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Swearing and Vulgarity

By Mark Shea On May 6, 2009 @ 12:03 am

I’ve always loved this funny little tune from Chaucer’s day:

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu
Bulloc sterteth, bucke ferteth.
Murie sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu.
Ne swik thu naver nu!

This joyful, ebullient tune, doubtless sung by many an English peasant out sweating in the field, is full of the solid earthy good humor of a people who were closely bound to the land. For them, one of the images of sheer joy was when the “Bulloc sterteth” and the “bucke ferteth”. That latter clause is now rendered into modern English by very polite translators as “The bull starts, the buck leaps”. This loses rather a lot of the zesty force of the original and more flatulent meaning.

And that, I think, is telling. For the original was written in a Catholic culture that did not automatically equate the organic with the sinful. But we live in the land of post-Protestantism, which is still haunted by the notion that such language is, if not “swearing”, at least “bad”—particularly if we are serious Christians.

Scripture has a number of things to tell us about the use of our tongues. Probably the most basic prohibitions we have are the twin commandments in the Decalogue against taking the name of God in vain and the prohibition against bearing false witness against your neighbor. I call them “twin” commandments because they mirror the commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

The Decalogue constitutes the “floor” of human morality. It’s the lowest you can go and still be obeying God. In short, if you can’t love your neighbor, at least don’t kill him, rob him, or lie about him or run off with his wife. If you can’t love God, at least don’t call him as witness to some lie you are telling; don’t take his name in vain in an oath.

That’s what “swearing” actually means: calling God as witness to something false. Of course, there are other ways in which we can take his Holy Name in vain too, such as tossing it around in a way which makes it clear we either don’t think he exists or else by using it in such a manner as to reduce it to an acoustic noise as satisfying to utter as various other short four-letter Anglo-Saxon words having to do with reproduction and excretion. This is, among English-speakers, by far the most common way of swearing. An English speaker who casually spits out the name of Jesus or God when he trips over the cat is not invoking God falsely in an oath but simply reducing the Triune God to a satisfying glottal fricative indistinguishable from “Frack!” The difference is basically between whether the swearer’s contempt for God’s Name is thinking or unthinking.

Sometimes, of course, the two forms of swearing can be combined, as when we blurt that God should damn this or that person. Anybody who gave serious thought to this would, I think, be horrified to realize what they are saying (and relieved at the billions of times such “prayers” have been ignored by God).

Most English speakers don’t generally distinguish between swearing in the biblical sense and mere vulgarity. The average speaker of English learns from his mother not to use “bad words”, then learns from his teenage friends how to use them properly, and calls it all “swearing”. Scripture, however, does not seem to conflate words about various bodily functions with language involving God. Jesus and the apostles regard speech involving the Name of God as utterly sacrosanct. “Hallowed be they Name” is after all, at the core of the prayer life of Jesus Christ, just as it is at the core of the Decalogue. But about mere vulgarity, the New Testament is much fuzzier. If taking God’s Name in vain is a mortal sin, the New Testament witness tends to suggest that mere coarse language and vulgarity are venial sins and, on occasion, no sin at all. Scripture, of course, counsels against the use of coarse language, but just what that means is, as usual, not terribly well defined.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:1-4).

So it’s not shocking that Paul thinks dirty jokes (i.e., the “levity” proceeding from the immemorial industry of titillating ourselves with fornication, impurity, or covetousness) are to be avoided since they tend to reduce people (especially women) to objects and this is foreign to the mind of Christ. Although he doesn’t spell it out, Paul probably would not be wild about “pull my finger” jokes from Beavis and Butthead. Generally the tenor of this and other New Testament counsels is “Does this really help you grow in love or happiness? If not, why not just avoid it and do something worthwhile instead.”

But Paul, in his exasperation at the Judaizers who are trying to persuade Christians that they cannot be saved apart from keeping the ceremonial law of Moses, is capable of what polite Christians today would regard as vulgarity. For instance, after recounting his own eminent qualifications as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he then tells Philippians who are being swayed by Judaizers

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him (Philippians 3:7-9)

The Greek word skubala that is politely translated as “refuse” has a more earthy and excretory meaning to it which seldom gets held up as a model of conversational grace in Christian homeschooling circles. Likewise, Paul’s grumbling wish that the Judaizers would just go all the way and castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12), is not a message you hear being dilated upon from most pulpits these days.

That’s not say vulgarity is no big deal. We live in a culture awash in vulgarity and adding to the river of sewage in the world is not a big help. Christian homeschoolers do well, as a general rule, not to instruct their kids in what the 60’s tediously called “keepin’ it real”. Keeping it clean is much more to the point in a culture that has a mouth like a toilet. We have a surfeit of raunchy comedians and superfluous sleaze. We do not have a glut of people who can carry on an articulate, thoughtful and funny conversation without recourse to the “F” word as a sort of placeholder for actual thought.

On the other hand, a scrupulosity that regards “Sumer is icumen in” as morally equivalent to blasphemy is also not a good thing. Indeed, it can be the expression of a puritanical fear of creation that is a million miles from the good-natured celebration of thanksgiving for God’s gifts that lies behind that cheerful song.

Finally, of course, there is the bright side to vulgarity and swearing. C.S. Lewis once remarked that almost the whole of Christian doctrine could be deduced from the fact that we tell dirty jokes and feel the dead to be uncanny. Why? Because both testify to the fact that we are curiously estranged from our own bodies, a clue which, when followed, leads us back to the fact of original sin. Dogs see nothing funny about dog reproduction and approach it in the businesslike manner that they approach their dinners. Likewise, of all bodies, dead bodies are the least likely to harm us. But we recoil against (and laugh at) the peculiarity of our status as souls indwelling bodies and, still more, at the horror of souls severed from their bodies. We are, says Lewis “half shocked and half tickled to death” to find ourselves being the creatures we are. We act, in short, like animals with rational—and fallen—souls for whom death is not natural, however, normal it may be. So even the phenomenon of vulgarity bears witness, in its own queer way, to the truth of the gospel—especially of the Fall.

As to swearing? Well, Chesterton summed it up a long time ago: Nobody blasphemes Thor. Blasphemy too is the backhanded way we continue to bear witness to God, even when we mean to insult Him and even when it never occurs to us to think of Him. Not for nothing does Paul tell us that every knee shall bow.


Mar. 27th, 2009

"As a dog that returns to his vomit, so is the fool that repeats his folly."
- The Book of Proverbs 26:11

I am that fool.

Minor Observations Upon Waking

I wish I was less dependent on others for my happiness. It's quite inconvenient to be so dependent, because currently I am overcome by an overwhelming gloominess.

It's a bit tiresome, this. I usually go through cycles of gloomy-emo-ness which eventually dies down and then I return to what was for a while my normal state of carefree nonchalance. Hopefully it won't take too much longer.

Yesterday I was so stressed out that in the morning I took a pair of mustache clippers to my head and cut off a good deal of my hair. At least three handfuls. It took an hour and a half, time which could have been much more productively spent doing any of the many other things I had to run around doing yesterday. I've realized that as of late, I tend to deal with stress in one or more of these three ways:
- Compulsively cutting/trimming my hair
- Chewing on something; gum if I have any, if not, usually a piece of paper will somehow end up in my mouth
- Praying the Rosary

Obviously, the last of these is the most productive, but when I pray in that sort of a state, I have trouble actually concentrating on the mysteries which can actually just lead to more frustration at times.

I'm going to try to go to the gym every day over the Spring Break. The two weeks when I went regularly last month did wonders for my stress level. I suppose yesterday might have been a good day to take my anxiety pills, but I hate the idea of being dependent on pills to be able to function properly. Also, I'm not sure that I know where they are.

Even so, after all the stress I built up preparing for Newman that evening, the evening was enjoyable but somewhat underwhelming. There were not nearly as many people as we usually have and many of those who did come left early. We watched A Man For All Seasons, which was terrific. I was also somewhat disappointed since the movie did end a while after 9:00 most people had to dash off immediately afterwards, which kinda sucked because I was hoping to chat with people a bit before everyone rushed off to Spring Break. Funny, I couldn't wait for Spring Break because it meant no more Newman-stress for two weeks but then as soon as people were gone, the strangest sort of gloom came over me, which only made me realize further that Newman might be the only thing giving me a sense of purpose currently since I have no direction to aim towards otherwise; I am unsure of my vocation (frightened by my inadequacy for the priesthood, really), unsure of whether I'm finishing NYU, unsure of whether Im going to be a filmmaker. Unsure.

I really hope John or somebody else invites me to visit them over the break. I would love to just get out of the city for a while, even if only for a day.

I Realized Something.

I used to relate to my friends fairly normally, in middle school, early high school, and prior to that. At some point, I forgot how to relate to my friends except by way of being of service to them in some way, offering them food or help of some sort. I do genuinely enjoy helping people, and it has always been in my nature to seek to be helpful. This is not something for which I deserve any credit, that's just the way God made me.

But I wonder if this doesn't mean that there's something somehow wrong with the way I relate to people. I've thought about it a bit, and I've also realized part of me assumes that I'm not really worth spending time with unless I have something to offer other than my company. I can look back through the years (even as recently as this year), and see where this partly-subconscious idea has been reinforced.

Consequently, though I do genuinely love to help my friends, and in fact it helps me to feel useful, I find myself overjoyed when I am sought out for the purpose of just going out to eat, hanging out, watching a movie, talking, etc. It isn't  that I don't enjoy spending time with my friends when I'm helping them, quite the contrary; I care about these people and therefore I want to do anything I can to make them a little it happier. And it's not a matter of wanting attention, we might spend the entire evening discussing the other person's life, etc., but I guess I like it so much when we hang out without any formal purpose because it gives me a more solid impression of true friendship. In this regard I can mention Harrison, Martine, John, Paul, Stephanie, Brie, Will, Mohammad, & Lauren as recent examples. God bless 'em.

Deo Gratias!

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him."

- The Wisdom of Ben Sirach 6:14-16

I thank the Lord for the great blessing he has bestowed upon me in the dear friend he has granted me only late last year. He has been a source of great comfort, joy, and amusement to me. I seem to forget all of my troubles when I am around him - the sort of respite I rarely manage to acquire. May our friendship grow and last. For this great and merciful blessing, as well as for all others which I have failed to acknowledge, I thank the Lord. May the Lord make me worthy of it.
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine

De profundis clamavi ad te Domine

De profundis clamavi ad te Domine

Domine exaudi vocem meam fiant aures tuae intendentes in vocem deprecationis meae!

Speravit anima mea in Domino.

Domine! Pie Jesu! Miserere mei!

ColorGenics Results & Personal Updates

So, I saw this in Anneface's livejournal and I tried it. It's really pretty accurate.

Eerily so considering the simplicity of the test:

My Results:

Enough is enough - you feel frustrated and rejected. You are fighting back and the going is tough. It would be just wonderful if you could be left in peace.

You like the better things in life. You are sensuous and emotional. You are a follower of the Arts and you seek an environment that will give you the fulfilment to the senses that you need.

Your confidence has been shattered. There are so many things that you would like to do with your life, so many dreams to be fulfilled - and you know that your hopes and dreams are not just figments of your imagination, they are real and you are looking for reassurance from someone. Basically your fears are such that you may be prevented in attaining your hopes and dreams. Even now you would like to broaden your fields of endeavour but in order to develop your 'inner- self' you need peace and solace. You are distressed by the fear that you may be prevented from attaining your goals. What you really need at this particular moment in time is quiet reassurance from someone close to you to restore your confidence.

Your willpower and stamina are in danger of being overwhelmed by excessive stress. Your resilience and tenacity have become weakened. You are feeling overtaxed, worn out and getting nowhere: but you continue to stand your ground. You feel that this unfavourable situation is an encumbrance which you could well do without and you find yourself unable to make the necessary decisions at this particular moment in time to change anything.

The tensions induced by trying to cope with conditions which are beyond your capabilities, or your reserves of strength, have led to considerable anxiety and a sense of personal inadequacy. Your inability to take control of the situation causes you to over-react in stubborn defiance blaming everyone but yourself for your own failures.


So, I haven't written in quite a while. A lot has happened since my last few posts. I didn't really have the energy to write about a lot of what happened so I didn't and now I kind of regret not having a record of it. My memory is rather awful.

During the weekend of January 18th I went on the Malvern Retreat with Dan and Stephanie's family - or at least the men. They were nice. There were good things about the retreat but the entire experience was pretty frustrating over all. 

I was really reluctant to go on the retreat, it was the weekend right before the semester started - meaning the first weekend before the first Newman meeting of the semester. I thought work would prevent me from going, but there was no tutoring that Saturday. One excuse gone. Stephanie had been trying to convince me to go since the year before. Dan also really wanted me to go because that meant he got to be a sponsor and it also meant he was no longer the newest member in the Cerino group (there were over 100 men on this retreat). And I was living on Dan's kitchen floor, and much as I appreciate him providing a place for me to stay, I was paying $500/month to stay on a kitchen floor in a mess I soon began to dread coming home to, unable to unpack my suitcases because there was nowhere to put my stuff... Anyway, I did think of it as a favor at the time so when Dan repeatedly asked me to go, I felt obliged to acquiesce. Long story short, on the train ride into NJ I dropped my phone as I was getting off and because the train started moving had to get off without it or risk being lost alone in some dark corner of NJ with very little money. It took the frickin NJ transit system a week to get me my phone back. So, before the retreat began I was already quite distressed about having lost my phone - I really am quite dependent on that stupid thing. But I figured, ever since I lead the last Emmaus I'd been wishing I could go on a retreat I wasn't leading so I could actually relax, detox, and refresh myself a bit. I might as well do my best to not think about my phone and try to enjoy the retreat. Well, initially things seemed nice enough. There were two priests leading the same event in two separate locations for almost every available activity (everything except for Eucharistic adoration and Sunday Mass was optional). After getting lost and accidentally attending his Mass away from the rest of the group, I tended to go to the Augustinian priest's events. The others went with a priest who I assume was diocesan - Fr. O'Connelly. Well, so at one point there was a conference scheduled and i joined the Cerinos and Dan to go listen to Fr. O'Connelly give a lecture. He seemed like a good-humoured old priest and one without his mind full of fluffy nonsense - I liked that. But the lecture was in a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved and Fr. O'Connelly began using profanity quite frivolously IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT. I was only mildly horrified at this point. The priest was giving us a lecture on the nature of God based on select parts of the four Gospels. He mentioned that Jesus used the phrases "Amen, Amen" and "Unless you..." to give emphasis to his statements. And he told us that there was only one place where Jesus used these phrases together; when he said that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So far so good. He went on to say that this meant we had to make ourselves vulnerable and dependent on God. That might in fact be part of what Jesus meant. Ok. But then he concluded based upon this verse that this was the ONLY important requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven, and went on to ridicule traditional Catholic devotions, daily Mass attendance, etc. He then spat off a long list of mortal sins and asserted that they would not keep you from the KIngdom (ironically the ones he mentioned were all mentioned by St. Paul in his epistles as things that would keep you from the Kingdom). Lastly, and most horrifically, he told us that because Christ said that he was the perfect image (ikonos) of the Father and "Christ was clearly not omnipotent on earth" that God was therefore not omnipotent at all. Mind you, he began the talk by asking us to list attributes of God; some answers were: omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. He has been building his entire talk to this point: God is not omnipotent. He illustrated this by telling us that God could not in fact stop a plane from crashing into a building. I was horrified. ONE man got up, genuflected in front of the Blessed Sacrament and quietly left. Everyone else seemed to be nodding along robotically to the old priest's "folksy wisdom". I turned to Dan to look for some sign of indignation. Nothing. I had the urge to stand up and decry his heresy. I chided myself for being judgemental, reassuring myself that in all charity I must assume that a qualification was coming. There was none. When he began concluding his talk I shot my hand up in the air, but he ignored me and launched into the closing prayer. Afterwards, I went up to the man and with the greatest amount of humility and deference to his priestly authority I could muster told him that I was greatly troubled by what he said and challenged his exegesis (really, it was actually one of the most astounding leaps of eisegesis [reading outside meanings into the text] I'd seen in a long time). I told him that Jesus' human frailty was a result of the kenosis, his temporal and voluntary "emptying", and that the verse in question dealt primarily with the identity of Christ as the Image/Wisdom/Word and His character, not with the power of the Father or even the Godhead objectively, and finally that the omnipotence of God was a dogma of the Church - though I couched all this in language of "...my understanding was..." so as not to seem confrontational. He caught me off guard by using a Protestant argument - that all of sacred Tradition must be based on sacred Scripture and also that if sacred Tradition contradicts sacred Scripture then Tradition must be wrong. It is heresy to even assert that they can contradict! How many heresies does this man espouse I wonder?! He dismissed me by commending my humility, relativizing the subject and saying that we had different opinions, and telling me to "keep searching". What h0rse$h!t. I spent the next hour and a half pacing up and down a small hallway, seething, far too infuriated to read, pray the rosary, or sleep. I avoided the priest for the rest of the retreat. There was no way I was going to receive communion from his sacrilegious hands or subject myself to his blaspheming tongue.

There were two good things I got from the retreat. I got to spend 20 minutes in private Eucharistic adoration in a very intimate room where My Lord was displayed in a monstrance. It was wonderful. I poured out my heart and felt something almost like a wordless dialogue transpiring, but my Lord's "words" were difficult for me to comprehend or retain. Even, so, that very private, intimate moment of silence alone before the Eternal Judge was amazing.

The second thing is that we were given the opportunity to interview one of the two priests on whatever we wanted - I, or course, signed up with the Augustinian. I told him that I was discerning a vocation to the priesthood and that I was considering the Dominican Order (or perhaps some other religious order), the FSSP, and diocesan priesthood. And I asked him if he could give me some assistance in understanding whether or not religious community life was for me. Now, by this point I'd already been leaning towards diocesan because of what I have described in an earlier post as "something like an internal locution", but I am a skeptic and a cynic at heart and I am not one to put my faith in signs and sensations without submitting them to the scrutiny of reason. After his description I realized that community life was not for me - I become far too attached to people and places - geographical places. It might destroy me to have to pack up and move to a different country or state on the whim of my religious superior - not that I think it's a bad thing - it's very courageous and admirable, but I don't think it's something I'm cut out for. So, IF I go to seminary, it will probably be for a diocese, probably the archdiocese of NY, unless I decide on the FSSP (unlikely).

There have been so many odd things that have seemed to point me down the path towards priesthood - but as of late I feel myself despairing that I may not be cut out for anything I'd dreamed for myself at various times - I may not be fit to be a filmmaker (I'm not ambitious enough or technically savvy), I may not be fit to be a priest, and I may not be fit to be a father and husband.

Of these, my insecurities about the priesthood are the most devastating - I'd already sort of, in a manner of speaking, put all of my mental eggs into this basket. But as more time passes and daily life forces me to react to different stimuli and interact with different people and situations I find myself growing increasingly doubtful that this is something I can do - I'm afraid something will go horribly wrong. To be somewhat vague, I'm afraid that I'm too much of a freak to be a priest. I'm not normal enough. And I have too many emotional daggers in my chest to trust myself to be a shepherd of souls in the full sense (I will divulge more about this in a friends-only entry). Dear God, take pity on me!

Despite this, I cannot quite make myself deny everything that formerly pointed me in the direction of the holy priesthood. Oh, how I wish I could know what would please God! If I could be sure of this, the pain I know I will be inflicting on myself if I choose this lonely road would be bearable and sweet - for I would know that it is the cross that my King has given me to carry and not merely the burden of my own foolish mistakes.

Ugh. And I wish I had a second job and more money, and that I knew what on earth I'm going to be doing next year/semester. I detest being in this limbo, though it is far, far better having such a nice place to come home to every day for which I am very grateful to Stephanie.

Despite all of this trouble, I cannot cease to thank my God for all the blessings he has bestowed on me, but especially that of the great friend he has granted me only recently, the friend I never expected. His mere presence is a joy and a comfort - one of the few luxuries I seem to be afforded in these times of uncertainty. I don't think he realizes how much I value his companionship, but in Him I have been given some tangible sign that God still loves so miserable a wretch as I. May God and the Virgin be praised for such a gracious favor! I pray that it may be a long-term gift... 

I must constantly remind myself: this too shall pass. But when, O Lord?!

Closing Notes:

I still am not sure what my Lenten penance will be, but I am thinking that one thing I could do is to emulate the children of Fatima and find a rough bit of cord to tie around my waist under my clothes. And perhaps say extra chaplets again...

I am also currently reading True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin by St. Louis de Montfort. There is much of value in the book, but I cannot suppress a violent internal reaction against some of the things he asserts in his book - for instance, he asserts that without devotion to the Blessed Virgin, nobody can be saved. He also states that no grace reaches us from God without first passing through the hands of Mary, and also that it is presumptuous and arrogant to approach Christ directly in prayer without the mediation of his blessed Mother. To my mind, these claims border on blasphemy  and I find no real support for them in Scripture or Tradition. I know that the idea of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces is a popular theological opinion right now, (or at least, in both traditionalist and neo-conservative Catholic circles) but I really find the idea to be without sound basis and even somewhat repugnant - certainly entirely alien to the Gospel preaching of St. Paul or even all of the New Testament writers. But again, these very troubling things aside, there is much of value I think I can take from this book. I will post a more thoughtful analysis when I am finished. And nobody who knows me can accuse me of not being devoted to the Blessed Mother, I lovingly regard her as my own mother and queen, I pray and preach her rosary, I wear her Scapular, and I am committed to spreading the messages she has given us at Fatima, Akita, Good Success, and La Salette, especially that of devotion to her Immaculate Heart as the remedy for the evils of our times. It is not for lack of love of her that I reject these ideas, but because both my reason and conscience bid me do so.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere mei!

Fatima In Twilight

 This book is astounding. And incredible. Everyone who is capable of looking at history in the light of faith should read it. With almost every page I feel myself becoming at once more devastated but also perceptive, in a very bizarre sort of way. It has made it much easier for me to understand why the Church and the world are in their current state. I wish I could get this into the hands and heads all Catholics (seminarians, priests, & bishops, especially). So far, I am only about halfway through the book. At the end of this semester, or at the very latest, at the end of 2009 I think I shall compile a list of the books that have been most influential in terms of defining my worldview/influencing my behavior. This book will definitely be on that list, along with, to name a few: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis,  Dedication & Leadership by Douglas Hyde, and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

The following are a few quotes that stuck out at me for varying reasons:

"Conversion, penance, sacrifice and reparation for sinners, the mercy and exhausted patience of God, the prominence of the Queen of Heaven in the designs of Heaven and man, the threat of eternal damnation of millions of souls, the lifeline of the Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart, all these sober, serious themes punctuated by unexplained phenomena, and climaxed with a stupendous, undeniable miracle that is a fact of history attested to by thousands of eyewitnesses, believers and atheists, at Fatima and as far as 30 miles away. Heaven had visited earth and delivered an unmistakably ominous warning to three rustic peasant children on a Portuguese hillside near the beginning of the most enlightened, godless, murderous and bloodstained century in human civilization. Was anyone listening?" pg. 28

Referring to a thick, rough rope that the three children wore around their waists as a penance for the sins of mankind:
"After becoming ill she [Jacinta], like Francisco, took off her penitential rope and secretly gave it to Lucy, saying, 'Keep it for me; I'm afraid my mother may see it. If I get better, I want it back again.' The cord had three knots tied in it, and was bloodstained." pg. 34

"The Fatima apparitions, and its Secret, apply with acute precision to the vale of tears that was the Twentieth Century -- the inevitable consequence of four hundred years of revolution (Luther in 1517, Freemasonry in 1717, and Bolshevism in 1917). What more logical result could occur when a worldwide secular state uproots religion from society than the members of that society losing their faith, offending God, and damning their souls? What better remedy for this crisis than the Rosary, devotion to the Immaculate Heart, and the consecration of Russia? What better remedy for the blaspheming, heretical spirit of modern man than She who is known as the destroyer of heresies, and revered as the one destined by heaven to crush the serpent's head?" pg. 63

"Like most nations, Russia has committed her share of errors. Her most enduring error was a religious one--rejecting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Pope. The Russian Orthodox Church ended up deferring to the State instead, and paid dearly for this when the Russian monarchy was overthrown.
      "Until that time, however, Church and State in Russia co-existed relatively peacefully. When czarist Russia partitioned Poland near the end of the Eighteenth Century, the Orthodox Church persecuted millions of Polish Catholics, and attempted the forced conversions of thousands more. The Russian government herded millions of Polish (now Russian) Jews into the Pale of Settlement, an immense fermenting vat for the ideologies of Communism and Zionism. Both movements, which played major roles in Twentieth Century history, originated primarily in Russia." pg. 55

"[Rasputin] was more cynical than deluded. He called his followers 'fools' even as he encouraged their adulation. Yet Rasputin's vision was as narrow as his peasant upbringing. His primary ambition was satisfying his own lusts, not espionage. Too busy fouling his own nest to plan or participate in intrigues against the monarchy, the last thing Grishka would have wanted was a change in the status quo. As a bewildered monarchy and apathetic church lurched towards their awful fates, Rasputin loomed, a mocking specter, an unintentionally blasphemous caricature of a priest, and a sign and symbol of the state of the Church and religion in Russia at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. A Church weakened by centuries of schism produced its own reward who, instead of enlightening the nobility with vital Christianity, only made them a laughingstock. The life of Grishka Rasputin is a parable of 'Russia's errors' not normally associated with the Secret of Fatima." pg. 59

"A priest was beaten, scourged and crowned with thorns. A large beam of wood was placed on his back, and he was given vinegar to drink. The priest forgave his tormenters and blessed them. His torturers seemed bent on ritual murder, but the less demonic ones ended up shooting the priest instead. According to Thomas, 'His last request was to be shot facing his tormenters so that he might die blessing them.' Another priest, facing a firing squad, told his executioners: 'I want to bless you. Please free my hands.' The ropes were cut and his hands were chopped off. 'Bless us now,' he was told with a sneer, and bless them the priest did, moving his bloody stumps in the sign of the Cross until he died." pg. 78

"One [priest] was hung on a meat hook naked, with the sign 'Pork meat for sale' on his stomach." pg. 78

"The official version of history claims both sides were equally violent, and extols the Masonic 'democracy' of 'moderates' over Franco's 'Fascist rebellion'. Were Pius XI alive, he might term this 'diabolical propaganda'. No attempt is made here to exonerate fascist brutalities, but it cannot be honestly maintained that there was an equivalency of atrocities, for the simple fact that no merely natural force can match the satanic fury of the revolution. In the case of the Spanish civil war, there is an abundance of objective evidence confirming this assertion.
    "As for the revolution's complaint that the Spanish Republic was a legitimate government overthrown by Franco's 'illegitimate' revolution, when one considers how many Christian monarchies the revolution has put to the torch, and the rivers of blood shed in toppling governments for the sake of 'Liberty' and 'Progress', the hypocrisy of this complaint is breathtaking. At least the revolution is consistent -- they are ignoble in defeat as well as in victory. And to put things squarely in perspective, consider that the Spanish Inquisition, in four centuries, killed at most 31,000 people. This number, which even a Protestant historian of the Inquisition calls an 'extravagant guess,' is about one third of the people killed by the Revolution in the first three months of the Spanish Civil War." pg. 97

"After several days of balloting Venetian Cardinal Roncalli was elected successor to Pius XII. When asked what name he would choose, he replied, 'Vocabur Johannes' - I would be called John. The last Pope named John had been the antipope John XXIII -- a former pirate, lawyer, and Curial Cardinal named Baldassare Cossa. For five hundred years the name John had been avoided by popes for just that reason. The Cardinals were shocked at Roncalli's choice. ...After moving into the Vatican the new Pope ran into another antipope. John found an ancient statue of Hippolytus, an antipope of the Third Century. He had the statue restored and placed at the entrance of the Vatican Library. Then he visited the Holy Office to see his personal file. It was marked: 'Suspected of Modernism.'" pg. 154

There are more I would like to reproduce, but those will have to wait.

 "The heart is deceitful above all things" - Jeremiah 17:9

What A Strange Creature I Am

 I haven't written in quite some time - I guess I haven't had the energy to do so. I've been so busy this semester!

Minor update: I've been an altar boy at the Latin Mass at St. Agnes for the past several weeks! The experience is beyond words.

This has been my third semester being co-president of Newman, and whatever else may happen in the future I cannot help but be immensely thankful for the time I've been given among such wonderful people. Really, they're all quite remarkable. I wish I had the time to sit with each of them and get to know them better as individuals. How do we walk around every day and pass each other by and not realize that every human person is a separate created being with their own wills, hopes, dreams, personalities, destinies..."the universe next door", as James Sire put it. Even so, our Newmanites this year are in a class all their own. I really do cherish them. May the good Lord bless and keep them always, and may the Blessed Virgin watch over them and keep them close to her Son.

I, of course, have become a bit closer with some than others, which is to be expected, but I thank God especially for sending them to me. It has helped me cope a bit better with my friend moving away. But that aside...I don't know...I really am just grateful for them, for getting to spend time with them. Time is so precious and it slips away from us with such violence sometimes...

At the risk, nay, at the certainty of being absurd, I am reproducing the lyrics of a song from the old Hanna Barbara animated version of Charlotte's Web. This song and much of the sentiment that underlies that movie, beneath the simple exterior of the farmyard storybook drama, was very special to me as a child, and I always found a very genuine sort of sadness and understanding in this song in particular, which is the song that Charlotte sings as she dies.

How very special are we
for just a moment to be
part of life's eternal rhyme

How very special are we
to have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time

He turns the seasons around
and so she changes her gown
but they always look in their prime

They go on dancing their dance
of everlasting romance
Mother Earth and Father Time

The summer larks return to sing
oh what a gift they give!
Then autumn days grow short and cold
oh what a joy to live!

How very special are we
for just a moment to be
part of life's eternal rhyme

How very special are we
to have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time

There song is online here:

I am still quite frightened at the prospect of not being a student next semester. This was not a part of my plan. If I stopped my studies at NYU it would have been to go right into the seminary - not because I can't afford it and so need to do nothing but work. That's half a year of my life wasted! I feel so old sometimes...

I still don't know how I feel about film. I do think I'm a good director, I wouldn't be bothering with any of this if I didn't think I was, and I don't think that's arrogant to say. I know I'm not the best and I know what my weaknesses are and I also know that anything good I do have is a gift from God. Still, I wonder if film is to have any part in my life after NYU. Right now, I'm a bit frustrated because I didn't take a production course this semester (I really needed a break, and also, I couldn't afford to) so I took a bunch of film theory courses instead. I do hope I can finish my studies. But perhaps it is stupid of me to hope for something like this when there are so many others in far greater need than I. Perhaps I am just wasting my time here...Newman is the only reason I know that isn't true. Campus ministry is so important and I do think (or at least, I hope) that I've been able to contribute something of value here. But perhaps I shouldn't be so presumptuous. I hope the work I've done has been pleasing to God in some measure, and I hope I've somehow been helpful to our members.

 If I'm honest with myself, I must acknowledge that if I had to leave permanently before getting my degree, leaving Newman is the part that would make me saddest. It's become a sort of a second family to me, not that I don't have several other very good, very cherished friends elsewhere, even at NYU, but there is something very special about the fellowship of faith and of facing the difficulties and pleasures of the college experience together. I've always been aware of the fact that I'd have to leave eventually, and that's fine. The true friends I have made will remain my friends after the fact, and the others will remain in my heart and memory. But leaving early is something I wasn't prepared for.

And now, for the last and perhaps the most bizarre part of this post. ...Maybe it isn't very smart to write out all these for other people to see...
Oh well, I bet hardly anybody reads what I write anyway. Maybe one or two tops. Maybe I'll just be really ambiguous.

I've been debating the question of diocesan, Dominican, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter,etc. for some time with little hope of resolution in sight. Something (a very tiny but somewhat inexplicable something) that happened on Monday while I was at Upward Bound has pushed me farther in the direction of diocesan. It was something vaguely like an internal locution, which is not something I'm prone to (or think I'm prone to, if you don't believe in that sort of thing); somewhat similar to what happened to me a couple years back in Rubin when I was praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

A bit of light shining in the darkness? Perhaps. It is only the amazing people I've met along the way that has made this tortuous journey worthwhile...

Oh, there I go, taking myself too seriously again.

These are some articles on various unrelated topics I've enjoyed reading online recently:

Searching For Bethlehem: The Light At The End of The Tunnel

In Defense of a Tradition (on the origins of the holy Rosary)

The Rosary In The Bible

Reflections On The Decline of Masculinity

The Clothes Horse And The Beggar