Monday, July 31, 2006


Mr. and Mrs. Darwin Catholic have a list going of the things you should know by the time you're eighteen. Some of these things aren't going to happen for the Opinionated Offspringen, and a few seem pretty specific to Catholics (a Protestant kid doesn't need to have read St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, and I think Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is more important for everyone), but many are worth making sure your kids can do before they leave the nest. Here's some additions Eudoxus and I have thrown together. Feel free to submit your own, here or at the Darwins' site.

-Know the Greek alphabet well enough to sound out a Greek word inserted in an English text
-Ditto Arabic (not all that hard)
-Have a basic familiarity with Aquinas: have read about a dozen of the questions, including the “Five Ways,” and understand how his “sed contra” structure works
-Read some basic Aristotle before tackling Aquinas: at least the Nichomachean Ethics and the section on the four causes in the Physics.
-Be proficient at math through basic calculus.
-Read Chaucer in the Middle English: The General Prologue and two or three of the major tales
-See Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Also Sherlock Jr., Bringing Up Baby
-Know the rules of decorum for visitors to Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches, synagogues, mosques, and Hindu and Buddhist temples.
-Have participated in the care of an infant, and an elderly and/or very sick person.
-Have programmed some in any language, just to have an idea how a program works
-Be familiar with Milton (Paradise Lost, Areopagitica), Blake, Shelley, Donne, and Emily Dickinson.
-Know how to deal with an aggressive dog.
-Know the locations of all of the nations of the world. (Yes, all. At least know immediately which continent the minor ones are in.)
-Know the rules of football, baseball, and poker (even if you don’t play).

Special for Catholics (because I'm endlessly distressed by the number of practicing Catholics who don't have this stuff by adulthood):

-Be familiar with the parts of the mass and the names for the different parts/prayers: e.g. the Sanctus, the Roman Canon, the Preface, etc.
-Know all the people's prayers by heart, and what gestures ought to be made when.
-Know how to take Communion on the tongue: Even if you think you'll always receive in the hand, someday you'll find yourself in a foreign country (like southern New Mexico), or a traditionalist church, or with a sleeping toddler slung over your shoulder, and suddenly realize you need to receive the old-fashioned way.
-Know by heart the Our Father; the Hail Mary; the Angelus; the Hail Holy Queen; the Confiteor; short acts of faith, hope, and charity; the St. Michael prayer; the prayer for the dead; the Te Deum; and how to pray the rosary (be in the habit of praying it, too).
-Know the 10 Commandments, the 7 sacraments, and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
-Have read The Imitation of Christ, the Fioretti, and The Story of a Soul, as well as your Bible and most of the Catechism.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Handy Guide to Foraging for Chemicals

Just because you were wondering where you were going to find that one thing you needed for your experiment locally. (If anyone knows a good way to get hold of hydrated copper carbonate, let me know.)

ammonium chloride = soldering flux
ammonium hydroxide = household ammonia
boric acid = roach, ant, & flea killer
calcium carbonate = chalk
calcium sulfate = plaster of paris
magnesium sulfate = epsom salt
sodium bicarbonate = baking soda
sodium bisulfate = Sani-Flush
sodium borate = borax
sodium carbonate = washing soda
sublimed sulfur = flowers of sulfur (homeopathic remedy)
trisodium phosphate = TSP heavy-duty cleaner

copper = cannibalized electric wire
tin = plumbing solder
zinc strips = roof algae preventer

UPDATE: Turns out you can get hydrated copper carbonate in the form of powdered azurite from an icon supplier! I may have to ask around my arty friends and see if anyone can spare a few grams....
Daryl Cobranchi links to a piece by HSLDA Mike Farris, discussing parental rights and a line of cases apparently moving toward a loss of previously established parental direction of children's education in public schools.

One of these cases, Fields v. Palmdale School Dist., 427 F.3d 1197 (9th Cir. 2005), was much discussed last year. Read the opinion for yourself if you haven't before. In it, the Ninth Circuit held that parents didn't have the right to exempt their children from (or even be informed about) a survey on private behavior that included intrusive and sexually explicit questions. Farris compares it to Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools (1987), a case he litigated, in which the Sixth Circuit rejected the claim that requiring students to use readers that taught evolution violated the Free Exercise clause. His conclusion is that these cases demonstrate an abandonment of the principle that parents have some right to direct the education of their children, even within the walls of a public school, particularly when first amendment questions are involved.

Since the blog title requires it, here's my opinion. Mike Farris may be right about the direction of caselaw, but he's wrong to equate Palmdale with Mozert. Not only does it trivialize the creeping sexualization of children to equate it to conservative evangelical kids having to do worksheets on evolution, he's missing the key to the Sixth Circuit's opinion:

The only conduct compelled by the defendants was reading and discussing the material in the Holt series, and hearing other students' interpretations of those materials. This is the exposure to which the plaintiffs objected. What is absent from this case is the critical element of compulsion to affirm or deny a religious belief or to engage or refrain from engaging in a practice forbidden or required in the exercise of a plaintiff's religion.
The element of compulsion to engage in a practice forbidden in the exercise of one's religion is precisely what the Ninth Circuit got wrong in Palmdale. Forcible exposure to a sexually explicit and personally intrusive questionnaire is qualitatively different from exposure to information about evolution, in that it constitutes a behavior: one that, in old-fashioned Catholic terms, used to be talked about in terms like "custody of the eyes" and "giving scandal" and millstones around necks. The children were made to engage in a behavior--reading and discussing sexually inappropriate material--that is forbidden by their religious faith, in a situation that could be easily accommodated by the school (by informing the parents previously and having an opt-out, for instance). As far as I know, the plaintiffs in Mozert were not arguing that mere reading about and discussion of evolution was forbidden by their faith.

This is why so many parents, homeschoolers or not, were made uneasy by Palmdale; there's a gut understanding that destroying the innocence of children is a positive action, one which forces children to engage in an illicit action, and not a mere presentation of information, as the Ninth Circuit disingenuously characterized it. The parents were not objecting to what their children were being shown but to what was being done to them: a thing which could not, of its nature, be undone.

Of course, Daryl's wrong, too, in commenting

No, the courts ruled correctly. And there are two possible solutions. 1) Don’t enroll your kids in the g-schools or 2) Get yourself elected Governor or appointed EdSec and then you can dictate what you want taught.
I understand the temptation to throw up one's hands in I-told-you-so and world-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket despair and say "See? That's why you have to home educate." But (1) home education isn't an option for everyone; and (2) the children of public schools who are forcibly sexualized at an early age are going to constitute the society that our children will be living in: their neighbors, their friends, their marriage partners. This is a fight worth having.

UPDATE: Seems the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy has a piece on how Palmdale eviscerates the application of the Meyer-Pierce line of cases (hint: that's some of the same caselaw we homeschoolers rely on) within public schools. Someone needs to explain to me now how the parental rights previously established through that caselaw can't be just as easily overturned in the instance of homeschoolers, if it can be tossed it so handily in the case of public schoolers. I extend my above reasons for caring about these cases to (3) if the courts can change their minds about the parental rights of public school kids, they can change their minds about ours.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Wealth and the Church

Our family just returned from a trip to northern New Mexico, my birthplace where I have family going back five generations, but which my children hadn't yet seen. Besides the Georgia O'Keefe-style natural beauty, there is the cultural beauty of such places as El Santuario de Chimayo, a busy place of pilgrimage and prayer. Looking around at the old reredos with their crudely-carved santos of San Francisco Javier and San Rafael, lovingly handmade centuries ago by the faithful to assist their worship of God, I found myself thinking how very valuable such carvings have become as "folk art" in the last century (they are now guarded behind plexiglass). I wondered how long it will be before someone starts connecting the poverty of the local New Mexican Catholic community and the value of these old wooden pieces, and condemning the Church for hoarding such treasures which might be instead sold and the money distributed to the abundant poor.

The issue of the Church's wealth is one I don't often discuss, in part because it's usually not brought up as a sincere question--Why does the Church have so much, when the Son of Man had no place to lay his head?--but as a rhetorical slap-down, with any reasonable response brushed aside; and in part because I really don't know enough about the complicated finances of such a large, world-wide institution to give an informed response. But I do know that often the attacks I hear on the Catholic Church and its putative hoarded wealth are prima facie unjustified, and that since the condemner usually knows as little about the Church's actual financial situation as I do, the rule of charity would require assuming the best rather than the worst. With that in mind, I've come to believe the proper response to accusations of wealth-hoarding should be like the proper response to the accusation of the Church "baptizing" pagan practices: one doesn't have to disprove the accusations; instead, one has to ask, Why would you assume the very worst of bad faith and hypocrisy?

With that in mind, here are some things to think about when you're asked (or ask yourself) why the Church doesn't sell its treasure and give it to the poor.

Is it treasure?

I've heard firsthand criticisms lodged against my own parish church, from visitors (both Catholic and non-) who are blown away by the breathtaking nineteenth-century interior, with its marble, gold, and riot of jeweled colors. But isn't it wrong, they ask afterwards, for the Church to use so much money for itself, instead of on the poor?

To quote the whisky priest in Greene's The Power and the Glory, "Most of it is paint." Yep, it's faux marble on wood pillars; it's gold paint on wood pilasters and moldings; the white marble front of the high altar with the glorious hand-carved Tree of Life (done as a Texas oak) is plaster. The candlesticks and most other metals are plate. It's beautiful, but it's (sorry) fake.

Is it as expensive as it looks?

But the altar vessels, you say, are real gold; and the priest's chasuble is clearly of valuable materials and hand-sewn. That must have cost a pretty penny.

It did. But it was expensive in the same way that real china is more expensive than paper plates; pretty quickly, you'll have spent more on replacing the cheap stuff. I believe our parish church, now about 150 years old, is on its third set of altar vessels. If we were using little glass or even plastic cups and trays, would it really have saved money? How long has Father been using that chasuble? The polyester vestments may be cheaper (as well as uglier), but the priest will be replacing them next year.

This same principle applies broadly. Investing in good craftsmanship--whether it's the parish investing, or a private donor--is better stewardship than lots of spending on the cheap stuff.

Is it ours?

One acquaintance was scandalized by a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, where countless altar vessels of earlier centuries are on display; others are horrified by similar displays of the Church's wares in museums. Instead of showing them off, if the Church isn't using them, why don't they sell them? Well for one thing, you can't sell what isn't yours. The Church no longer owns what's in museums, for the most part: they belong to the museums, or to private collectors. And remember that little unpleasantness in France around the end of the eighteenth century? Where they hanged the priests and confiscated the stuff? The Catholic Church doesn't even own the buildings anymore (my understanding is that the government leases them to the Church for use), let alone the nice gold stuff in them. France isn't the only place, either, where the state has cast a covetous eye on the possessions of the Catholic Church and proceeded to relieve it of its burden of wealth. Keep that in mind when you attend mass at the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral in Ireland.

On a similar note, I'm told (I would be grateful for details) that the Vatican Museum and its contents aren't actually owned by the Catholic Church; so stop wandering its halls thinking bitterly of how many mouths could be fed if the greedy popes would just sell a picture or two.

Is it "the Church's"?

Here's the part that seems hardest to convey to critics. There's a perception that the Big Evil Corporate Church wrests away money from the poor Catholic faithful and spends it on its own aggrandizement. But it doesn't look that way from the Catholic point of view. We see our parish churches as our own; the bishop and his house as our own; the Pope and his regalia as our own. Especially at the local level, much of the expensive stuff comes from wealthy private donors (if you look closely, their names, or the names of someone dear to them, are often on the windows or undersides or sills, so we can remember to pray for their souls), who have chosen to spend their money on something beautiful for the community, rather than for themselves alone. This is bad?

The Church didn't take treasures for itself. Offerings of money and talent were made by communities of the faithful, sometimes generations ago, with the understanding that these things would be memorials to the love of Catholic families for Christ and his Church. Loose talk about "taking away the Church's hoards of wealth and giving it to the poor" (that's a pretty much verbatim quote I encountered quite recently) sounds a lot to us like "we non-Catholics, through the agency of the State, would like once again to rob Catholics of the things they have offered to God and for His worship."

Some of the treasures of the Church, particularly its art or architecture, rightfully "belong" to humanity at large. Even if they could be sold for high prices (which isn't a given; see below), it would be to private collectors. Often enough these things were created or gifted to the Church in order that the public at large might benefit from their display. Often they were gifts from foreign governments, which the Church has no moral right to sell to private buyers.

Dorothy Day was once given a diamond ring. After discussion with others at the Catholic Worker House, she gave it to a poor and elderly woman. Her co-workers were astonished, pointing out that the ring could have been sold and the money distributed to the poor. Day's response was, "God did not make diamonds only for the rich."

When the beauty of the world, natural and man-made, is carefully guarded for the enjoyment and benefit of the many, the custodian is not greedily hoarding it for itself. It is making sure that even the poor have diamonds.

Finally, I've heard more than enough about bishop's palaces and the Pope living in his palace at St. Peter's. First, "palace" is a technical term; our own bishop's "palace" is a structure usually identified as a "house." Second, like most bishops, his living quarters are the upper story (basically a flat), with the lower story available for general use for retreats and meetings. Similarly, the Pope lives in a modest apartment; most of the huge buildings you see in Vatican City are offices. Just because he shows up at the balcony window doesn't mean he has the place to himself. "The Pope and bishops live in luxury, while the people starve" is just nonsense.

Is it alienable?

Property law is more complex than "X gives A to Y; now it belongs to Y and Y can do with it as he wishes." One of the things that made the English Reformation desperately unpopular at the grassroots level (as documented by historian Eamon Duffy) is that the Church possessions confiscated (as usual, under the guise of taking away the hoards of wealth the Church has taken from the poor) were nearly always conveyed to the Church through instruments (most often wills) that specified the land or items given were to be used only for specific ecclesial purposes, and that if they ceased to be so used, ownership would revert to the donor or his heirs. The king knew this, and knew also that if an outright grab of Church property were attempted, it would be challenged legally. The smart move was giving the goods to the nobles; which not only put the nobility on the side of the Reformation (and made getting the property back, even under Mary's reign, a practical impossibility), but made it legally inaccessible. As it was, by the time the faithful figured out that the "inspectors" and "accountants" were actually confiscators, individuals would go into churches themselves and try to take back grandpa's donated chasubles or altarpieces before the state could take them.

The point being that, when you seem some land or building or art "owned" by the Catholic Church, don't assume the Church has the simple right to sell it and do something else with the money.

Is it valuable?

Question the starting assumption that that piece of art, or that building, would fetch gobs of money on the open market. But who do you think would really buy St. Peter's? It's a truism that the Catholic Church is land-rich and cash-poor; the reason is that much of the land and buildings owned by the Church really can't be sold for as much as people think, and it's a wiser investment to hold on to it for future use for the benefit of the faithful.

Is it really the money, or is it the beauty?

To my astonishment (at first), the news that the gorgeous interior of our parish church is mostly fake doesn't shake the outrage of critics. Yet talking about the huge amount of money that has been spent on our new roof (repairing a hundred years of water damage) doesn't raise eyebrows. I've come to believe that the very beauty offered for worship is the scandalous thing. There are those who would be happy just to see the walls and altars stripped bare, even if not a penny were to go to the poor. And if I may offer a tentative word to Protestant brothers and sisters who offer criticism, I will be more attentive to hearing about the wastefulness and hoarding of the Catholic Church when we can discuss what your church's sound system and other high-tech gadgets cost. Bet it was more than our rose window, glowing jewel-like in the rays of the setting sun.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Humor Break

Gathered from various places. Just because I like them.

The Three Orders #1

During the course of a priests' retreat, the retreat master asked everyone to break up into groups of three. They were then to share their deepest darkest secrets, things they had never shared with anyone else ever.

The Dominican, after much hemming and hawing said that he was an alcoholic. He had been so ashamed to tell anyone before. He drank all the time and just couldn't kick the problem. He was so glad that in the sacredness of this small group he could share this and now he felt so good, so free.

The Franciscan hesitated, but finally said he thought he could trust the other two and that his problem was gambling. He had been unable to control his urge to go to bet way beyond his means. He was also very ashamed of his habit and was so grateful that he could finally share it in such a context with his fellow priests.

It was the Jesuit's turn. He told the other two that he was grateful for their openness and honesty. He said he was so ashamed of his own problem. He had been working on it for years but hadn't yet gotten a handle on it. He had tried confession and therapy, but nothing, he said, had helped him overcome his compulsion to gossip.

How Many Homeschoolers Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?


One person to contact HSDLA to see if there is a legal loop hole to change a lightbulb without first asking the local department of education.

One person to contact the co-op to see if there is enough interest to have a field day to watch the changing of the lightbulb.

One person to form a committee to determine whether this is a homeschooling or unschooling type activity.

One mom who helps her five kids: (1) check three books on electricity out of the library, (2) make models of light bulbs with the electric circuit kit they just ordered from Rainbow Resource, (3) perform a skit based on the life of Thomas Edison, (4) investigate the history of lighting methods by dipping their own candles, and (5) take a trip to the store where they compare types and prices of light bulbs and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

The Three Orders, #2

A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph praying over him.

The Franciscan fell on his face, overcome with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty.

The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity in the Holy Family.

The Jesuit walked up to St. Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, "So, have you thought about where to send the boy to school?"

Top 10 Trad Catholic Pickup Lines (from Patrick Madrid at Envoy)

10. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?
9. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we're having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?
8. Sorry, but I couldn't help but noticing how cute you look in that ankle-length, shapeless, plaid jumper.
7. What's a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?
6. You don't like the culture of death either? Wow! We have so much in common!
5. Let's get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.
4. I bet I can guess your confirmation name.
3. You've got stunning scapular-brown eyes.
2. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?
1. Confess here often?

The Three Orders (Less One), #3

A man walked up to a Franciscan and a Jesuit and asked, "How many novenas must you say to get a Mercedes Benz?" The Franciscan asked, "What's a Mercedes Benz?" The Jesuit asked, "What's a novena?"

Pre-Conclave Joke

Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger all finish up in Purgatory on the same day, and go to meet St. Peter at the pearly gates.

St. Peter approaches the three of them, and says, “Welcome to Heaven! But before you go in, we need to straighten out some theological matters.” He tells them that he will interview each of them in turn.

He then points at Rahner and says "Karl! In my office..." After four hours, the door opens, and Rahner comes stumbling out. He is highly distraught, and is muttering "Oh God, that was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.

St. Peter follows him out, and sticks his finger in Kung's direction and "Hans! You're next..." After eight hours, the door opens, and Kung comes out, barely able to stand. He is near collapse with weakness and a crushed spirit. He, too, is crying out "Oh God, that was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.

Lastly, St. Peter, emerging from his office, says to Cardinal Ratzinger, "Joseph, your turn." Three days later, St. Peter stumbles out the door, utterly exhausted, saying "Oh God, that's the hardest thing I've ever done... How could I have been so wrong...."

And finally, the Homeschool FAQ sheet, answering such pressing questions as, Are you permitted to homeschool in most states if you don't own a denim jumper or Birkenstocks?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blood-and-Morality Tales: Books for Boys

Touchstone Magazine's blog has been awash with discussion of children's literature lately; here's the most recent post, which links to an interesting review of the Norton's Anthology of Children's Literature.
Despite heralding children's literature as "life-enhancing" and "life-changing," the Norton editors aim in fact to dampen children's enchantment with the world, forcing them to acquiesce to the grim realities and multicultural obsessions of contemporary adults....
Alas, golden ages never last, and children's literature was no exception. The third and last great change occurred in the 1970s, when writers started to "push the boundaries" of material considered acceptable for children. According to the Norton editors, "In the wake of this revolution, writers for the young can deal with sex, violence, disease, and death—in particular because many believe that the innocence of childhood has been destroyed by the media and the commodification of childhood."
Nice. Their innocence has been destroyed already, so why not join in the corruption of young minds? In possibly related news, a study on the all-too-familiar "boy problem" in education (for those of you who don't read the edusites every morning over your coffee, that's the growing gap between male and female academic performance in all socioeconomic groups and at all levels, from Kindergarten through college) features this interesting point:
"Here's a fascinating fact," she said. "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls."

"Why? In school, teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings," she said. "This way of teaching reading does not turn boys on. Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests." (HT to Daryl Cobranchi)
Well, well. As it happens, earlier today the mail brought a book Offspring #1 has been requesting for a while, Cast Up by the Sea, written by Sir Samuel Baker in 1868, a book of the boy's adventure genre familiar to readers of Henty. The last dozen-and-a-half pages make for an interesting glimpse into children's literature of the turn of the (last) century, as they feature the "Books for Boys" section of a catalog called A. L. Burt's Books For Young People. A typical offering:

With Lafayette at Yorktown: A Story of How Tow Boys Joined the Continental Army. By James Otis.
Two lads from Portmouth, N. H., attempt to enlist in the Colonial Army, and are given employment as spies. There is no lack of exciting incidents which the youthful reader craves, but it is healthful excitement brimming with facts which every boy should be familiar with, and while the reader is following the adventures of Ben Jaffrays and Ned Allen he is acquiring a fund of historical lore which will remain in his memory long after that which he has memorized from textbooks has been forgotten.
Offspring #1 eats this stuff up, and isn't put off that it's marketed to boys (or used to be; now it's just vanishing altogether, though there are signs of revival). While we're listing the advantages of homeschooling, she's never AFAIK been informed that her interests are gender-inappropriate. Which is good, since math, chess, fencing, and blood-and-morality books (to steal a term) are her favorite occupations. If the study linked above is right, then homeschooling is giving us a double-bonus: lots of reading of a muscular heroic sort that is apparently not in fashion in schools, and free rein for the girls to indulge in such "boys'" interests.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good Work in Singapore

A Maryknoll priest and IHM sister are spreading the word about the effectiveness of home education for all children, and especially for the mentally handicapped.
Father Adam told them, “Never underestimate what they can learn. Never underestimate what you can do for them. You’re the most trusted person in their lives, and remember, they are not stupid, but slow.”
Quite the reverse of the conventional wisdom in the U.S. that "special needs" children belong to the public schools and should never, ever be homeschooled by their non-expert parents.
Another Reason to Homeschool

Oh, for Pete's sake; didn't we go through this at Christmas with instrumental carols offending people?

The senior members proposed to perform Biebl’s piece instrumentally; no lyrics or words would be sung or said, nor did the senior members intend that any lyrics would be printed in ceremony programs or otherwise distributed to members of the audience. However, despite the absence of lyrics, Dr. Carol Whitehead, superintendent of Everett School District No. 2, refused to allow the ensemble to perform “Ave Maria” at their graduation ceremony because she believed the piece to be religious in nature.
The kids weren't trying to sneak something religious into graduation; it was a piece they'd performed before, and they happened to like playing it.

St. Bonaventure

The origin of things, according to their creation, distinction and embellishment, as the work of the six days, proclaims
the divine power that produces all things from nothing,
the divine wisdom that clearly distinguishes all things,
and the divine goodness that lavishly adorns all things.

The magnitude of things, in the mass of their length, width and depth; in their great power extending in length, width and depth
as appears in the diffusion of light;
in the efficiency of their operations which are internal, continuous and diffused
as appears in the operation of fire--
all this clearly manifests the immensity of the power, wisdom and goodness of the triune God, who by his power, presence and essence exists uncircumscribed in all things.

The multitude of things in their generic, specific and individual diversity in substance, form or figure, and efficiency--beyond all human calculation--clearly suggests and shows the immensity of the three previously mentioned attributes in God.

The beauty of things, in the variety of light, shape and color in simple, mixed and even organic bodies--such as heavenly bodies, and minerals like stones and metals, and plants and animals--clearly proclaims the three previously mentioned attributes.

The fulness of things by which
matter is full of forms because of seminal principles,
form is full of power because of its active potency,
power is full of effects because of its efficiency,
clearly declares the same attributes.

The activity, multiple inasmuch as it is natural, artificial and moral, by its manifold variety shows the immensity of that power, art and goodness which is the cause of being, the basis of understanding and the order of living.

The order in duration, position and influence, that is, before and after, higher and lower, nobler and less noble, in the book of creation clearly indicates the primacy, sublimity and dignity of the First Principles and thus the infinity of his power.
The order of the divine law, precepts and judgments in the book of Scripture shows the immensity of his wisdom.
And the order of the divine sacraments, benefits and recompense in the body of the Church shows the immensity of his goodness.
In this way order itself leads us most clearly into the first and highest, the most powerful, the wisest and the best.

Whoever, therefore, is not enlightened by such splendor of created things is blind;
whoever is not awakened by such outcries is deaf;
whoever does not priase God because of all these effects is dumb;
Whoever does not discover the First Principle from such clear signs is a fool.
Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart
so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God
lest the whole world rise against you.
For because of this the whole world will fight against the foolish.
On the contrary, it will be a matter of glory for the wise, who can say with the Prophet:

You have gladdened me, Lord, by your deeds
and in the works of your hands I will rejoice.
How great are your works, Lord!
You have made all things in wisdom;
the earth is filled with your creatures.

(The Soul's Journey into God, 1257)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

St. Benedict

A day late (thanks to the sudden death of our keyboard), but here's all the St. Benedict blogging anyone could possibly want, from Amy Welborn. Check it out.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Small is Beautiful

Hiring private tutors is making a comeback, apparently, as the wealthy re-learn what they once all knew instinctively. The tutoring concept is how Eudoxus and I first got onto the homeschooling track, actually; we were quite aware that individual tutoring has, in nearly every time and place, been understood as the best manner of teaching. Though hiring someone was out of the question, we figured we were suffiiently qualified ourselves to provide this age-old form of education, at least for the early years. It didn't even occur to us to see if it was legal (surely it couldn't be illegal, right?)--and us living at the time in one of the most restrictive states in the nation.

It's funny how what were once considered the obvious advantage of tutoring is being now rediscovered. Years ago, I read an article in a teachers' union journal we used to receive that explained why homeschooling was not, despite the higher test scores, academically superior to a public school education: one main reason is that "home schools" have a much smaller class size, often with only two or three students. So you see, it's not something innate to homeschooling; it's just that the classes are so small, it permits a better education. Kind of like arguing that a Camaro isn't really faster than a Camry; it's just that the engine on a Camry is so small.
Remembering Gerard Serafin

While tidying up the blog today, fixing broken links and adding new ones, I found to my sorrow that the late Gerard Serafin's web page, "A Catholic Page For Lovers," is gone. Someone had maintained it for over a year after his death, but it's now vanished into the ether. His blog is still up, suspended in time.

Gerard was a pioneer of the Catholic internet. His grace, kindliness, good humor, and faith were an oasis in a troll-laden and flame-festing virtual world. He had a deep commitment to the unity of Christians, and founded the Baltimore St. Maximos Chapter of the St. John Chrysostom Society to promote unity and understanding between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. He was the first to realize the potential of a Catholic internet community and began to organize blogs and web-sites in a list he nicknamed "St. Blog's Parish," which name quickly became universal.

Gerard's sprawling website linked (somewhat chaotically) to hundreds of his own pages, each filled with loving reflections, comments, and recommendations, crowded with links and artwork scavenged from the net. Browsing through uncovered treasure after treasure, and caused the reader to marvel that someone could publish on the net so prolifically without the slightest taint of harshness, snarkiness, or denigration, let alone anything approaching flaming. Sometimes, before posting a comment or blog entry, I would click over to Gerard's site, contemplate, and then hit the "delete" key, thankful for having been recalled to myself--or rather, to Christ.