Friday, January 28, 2005

My Thomist Moment(s)

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Doctor of the Church. An "official" account of his life can be found in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

But anybody can link to that. You're all out there (well, both of you anyway), begging for more.

You will invariably find it on any Dominican's website in the Catholic blogosphere -- including Disputations, who last year at this time, produced two excellent pieces on "The Angelic Doctor," entitled Lord, make me a humble idiot, and How to study

But enough of that. Let's talk about me.

I learned about "Thomism" at the dinner table.

Dad was in the seminary for high school and the first half of college. Not that there was a lot of theology taught at that level. "We learned an awful lot of Latin," is the most he'll say. But the experience did whet his appetite to learn more of the meaning of life, and so while finishing college at Xavier University (the one in Cincinnati, not New Orleans), he studied the philosophy and theology of Thomism. In those days, a graduate of a Catholic university required an academic minor in philosophy, so it was gonna happen.

In the years that followed, this carried over into the evening discussions over dinner. I can still hear him saying, "Everything you do in life is either a plus or a minus." This merely reinforces a fundamental truth about nature, in that it abhors a vacuum. Indeed, not just nature, but supernature. So all of us learned how to "think in a straight line." My brother and I are as different as two brothers could be. But to this day, when talking to him about a serious topic, I hear a version of myself.

I wanted to pass this on to my son. His mother succeeded in calling most of the shots (while dear old Dad got to do his share the first of every month). But when Paul decided to study philosophy in his senior year of high school, I reviewed the required texts. This confirmed my suspicions that a public high school was not the place for a Catholic gentleman to learn philosophy. After all, anybody can read out of a text that tells you what other people think. I wanted Paul to learn how to think.

So I obtained a lecture series on audiotape and accompanying text, from a religious center in New Hampshire operated by a group of Feeneyites. The series, called Philosophia Perennis, was a part of our monthly meetings. We managed to get about halfway through the cirriculum.

But Paul managed to take it from there.

He used the arguments of Thomas to debate in favor of the existence of God. And, as an up-and-coming artist in the DC hip-hop scene, the good Doctor found his way into Paul's lyrics:

The naysaying comes with ease,
I guiess that's just the cost to be,
A teenaged tossed salad of pop culture and philosophy.
Public enemy taught me,
"Always hate on the establishment."
Aquinas taught me
Didn't kill off all the Catholics.


Thursday, January 27, 2005


Nihil Obstat, the "official" proofreader of the Catholic blogosphere, has on occasion been known to list any number of weblogs as being unusually inactive, under the occasion title of "ZZZZ." So it would be with this one, were not Nihil himself in the same mode lately.

Yes, I've been inactive for three weeks now. The start of school, the lousy weather, and being under it just a wee bit, all have contributed to my absense.

But the major factor has been one of reflecting on the future of this avocation of mine, this site which you are reading now.

Since being in class to earn a degree in web design, I've wondered if the quality of this site couldn't be enhanced; it's just a question of how. I've also been taking a careful look at the place of MWBH in the blogosphere. I've noticed people flocking to sites that are inactive for weeks at a time, keeping the comments box humming while the object of their adoration is on sabbatical for whatever reason. Usually it's someone with an already-established presence in Catholic publishing.

I can't compete with any of that. I had a chance to break into writing for the Catholic press several years ago. Even had a few things published. But it didn't quite happen -- yet.

I've been meaning to rise above the current slump. And so, in keeping with the first of the year, I've made a few resolutions. Wanna hear 'em? Well, you're gonna hear 'em anyway...

* A regular set of features. At least once a week, have the segment entitled "I read the news today, oh boy..." That one seemed to go over really well -- especially with me.

* Start a series, and actually finish it. I started a really good one on that Ave Maria thing last year, and never finished. Following the necessary research, I intend to re-introduce it, but only after I've already written out the whole thing. That way I know I'll be done.

* Be my damn self. The best sites are the ones where the author doesn't try to follow anyone else but his/her own muse. Or set of interests. For example, Irish Elk writes about baseball. Even if you're not a baseball fan, you can appreciate why he is. The way he integrates the game of baseball into the game of life, is a trick that bears watching. Another one is Dappled Things, authored by Father "Don Jim" Tucker, local priest and renaissance man extraordinaire. I shouldn't be afraid of the things that interest me, just because no one else is. (Does anyone in the Catholic blogosphere write about Boy Scouting? The whole Louisiana cajun/zydeco thing? Cohousing??? Nah, didn't think so.)

* At least once a week, remember one of the saints. Hopefully, I could top this little gem.

* Every two weeks or so, MWBH would feature a decent essay on a particular subject of current interest. It might be something written about elsewhere at St Blog's, but MWBH would take it in a different direction.

* Finally, maybe once a month, let out all the stops and go on a serious rant! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Starting tomorrow, stay tuned...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

"Joy, health, love and peace...

...Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our king

"Our king is well dressed
In the silks of the best
With the ribbons so rare
No king can compare

"We have travelled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our king
Unto you we bring

"We have powder and shot
For to conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all

"Now Christmas is past
Twelve tide is the last
And we bid you adieu
Great joy to the new."

Albert Lancaster (Bert) Lloyd (1908-82) was an early leader in the British Isles folk song revival. In his volume Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy, he writes:

"A wren-boys carol, sung by groups of boys and young men, masked and disguised, who on St Stephen's Day (December 26) went from door to door carrying a hollybush on which was a dead wren, 'the king of the birds,' or something to represent it. This rare song came to the Watersons from Andy Nisbet, who got it from 'two old ladies in Pembrokeshire.'"

(Lyrics above transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard.)