emptiness remained. If I thought about it enough, I could probably determine a sequential chronology; but the only remnants of an absolute chronology are the time stamps of the calls in my cell phone.

Finally, the one phone call came: Mom was home with Evan, safe. I talked to him, heard his voice: as present as the bird in the tree above, but untouchable – I could not give him a hug. But time started again. I could start thinking about it objectively, because my brother was there again.

There was something inside again: no longer emptiness, but a yearning, not for myself, but for him. What could I do for him? How could I reach out to him? How could I make it better? How could I give him a hug?

The question that has settled in my mind and heart in the days since is, what can I do, not only for him, but for the larger community affected? What can I do as a human being, touched by human tragedy, to respond to it?

The first thing that I will do is to reaffirm my commitment to Life, for this tragedy is ultimately a failure, not only of the gunman, but of society as a whole, to live out a respect for human life. I have often been active in the pro-Life movement, i.e. working against abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and infanticide. My socially just passions cry out for the innocent, born and unborn; for the infirm (and increasingly disrespected) elderly; and for the souls of men who have sinned, for though we may punish them on earth, the punishment of death is reserved to God.

But if I am pro-life, then I am for all Life. As I cannot countenance the destruction of a life in the womb, neither can I countenance the taking of an innocent human life by other means. Furthermore, I have a responsibility not only not to countenance it, but to actively oppose it, and this responsibility will witness itself to the world in an affirmation of the value and dignity of each and every human life. I therefore resolve that not a day now will go by during which I do not consciously witness my respect for human life.

My larger commitment is the means by which this witness shall be made: love. My Lord commanded me to do but two things: to love Him and to love my neighbor. My love for Him is strong; my love for my neighbor needs to be equally so. This is a central tenet of the Christian Faith: the Truth lies not in oneself but in the other, and to love the Truth is therefore to love the other. As one of my prayer cards says, "Jesus first, Others next, Yourself last."

This is no great secret that I have discovered: though a mystery, yet it is revealed in our human nature every day. The outpouring of love within the Bailey community these past few days is proof enough of that. Though I cannot be next to my brother now to comfort him, nor can I personally offer this love to my grieving community there, I can affirm my love among my community here in Boston. Stop what you are doing right now and think about the people around you. Stop and give your friend a hug. Stop and affirm your charity to a perfect stranger. Say, “I love you.” And then do it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hymnus Per Diem: "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones"

Today is the feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; the closing hymn was "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" (which is one of my all-time favorites):

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
virtues, archangels, angels' choirs,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord, Refrain
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!

P.S. I will have an update on my thoughts about the situation at Platte Canyon High School later in the weekend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Adveniat Regnum Tuum

The Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God is your King: the Kingdom of the Lord is at hand and you are His subject. Acknowledge God as your King: swear fealty unto Him.

The Kingship of God is an aspect of His Being that many modern Christians rather lightly skip over. Especially in America, where concepts of individual sovereignty are innate, we do not respond well to the idea that we are complete and total subjects of a King: the Founding Fathers have bred in us a distrust of Kingship.

But God is no "earthly king or potentate," as the Irish-American athlete and flag-bearer at the 1908 Olympic Games in London said. God is the eternal Lord of all creation: His authority is absolute over everything. As the song says, "He's got the whole world in His Hands": he is both a benevolent creator and an absolute monarch. He is the pantokrator, the one who holds all authority and power: in the West we think in terms of omnipotence, but the original Greek term indicates not so much supreme potential as it does supreme and absolute authority. God is King of all and holds all rights and privileges pertaining thereto.

The most important of those rights and privileges is our fealty: we owe our allegiance, above all earthly loyalties, to God and God alone. Should your earthly fealties come in conflict with your heavenly ones, you have but one option: to walk steadfast in the Ways of the Lord. For example, your King commands that you respect all life: any allegiance you have to an earthly power that calls on you to disrespect life or to uphold the rights of others to disrespect life are null and void.

Furthermore, it is on account of God's Kingship that we kneel before Him. Especially when we enter a House of God and come before His True Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar, we bend our knees before Him, acknowledging His preeminence and power over us. Likewise, during the Canon of the Mass, we kneel before him humbly in respect of the great mysteries occurring before our eyes. We, the subjects of the Lord, are unworthy that he should come under our roofs; yet He is a merciful God and has ordained by His mercy and His Word that we partake in His Kingdom.

So swear your fealty to God: swear allegiance before Him, and acknowledge Him always as your King.

Hymnus Per Diem: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"

The closing hymn today, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty":

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Monday, September 25, 2006

De Vita Humana

"Students, faculty protest weapons" declares the front-page headline of today's Heights, while inside, the Editorial Board proclaims that "Peaceful protest makes clear point." These reference, of course, what has become a tradition at Boston College: the protest of aerospace and military contractors like Raytheon and BAE Systems by the Global Justice Project at Boston College's annual Career Fair. This is the third year that the GJP has organized to protest the presence of such firms at Boston College, citing a conflict with the university's Jesuit mission of promoting peace and social justice. In 2004 and 2005, the protestors were met with resistance from the university. This year, the university allowed the protest to go forward owing to the presence among the protestors of several faculty and Jesuits.

Another "protest" that has become a regular part of Boston College life is the biweekly Boston College Pro-Life Prayer Vigil on the Dustbowl, which consists of several students praying a decade of the rosary in watch for the lives of the innocent unborn. Have these prayer vigils been covered by The Heights? No. Has the Editorial Board ever recognized these prayer vigils for being peaceful? No. Has the GJP ever recognized these prayer vigils as coinciding with the university's Jesut mission of promoting peace and social justice? No.

In fact, the GJP has long supported pro-choice movements on campus, like the Women's Health Initiative, a group not recognized by the university, that attempted to hold events promoting "dialogue" (to which pro-life representatives were not invited) last year. That the pro-choice stance is counter to the Catholic values of Boston College doesn't seem to have entered their logic patterns, though they were quick to denounce the bestowal of an honorary degree last May on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being counter to those same values.

Some of you may remember that I wrote an article in The Heights two years ago criticizing the first of these protests at the Career Fair. I have been recently reflecting, however, on the nature of the call to protect all human life. For me, that call the past few years has expressed itself in being Pro-Life, i.e. being against abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and infanticide. My socially just passions cried out for the innocent, born and unborn; for the infirm (and increasingly disrespected) elderly; and for the souls of men who had sinned, for though we may punish them on earth, the punishment of death is reserved to God.

But that passion has cried out for more. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch the summer before last watching the nightly news: the lead story was about the famine in Niger; it was followed by an Israeli soldier who blew himself up on a bus in Gaza; after the first commercial came the reports (daily then as now) of more deaths, both American and Iraqi, in Iraq. By the end of it, I was reduced to tears: what possible reason could we have to continue to inflict such violence against each other, or to neglect the poorest of the world?

Today, while praying before Mass, the thoughts began to coalesce in my mind and in my heart: if I am pro-life, then I am for all Life. As I cannot countenance the destruction of a life in the womb, neither can I countenance the taking of an innocent human life by other means, whether it be by neglect (e.g. most of Africa) or by "collateral damage" (e.g. the continual conflicts in the Middle East). Furthermore, I have a responsibility not only not to countenance it, but to actively oppose it.

Yet, I have started to feel that my responsibility goes even further. As I researched the origins of the First Crusade and of the idea of crusading this summer for my Mediaeval History course in Germany, I naturally had to read much concerning the development of the theories of "just" and "holy" war.

The theology of war has its origin in the works of St. Augustine. He enunciated three criteria that define a “just” war: auctoritas principi, i.e. that the warring party must have the authority to declare and carry out war; the causa iusta, i.e. that the war must have a just cause and be carried out to right an injustice; and the intentio recta, i.e. that one must carry out the war with a just intention so that there are no ulterior motives and there is no other way through which the injustice can be righted. It is important to note that the end goal of a just war should be the establishment of peace.

It is, however, equally important to note that, according to Augustine and almost every other Christian theologian into the 11th century, war only originates from evil and is itself always evil. Even when the war is just, it is yet a sin to kill somebody. Further still, many doubted even the idea of a just war; in the middle of the 11th century, Peter Cardinal Damiani said, “In no case should one arm himself for the defense of the Church; still less should one rage in war among men over worldly goods.”

Under the reform popes of the 11th century, this idea changed. When in 1053 Pope Leo IX led an army against the Normans in southern Italy, the idea first appeared that men could engage in combat in defense of the Church. Later, under Alexander II, several secular rulers fought under the vexillum sancti Petri, the banner of St. Peter, e.g. Duke William of Normandy in England in 1066. Yet, even though he fought under papal authority, after the battle, every one of William’s soldiers had to go to confession and receive absolution for the sin of murder.

Under Pope Gregory VII, however, appeared two evolutions in the theology of war without which the Crusades would not have been possible. First, Gregory morphed the meaning of the terms militia Christi, “the soldiery of Christ,” and milites Christi, “the soldiers of Christ.” These are ancient terms that appear at least as early as the letters of St. Paul, but previously they had always denoted the spiritual battle of the martyrs and monks: the exact opposite of worldly warfare. Now, however, Gregory spoke of a worldly aspect of the militia Christi: the defense of the Church through the now just arms of her secular faithful. Second, he began to speak of the so-called soldier-saints, e.g. St. Maurice, St. Sebastian, St. Gregory, or St. Martin, as no longer holy despite being warriors but as holy because they were warriors. Therefore, a man who receives absolution before battle, kills men during the battle in defense of the Church, and then dies himself, dies not a sinner but a martyr. Essentially, it was not longer a sin to kill enemies of the Church.

All of this is to say, then, that while doing this research, it occurred to me that maybe those early theologians were on to something. Maybe it is a sin to kill a man, even in a just war. Maybe the GJP people are right when they tell me that I always seem to speak the Ten Commandments but never the Beatitudes. Maybe I do need to wake up and listen to some of the words that Christ has taught us: "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God." "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you." "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone." Maybe I ought to have been there with them, silently kneeling and praying at the Career Fair. Maybe I should join them in November when they travel to Georgia to keep watch at the School of the Americas.

At the same time, I recognize that we live in a world full of evil men; I recognize that we are at this very moment locked in a battle with the forces of oppression and tyranny; I recognize that there are extremist Muslim terrorists who would rather destroy the world than let freedom and democracy flourish. I know that this battle will not be won by putting down our guns; I know that these men are so depraved that the language of peace and justice means nothing to them; I know that the call to spread peace in the world is now the call to stand and defend ourselves against the annihilating powers of extremism and terrorism.

But I pray nevertheless that the day may soon come when we will be delivered from these present evils; when we can put down our guns and embrace each other not as men divided by differences of race or creed but as men united in our common humanity; when the Peace of God will reign in our hearts, filled with love for that singly precious gift that He has given us: human life.

Hymnus Per Diem: "Amazing Grace"

As some of you know, I daily attend Mass at the chapel of St. Mary's, the Jeusit residence here at Boston College. Often, I try to attend the Mass at noon because there is music at that Mass: an entrance hymn, communion hymn, and closing hymn. Sometimes, one of these hymns captures my heart particularly in the moment, and I thought I would begin to post these on this blog. The closing hymn at today's Mass was "Amazing Grace":

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snare,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brough me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than what we'd first begun.

Ursus Papalis: Papal Bear instead of Papal Bull

While using Google Image Search yesterday to find a nice picture of Pope Benedict XVI for an article on him in the next issue of The Observer, I came across this wonderful item. Even I had to squeal, "How cute!"


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dona Ei Requiem

I quote from the Associated Press:

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday praised an Italian nun for pardoning her killers as she lay dying from an attack in Somalia that may have been linked to worldwide Muslim anger over his recent remarks about Islam and violence.

Rosa Sgorbati, an Italian missionary who worked in a pediatrics hospital in Somalia under her religious name Sister Leonella, was slain in Mogadishu Sept. 17, the day that Benedict said he was deeply sorry his remarks had offended Muslims.

The pontiff has also stressed that the words he spoke, a citation from a Byzantine emperor in medieval times, did not reflect his own opinion.

Speaking Sunday about the need to overcome selfishness, Benedict cited the slaying of the nun in Somalia, where she had worked as a nurse.

"Some are asked to give the supreme testimony of blood, as it happened a few days ago to the Italian nun, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who fell victim to violence," the pontiff said.

"This nun, who for many years served the poor and the children in Somalia, died pronouncing the word 'pardon,'" the pope told pilgrims during his traditional Sunday noon appearance. "This is the most authentic Christian testimony, a peaceful sign of contradiction which shows the victory of love over hate and evil."

Friday, September 22, 2006

De Honore Hominis

Scene: Corcoran Commons (FKA Lower Dining Hall), Friday evening around 6:30 p.m.:
Guy 1: Hey man! Jen said she's bringing four female friends over tonight!
Guy 2: From her floor?
Guy 1: No, they're from out of town.
Guy 2: Awesome! Fresh meat!
"Fresh meat"? This is why feminists should be mad. Most people would peg me as being a little on the conservative side to identify with feminists, but when a man refers to a woman (or to women in general) as meat, my blood boils. One could describe me as a feminist, but in this sense, I'd prefer to be called a humanist (though not of the secular bent). My blood boils just as much when women refer to men as "meat", or as anything, for that matter, that objectifies them and reduces them from their full dignity as men - or I should say, human beings.

It is a dangerous characteristic of our so-called "enlightened" society that we yet fail to recognize that every human being (and that includes the unborn) is as much a human being as any other, and ought to be accorded therefore all rights, privileges, and honors pertaining thereto, for each one is, like you and like me, made in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of the human person, and it is vital that we come to respect that dignity in every one of our neighbors as in ourselves.

I cast my eyes about, and they fall upon the television and an episode of "Desperate Housewives"; they fall upon a magazine rack and the latest issue of "Cosmopolitan"; they fall upon my email inbox and ads to see the latest teen hottie strip for me: why? Why do television executives need to show me that women must sleep around and get mixed up in strange murder mysteries in order to be happy? Why do magazine executives need to tell me all about 101 things that will turn a man on? Why does website after website force a girl barely out of high school to degrade herself to the lowest levels to earn a few dollars? And why, above all, do we respond to the television, magazine, and website executives with a throaty "Yes! I want to sexually objectify women!"

Though American culture suffers under this particular brand of dishonoring its fellow man, yet, the problem is not fundamentally one of placing the woman's flesh above her humanity. In the East, especially in the oppressive, extremist Islamic regimes, a woman's humanity is annihilated beneath a dark veil, not only of fabric but of denial of rights. A woman is not a human to the extremist Muslim man: she is an object, a piece of property to be bought, sold, and used as he sees fit. And honor? Her only honor is such that if it is violated, she is liable to be killed for it.

This question passes even the gender divide and enters into the womb. Western culture has seen fit to rob the child in its womb of its humanity: the child who is at that moment most defenceless and most dependent on others has yet its only defence stolen away - its worth as a human being.

We, and by that I mean every human being on this face of this good earth, must find it within ourselves to see our own worth in others: otherwise, I fear that we are doomed. For what reason have I to love, cherish, and protect my neighbor, and by that I again mean every human being on the face of this good earth, except that I first recognize that he is worth loving?

De Bibendo

Scene: Corcoran Commons (FKA Lower Dining Hall), Friday evening around 6:30 p.m.:
Guy 1: Tonight's gonna be awesome!
Guy 2: We're gonna get smashed!
Guy 1: Yeah!
Every Monday morning as I walk along Commonwealth Avenue on my way to campus, I usually pass several piles of dried vomit from the revelry of the weekend. While trying to swallow down my own wave of disgust at the thought that that vomit on Monday may belong to Guys 1 & 2, I started to wonder why it is the same every Monday morning.

Why is it that Boston College students seem to enjoy getting so drunk that they have to vomit? Why do they insist on doing so not once, or even twice, but week in and week out for the entirety of their time here? What possible factor could induce them to down so much alcohol that their bodies must revolt or face damage? What appeal do repeated heavings, in the toilet, in the bushes, on the side of the road, have?

Why is the singular goal of many Boston College parties to get so tanked that when you wake up the next morning, you can’t remember what happened? Do they enjoy getting so plastered that they will jump into the next available Senior’s bed? Can someone please tell me why one can’t drink just one beer, but must drink 10 or 20?

I invite any college student who reads this and can answer these questions to post a comment and explain it to me, since frankly, I don't get it.

De Incompatibilitate Violentiae cum Natura Dei

We have all seen the tumultuous response received by the Pope's comments last week on the incompatibility of violence with God. When quoting the late 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos ("Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."), did Pope Benedict mean to say that Islam is faith beholden to the sword? Did he mean to decry all Muslims as "evil and inhuman"? Clearly, the answer is no; for just previous to this quotation, the Pope mentions Surah 2, 256 of the Qur'an: There is no compulsion in religion. It seems exceedingly clear to me that the Pope's true intentions were to set the following axiom as a starting point for his discussion of the relationship between faith and reason:

"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

(Note: I highly recommend that you read the entire text of the speech, for as we all know, words taken out of context can be twisted and manipulated to the vilest ends).

Unfortunately, it seems that this message was lost, especially in the Islamic world, and it is this point which I find most puzzling. I have often in the past heard many Muslims, horrified by the continued violence that stains the sands of the Middle East red with blood, echo this very sentiment: Violence is incompatible with the nature of God. I am most frightened by the response from the jihadist groups (I quote from CNN):

"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya," said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda, according to the Reuters news agency. "We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen."

They are outraged that the Pope should decry the spread of Islam by the sword, and so they threaten precisely that: to spread Islam by the sword.

My real point, however, is not to point out the hypocrisy of the jihadists: their hypocrisy and irrationality is well known to all rational people of this world. What I want to stress is this theme which the Pope laid bare: Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. When we say the Prayer of St. Francis, we ask God to make us instruments of Peace - we ask him for nothing more than that he fulfill our basic Nature: we were made in the Image and Likeness of God, and so we, too, in our very nature, abhor violence and uphold peace. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost that innate desire for peace, and rather rage in war than strive to establish peace amongst ourselves and with all peoples. Have we not learned in the last 2000 years that blessed are the peacemakers? Have we not mourned the carnage of war waged through the history of the world for our own greed? Have we, a world of one common humanity, not understood that the destruction of one life is the destruction of a little piece of all?

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I just received this prayer request from Lisa, from St. Matthew's in Orange County, California:

Please pray for our parishioner John Clark, his wife Gayle, and their daughter Sara. John suffered a seizure - subsequently a tumor was discovered in his brain. The doctors have said that the tumor isn't the 'originating' place for this cancer. So they're gearing up for full body scans - the prospect of this is frightening.

Deus, qui omnipotentiam tuam parcendo maxime et miserando manifestas, potestatem medicam tuam super tuum famulum, Johannem, infunde, et solatium per gratiam tuam super familiam eius, ut, ad tua promissa currentes, et terrenorum et caelestium bonorum facias esse consortes. Per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum, qui vivit et regnat Tecum in unitate Spiritus Sancti, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In Principio

In an attempt to convey some of my experiences while studying last semester in Germany, I intermittently sent emails to some of my family, which found their way around various communities. Some have expressed an interest in receiving more of those email messages. Though I am no longer in Germany, I've still plenty to say, and this blog seems a much more efficient way to effect the dissemination of my thoughts (however few they may or ought to be) to those (however few they may or ought to be) interested in them.
What, then, will fill this blog? It will be, as any good blog is, a presentation of my thoughts and experiences, both quotidian and extraordinary, which have formed themselves into sentences and texts in my mind. Sometimes it will be simple observations; at others full treatises; and again, it may simply record the random events and questions which constitute my interaction with myself and the world.
As its title would indicate, this interaction consists primarily of the experiences of a faithful Christian seeking to understand his Faith and the world in which he exercises that Faith, both the internal world of his soul and the exterior world with which his incorporated soul interacts. The questions of humanity remain as they were in Homer's time: What is justice? How do we enact it? What is the Good? How do we live the good life? My Christian Faith finds these questions both asked and answered in Christ: in the manger, on the Mount, on the Cross, and out of the tomb. Humanity is fully realized in the Incarnation, and so in the Incarnation is found the resolution of humanity's doubts. Anselm proposes in "Cur Deus Homo" that the Incarnation and Christ's Obedience on the Cross were (and are) the necessary satisfaction of humanity's debt of sin against God, a satisfaction through which the Divine Plan for Man - blessedness - can be fulfilled. When God created man, He created us to be blessed; that blessed nature was marred by our sin; and in the Incarnation, the order of blessedness is returned out of the disorder of sin: it befits the true human nature to be perfectly blessed as Christ's human nature was perfectly blessed "by taking of the Manhood into God" (Athanasian Creed). To put it simply, God became Man "Ut Homo Deus": "That Man might become God."
Yet, in the world of practice, in which we men are frail and fallible, this realization of humanity is anything but simple. Paradoxically, my purely simple Faith in the Folly of the Cross has been greatly deepened during my time of study at Boston College and abroad; while my recognition of the greatest complexity of the practice of the Faith in the world has grown ever clearer. As I enter my Senior year, I perceive ever more acutely the chasm between the heights of humanity reached by the grace of God and the depths of depravity into which we fall without Him. I recognize especially that this year, my faith is stronger than it has ever been before; and that the world will test it more than it ever has before. I invite you, reader, to join me then on this journey to what ultimately we might call virtue: at one time to seek the summit of divinity, and at another to pursue the middle road between the vices of pride on the one hand and despair on the other.
Can I promise that such unity of purpose will be found in every post? No. Yet every post will reflect in some way this journey, for as God is omnipresent in and out of this world, within and outside of time, so too is one ever on the road leading either to or away from the realization of one's humanity. I can never leave the journey, even in death; but then, why would I want to?