Category Archives: Quotables

Just what others have said. Just to keep you thinking.

Non Sum Dignus

I am not worthy; none of us are.

brooklyn_museum_-_lord_i_am_not_worthy_domine_non_sum_dignus_-_james_tissot_-_overall

In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

‘Hear and hear, but do not understand;
see and see, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people fat,
and their ears heavy,
and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

(source:  Isaiah 6:1-11a RSV-CE, emphasis added)

But with the prophets and martyrs and all the faithful who repeat that chorus, by the grace of God and the faith that knows Jesus Christ we are being made worthy.

Speak truth to power, beginning with my weakness.

Including the power of your friends.  And mobs.  And principalities, and rulers of the darkness of this age.

Speak truth you have received, in the Name of Him you received it from, in union with those who brought it to you and you to it.

And have the humility not to budge from that truth, or to negotiate it away.

Be transformed.

Thanks Again, Archbishop Chaput!

I know that many, many good people have labored very hard in their evangelization efforts over the past few decades, sometimes with great results, and their sacrifices need to be honored.

But as a Church I think we’ve made a basic mistake in underestimating the gravitational pull of consumer culture, the power of new technologies to shape the appetites and thinking of our young people, and the corrosive effect of American materialism on our memory as a believing community, and on our ability to experience the sacred and transcendent.

At the same time, we’ve overestimated the compatibility of Catholic faith with American liberal democracy.  As voices like Stanley Hauerwas and the late Avery Dulles warned us years ago, we’ve tried too hard to fit into a culture where we don’t finally fit.  And the results are predictable.  What can the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” or “Christ the King” mean to a young person raised in a culture committed to personal autonomy and deeply suspicious of authority and hierarchical structures?  What kind of influence can biblical revelation have in a culture where only science and technology count as real knowledge?

There’s a deep vein of practical atheism coursing through American consumer life that deadens the soul to a desire for holiness and discourages the hope for anything beyond the horizons of this world.  But it’s a problem we can easily miss because we imagine that the religious roots of our country still help to determine its course.  In 2013 Gallup polling, 75 percent of Americans surveyed voiced their support for a greater influence of religion in national life.  And that sounds wonderful.  But many of the same people who responded so positively on the survey had no personal interest in religious faith.

In other words, “Americans want religion,” as one headline read, for “everyone but themselves.”

(source: Achbishop Chaput–National Catholic Diocesan Vocations Directors Conference)

Helpful Clarity from Canada and Canon Law

As I noted in some detail in 2009, persons who kill themselves in accord with civil law perform a number of public, verifiable steps that—if the laws are being applied as they are written—all but eliminate any ‘pious presumption’ of diminished culpability for one’s self-murder. The ‘benefits of the doubt’ that we want to accord to ‘traditional suicides’ can hardly be offered to those who kill themselves under civilly-approved circumstances. To accord to such persons ecclesiastical funeral rites indistinguishable from the liturgies the Church grants to the faithful who die natural (sometimes even heroic!) deaths cannot but give scandal to the faithful. Indeed, to use the sacred rites of the Church for such ends is, I suggest, to commit a grave liturgical abuse, one savoring of sacrilege (CCC 2120).

[…]

Finally, ‘assisted suicide’ is, along with ‘legal abortion’ and ‘compassionate infanticide’, one of the three heads of that cerberus known as the Culture of Death. Precisely insofar as the modern death cult is cultural, it permeates everything and can appear anywhere. It must be quickly recognized for what it is and confronted wherever it manifests itself. If that means, in part, invoking the salutary admonitions of canonical discipline against manifest sinners and protecting the faithful community from the danger of scandal, so be it.

That’s what the law is there for.

(source: Time to head off confusion in Canada | In the Light of the Law)

Plurivocity, not Equivocation

Just to help folks keep their bearings, here’s what Thomas has to say about the four senses of Scripture.  Note how they relate to “equivocation” and also to the “literal sense”:

On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xx, 1): “Holy Writ by the manner of its speech transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.”

I answer that, The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. For as the Apostle says (Hebrews 10:1) the Old Law is a figure of the New Law, and Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i) “the New Law itself is a figure of future glory.” Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do. Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense. Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as Augustine says (Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses.

Reply to Objection 1. The multiplicity of these senses does not produce equivocation or any other kind of multiplicity, seeing that these senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things. Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one — the literal — from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.

(source: Summa Theologica I.1.10)

Further Interlude, still on Analogy, from the Ox

Just in case you did not, in fact, read it all:

Univocal predication is impossible between God and creatures. The reason of this is that every effect which is not an adequate result of the power of the efficient cause, receives the similitude of the agent not in its full degree, but in a measure that falls short, so that what is divided and multiplied in the effects resides in the agent simply, and in the same manner; as for example the sun by exercise of its one power produces manifold and various forms in all inferior things. In the same way, as said in the preceding article, all perfections existing in creatures divided and multiplied, pre-exist in God unitedly. Thus when any term expressing perfection is applied to a creature, it signifies that perfection distinct in idea from other perfections; as, for instance, by the term “wise” applied to man, we signify some perfection distinct from a man’s essence, and distinct from his power and existence, and from all similar things; whereas when we apply to it God, we do not mean to signify anything distinct from His essence, or power, or existence. Thus also this term “wise” applied to man in some degree circumscribes and comprehends the thing signified; whereas this is not the case when it is applied to God; but it leaves the thing signified as incomprehended, and as exceeding the signification of the name. Hence it is evident that this term “wise” is not applied in the same way to God and to man. The same rule applies to other terms. Hence no name is predicated univocally of God and of creatures.

Neither, on the other hand, are names applied to God and creatures in a purely equivocal sense, as some have said. Because if that were so, it follows that from creatures nothing could be known or demonstrated about God at all; for the reasoning would always be exposed to the fallacy of equivocation. Such a view is against the philosophers, who proved many things about God, and also against what the Apostle says: “The invisible things of God are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). Therefore it must be said that these names are said of God and creatures in an analogous sense, i.e. according to proportion.

Now names are thus used in two ways: either according as many things are proportionate to one, thus for example “healthy” predicated of medicine and urine in relation and in proportion to health of a body, of which the former is the sign and the latter the cause: or according as one thing is proportionate to another, thus “healthy” is said of medicine and animal, since medicine is the cause of health in the animal body. And in this way some things are said of God and creatures analogically, and not in a purely equivocal nor in a purely univocal sense. For we can name God only from creatures (Article 1). Thus whatever is said of God and creatures, is said according to the relation of a creature to God as its principle and cause, wherein all perfections of things pre-exist excellently. Now this mode of community of idea is a mean between pure equivocation and simple univocation. For in analogies the idea is not, as it is in univocals, one and the same, yet it is not totally diverse as in equivocals; but a term which is thus used in a multiple sense signifies various proportions to some one thing; thus “healthy” applied to urine signifies the sign of animal health, and applied to medicine signifies the cause of the same health.

(source: Summa Theologica I.13.5 respondeo)

Interlude, still on Analogy, from the Ox

Carefully read all of the Angelic Doctor’s words on the subject of the names of God before going on:

as regards absolute and affirmative names of God, as “good,” “wise,” and the like, various and many opinions have been given. For some have said that all such names, although they are applied to God affirmatively, nevertheless have been brought into use more to express some remotion from God, rather than to express anything that exists positively in Him. Hence they assert that when we say that God lives, we mean that God is not like an inanimate thing; and the same in like manner applies to other names; and this was taught by Rabbi Moses. Others say that these names applied to God signify His relationship towards creatures: thus in the words, “God is good,” we mean, God is the cause of goodness in things; and the same rule applies to other names.

Both of these opinions, however, seem to be untrue for three reasons.

First because in neither of them can a reason be assigned why some names more than others are applied to God. For He is assuredly the cause of bodies in the same way as He is the cause of good things; therefore if the words “God is good,” signified no more than, “God is the cause of good things,” it might in like manner be said that God is a body, inasmuch as He is the cause of bodies. So also to say that He is a body implies that He is not a mere potentiality, as is primary matter.

Secondly, because it would follow that all names applied to God would be said of Him by way of being taken in a secondary sense, as healthy is secondarily said of medicine, forasmuch as it signifies only the cause of the health in the animal which primarily is called healthy.

Thirdly, because this is against the intention of those who speak of God. For in saying that God lives, they assuredly mean more than to say the He is the cause of our life, or that He differs from inanimate bodies.

Therefore we must hold a different doctrine–viz. that these names signify the divine substance, and are predicated substantially of God, although they fall short of a full representation of Him. Which is proved thus. For these names express God, so far as our intellects know Him. Now since our intellect knows God from creatures, it knows Him as far as creatures represent Him. Now it is shown above (I:4:2) that God prepossesses in Himself all the perfections of creatures, being Himself simply and universally perfect. Hence every creature represents Him, and is like Him so far as it possesses some perfection; yet it represents Him not as something of the same species or genus, but as the excelling principle of whose form the effects fall short, although they derive some kind of likeness thereto, even as the forms of inferior bodies represent the power of the sun. This was explained above (I:4:3), in treating of the divine perfection. Therefore the aforesaid names signify the divine substance, but in an imperfect manner, even as creatures represent it imperfectly. So when we say, “God is good,” the meaning is not, “God is the cause of goodness,” or “God is not evil”; but the meaning is, “Whatever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God,” and in a more excellent and higher way. Hence it does not follow that God is good, because He causes goodness; but rather, on the contrary, He causes goodness in things because He is good; according to what Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 32), “Because He is good, we are.”

(source: SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The names of God (Prima Pars, Q. 13), emphasis added)

A Blast from the Past

OK, so in going through old docs, I found a small document called “MISC.TXT” and had to see what I’d left in such an odd little file. What I found was a transcript of a bunch of material from some of my earliest journals (started in my middle teens). In fact, some of the material in those journals, including at least a few of the items that follows, were first jotted on school book covers or clipped for my bulletin boards and later transcribed at least twice.

Anyway, if you really want to know a few of the things I thought were pellucid utterances that got at the heart of reality in my angsty teen years, here you go. I spared you the bad poem from the top of the page. You’re welcome.

If we will not die for freedom, we will die of slavery.

The hour of departure has arrived,
and we go our ways–
I to die,
and you to live.
Which is better, God only knows.

The Apology of Socrates

The duty of government is to defend the freedom of all of its citizens by
enforcing justice.

There is a limit, however, at which tolerance ceases to be a virtue.

Edmund Burke

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
for loan oft loses both itself and friend.

Shakespeare: Pollonius’ advice to Laertes; Hamlet

Depression is the hangover after a pity party.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.

Emerson

The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a
favored few booted and spurred, by the grace of God.

Jefferson

Equal and exact justice to all men … freedom of religion, freedom of the
press, freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial
by juries impartially selected– these form the bright constellation which has
gone before us.

Jefferson

Yes, the un-cited ones are what I believe to by my own original apothegms. I shall probably rest uneasy in my grave, one day, until at least one of these has been popularly attributed to Churchill, Lincoln, Disraeli, la Rochefoucauld, or Talleyrand.

We Rest On Thee

Some years ago, I had the chance to be in a production of the reader’s theatre play Bridge of Blood, and this set of words for the “Finlandia Hymn” portion of Sibelius’s wonderful composition continues to be pretty powerful with me.

Here’s the playwright’s own contextualization of his use of the song, from notes for a production of the play at Cedarville University:

W. H. Auden on the relationship between being a poet and teaching

No, I never have. If I had to “teach poetry,” which, thank God, I don’t, I would concentrate on prosody, rhetoric, philology, and learning poems by heart. I may be quite wrong, but I don’t see what can be learned except purely technical things—what a sonnet is, something about prosody. If you did have a poetic academy, the subjects should be quite different—natural history, history, theology, all kinds of other things. When I’ve been at colleges, I’ve always insisted on giving ordinary academic courses—on the eighteenth century, or Romanticism. True, it’s wonderful what the colleges have done as patrons of the artists. But the artists should agree not to have anything to do with contemporary literature. If they take academic positions, they should do academic work, and the further they get away from the kind of thing that directly affects what they’re writing, the better. They should teach the eighteenth century or something that won’t interfere with their work and yet earn them a living. To teach creative writing—I think that’s dangerous. The only possibility I can conceive of is an apprentice system like those they had in the Renaissance—where a poet who was very busy got students to finish his poems for him. Then you’d really be teaching, and you’d be responsible, of course, since the results would go out under the poet’s name.

(source: Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 17, W. H. Auden)

Getting the Order Right

You really ought to go right now and read the whole of the de Regno, because it’s amazingly clear and simple. 

Because the priesthood of the gentiles and the whole worship of their gods existed merely for the acquisition of temporal goods (which were all ordained to the common good of the multitude, whose care devolved upon the king), the priests of the gentiles were very properly subject to the kings. Similarly, since in the old law earthly goods were promised to the religious people (not indeed by demons but by the true God), the priests of the old law, we read, were also subject to the kings. But in the new law there is a higher priesthood by which men are guided to heavenly goods. Consequently, in the law of Christ, kings must be subject to priests.

(source: Thomas Aquinas: De Regno)

I will go down with the ship

Fighting against this:

The pervasiveness of these attitudes in the university is so obvious one wonders why anybody bothers to deny it anymore. Not just in scholarly writing or the class syllabus, but in every document most universities generate, in every event they sponsor, in every program they tout and fund, the mantras of multiculturalism are chanted as talismanic charms to ward off accusations of Eurocentric elitism and hegemonic pretensions. What is lost in this eager adherence to a questionable ideology, of course, is the sense of the university’s mission to encourage “the free play of the mind on all subjects,” as Matthew Arnold put it, and to foster the “instinct prompting [the mind] to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively of practice, politics, and everything of the kind; and to value knowledge and thought as they approach this best, without the intrusion of any other considerations whatever.”[3] These days what is taught is driven instead by “identity politics”: that is, whatever gratifies the sensibilities, esteem, and prejudices of various state-certified victims and their self-selected tribunes, who profit in institutional power from their presumed representation of the “oppressed” and “exploited.”

(source: The Twilight of the Professors – The Imaginative Conservative)

Poetry hath comforts

For he does think, although I’m oft in doubt
If I can tell exactly what about.
Ah yes! his little foot and ancle trim,
’Tis there the seat of reason lies in him;
A wise philosopher would shake his head, ­
He then, of course, must shake his foot instead.
At me in vengeance shall that foot be shaken —
Another proof of thought, I’m not mistaken —
Because to his cat’s eyes I hold a glass
And let him see himself a proper ass?

(source: Edgar Allan Poe “Oh, Tempora! Oh, Mores!”)

Yes, who among us could not use a little dose of historical perspective, just now?

vita brevis

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not thy peace at my tears!

For I am thy passing guest,
a sojourner, like all my fathers.

Look away from me, that I may know gladness,
before I depart and be no more!”

(source: Psalm 39 RSVCE)

Here’s one I still like best in an older version, with a more craggy beauty:

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.

O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

(source: Psalm 39 KJV)

Put in pipe. Smoke.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

(source: Matthew 24:45-51 RSVCE)

Pay Attention to the Structural Cases

It is really important that you keep track of the bits and pieces that are the groundwork of oppression, pieces often swept off to the side by mass-market democracy’s “issues” and the outrage-of-the-day disease that afflicts us:

But last July, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, upholding the law mandating pharmacists to dispense legal drugs and devices. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case today allows the 9th Circuit’s ruling—and the law—to stand.

If a customer at Ralph’s Thriftway requests a drug such as Plan B, employees refer customers to other local pharmacies that do carry the drug. According to court documents, over 30 pharmacies and drug stores within five miles of Ralph’s carry Plan B, and none of Ralph’s customers has ever been denied timely access to Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.

Alito, in his dissent, suggested the 2007 law, which is unique to Washington state, was designed specifically to target Christian believers.

“There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose,” Alito wrote, adding:

And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the 9th Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this court does not deem the case worthy of our time.

(source: Alito: Value Religious Freedom? You Should Be Worried)