Saturday, September 30, 2006

New posts up at FollowFalv

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The luxury of ignorance


"The law of Thy love"

The bookworm DTs

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I've taken an indefinite fast from reading. This is an act of penance and redemptive co-suffering I decided to take up not only as a demonstration of my loyalty to someone I care for, but also for the benefit of that person in a very trying situation. It's coming towards the end of my seventh day without reading and I realize how agitated (dare I say nutty?) it's making me at times. Every time I turn around, I see a book. And whereas normally I would pick it up without a second thought, now I wince a little every time I pass over those books, staring at me in their as-yet-unread splendor. It's true: I'm getting the bookworm shakes.

I decided not to fast from food, because my ulcer problem makes a bad thing of going too long without food. Reading is the only thing I do as naturally and as pleasurably as eating, so, in an inspiration at Mass last week, I realized it was "off with its head" until the Lord deigns to bless the one I suffer with. It certainly is eye-opening to feel hour by hour how naturally, indeed compulsively, my mind turns to books. The good thing is that since I've allowed myself only to read the Bible, use reference materials, or study Chinese, I'm getting a lot of time in both the mundus biblica and the mundus sinica.** God be with us.

**(I make no secret of my poor Latin, so correction is welcome!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blessed art thou...

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I've been a Catholic now, officially, for a year and a half. Over time, certain Catholic assumptions have become ingrained and natural in me. For example, no matter how wonderful worship among brothers and sisters in faith may be, I am naturally aware of a feeling that something is missing. Namely? The Eucharist. A year and a half in, I do indeed simply take it for granted that worship done right not only should but by its very nature must center on the Self-Offering Lord of the Altar, the Lamb of God slain for us all.

Another ingrained perspective has to do, of course, with the Blessed Mother. Whereas in my earlier days of exploring the Church, or of having just entered it, I was very self-conscious of Marian doctrines being a conspicuous new "wart on my face -- a wart that needed elaborate, winsome "explanations" -- now I simply take it for granted that Christian piety has an intrinsically Marian dimension. Her "fiat" (or, "genoito") in Luke 1 is the pattern and foundation on which all subsequent Christian faith and obedience "bears Christ" into the world. She is not the icon of the Incarnation -- the Eucharist is -- but she is the icon of the Church, that Body which bears Christ in and into all humanity. She is not Jesus's mother on simply biological grounds (cf. Mk 3), bonds which the Gospels transcendently nullifies, but preeminently his mother by her perfect faith as the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1). Now, rather than feeling defensive about "explaining" my Mary-wart, I have tremendous peace and joy in knowing Marian spirituality is the vast index of all Christian experience, and those who do away with it are the exception, truly the ones with some explaining to do.

This Marian assumption has become so ingrained in me, in fact, that recently I was musing how I'd respond if someone, say, an Evangelical, asked why I should bother with "all that Mary stuff," and was startled to hear a few very compact, very potent replies spring to mind. (The hypothetical conversation was a result of some insights brought up in a discussion with some other Catholics.) What startled me was not the truth of the points, but rather, how succinctly and smoothly, almost reflexively, they came to mind. I no longer had to think up a "clever" reply. I naturally just laid out the rudiments of the Catholic Marian framework, realizing the "splendor of truth" speaks for itself.

What did Jesus say about a tree and its fruits? "A tree shall be known by its fruits" (Matthew 12:33).

What were the fruits of Mary? Jesus Christ the Son of God!

Hence, what kind of tree is Mary? By sheer grace, she is an unsurpassably holy and fruitful tree, literally a tree of life that does not wither or rot over the ages.

Who is the New Adam? Jesus Christ, the head of the new redeemed humanity (cf. Rom 5).

Who is the New Eve? Mary, the Mother of all the living (i.e., redeemed humanity in Christ).

What is her role as the New Eve? She supplants Eve's failure against the serpent -- or, in St. Irenaeus's words, she unties the knot of Eve's disobedience -- by being a sure and lasting opponent of the Serpent (cf. Gen 3).

Who is the glorious, celestial woman in Revelation 12? Mary, the Mother of the Messiah and his brethren, the queen whom the Dragon could not and cannot defeat.

What was Jesus Christ typologically (i.e., biblical-metaphorically)? The Word of God, the Manna of Heaven, and the priestly staff of Aaron from the branch of Jesse.

What bore these same elements in the Old Testament? The Ark of the Covenant (cf. Heb 9), which was holy above all things, not to be touched by any man (cf. Num 4, 2 Sam 6), and the undefiled seat of God's own presence (cf. Ex 25).

Who bore Jesus? Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, holy (i.e., full of grace) above all things, untouched by any man, and the undefiled seat of God's Wisdom.

Who is Jesus? The Logos of God, God Himself made man.

Who was His mother? Mary.

Who are we in relation to Jesus? His siblings, friends, disciples, and subjects.

Who, then, is Mary to us? Our own Mother! (Cf. Rev 12 again.)

How should we treat our parents? With honor and obedience (cf. Ex 20).

Further, how would you treat your best friend's mother, or that of your master? With great honor and respect.

How, then, should we treat Mary, the Mother of God Himself? With unmatched honor (i.e., hyperdulia) as a uniquely blessed vessel of grace.

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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P.S. Can anyone please find me this prayer in Latin? "O Mater Perpetui Succursus..."

10/3 Tuesday - Day 1 - 2330 PM

Wednesday - Day 2 - 0830 AM

Thursday - Day 3 - 0800 AM

Friday - Day 4 - 1100 AM

Saturday - Day 5 - 2330 PM

Sunday - Day 6 - 1200 PM

Monday - Day 7 - 2330 PM

Tuesday - Day 8 - 2330 PM

10/11 Wednesday - Day 9 - 1700 PM (I did it at last!)

[3 Oct 06: I have nothing to boast of but my humility (which to say, nothing): yes, this is my third attempt at completing this novena! I may (and do) fail, but by God's grace, I will not give up.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2: looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3: Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4: In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." Hebrews 12:1-4 ]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A triple play!

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You're seeing it live, folks: a triplex blog post.

On my FCA blog I'm linking to my ignorance blog about a quandary I had on my canon law blog.

So this is what it feels like to plagiarize your own work. Shiver.

Gosh, what a surprise

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I've got a new blog:, titled "法律只保護懂法律的人 - The law protects only those who understand it".

It's about canon law, which I consider to be ancient proof even boring people can get to Heaven. Of course, by starting yet another blog, on canon law no less, I become living possible proof that even boring people can get to Heaven.


I have been in Asia too long

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A friend recently told me a bus she was on smelled like soy sauce. Soy sauce, eh? I was alarmed because I didn't know if a bus smelling like soy sauce is a good or a bad thing. Perhaps I've been in Asia too long. My cultural olfactory nerves are all kaputt.

What a poser

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The 26-year-old man — identified only as “Pablo” or by his Chinese name “Ma Lin” — made a dusty brown suit of armor, a tunic and a helmet, and attempted to blend in with the ancient warriors of the terra cotta army in the western city of Xi’an...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Old Polish?

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A reader asked me if I could marshal my staggering linguistic abilities to help him identify some old documents he has in a language he knows not what.

I told him he got the wrong guy.

So, instead, let me marshal my stuttering blog abilites and ask my readers for help. Ahh, the power of the hive mind.

The reader suggested Old Polish. Iimmediately concured (because I know no better). The contents definitely seem Slavic. If I could isolate a word, I'd google it. I see a "danya" in the tenth line of page 10. Apparently not a name (lowercase), but what? On the second line of that same page, I see a "Coram", which I presume is a city in Poland. The year 1588 seems to be written in the opening lines, as well. I also think I've seen Latin scattered throughout the letters.

What language? What period? What meaning? (How much can I get on Antique Roadshow?) Most important, I must know what this tells us about Mary Magdalene and the Grail, otherwise it's a wash.

Some have asked

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"Elliot, what's with all the protesting in Taipei?"

First of all, be not afraid. I haven't been conscripted and there's not a hint of rioting. Second, it's definitely big news, if for no other reason than lots of people in basically unified action is fun to watch. As for the story itself, my ignorance will show here more than usual, but in brief it's like so:

A movement to depose the (DPP 民主進步黨, "the Green Party") president, Chén Shuǐ Biǎn 陳水扁, has been spearheaded by a fellow DPP member, Shī Míng Dé 施明德.

Shi Ming De

The protest, called (by me) the Million Man Biǎn Putsch 百萬民人倒扁 (for a "New Taiwan" no less), began September 9 and serves as the main stage for an effort to "tighten the screws" on Biǎn so he will step down as president. Although only a third of the anticipated number of protestors (300,000) showed up the first day (surrounding the presidential estate), the effect was still impressive.

Them angry red crowds

From what I have heard, if Biǎn does not step down by October 15, Shi is taking steps to execute a massive labor strike. The trademark for opposing Biǎn is to wear red clothes, hats, or bandanas, and, of course, to thrust your thumb downward as a savage putsch icon. A funny twist came the inaugural day when the red crowds suddenly turned yellow (inside plastic ponchos) in the severe rains. This led to a grassroots joke that "Shuǐ" (the president's name as well as the word for "water") is continuing to "Biǎn" the people ("Biǎn" referring both to the president's surname and to the folk use of "biǎn" (flat) as "pummel").

Chén Shuǐ Biǎn

What makes the episode so interesting to me is twofold. First, no matter how feisty the Taiwanese activists appear to be about this, it's comforting knowing things in Taiwan, a basically democratic oasis in Far East Asia, in all likelihood won't get too out of hand. In fact, at the risk of being patronizing, I admit the whole thing strikes me as kind of cute. Second, even though Shi is a fellow "green", he wants Biǎn out. He's crossed typically stringent party lines and called on "blues" (KMT 中國國民黨 leaders and members) to join in ousting Biǎn. Shi, who announced he has liver cancer and thus intends to engage in this protest to the bitter end as a "martyr", believes Biǎn is ruining their party's true identity. The basic charge against Biǎn is that he is highly corrupt, as came to light in his apparent abetting of his son-in-law in insider trading. I've also heard there are approximately fifteen lawsuits awaiting Biǎn when he resigns. Yet he has no intention of stepping down. In his the remaining 20 months of his second (and therefore last) term in office, Bian still aims to advance the country and stand by the people's election decision. I fully anticipate he will remain in office.

My personal sources about all this are decidedly biased (against Biǎn, a "trash man"), and I have no reliable statistical data about how widespread the putsch movement is. But considering more than a million people -- assuming, of course, a) that's how many will actually partake and b) that all of them are genuinely committed as opposed to merely curious -- a million people is only 1/23 of Taiwan's population. That's certaily a lot of people ("one in every 23"), but the question is whether they're the right people at the right time, so to speak. The movement seems to have quite a large bark without yet demonstrating any serious bite. My problem in analyzing the situation is that I have yet to hear concrete, damning allegations against Biǎn that impinge on him as president. So far I've mainly heard a lot finger-wagging about his corruption and fakery. (Uh, hello, he's a politician.) His retort to the corruption charge was interesting, to say the least. In effect he said, "I too am opposed to corruption. But tackling the problem means dismantling the most corrupt political body in our history -- the KMT." Not denying culpability but also not rolling over. Is Biǎn innocent? Almost positively not. But is he uniquely corrupt, so corrupt as to warrant a million man sit-in putsch? The movement's questionable efficacy aside, such warrant seems conspicuously absent.

"Save Taiwan"

I welcome readers to amend or correct my telling.

I was raised Presbyterian...

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so should this resonate with me at some deep level?

...the publishing arm of the Presbyterian Church [USA] has decided to heat up the brimstone a notch, releasing its very own 9/11 conspiracy theory: "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action." Written by David Griffin and put out by Westminster John Knox Press, a division of the Presbyterian Publishing Corp., the book argues that 9/11 was a highly orchestrated Bush administration sham.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Interesting developments in Path to 9/11 drama

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And I mean the drama unfolding both on and off the screen.

ABC Caving to Clinton Pressure; Democrats Now Officially Censoring Films

Democrats to Pull ABC’s License Over Path to 9/11? Free Speech On the Brink

How to Contact ABC About The Path to 9/11

I'd like to see the film somehow, see what's all the hubbub.

This breaks my heart

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A real tragedy. Let us pray.

Thus spake Uncle Wojek!

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(Uncle Wojek was Pope John Paul II's nickname in Poland, before he was a bishop or pope or a late great hero of the Faith.)

Bill Blakemore, ABC's Vatican correspondent from 1978 to 1983, on America's PBS network said of John Paul II:

He's very down-to-earth. For him there's no difference between a spiritualistic world of religion up here and the flesh and blood, down-to-earth world of cause and effect and science down here. This Pope loves science, he's got an inquiring mind. He has a group of scientists from around the world that he calls in every year. He's very much aware of theories of relativity and the Big Bang, and what science is doing in outer space. ... His Vatican recently named 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of the most important movies of all time. We know that he sees no division between what science is saying and what his religion is saying. He often uses the quote from Jesus, "The truth will make you free," or, "It's the truth that makes us free." And...this is sort of the third corner of the triangle, if you will -- between his faith, his politics, and his science. They're all in the same world. The political story surrounding Jesus is very real to him. The ideas of trans-substantiation, of afterlife being mysterious, of how they might be illuminated by the theories of relativity, of what modern science is doing to figure out the mechanics of the Big Bang, of what Darwinian science is telling us about how our bodies evolved.

On the same theme, apaprently on March 2, 2001, "Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey was screened at the Vatican ... for film fan His Holiness Pope John Paul II."

Not only that, but in 1995, "the Pontifical Council for Social Communications honored the hundredth anniversary of the motion picture by issuing a list of forty-five praiseworthy films. It is not unthinkable that Pope John Paul II, himself a screenwriter, had some say in the council’s selections." And Kubrick's 2001 was listed in the Art category.

As a guy who's turned his PC into a HAL9000 (the red glowing interface on my desktop and famous lines being cued by various computer operations), I find this simply awesome.

Well isn't that special!

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" Study Indicates PVS Patients Aware, Can Communicate"

Certainly puts a new spin on dear Terri Schiavo's case. Where she was once a martyr only to moral blindness and legal perfidy, now we see she was also a victim of intransigent scientific ignorance. This is just a(nother) case of researchers confirming by scientific findings what the moral truth had already declared: Don't starve that woman to death, she's a living human being! The problem is that for some, even when that claim is obvious (namely, about themselves), the meaning of "human being" is just as valueless (except of course for themselves).

Friday, September 8, 2006

Natural born atheists

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I once read an atheist, in his apologia for atheism, mention "all humans are born atheists." No one, after all, is born believing in God. The most primal anthropological default position, then, seems to be atheism. Q.E.D. It's an interesting argument; let's call it the argument from nativity. I was intrigued by his clever first point.

Then again, I realized, all people are born illiterate, incontinent, incapable of walking or speaking, and possessing a body in need of major growth, to mention only a few of our other "native" features. (Oh and we are all born virgins too.) Strangely enough, we call the surpassing of these "native" features the maturing process. Interesting company native atheism keeps. If native atheism is any sort of support for mature atheism, then I wager the author agrees native virginity is a support for lifelong celibacy. In fact, if the one (theism) is a post-nativity accretion, then presumably so is the other (sex). Never mind that sex is both a major rite of adulthood, but also the very means by which the human race survives! Strange company indeed this argument attracts.

Certainly the author, or any nimble defender of hia atheism, would retort I'm making a mountain out a molehill, missing the forest for the trees. The argument from nativity isn't even an argument per se and was just used to get the book rolling. Sounds reasonable, but alas, no. For the author's whole argument, and atheism itself, rests on little if anything more than the argument from nativity. By defending what humans happen to be ("What Is") as if that established or exhausted what we can or should be ("What Ought Be"), atheism and all related "nativist" anthropologies boil down to what I'll call an argument from "pristine immaturity," an argument however that is itself an exercise in mental immaturity.

As one prime example, arguing "brain science proves" the neurological basis of God and religion is as inane as arguing "physiology proves" the biological basis of hunger. (Let's be clear: "science" doesn't study, argue or prove anything -- people do.) In both cases, the forces being "explained" (theism and hunger) seek legitimate higher ends that are not only ontologically and conceptually distinct from the forces, but also not dependent on them as they are on the ends. But on a nativist reading of humanity, the "fact" of the neurological mediation of spiritual reality "proves" we are more properly seen as native atheists. Presumably by this logic we are also best regarded as native non-eaters?

Say what you will about God-talk, but at least it's something more than baby talk.

Writes great! Less posting! Writes great! Less posting!

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(Ah, warped pop cultural allusions, such fun.)

People have asked me on and off why I've been posting less and less. Basically, while on the one hand I've made (daily) writing more a part of my schedule ("rule of life"), on the other, I've decided to channel most of my energies into "real writing." I want to start getting an oeuvre for submission to magazines and possibly even shaped up into a book of essays. I've got too many stories, poems, essays and reviews not to try for something more substantial. Partly motivation comes from nearing publication of the co-authored book Fr. Ramón and I have written about Providence University. It will be published, God willing, this fall -- and then, like magic, I can call myself a "published writer"!

Of course, the name is one thing and the life is another. Being a "writer" is leagues removed from being a writer. How many people have I heard say, only more breezily than humbly, "I'm a pretty good writer," only to hear the subtext, the unspoken Morse code, "I am literate and have written items before"? Too many (counting myself). I'm a pretty good cook, considering I've never burned down a house or poisoned a man, but I'm not a cook... because I don't cook!

The two steps I realize I must take are 1) making writing a DAILY DISCIPLINE (though I haven't decided if I want a word amount or a time duration to be my bar), and 2) compiling and improving my "juvenilia" into publishable materials. The first step is simply a non-negotiable rule, an axiom of writerly existence: you have to write every day. "." In fact, let's just call this "The Rule." Now, I admit I don't yet live by The Rule, but it's a steady burning ruby flame in my writer's attic of a mind. The bad news is that living The Rule is hard, very hard. The good news is that grasping the value of it -- the necessity of disciplined, consistent writing production (not to say quality[1]) -- is a major step in itself, and shouldn't be taken lightly. (The news that isn't really news is that loving living The Rule everyday is impossible, otherwise all those "good writers" would be right. There are days you just don't want to see another word on paper – but The Rule still stands, a tappin that crop in its hand, a tappin its shiny old boot on the attic floor.)

I finally "got it," the Good News of The Rule, about five years ago shortly after I'd enrolled in Long Ridge's "Breaking into Print" program (yes, I got the diploma and had a great time!). As part of the curriculum, I was reading an article, by a freelance writer, about the craft of writing, or to be more precise, the fact that writing is a craft. Once I saw that -- that writing is a craft, a skill, an operation, much like shoemaking or carpentry -- light and air and hope and little cooing doves all rushed into the attic. A man don't just "pick up" carpentry and he don't just "be a writer" neither. And while viewing writing as a craft, a sort of dainty manual labor if you will, certainly takes a lot of the shine off writing (the same shine that leads people to say they're good writers, as if they'll just sit down and "punch out" an essay or a story), it adds eons of hope for the would-be scribbler. Seeing the value of The Rule, even if you haven't yet learned to live by it, assures you, "You too can do this. All you have to do is do it!" (Having some natural verbal talent and being very, very well read doesn't hurt though.)

The second step, compiling an oeuvre, includes "strip mining" my blog for segments I can work into shape. The next big step will be 3) finding niche markets and establishing a contact routine (cover letter templates, envelopes, publisher lists, etc.). The good news is that while I haven't posted as much in the past XXXXX, I have been writing, if not smoothly at least fairly persistently. Hence, "Writes great! Less posting!" Cute, eh?

Pray for me. I certainly ask St. Francis de Sales to do so!

(Incidentally, since things in Hong Kong worked out pretty well, albeit dramatically, and since I have yet to receive any large sums of money at home, I take it all my readers would rather pray for me than anything else. How fine a discovery!)