Monday, June 29, 2009

Church and State

It has all happened before.

This excerpt is from Cathedral and Crusade, Vol. I, by Henri Daniel-Rops; subtitled Studies of the Medieval Church, 1050-1350 translated by John Warrington from the original L'Eglise de la Cathédrale et de la Croisade (Librairie Athème Fayard,) published by Doubleday Image Books in 1963 by arrangement with E. P. Dutton (1957). From p. 212:

In the World but not of the World

"The spiritual and moral problem which the Church endeavoured so courageously to solve was not the only one with which she was confronted; for in order to accomplish her supernatural mission, it was necessary that she should clarify her relations with the civil power. The two realms of authority appear at first sight to be unconnected; actually they are inseparable. Christ Himself emphasized that the Church is 'not of this world'; her essential purity tends to raise her above the things of earth. Nevertheless, her work lies in this world, among men, within the framework of their interests and institutions. She can be no more indifferent to the laws upon which her freedom depends than to those material resources which enable her ministers to carry out their supernatural function. She is a spiritual society, foreshadowing the City of God; but she is obliged to maintain close contact with the City of the World, and that is no easy task.

"The problem is everlasting. It is the most difficult of all those which Christendom has been called upon to solve; and if no satisfactory solution has yet been found, it is surely because none exists, because it is in the nature of things that there should be continual tension between the spiritual and the temporal order. Three situations are possible. The secular power may be opposed to the Church upon ideological or political ground, which means persecution; or the State my ignore religious activity and treat the spiritual society as nonexistent, which means neutrality. But persecution had ended in the fourth century, and neutrality was quite unthinkable in the Middle Ages; so there remained a third possibility, collaboration."

My own thoughts are only a few.

The First Amendment to the Constitution seems to me to assert the neutrality of the State with regard to religion: there shall be no established Church, but there shall be free exercise of religion. However, at least one of our Founding Fathers said (I'm paraphrasing) that our Constitution is suitable only for the governance of a moral people and unsuited for the governance of any other. Which I think we are becoming -- in fact, I think we're slipping back into barbarism.

I think that the Powers That Be in the United States at this moment are not only indifferent to religion, especially Christianity and most especially Catholicism, but are actively hostile; that we believers are in fact being persecuted, and it's going to get worse. The evidence is all around us, we only have to read the paper, watch TV, or surf the Net to see that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Elementary, my dear Watson."

This is one saying of Holmes (need I say which Holmes?) which he never said in any of the stories. Maybe in a movie, but not in the stories. I'm rereading my Holmes for the umpteenth time since I was twelve. I've never gotten tired of Holmes, never will.

One thing I like about Holmes, and murder mysteries in general, is that most times justice is done and things are set right. This happens so seldom in the real world.
Right now I'm reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was made into a movie about 1939, with (naturally) Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, and Richard Greene (who some years later played Robin Hood in a TV series which I believe was made in England). MAD did a satire on it way back when, called The Hound of the Basketballs.
One of the best lines from this novel is:
"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This and That

When I was visiting my sister out of town last month, I found a biography of Harry Truman by his daughter Margaret, and snapped it up. I had read his oral autobiography, Plain Speaking, and David McCullough's biography. Now, I knew very little about Truman before reading these books -- except that my junior-year American history teacher at De La Salle in Minneapolis, Brother "Ralph," said that history would come to judge Truman as one of the greatest of American presidents. After reading these three books, I'm inclined to agree with Brother Ralph. One other thing: I suspect very strongly that if Truman were alive and active today, he would give most of the current Democrats hell, especially the man who claims to be president today. "Give 'em hell, Harry!" Amen!

Yesterday, while shopping for car parts (plug wires and air filters) I went past a book store and found two translations of Virgil's Aeneid, one in prose and one in verse. I can't remember ever having read the Aeneid before, but after a couple of hours at it, I could slap my forehead for that lapse (oh, well, c'est la guerre), and I could see why the story has lasted two thousand years: it's a page-turner adventure story. Just like the Iliad and the Odyssey.

At the book store I also found a copy of the Marx Brothers' "Animal Crackers," and a copy of "To Hell and Back," the 1955 movie about Audie Murphy in which he played himself. We boys drooled with anticipation when we heard the movie was being made. I think I saw it twice or three times. Murphy's book was first published in 1949, and the paperback edition in 1951; my dad bought the paperback, and it's now on my shelves. To us boys in 1955, our dads and uncles and all the men and women who served in the armed forces during the War were our heroes. I think, looking back, that we could hardly have closen better, and Tom Brokaw was right.

As long as I'm on the subject, I have to give a hat-tip to men and women of other nations who helped defeat the "Thousand-year Reich" and the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." Especially to the very courageous hommes et femmes of the French Resistance - not to ignore the resistance movements in Denmark, Norway, Poland - and even the German White Rose Society, young people who spread anti-Nazi propaganda and were beheaded for it.

Back to the car. I got my first car in the spring of 1970 when I was 26 -- which I bet hardly a youngster today will believe. It was a 1963 Valiant, with the 190-cubic-inch slant-six engine. That was an awful good first car. For one thing, you could do almost everything yourself, including tuning and timing. My dad and older brother taught me how to do the clean sweep of fall maintenance; "You take care of your car in the fall, and your car will take care of you all winter," Pop used to say. He was right: that Valiant started one morning when it was 34 below here, and that without being plugged in. I had to use both hands to turn the key, and when it first fired off, I could hear each cylinder exploding.

After the Valiant, I bought a 1975 Duster, new, with the 225-cu.-in. slant-six engine and a "five-in-the floor" standard transmission. It was a nice tradeoff between power and economy. I ran it for ten years, 180,000 miles, and resold it. Bought a 1985 Honda Civic hatchback wagon, new, and drove that for twenty years until it just plain died. I was hoping to get a quarter of a million miles out of it, but didn't quite make it. That little car had five forward speeds, plus a super-low gear that you could only engage when you turned on the four-wheel drive. When I test-drove one, I drove it on the freeway, on city streets, and finally into a sandy vacant lot, where I drove it up to the hubcaps in sand and stopped. I engaged the four-wheel drive, put it into super-low, geeennntly let in the clutch, and just rolled right out. That car never got stuck anywhere, anyime, not even during the 1991 Hallowe'en Megastorm.

I was used to doing all my own work on a car, but by 1985 I was getting tired of "get out and get under" (an old song from my parents' youth), plus the works under the hood was a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle -- as is my present 1993 Dodge Caravan. So when I replaced the plug wires on the Caravan day before yesterday, it was the first time in about 20 years that I'd done that kind of under-the-hood work, and I was pleased that it wasn't as bad as I'd feared it would be. Even though I had to remove the whole air filter assembly to get at the back plugs. And of course I lost one part and had one part left over. (Murphy.) But as the old codger said to his wife, "I may not be as good as I was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." And I was right about the wires being the problem: the misfiring disappeared immediately.

Sometimes I'm so clever I just can't stand myself. Nyuk nyuk nyuk. And I'm so modest about it, too.

That's all, folks. Peace and blessings!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stimulus Check

About a month ago I got a note from the government that said I was going to get a stimulus check for some money, and I should get it about the end of May.

Today I pulled up and printed my May statement from my credit union and, sure enough, the money was in my account.

Why am I surprised?

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Last night, at my favorite beer-and-burger joint, they showed Saving Private Ryan on the TV. One of my childhood buddies (whose dad served in mop-up operations in the Philippines) had been urging me for years to see the movie, but warned me that the first twenty minutes were hard to take.

He understated. It was gut-wrenching.

I don't have the words to express my immense gratitude to those men at Omaha Beach, or to my dad, or to my uncle who was a gunner on a baby flattop at Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa; to my buddy's dad, to my six buddies who served in Vietnam (and four were killed there including one I baby-sat when he was a kid); to all who served and are serving now.

Thanks also to "V for Victory" and Fr. Z. and other bloggers for remembering, and reminding us.

I have four books about D-Day, and in one of them is this passage, which I think is relevant to the USA in 2009 (the emphasis is mine):

"The opinion of world history has ususally disregarded the momentary tendency to condemn a defeated enemy. No one thought of calling to account the soldiers of the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. No one indicted the marshals, officers, and men of Napoleon and of France, though Napoleon was decried as an aggressor by the coalition. The mass executions by the Duke of Alva in 1568 and the behavior of the northern states after the American Civil War are only exceptions to the rule. An officer corps that had been developed to serve a monarchist form of government was not adaptable to an eventual coup d'état or even to a critical attitude towards the head of state. This was a source of strength as long as the Army was commanded by a monarch responsible only to God. It was weakness when a godless man assumed control of the Army's destiny."

Author: Lieutenent General Hans Speidel, chief of staff to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Invasion 1944, New York: Paperback Library, 1972

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Excellent Article to Read

I was cruising around Cyberland this morning with my coffee, and wicked evil cigarette, and I found an excellent article by "Dr. Sanity" at entitled "Reject the Left's Socially Acceptable Racism and Bigotry." The good doctor referred to another article by Victor Davis Hanson at Pajamas Media, about postmodernism and America's first postmodern president -- and I don't have to tell you who that is.

Both articles are very much worth reading, and I recommend them highly. I'm not a philosopher, but as far as I can tell, "postmodernism" and "deconstruction" and all that basically means that "something is whatever I say it is," which -- pardon my plain English -- is pure bullshit.

June 1944

At this time in 1944 I was three months, and a week or so, old, and just home from a month in an isolation ward in a hospital, finally cured or cerebro-spinal meningitis, which my parents told me many years later could have killed six people. My Mom was not allowed to hold or nurse me because I could have infected and killed her. I found out much much later, that what kills or maims (blindness, deafness, retardation) the meningitis patient is the fever the body sets up to kill the bacteria.

Pop and Mom told me that some of the medical staff wrote me off: "Go home and start another baby; everybody loses one." But thanks to a stubborn Norwegian, Doctor Karlstrom, who never stopped trying, and a stubborn Polish priest, Father Szymanski, who never stopped praying, I survived. May they rest in peace.

Pop and Mom told me that what eventually cured me was sulfa, a drug not available to the civilian public at the time. Pop wangled some from his Army rifle company's medical officer, and sent or brought it some to Doctor Karlstrom. The doc took out some of the infected spinal fluid and replaced it with a sulfa solution. I think he figured he had nothing to lose, and it worked, and here I am.

(Postscript from 2001 or so: a neurologist told me that no studies had ever been done on the long-term aftereffects of meningitis because there aren't enough survivors to do a decent study on.)

It makes me think a lot about the old Catholic or Christian adage that I heard a long time ago, that God puts each person on earth precisely where and when he or she can do the most good for His plan for humanity.

Anyway, that's one of the things I think about in June. The other two are the liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944, and of course the landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In the mid- to late 1950's, when war vets from all sides were publishing memoirs, I read a lot of the books that Pop had on his shelves (now on mine), particularly Bill Mauldin's Up Front, Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back, and Ross Carter's Those Devils in Baggy Pants. (I now have over 250 books and documentaries on WWII, by the way.) I'm not sure that it was good for a 10-to-13-year-old boy to read those stories, but I did, and the impression they left with me was that warfare is horrible beyond imagining, but sometimes it is necessary.

(My generation had Vietnam, and that war cost me six buddies that I know of, but that's another story.)

What happened in June 1944 is long ago; some of it was far away, some of it was as close to me as myself. But all of it has left its mark.

God bless America, and God bless those who put on her uniform.