Pentecost Sunday

It was this past Sunday and this article from Crisis Magazine gives us a good overview of its importance; huge, birth of the Church.

An excerpt.

Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Church with the coming of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’s promise to his disciples.

Yet, few doctrines of the Church are as misunderstood as that of the Holy Spirit. I suspect this is partly due to the fuzzy image connoted by a name that conjures up notions of wraiths, mysterious life-forces, and formless impersonal beings which incline us to think of the Holy Spirit as “it” rather than “him.”

There’s also the matter of instruction. Although we give the Holy Spirit a nod in our slogans, mission statements, and church talk, he is largely ignored in our teaching. In my long Christian life, over a number of denominations, I recall hearing only one sermon devoted to the comprehensive ministry of the Spirit.

He Creates
For folks who think of the Holy Spirit only as a New Testament gift to believers, his involvement throughout the Old Testament can come as a surprise.

In the opening verses of Genesis, the Holy Spirit is seen “hovering over the waters” of the unformed earth. When Elohim (the Hebrew plural name, in form, for God) said, “Let us make man in our image,” he was referring to the triune partnership of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Job’s friend, Elihu, confirms the Spirit’s creative role in his counsel to Job: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

From Creation to the Incarnation, the scriptures tell of the Spirit descending upon individuals who are tagged for some divine task: defeat a pagan foe, lead a rebellious nation, or speak a prophetic word. In contrast to the “indwelling” of believers in the Church Age, the Spirit’s “ondwelling” was temporary and selective.

But whether by “ondwelling” or “indwelling,” the Holy Spirit empowers humans to accomplish things that are humanly impossible, thus giving witness to the God “who is.”

He Inspires
The second letter of Peter is addressed to a church that was scattered, suffering, and swaying under the influence of heresies. To encourage the believers and help shore up their faith, Peter reminded them of the apostles’ accounts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection; eyewitness accounts detailing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.

Peter went on to explain the Source of the prophetic accuracy: “No prophesy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Retrieved May 21, 2018 from

Classical Music & Crime

The impact is marvelous as this story from the LA Review of Books reports.

An excerpt.

AT THE CORNER of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays. A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes. The music never stops. Night and day, Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi rain down from Burger King rooftops onto empty streets.

Empty streets, however, are the target audience for this concert. The playlist has been selected to repel sidewalk listeners — specifically, the mid-Market homeless who once congregated outside the restaurant doors that served as a neighborhood hub for the indigent. Outside the BART escalator, an encampment of grocery carts, sleeping bags, and plastic tarmacs had evolved into a sidewalk shantytown attracting throngs of squatters and street denizens. “There used to be a mob that would hang out there,” remarked local resident David Allen, “and now there may be just one or two people.” When I passed the corner, the only sign of life I found was a trembling woman crouched on the pavement, head in hand, as classical harpsichord besieged her ears.

This tactic was suggested by a cryptic organization called the Central Market Community Benefit District, a nonprofit collective of neighborhood property owners whose mission statement strikes an Orwellian note: “The CMCBD makes the Central Market area a safer, more attractive, more desirable place to work, live, shop, locate a business and own property by delivering services beyond those the City of San Francisco can provide.” These supra-civic services seem to consist primarily of finding tasteful ways to displace the destitute.

The inspiration for the Burger King plan, a CMCBD official commented, came from the London Underground. In 2005, the metro system started playing orchestral soundtracks in 65 tube stations as part of a scheme to deter “anti-social” behavior, after the surprising success of a 2003 pilot program. The pilot’s remarkable results — seeing train robberies fall 33 percent, verbal assaults on staff drop 25 percent, and vandalism decrease 37 percent after just 18 months of classical music — caught the eye of the global law-enforcement community. Thus, an international phenomenon was born. Since then, weaponized classical music has spread throughout England and the world: police units across the planet now deploy the string quartet as the latest addition to their crime-fighting arsenal, recruiting Officer Johann Sebastian as the newest member of the force.

Experts trace the practice’s origins back to a drowsy 7-Eleven in British Columbia in 1985, where some clever Canadian manager played Mozart outside the store to repel parking-lot loiterers. Mozart-in-the-Parking-Lot was so successful at discouraging teenage reprobates that 7-Eleven implemented the program at over 150 stores, becoming the first company to battle vandalism with the viola. Then the idea spread to West Palm Beach, Florida, where in 2001 the police confronted a drug-ridden street corner by installing a loudspeaker booming Beethoven and Mozart. “The officers were amazed when at 10 o’clock at night there was not a soul on the corner,” remarked Detective Dena Kimberlin. Soon other police departments “started calling.” From that point, the tactic — now codified as an official maneuver in the Polite Policeman’s Handbook — exploded in popularity for both private companies and public institutions. Over the last decade, symphonic security has swept across the globe as a standard procedure from Australia to Alaska.

Retrieved May 19, 2018 from

Ring Catholic Bells

A marvelous story from First Things.

An excerpt.

The bells at my parish had been silent for years. They rested in their tower quietly amid the wind, rain, and occasional flocks of pigeons. But starting two years ago, a few intrepid parishioners have been pushing the levers, awakening the bell clappers and some neighbors. Our lovely set of named bells ranges from big deep Adolphus (key of E) all the way down to tiny bright Gervaise (F-sharp). Adolphus is larger than a rather more famous bell here in Philadelphia, but he sings of a more perfect liberty. Each note on the scale is represented, but currently two bells—Elizabeth (G-sharp) and Edmund (C-sharp)—are out of commission, making renditions of “Immaculate Mary” or “Fly, Eagles, Fly” a little more difficult.

The goal is for bells to peal for daily Mass, after funerals, and for the noon and evening Angelus. We tried ringing the bells for the 6 a.m. Angelus but received angry phone calls within a few days. I thought about dropping off William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Catholic Bells” on the doorsteps of the aggrieved, but decided it was best to let sleeping neighbors lie. Sessions are conducted by a mixture of volunteers, a harried sacristan, a lazy custos (me), and enthusiastic altar servers. In good Catholic style, we sometimes ring late, sometimes early, and sometimes not at all. But more often than not our music is heard over the Victorian homes and row houses of West Philadelphia.

Why ring at all? It has been a long time since people set their watches to the noon-day pealing, and we hear of good news and bad by means of phone alerts rather than church chimes. Perhaps we do it in order to make our own contribution to the sound of the city. Daily we hear honking, laughter, sirens, birds, trolleys clanging, and the occasional drum circle. And now we hear the sound of bells, a small reminder that our urban landscape can be a spiritual landscape.

No doubt few people know the Angelus prayer and still fewer pause to pray it at our bidding. But bells remind us of churches, of joy, of loss, and perhaps of more ultimate things. As Williams writes:

Tho’ I’m no Catholic
I listen hard when the bells
in the yellow-brick tower
of their new church
ring down the leaves.

One pauses and one hears. Pausing and hearing can be the first step in faith. “Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist says.

So we ring out in the hope that someone might hear the call and enter. We ring out to add a touch of Christianity to these secular spaces. We ring out the death toll—rich and deep with Adolphus—hoping a college student will hear and suddenly catch on to what John Donne means when he says the bell tolls for us. We let parish children ring the bells so they can feel the reverberating joy of symbols old and new. And sometimes we ring for sheer joy. When the Philadelphia Eagles triumphed in the Super Bowl, amid the cacophony of car horns, shouting fans, fireworks, and the Eagles fight song, joyous sounds came from our bell tower. And a few weeks later, as we finally sang the Gloria on the Easter Vigil, we let them brightly sing out again for the triumph of Christ. God promises a new heaven and a new earth, so we celebrate the lasting joy of the Resurrection, but also the passing excitement of a Super Bowl.

Retrieved May 17, 2018 from

Bending to the Communists

In addition to the article by George Weigel excerpted below, Lampstand covered the dangers of Communism, and they are great, in relation to the Church in our 2013 book: Catholicism, Communism , & Criminal Reformation.

Lampstand has published ten books (free to Lampstand members, see for membership info) and each one is a response to a likely objection to Catholicism that will be encountered when doing ministry to professional criminals.

For nonmembers, links to all of the Lampstand books available at Amazon, go to

It is always bad, and has been so for the Church since the beginning, and why the Holy Mother at Fatima insisted upon the consecration of Russia a century ago; so this article by George Weigel—one of our great Catholic thinkers—from First Things is excellent, reminding us of why it is not good to bend to evil.

An excerpt.

In a recent interview, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, suggested that certain critics of a deal between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China were misconstruing the Holy See’s motivations: “There are those who’ve accused us of only wanting diplomatic relations as a sign of some sort of success. But the Holy See, as the pope has said many times, is not interested in diplomatic successes.”

It’s just possible that, among other things, His Eminence had in mind an online article I published at Foreign this past February. There, I argued that the decades-long passion of some Vatican diplomats for securing diplomatic relations with the PRC reflected an outmoded view of the Holy See’s role in world affairs, in which the Vatican is imagined to be a third-tier power trying to punch above its weight (as the cardinal secretary of state of Pius VII, Ercole Consalvi, did at the Congress of Vienna in 1815). That is no longer the case, I suggested, for the only real power the Holy See can deploy in twenty-first-century world politics is the power of moral witness and argument. That moral authority is compromised, and the life of the Church under totalitarian or authoritarian regimes is weakened, when deals are made by the Vatican that concede far too much authority in Church affairs to communist regimes. Which is what happened under the so-called Ostpolitik of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Agostino Casaroli: a policy of accommodation that led to grave problems for the Church in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and caused unnecessary headaches for the Church in Poland in the 1960s and 1970s, before the Ostpolitik was effectively jettisoned by the most geopolitically consequential pope in centuries, John Paul II.

So the issue here is not an untoward eagerness for diplomatic success; the issue is one of confusing diplomatic accomplishment with evangelical achievement. And that gets me to the oft-repeated nub of my critique of the putative deal between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China: Any arrangement by which the Chinese communist authorities are conceded a significant role in the appointment of Catholic bishops will weaken the Church’s evangelical possibilities—today, and especially in the China of the future. Kowtowing to communists is bad for achieving a full reconciliation among the currently divided factions in the Catholic Church in China. But first and foremost, it is bad for mission and evangelization, now and in the future.

I am skeptical of the claim, often heard in Vatican circles, that China will inevitably become the lead power in the world. Yes, China has made enormous strides economically since Deng Xiaoping abandoned Maoist economic madness and unleashed the creativity of the Chinese people. Yes, the Chinese model of efficient authoritarianism is now a serious competitor to democracy. And yes, the communist regime’s claim to have restored the Middle Kingdom’s dignity after a century of quasi-colonial degradation has significant appeal among Han Chinese (if not among Tibetans and the Uighurs of Xinjiang). But the one-child policy that China brutally enforced for decades has created serious demographic and social problems; there’s little by way of a social safety net for an increasingly elderly Chinese population; and it seems unlikely that today’s restraints on free expression in China will be tolerated indefinitely by a rapidly growing middle class.

The communist regime in China is inherently unstable, despite what appears on the surface to be a successful, alternative model of development. Chinese communism will not rule China forever. And when a post-communist China finally opens itself fully to the world, China will become the greatest field of Christian mission since the Europeans came to the western hemisphere in the sixteenth century.

A Catholicism that has become identified with a discarded communist regime, because the Vatican once conceded the communists a significant role in the Church’s internal life, will be at a grave evangelical disadvantage in the post-communist China of the future, where evangelical Protestants and Mormons will be very, very active. And that evangelical concern, I would respectfully remind Cardinal Parolin, has long been the core of my argument against granting the Chinese communist regime a significant role in the choice of bishops.

Retrieved May 16, 2018 from

Pope Francis & the Opposition

Going strong, as this article from Fatima Perspectives, by one of my favorite Catholic thinkers, Christopher A. Ferrara, notes.

An excerpt.

Regarding the meeting at the Vatican over intercommunion for Protestant spouses of Catholics in Germany, stacked in favor of the subversives who demand it, Edward Pentin, writing in the National Catholic Register, has reported on the fallout from Francis’ advice to the attendees (which did not include himself) that he appreciates the “ecumenical commitment of the German bishops and asks them to find, in a spirit of ecclesial communion, a unanimous result, if possible.” 

This stupefying statement, which suggests that a matter of Catholic dogma is subject to a vote leading to some sort of “result,” has aroused the concern of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whom Pope Francis ousted as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Müller told the Register that “the statement was ‘very poor’ as it contained ‘no answer to the central, essential question’”, that there can be no “sacramental communion without ecclesial communion,” and that the Pope should provide “a ‘clear expression of the Catholic faith’.”

Yes, the Pope should defend the Faith.  But there is no sign that he intends to do so.  As one of Pentin’s sources told him, Francis “failed to fulfil his obligation as pope regarding a question of dogma which his office must decide.” Rather, “the CDF was left to act as a postman, not to affirm the faith, but to announce this information” — i.e., that the German bishops’ conference must decide the question for itself, seeking unanimity on a matter that is not subject to change in the first place.

Müller, citing Lumen Gentium, “reminded that bishops’ conferences have a ‘secondary importance’ to the Pope, and it is not possible for them to vote unanimously on a matter of doctrine that would contradict ‘basic elements’ of the Church. ‘We must resist this,’ he said, and warned that if the principle of Catholic identity consisting of both sacramental and ecclesial communion is destroyed, ‘then the Catholic Church is destroyed.’”

First of all, the bishops conferences in truth have no importance as they are not part of the divine constitution of the Church but rather were invented after Vatican II in order to bring about precisely what has since happened: a ruinous democratization of the Church.  No bishop is bound to accept the decision of any bishops’ conference as each bishop, being a successor of the Apostles, is the ruler of his own ecclesial territory subject only to the authority of the Pope.  Francis, however, wishes to invest bishops’ conferences with “genuine doctrinal authority,” which would mean, inevitably, a fragmentation of Catholic doctrine and practice, already underway with respect to Holy Communion for the divorced and “remarried.”

But Müller’s approach to a papacy that is actively undermining Church unity and threatening the very destruction of the Church he professes to fear is to declare: “I hope more bishops will raise their voices and do their duty. Every cardinal has a duty to explain, defend, promote the Catholic faith, not according to personal feelings, or the swings of public opinion, but by reading the Gospel, the Bible, Holy Scripture, the Church fathers and to know them. Also the Councils, to study the great theologians of the past, and be able to explain and defend the Catholic faith, not with sophistic arguments to please all sides, to be everyone’s darling.”

On and on the pretense goes:  Call upon the bishops to defend the Faith while avoiding any mention of the reality that it is the currently reigning Pope against whom the Faith must be defended.  Francis has not merely failed to provide “clarity,” he is actively working to promote division in the Church according to his model of “synodality.” 

As Sandro Magister observes:  “A growing number of cardinals and bishops see… the risk that the unity of the Church may be shattered, and on questions central to the Catholic faith. But for [Francis], the Church must be made precisely like this: ‘polyhedral,’ with many sides. In plainer words: in pieces.”

Retrieved May 14, 2018 from


Catholic Colleges Becoming Catholic?

According to this story in Crisis Magazine, one of the most prominent is; and not a moment too soon.

A big Bravo to its leadership!

An excerpt.

A few weeks ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education got all spun up about whether “Catholic U.’s Chaste Brand” was scaring off prospective students.

Some anonymous professors were practically gleeful that the reassertion of authentic Catholicism at CUA, begun under Father David O’Connell and continued robustly under current president John Garvey, was finally shown to have failed.

Market researchers hired by the administration had completed a report on how CUA can increase enrollment from 3,300 undergraduates to a goal of 4,000 and the challenges getting there. Among the many issues discussed in a faculty presentation in January was Catholic identity. The researchers concluded that CUA has reached the maximum students it can attract by an overt appeal to the religiosity on campus and that other appeals should be made, chiefly CUA’s niche as a global Catholic research university.

But what was spun by disgruntled professors and dutifully reported by the Chronicle and others is that Catholic has supposedly become too religious and this has hurt enrollment, the implication being that the school should curtail all that Catholic stuff or a good part of it. No more videos about the Catholic mind, no more nuns and priests and popes on the CUA homepage. I will repeat. This was not the conclusion of the market researchers. The researchers did not say the religious identity of Catholic should be reduced or changed or anything like that, only that other aspects of CUA needed to be emphasized.

The report comes at a time when Catholic is going through a restructuring of its academic programs, faculty workload and assignments. Through its “Proposal for Academic Review,” the administration seeks to “strengthen both academic excellence and financial sustainability,” according to a letter sent to an ad hoc committee of the academic senate by CUA provost Andrew Abela. The administration wants each faculty member to teach three courses per semester, something already mandated by the Faculty Handbook. The result of this would be a surplus of teaching hours which would allow for a reduction in full-time faculty—35 in all; most of whom have taken voluntary early retirement. Such reductions would save $3.5 million a year and strengthen some expanding departments.

Not so much in the background, however, is unhappiness among some that CUA continues, in fact seems to have sped up, its commitment to being known not just as Catholic but as faithfully Catholic, explicitly Catholic, really really no kidding Catholic. This started long ago when Fr. David O’Connell took over in 1998. According to the Washington Post, when O’Connell took over the “campus was unkempt and spiritually adrift.”

Under his tenure, controversy followed controversy. As the Post reports, celebrity speakers were disinvited, student newspapers seized, and—gasp!—student sex was prohibited. At a time when gays were really flexing their muscles and even Catholic colleges and universities went gay-crazy, O’Connell would not let them organize on campus, even though there was a recognized group under his predecessor.

Dr. John Garvey took over in 2010 and almost immediately let them know the orthodox trajectory would continue. For starters, he ended co-ed dorms. Moreover, in a 2013 letter, Garvey wrote that the debate about “consent” in sexual relations was misplaced. He said, “Chastity is an unfashionable virtue nowadays, but the idea is not hard to understand. Casual sex is harmful if there is no coercion. It plays at love for sport. It makes promises that the players don’t intend to keep. It insults the dignity of the other person by treating him or her as a sex toy rather than a child of God. It divorces sex from the creation of new life and the unity of a family.”

Regarding faculty, Garvey and his colleagues unashamedly look for faithful Catholics. One senior administrator openly says not every faculty department has to have 100 percent faithful Catholics, but they expect the majority eventually to be. Garvey compares CUA faculty hires to the University of Chicago. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Garvey says, just as an economist with a preference for regulation and big-government stimulus might be a poor fit at Chicago, so too would a professor with little interest in the Catholic intellectual tradition be an unlikely match at Catholic University.

Retrieved May 11, 2018 from

America Doing Okay

A very nice optimistic article by James Fallows, about our country, from The Atlantic.

An excerpt.

I have seen the future, and it is in the United States.

After a several-year immersion in parts of the country that make the news mainly after a natural disaster or a shooting, or for follow-up stories on how the Donald Trump voters of 2016 now feel about Trump, I have a journalistic impulse similar to the one that dominated my years of living in China. That is the desire to tell people how much more is going on, in places they had barely thought about or even heard of, than they might have imagined.

In the case of China, that impulse matched the mood of the times. In the years before and after the world financial crisis of 2008, everyone knew that China was on the way up; reporters like me were just filling in the details. In the case of the modern United States, I am well aware that this message runs so counter to prevailing emotions and ideas as to seem preposterous. Everyone knows how genuinely troubled the United States is at the level of national politics and governance. It is natural to assume that these disorders must reflect a deeper rot across the country. And indeed, you can’t travel extensively through today’s America, as my wife, Deb, and I have been doing in recent years, without being exposed to signs of rot, from opioid addiction to calcifying class barriers.

At the time Deb and I were traveling, sociologists like Robert Putnam were documenting rips in the social fabric. We went to places where family stories matched the famous recent study by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton, showing rising mortality among middle-aged whites without a college degree for reasons that include chronic disease, addiction, and suicide. In some of the same cities where we interviewed forward-moving students, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs, the photographer Chris Arnade was portraying people the economy and society had entirely left behind. The cities we visited faced ethnic and racial tensions, and were struggling to protect local businesses against chain stores and to keep their most promising young people from moving away. The great majority of the states and counties we spent time in ended up voting for Donald Trump.

What we learned from traveling was not that the hardest American challenges of this era are illusory. They’re very real, and divisions about national politics are intense. So we made a point of never asking, early on, “How’s Obama doing?,” or later, “Do you trust Hillary?” and “What about Trump?” The answers to questions like those won’t take you beyond what you’ve already heard ad nauseam on TV.

Instead we asked people about their own lives and their own communities. Reporting is the process of learning what you didn’t know before you showed up. And by showing up in Mississippi and Kansas and South Dakota and inland California and Rust Belt Pennsylvania, we saw repeated examples of what is happening in America’s here and now that have important and underappreciated implications for America’s future.

Serious as the era’s problems are, more people, in more places, told us they felt hopeful about their ability to move circumstances the right way than you would ever guess from national news coverage of most political discourse. Pollsters have reported this disparity for a long time. For instance, a national poll that The Atlantic commissioned with the Aspen Institute at the start of the 2016 primaries found that only 36 percent of Americans thought the country as a whole was headed in the right direction. But in the same poll, two-thirds of Americans said they were satisfied with their own financial situation, and 85 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their general position in life and their ability to pursue the American dream. Other polls in the past half-dozen years have found that most Americans believe the country to be on the wrong course—but that their own communities are improving.

Retrieved May 5, 2018 from

Seduction of the Left

Excellent article on why the Left is so seductive to so many from Crisis Magazine:

An excerpt.

Much has been written in recent decades, and with good reason, about the institutions that shape culture (academia, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry), their liberal bias, and how they can be effective evangelists for the Left. However, this essay will explore forces within the human person—formidable but not irresistible—that go back to the Garden of Eden and can be as seductive as the serpent who plied his trade there. Radio talk show host, author, and Torah scholar, Dennis Prager, is not alone in calling the Left the fastest growing religion in the world.

Immanuel Kant asserted that our minds are not blank slates and that the human being has categories and structures within their minds that help process the raw sense data. In like fashion, the person who has been evangelized by the Left is not a tabula rasa but has received a primordial legacy, a kind of Adamic DNA, that aids in the conversion process.

When discussing the identity of the four rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10-14), there is a general consensus among biblical scholars that two of the rivers were the Tigris and the Euphrates while there is a diversity of opinion concerning the identity of the other two. The Tigris and the Euphrates replenished and defined what would later be called the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of civilization in ancient times.

The etiology of the modern day, political, economic, and cultural Left can also be traced to the Garden of Eden, and, like two great rivers, their headwaters start with the fall of humanity in Genesis 3. One river can be called the Political/Economic Left or the Redistributive Left; the other can be named the Cultural Left or the Social/Moral Left.

It’s important to make these distinctions and not lump people indiscriminately under the rubric “The Left,” because we all know people who are conservative on social and moral issues while being moderate to liberal on political and economic issues, and others who are liberal on social and moral issues and conservative on economic and political issues. In thinking about the former, many American Catholic bishops come to mind; in identifying the latter, one thinks of the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and attorney and political commentator, Heather MacDonald.

The Tigris River: The Redistributive Left
In looking at the origin of the Redistributive Left, it’s important, as I’ve written before in a different essay, to understand biblical anthropology. C.S. Lewis is helpful here:

The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We cannot adequately understand the world within us and without us without consulting a biblical anthropology. We were created in Eden; we were created for heaven (Phil. 3:20); the Preacher (Qoheleth) in Ecclesiastes says that God has “set eternity in their hearts” (emphasis mine; Eccles. 3:11b). Our deepest yearnings draw us heavenward or back to our pristine beginnings in Eden.

But now we live east of Eden in a fallen world, and, in our quiet, honest moments, we have a “something’s missing” feeling and a longing for heaven or something like the perfection of Eden. The cherubim stand guard at the entrance of Eden and won’t let us back in.

Life can feel like living in a motel room, and, despite the cable TV, free Continental breakfast, and comfortable queen-sized bed, it’s not home. How we respond to this yearning will greatly influence not only the health of our relationships but also the vitality of our society.

When misguided longings for heaven or Eden enter the public square, there is a utopian overreach that results in deleterious consequences in the political, economic, and social spheres of life. Utopian overreach results in dystopian outcomes.

The signature of the Redistributive Left is their effort to use public policy to create an equality of outcome, in contrast to an equality of opportunity, for their holy trinity of race, class, and gender. The cudgel of political correctness is often used to accomplish this goal.

Retrieved May 4, 2018 from

Vatican Secret Archives

A fascinating article from The Atlantic.

An excerpt.

The Vatican Secret Archives is one of the grandest historical collections in the world. It’s also one of the most useless.

The grandeur is obvious. Located within the Vatican’s walls, next door to the Apostolic Library and just north of the Sistine Chapel, the VSA houses 53 linear miles of shelving dating back more than 12 centuries. It includes gems like the papal bull that excommunicated Martin Luther and the pleas for help that Mary Queen of Scots sent to Pope Sixtus V before her execution. In size and scope, the collection is almost peerless.

That said, the VSA isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time. If successful, the technology could also open up untold numbers of other documents at historical archives around the world.

OCR has been used to scan books and other printed documents for years, but it’s not well suited for the material in the Secret Archives. Traditional OCR breaks words down into a series of letter-images by looking for the spaces between letters. It then compares each letter-image to the bank of letters in its memory. After deciding which letter best matches the image, the software translates the letter into computer code (ASCII) and thereby makes the text searchable.

This process, however, really only works on typeset text. It’s lousy for anything written by hand—like the vast majority of old Vatican documents. Here’s an example from the early 1200s, written in what’s called Caroline minuscule script, which looks like a mix of calligraphy and cursive:

The main problem in this example is the lack of space between letters (so-called dirty segmentation). OCR can’t tell where one letter stops and another starts, and therefore doesn’t know how many letters there are. The result is a computational deadlock, sometimes referred to as Sayre’s paradox: OCR software needs to segment a word into individual letters before it can recognize them, but in handwritten texts with connected letters, the software needs to recognize the letters in order to segment them. It’s a catch-22.

Some computer scientists have tried to get around this problem by developing OCR to recognize whole words instead of letters. This works fine technologically—computers don’t “care” whether they’re parsing words or letters. But getting these systems up and running is a bear, because they require gargantuan memory banks. Rather than a few dozen alphabet letters, these systems have to recognize images of thousands upon thousands of common words. Which means you need a whole platoon of scholars with expertise in medieval Latin to go through old documents and capture images of each word. In fact, you need several images of each, to account for quirks in handwriting or bad lighting and other variables. It’s a daunting task.

In Codice Ratio sidesteps these problems through a new approach to handwritten OCR. The four main scientists behind the project—Paolo Merialdo, Donatella Firmani, and Elena Nieddu at Roma Tre University, and Marco Maiorino at the VSA—skirt Sayre’s paradox with an innovation called jigsaw segmentation. This process, as the team recently outlined in a paper, breaks words down not into letters but something closer to individual pen strokes. The OCR does this by dividing each word into a series of vertical and horizontal bands and looking for local minimums—the thinner portions, where there’s less ink (or really, fewer pixels). The software then carves the letters at these joints. The end result is a series of jigsaw pieces:

Retrieved May 4, 2018 from

Latin Mass in Washington D.C.

It was a wonderful experience, as reported by the Remnant Newspaper.

An excerpt.

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2018 (The Remnant Press) — A Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the Extraordinary Form was celebrated today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The Pontifical Mass was organized by the Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy in honor of the tenth anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, issued by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in July, 2007. Although the tenth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum was in July, 2017, the Pontifical Mass was delayed until the completion of the Trinity Dome over the transept of the basilica.

The Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample, archbishop of Portland in Oregon. Rev. Fr. D. B. Thompson of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana, served as assistant priest, Rev. Fr. Gregory Pendergraft of the F.S.S.P. served as deacon, and Canon Andrew Todd of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest served as the subdeacon. The first master of ceremonies was Rev. Fr. Zachary Akers, F.S.S.P. The second master of ceremonies was Rev. Fr. Gregory Eichman, F.S.S.P. Rev. Fr. Josef M. Bisig, F.S.S.P., and Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico, Institute of Christ the King, served as deacons at the throne. Rev. Fr. Ernest Cibello, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hagerstown, Maryland, served as subdeacon of the cross.

The Mass celebrated was the Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Eastertide. The music was provided by the schola cantorum of The Lyceum School, the schola cantorum of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Allentown, New Jersey, the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble, and the schola of St. Mary Mother of God Church in Washington, D.C. The propers of the mass were sung in Gregorian chant, and motets by Claudio Monteverdi, Pierre de Manchicourt, Thomas Tallis, Vincenzo Ugolini, and Luca Marenzio were performed.

In his sermon, Archbishop Sample spoke about Summorum Pontificum and the relationship of the Church today with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The archbishop, who said that he decided to learn the traditional Latin Mass on his own after Pope Benedict issued the motu proprio in 2007, thanked the pope emeritus profusely on behalf of all those present for giving the Church so great a gift as to allow the Latin rite to be celebrated once more.

He noted that in this day and age, it is the temptation of many Catholics to assume that the Catholic Church essentially hit a restart button at Vatican II and that it is unnecessary to inform oneself about the Church prior to the council, especially concerning the Sacred Liturgy. Archbishop Sample explained that knowledge of the Traditional Latin Mass is in fact quite necessary even for those who attend the Novus Ordo, as it is when the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form work together for the good of the Church that the Church will thrive. There must, he said, be a “hermeneutic of continuity” between the pre-Vatican II Church and the post Vatican II Church. While stressing that he was not challenging the ideas and reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he acknowledged that the way in which those reforms were carried out has led to many of the problems the Church faces today. He assured the congregation that he fully believed in the validity and legitimacy of the Novus Ordo, but he expressed concern over the many liturgical abuses that the rite has shown itself to be prone to.

Archbishop Sample also noted the large number of young people present in the congregation. He said that many in the Church today do not understand why so many young people are drawn to the Latin Mass – a rite in which they did not grow up and with which they had no prior contact. That, the archbishop said, is exactly the question that should be asked: why are the young people drawn to the mass? Why is there such a desire among the young people of the Church to return to the Rite which their parents and grandparents attended? The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is a beautiful, solemn, and enriching Mass, he said. It is a Mass that was celebrated by generations and generations of faithful Catholics, a Mass that drew countless new converts to Catholicism, and a Mass “that produced saints.”

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