Monday, June 21, 2010

Pieces of Eight

PHOTO: The author, in one of his definitively Catholic moments, Palm Sunday, 2009.

On this day, in the year of Our Lord 2002, the weblog known as man with black hat began publishing. Earlier today, it received its 150,000th visitor since we began keeping track on this date in the year of Our Lord 2006.

In the eight years since the beginning, this writer has seen other "bloggers" come and go, particularly those which identify themselves as "Catholic blogs." What is that, I wonder, a "Catholic blog"? Is it enough that the writer happens to be a Catholic? Is it required that they only talk about matters pertaining to the Faith? Is their catholicity affirmed by multiple (not to mention tacky) images of religious devotion, and photographs of high churchmen held in equally high esteem?

When we read books like Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, or Michael Foley's Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything, we realize the depth of influence on everyday life, by an entity committed to the Truth, being all too aware that said Truth possesses an objective and verifiable meaning. This can extend beyond matters of religion, which is not unreasonable to expect from the Source of Truth, He Who created everything. Such is part and parcel of what the Greeks called a phronema -- that is, a "mind set," or a "way of looking at things." Eventually this writer chose as the manifesto for this work, a quotation from Thomas Storck's The Catholic Milieu, which can always be found at the sidebar:

“Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue.

This is an important distinction to make. Many Catholic bloggers are so determined to make their site "all Catholic, all the time," on the assumption that such is expected of them. Even monastic life has more variety.

There are blogs that get their share of awards every year. Some of them are excellent, and their review is part of this writer's daily routine. Others are of varying degrees of merit, which owe their success in large part to the ability to gain attention (albeit rather fleeting, as we have seen on at least one occasion, along with this writer's reaction thereto). Some weblog authors receive acclaim in the professional realm, more for their enthusiasm than for their erudition. They do not necessarily have anything to say, but they serve a larger purpose, usually for a mainstream Catholic press, which is only now beginning to take the medium of the weblog seriously, as opposed to a mere conduit for promoting printed works.

So who is the audience for man with black hat?

They are people who appreciate the importance of faith influencing the culture, beyond persuading everyone to go to church on Sundays and/or railing about societal immorality (which has always been with us in some form or another). They love their Mother, the Church, and would see Her defended from attacks, both from without and within. They love Her priests, knowing that those priests do not belong on a pedestal, but in our hearts and in our lives. They know that the official worship of the Church, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is what the Second Vatican Council referred to, as a foretaste of the Perfect Liturgy in Heaven, that its correct celebration exists symbiotically with correct belief, and that both must extend beyond the doors of their parish church, and "duc in altum" -- put into the deep.

They are people who read good books (including those mentioned above), people who appreciate art and music. They are mindful of the poem by Hillaire Belloc ...

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

... and are wont to share their Faith, and their joy of life, with others. This sharing need not be extravagant, but may be found in the simple pleasures of life, the joy of God's creation, and the occasional good yarn.

If this writer can provide a glimpse into that vision, that phronema, then our efforts may be considered well spent. This sojourn will continue in this corner of the blogosphere for the foreseeable future, in the hope that you, dear reader, and others of your ilk, may continue to share our journey with us.

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