Archives for May 2005

It’s My Blog…

… and I’ll post old poems if I want to!
I’m back in upstate New York this week – just checked out a farm that’s coming up for auction. It wasn’t the one – the bones of the house weren’t right. The land, though…the barn, the hill, the stream, the trees… ah, well.

The Evening Comes

The evening comes
Everywhere and all at once
Rushing out of the sunset
Like Lucifer from the lake of fire
And there is everywhere
And all at once
An evening of things.

The morning comes
streaming slanted slats of gold
Showing me, once again,
Light and shadow
It leaves me
Mourning the difference.


G.K. Chesterton was born on this date in 1874.


Walker Percy was born on this date in 1916.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery…

David Horowitz has written a new book entitled The End of Time. Check out the cover here.

Gosh, but that’s a familiar looking cover. Hmm. Where have I seen something like that before?

Ah, well. I guess it means the good people at Loyola Press are doing something right.

You’ll Go Blind Doing That.

Okay, so it should be, “You’ll go blind taking that.” I know, I know – it’s too easy a shot. Forgive me.

The Liberal Media

Kidding. Half-kidding. From the May 21 Washington Post religion book roundup:

SWIMMING WITH SCAPULARS: TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG CATHOLIC, by Matthew Lickona (Loyola Press, $19.95). Lickona, 32, is a writer for an alternative newspaper in San Diego, a devotee of the Onion Web site and a wine connoisseur. This Gen-Xer is also a traditional Catholic who wears a scapular, a sacramental object worn around the neck to protect the wearer from damnation, and he believes that sex is primarily for procreation. In this small book, Lickona tells of periods of doubt but ultimate adherence to the faith.

“He believes sex is primarily for procreation.” Hm. From page 105: “But in my experience of marriage, the unitive end rightfully stands beside the procreative. The joy of heaven comes from union with God, the supreme union of lover and beloved. Until that union – pray God – comes to pass, I have a foretaste of that joy in marriage, an echo of heaven on earth.”

Someone want to tell me how anyone could get “sex is primarily for procreation” out of that? As I say, the “liberal media” bit is a joke. It’s probably more sloppy reading than a bias against anyone who draws an essential connection between sex and childbearing. But gosh all golly, that’s an annoying claim.

And I won’t be 32 for another month. Hmph.

ADDENDUM: I should note that I’m still very grateful to be mentioned, whatever my petulant reaction to this or that detail.

Oh, Wow. Oh, Wow. Oh, Wow.

The Elusive Scotsman was kind enough to post this in my comments:

From the June/July 2005 issue of First Things:

An engaging case study is now on offer in Matthew Lickona’s Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic(Loyola, 278 pp., $19.95). I will not be surprised if this becomes something of a niche classic. Lickona and his wife Deirdre are graduates of Thomas Aquinas College in California and live with their four (as of this writing) children in La Mesa, California, where he is staff writer for the San Diego Reader, an alternative newspaper. “Alternative” is the word for the ever-ancient, ever-new way of life they are striving to live, a life of self-discipline and spiritual struggles joined to the hilarity and high adventure of Catholic fidelity. (Four days into the honeymoon they were still virgins because, being committed to Natural Family Planning, the time was not right for Deirdre.) Thomas Aquinas is among the more prominent of alternative Catholic colleges established in recent decades, and this charming and frequently crazy book serves as a report card on what such schools are producing. If the Lickonas are representative, a rigorous (they would say vigorous) orthodoxy results in a way of being Catholic that has left behind the stale liberal-vs-conservative squabbles about what went wrong and what went right after the Second Vatican Council and has moved on to living the life of the faith in all its fullness. Theirs is not a return to the Catholic “ghetto” or “subculture,” nor are they part of an angry counter-culture. Rather, Lickona provides a delightfully high-spirited and candid account of living Catholicism as though it were true, scapulars included. The author is in lively engagement with the surrounding culture and the problems encountered by those who have chosen another way. “Let’s be open and clean,” he writes. “Let’s drag this out into the light and discuss. Let’s not be shocked and resentful; let’s love the lonely. Perhaps, coming from a fanatic, the message of God’s love will regain some of its wonderful outrageousness. ‘Listen. I have a secret. I eat God, and I have His life in me. It’s the best thing in the world; it leads to everlasting life. But first, you have to die to yourself.'”

There is a good deal of Matthew Lickona’s self in Swimming with Scapulars, but with the guidance of St. Augustine, C.s. Lewis, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church a new man is manifestly a-bornin. This book may not be a portent of the Catholic future, but it is a compelling account of the Catholic present as experienced by a growing number of young people who have dared to accept Christ’s invitation to “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” In catching, Matthew Lickona has been caught, and with winsome enthusiasm he recommends the experiment to others. The times they are a’changin.

Great googly-moogly, but that’s a nice review. I’m amazed and grateful.



Did I say that was my last Star Wars post down there? I was misinformed. I lied. I’m weak. This is the best thing since


Habemus Papam? You don’t say.

Apparently, we have a new pope. Apparently, we’ve had him for a while now – which makes the following inexcusably tardy. But here at Godsbody, that’s never stopped us before. We were shuffling through old email, muttering to ourselves about deadlines we weren’t meeting, when we found this, from sis-in-law Lisa, and thought we’d share:

Today Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Benedict XVI. I feel relief, excitement, joy, anticipation. The media portrays him as a hardline conservative. This is so far from the way I perceive him. The very first theology book I ever read was in my required sophomore intro course: Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity. I didn’t know anything about Ratzinger then or even anything about Catholic theology. But I guess that at some level I perceived it as dusty, dry and stodgy–because I remember my surprise when, after reading about 10 pages, I was enchanted, intrigued, challenged. Ratzinger’s writing was and is fresh and re-freshing. His prose is anything but plodding, his insights anything but predictable. Yesterday my theologian-friend Margie and I were talking about him. “He has no system of his own,” she said, with an air of respect, “He seems simply to be always contemplating the mystery.” Reading Introduction to Christianity was the first time I touched the mystery in a book of “theology.” Two years later, Michael Waldstein, a devotee of Ratzinger, taught the course that convinced me to study theology in graduate school. I was hooked.

At the John Paul II Institute I became acquainted with a German Dominican seminarian who had studied under Ratzinger at the university. Ratzinger, he told me, had a giant intellect. He could speak and the sentences rolled off his tongue as fully formed thoughts–“as though you were reading them in a book,” the seminarian added. Ratzinger has a great mind. But when I think back to that first reading of Introduction to Christianity, now that I have more theology under my belt and more Ratzinger books in my library, what I remember are not his arguments, but his stories, his images. One that stuck with me was in his discussion of the characteristics of God–one of which he termed “superfluity,” that is, overabundance, a gift that overwhelms the receiver. It is the characteristic of a God who spills his own blood for his pitiful creatures. Isn’t this superfluity, this overabundance, Ratzinger reasons, visible throughout the universe–from the thousands of seeds that are produced so that one flower may grow to the millions of stars strewn simply for our pleasure and amazement. This is vintage Ratzinger: turning a well known argument against the existence of God–after all, what is the measly earth but a speck in a quasi infinite universe–on its head. This is what comes from contemplating the mystery: the Love that created all that is, that beckons us in the person of Jesus Christ.

We Can Explain

We think we might have an explanation for this, besides the perhaps more obvious “The man is unhinged.” Tom Cruise is still smarting from the impression Ben Stiller did of him way back when on the Ben Stiller Show. The skit where he had Tom turning his most famous movie roles into a Broadway revue. This is Tom doing his best Ben Stiller, when Stiller is in his angry, helpless, freaking-out mode. Now all we need to complete the circle is for Ben to riff on Tom’s impression…

Radio Radio

If anyone out there happened to be up early enough to hear me on Relevant Radio this morning (5 a.m. my time), I’d like to make a clarification. When I talk about reconnecting to tradition, it’s more than dusting off this or that pious devotion that had passed out of style/use. It’s an attempt to embrace the Faith in all its fullness, richness, and mystery, to treat what has come before as a guide and an inheritance. Scapulars and such are part of that, but only part.

Yes, I referred to Lord Marchmain as Lord Brideshead. It was 5 in the morning. I had to attend a wine dinner last night (oh, the perils of the day job). Sue me.

My attempt at a joke didn’t fly, either. The promise of the scapular is, “Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” Without getting into a deep discussion of the sacramental, I always thought the idea that there’s a deep-freezer in hell full of damned scapular-wearers was pretty funny, a bit of Catholic inside baseball. Ah, well.

Happy Bobday

Bob Dylan is 64 today. Will we still need him, will we still feed him?

Every Grain of Sand
by Bob Dylan

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

The flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

I’ll Never Get To BlogHeaven…

…that magical land where religion blogs go when they’re good – but I got reviewed by someone who did: Kathy Shaidle, founder of Relapsed Catholic and Contributing Editor/Columnist for Canada’s Catholic Register. Huzzah!

Episode III, Part III

I am trying to imagine a scenario in which it would be possible to produce a MST3K-style treatment of Episode III without ending up in the clutches of Darth Lucas… If only there were some mode for the rapid dissemination of digital information among users without the involvement of some legally pursuable entity…

Not that I would ever recommend any kind of illegal activity. But dang if I didn’t spend a delightful half-hour on the phone last night listening to a friend perform scene-by-scene rips. Imagine the script conference, he began (I’m paraphrasing and adding a bit here): “Dude, pass me a hit. So there’s these robots that get on the wings of the spacecraft, and they’re kind of like flies, and Anakin has to scrape them off – he’s all like, ‘Dude, get these things off!’ I mean, we’ve all been there, right? You’re driving along, and there are these flies in the car, and you’re trying to wave them out of the window, get them off the winshield, you know what I mean? Dude, this is the kind.”
“But the scene opens with the one guy saying, ‘General Grievous’ ship, dead ahead.'”
“Dude, that’s the beauty of it. They’re supposed to be thinking about this super-important mission, and they’re having to take fifteen minutes to deal with these damn flies!”
“Grievous. Heh heh. Grievous. That’s hilarious, man.”

Okay, enough. It feels good to vent, because I cared about those first three, enough not to notice the deep sillliness of the Ewoks. But I’ll stop now.

Episode III, Part II

(I suppose there are more spoilers ahead, so again, consider yourself warned.)

My favorite account of second (first)-trilogy Lucas came from my friend Joseph: “It’s clear he’s lost something, and not the way a pitcher loses a live fastball. Rather, the way a farmer loses an arm to a combine.” My general response to the first trilogy: it was good for Episode IV to have those first three episodes as a backstory. It’s not at all clear to me that it’s a backstory that needed telling. But even if you were dying to see that first showdown between Vader and Obi-Wan (and I was), and so were willing to put up with Jar-Jar, trade federations, etc., there’s still the matter of his ability to direct a scene. When the newly quadriplegic Vader is being fitted with his robotic limbs prior to being locked inside his black suit, it should be the most heart-rending scene in the film – the man is becoming “more machine than man, now.” This is Oedipus pulling out his eyes – the awful consequences are playing out. Imagine a close shot of a metal leg being fitted onto a ruined stump; the slow, precise movements of the robot surgeon… Instead, we get one ridiculously quick overhead shot of the operating table, during which all I could think was, “Wow, that robot is moving quickly.” R2-D2 got more loving treatment. And then, when the Emporer tells him that Padme is dead, we get Vader spreading is arms and crying “Nooooooooo” to the heavens. The Star Wars mythos is powerful, but it ain’t powerful enough to rescue that reaction from the abyss of cliche.

Episode III, Part I

(Um, big ol’ spoilers ahead – consider yourself warned.)

You see what happens when you allow a married priesthood? Love is forbidden to the Jedi. Anakin disobeys, falls in love, gets married, conceives a child with his wife, has premonitions of her death in childbirth, and ultimately turns to the dark side to preserve her life. You see? You see?! Married love clouds the mind! A Jedi must learn to let go of that which he loves! He must be detached! NO MARRIED PRIESTS!

Kidding. Now and then, it may be tempting to compare the Jedi to the priesthood. (Dave Chapelle did it in his Jedi-padawan (sp?) sex-scandal skit. “Transferred you are,” chuckles Yoda to a naughty Jedi as they snort whatever passed for cocaine a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.) A secretive order with special powers, etc. But Lucas undermines the comparison right away. There is no calling, no vocation for the Jedi; they can’t even use the Force to determine whether Anakin is meant to join them (though it does raise suspicions). They’ve got to resort to something in his bloodstream, some little bits of stuff.

The Force is a skill – a person can learn its ways, provided he’s got enough mitochlorians. What the priest can do is not in virtue of some special knowledge or physical trait, but a special charism, a special relation to God.

Why am I posting about this? I don’t know, exactly. But Star Wars seems to matter, at least enough to warrant comment. More in a bit. Bear with me.

My Father the Hipster

I grew up making fun of Zamfir, King of the Pan Flute. I made fun of most music I saw advertised in mini-infomercials, the sort that scrolled a list of song titles across shots of the artist gazing somewhere just above the camera, then gave you a number to call at the end and asked you to have your credit card ready. Zamfir actually came into my home – Dad bought a tape – and so he received special scorn. Listening to him, I felt knee-deep in melted cheese.

So imagine my chagrin when, while watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 (a movie I enjoyed much more than some), I heard them. The unmistakable, shimmering tones of Zamfir, which had poured forth so many times from the tiny tape deck on the shelf above the radiator in the kitchen of my childhood home. Who knew that Dad knew what Tarantino knew?

Sam Drummond

My mother named me Sam Drummond, Junior, after my father whom I never knew. She keeps his picture in a jewelry box on her dresser, along with the one letter she received from him before he went missing in Vietnam in 1972. I used to sneak into her room sometimes and stare at that picture and read the letter over and over again, never failing to be mesmerized, as if expecting a revelation to emerge which would be the key that would unlock the deadbolt of a door deep within me. The man in the color Polaroid, my father, Sam Drummond, looks young and strong, holding up a lunker trout which glistens metallically against the backdrop of blue sky and jagged green horizon. Do I discern myself in his broad smile and the irony playing in his eyes? Not really. Once upon a time, maybe, but now I have outgrown my father. He is a spirit, forever young, and I turned thirty last week, the age at which Jesus changed water into wine. The letter stands in juxtaposition to the picture and it is in mirroring one against the other, as when the hairstylist holds a mirror up so you can see the back of your head in the mirror in front of you, that I have tried to catch sight of my father’s ghost standing behind me. The letter fills a single sheet of Air Force issue stationary, folded in half and then in thirds to fit a small envelope. The handwriting is nearly illegible, but strikes one as strong and self-assured for a dude of twenty. “Dear Louise,” it begins, “Saigon is the hottest, stickiest, most godforsaken place I’ve ever had the pleasure of vacationing in.”