Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day : Honoring the Sacrifice of Heroes

Let me not mourn for men who have died fighting,

but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived.

--General George S. Patton

Memorial Day : The American Flag

A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation's flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the Government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the Nation that sets it forth.

--Henry Ward Beecher from " The American Flag"

Fly the Flag!

Memorial Day : Remembering Freedom's Defenders

Memorial Day. It is important to remember (each day and not just on the "holiday") the sacrifice many have made in defense of this country, our freedom, and the protection and security of those throughout the world who have not been able to defend themselves sufficiently.

Freedom Is Not Free

By LCDR Kelly Strong, USCG - Copyright 1981

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Service man saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Not Gone, Still Living in Hearts They Leave Behind

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This poem reminds us to keep alive the brave men and women who have given the gift of their lives so we could be free. Keep them alive in our hearts as they softly walk in our thoughts.


By Hugh Robert Orr

They are not gone who pass
Beyond the clasp of hand,
Out from the stone embrace.
They are but come so close
We need not grope with hands,
Nor look to see, nor try
To catch the sound of feet.
They have put off their shoes
Softly to walk by day
Within our thoughts, to tread
At night our dream-led paths

Of sleep.
They are not lost who find
The sunset gate, the goal
Of all their faithful years.
Not lost are they who reach
The summit of their climb,
The peak above the clouds
And storms. They are not lost
Who find the light of sun
And stars and God.
They are not dead who live
In hearts they leave behind.
In those whom they have blessed
They live a life again,
And shall live through the years
Eternal life, and grow

Each day more beautiful
As time declares their good,
Forgets the rest, and proves
Their immortality.

Gore and a High School Challenge?

Two related sites worth reading through are by a high school student responding to global warming/climate change arguments. Her name is Kristen Byrnes and she has really done a thorough job in her research. Check them out:

Ponder the Maunder:

Welcome to Ponder the Maunder, an extra credit assignment for Honors Earth Science, Portland High School, by Kristen Byrnes of Portland Maine.

This report is a comprehensive look at the global warming issue without financial or political bias. It uses the most updated information provided by scientists and researchers and interjects common sense, an important component missing from the global warming debate.

Facts and Fictions of Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth":

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth does indeed have some correct facts, but as he even says himself, sometimes you have to over-exaggerate to send the message to people.

Go check them out.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

To Defend a Country They Never Knew and a People They Never Met



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Wall of Freedom 2007

Freedom is not free.

Thank a veteran.

Say a prayer for and honor those who gave all.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Illegal Immigration : A Middle Eastern Connection?

A different (and scary) side to the immigration issue: a Middle Eastern and often Islamist connection.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on the immigration issue so don't think this is a typical take on illegal (read: Latino) immigration. It is not. This is about national security.

There is an article series getting attention all over. The focus is on illegal immigration, visas (sometimes fake, other times not), and those of Arab and/or Muslim background (both non-violent Muslims and militant Islamists).

Todd Bensman wrote the articles. They are a must- and good-read:

I suggest you paste them into a word document and print them out for a hard-copy version to read. Most will want to keep these for some time or pass them on to someone unsuspecting of what is going on.

*** Updated 27 May 2007 ***
A continuation of the same topic:

In an interview the author Todd Bensam did with Hugh Hewitt last week, he stated there would be further articles and some dealing with some rather surprising aspects.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scruton on Vernon, Roger, and Living with Gypsies

In the chapter "How I Discovered my Name," Roger Scruton recalls one moment most young boys can understand:

I was a timid child, who keenly felt the double injury of red hair and a sissy name. The critical moment came aged 10, during the last year at primary school. A large boy called Herman, whose misfortune was also contained in a name, and who, therefore, became the school bully by way of compelling us to respect him, kicked me as I sat down for morning assembly, launching into a diatribe against red hair with every word of which I fully concurred. I gave him to understand that, had it been possible to vote for the abolition of red hair, I would have been first to raise my hand. To my dismay, however, Herman was not satisfied with this general apology for my condition, and indicated that I must meet him in the playground during break, so that my head could be bashed in and the problem of red hair solved for good and all.

"There's no helping it," said my friend Brian (the only one in the playground who was more timid than I). "He's after you. If not today then tomorrow. Best to get it over with." News of the impending fight spread rapidly through the school and at the appointed hour the spectators gathered into a ring. Brian pushed me forward and my antagonist strode out from the crowd with flaring nostrils, fists up and big lips parted in a sneer. I closed my eyes, shielded my face with my left hand, and stretched my right arm out to protect myself. Herman came forward at a run, with blood-curdling shrieks and flailing arms. I stood rooted to the spot, the sounds of Herman's war-dance filling my ears, my outstretched fist trembling in the air before me. After what seemed like an age, there was a staggering blow to my knuckles. I opened my eyes to discover Herman recoiling backwards, lips split open and blood pouring over his chin. With a howl of dismay he pirouetted through the crowd and fled to the headmaster's office to report my crime.

It seemed unjust at the time that I should be caned and Herman comforted. But it added to a reputation that had already spread through the school as quickly as the newest cigarette card, and I resolved at once to exploit my eminence as the conqueror of Herman. I went from gang to gang in the playground, escorted by Brian (now promoted to first lieutenant), and informing my respectful listeners that henceforth I was not Vernon but Roger, that all uses of my former name, which had been no more than a disguise adopted for secret service reasons, would be as severely punished as remarks about red hair. Obedience was immediate and universal, and henceforth I was Roger to everyone, including my family, who were told that the choice was simple: either they ceased to call me Vernon, or I went to live with the Gypsies. (12-13)

Scruton's memoirs are worth reading and even if you do not share his political or philosophical or even (current?) theological views, you will be rewarded for the time spent reading this true artist of the English language. The book is Gentle Regrets and you can get it here.

Scruton and Stealing the Heart

"Pay attention to this man. He is one of the brightest minds around."

Some years ago, actually it was 1 Oct 1993 while I was at a conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind (which itself was an event worth remembering and recounting in detail some day), I first heard Roger Scruton speak. As he was being introduced, the gentleman next to me turned and said, "Pay attention to this man. He is one of the brightest minds around."

As Scruton gave his talk, mostly on Kirk, his work, and the influence it has had, I realized Scruton was someone I should get to know. With the passing of the years, I have. One book that I have waited some time for Scruton to write is a memoirs of sorts. Not an autobiography but a vignette of the events in his life that have influenced him to think and be the way he is. That book is here: Gentle Regrets.

I first heard about it through an on-line excerpt published on the Catholic Education Resource center site. In "Stealing from Churches," Scruton reflects upon the impact two different types of Catholics had on him:

Two people stand out among the many who have illuminated for me the path to Rome — a path that I never took. One enjoyed wealth and social standing. The other lived at the bottom of society, impoverished, oppressed, but serene.

Monsignor Gilbey and Basia are these two. Scruton describes these two and their Church with a passage from Radl:

God is offended by nothing and bears everything, even crucifixion; he loves humanity boundlessly and helps in the manner of a disarmed man: he teaches, leads, praises, gives examples, chides and warns. How does he practise this method? He sends good people into the world, who are a model to those around them ...

and then closes the chapter with:

The apostolic church is a church of the heart. When you steal from it you steal the heart. Hence the theft is easy; and amends are long and hard.

The more I read of this book, the more I see how "amends are long and hard."

Get the book and read the whole thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thomas Howard and Lead, Kindly Light

I just finished Thomas Howard's Lead, Kindly Light, a short memoir about his spiritual journey to the Catholic Church. The link to the amazon page leads to some good comments about the book. Here are a few of the many passages I found myself re-reading and thinking about over and over:

Protestantism was not, whatever else I might have wished to say about it, a picture of things that would have been at all recognizable to the apostles, nor to the generation that followed them. The faithful from Pentecost on were certainly aware of a great babel of voices among the Christians [...] . But the faithful were also aware that there was a body that could speak into the chaos and declare with serene and final authority what the Faith that had been taught by the apostles was. Clearly we modern non-Catholics were living in a scheme of things altogether unimaginable to the Twelve Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. (39)

In speaking of the "deepest mysteries of the Church," Howard writes:

But of course the great paradox is that she is more than in time: she is eternal, and the vicissitudes both of history and of one's own private life do not change her substance. A Catholic in first-century Smyrna, a Frankish peasant in sixth-century Merovingian France, a seventeenth-century countess in Seville, Madame de Maintenon, and I all live with our turbulent or tranquil surroundings finding their center in that which does not change. The Mass is there. The Apostolic See is there. The Magisterium is there. The clergy, high and low, good and wicked, are there. The prayers of the Church are there. War and peace are there. Doom threatens in the form of Attila, or the Black Death, or Modernism, or infidelity. But Our Lord's words about the gates of Hell stand unqualified by the threats. (97-8)

And towards the end of the book, Howard discusses his coming into the Church as one of the two decisions in his life (the other being his marriage) about which he has never had second thoughts:

I may say that every yearning, aspiration, hope, and desire that marked my life as a most earnest Protestant Evangelical, and then as an Anglican, has been fulfilled a thousand times over. I have come home. I have dropped anchor. I have taken my place in the Church of the apostles, Fathers, confessors, martyrs, bishops, saints, and all the Catholic faithful. I have nothing to "protest." (103-4)

Get and read the book. It is worth your time.

As I get ready to teach a little more on Newman's own "Lead, Kindly Light," a poem some of my students are memorizing (and yes, they know the proper title is "Pillar of the Cloud"), I am the better for having read Howard's short book, seeing the trust and hope of a contemporary Christian, the trust and hope we should all have in being led by the Light of Truth:

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Now onto Roger Scruton's Gentle Regrets.

Scary Thought: "Was Osama Right?"

Bernard Lewis's latest is a must-read. In "Was Osama Right?" Lewis discusses the difference between the then-Soviet response to Islamist terror and the American response:

A few examples may suffice. During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of Europeans. There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped. The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers. The kidnapped Russians were promptly released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.


The more immediate, more dangerous enemy was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained, in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans would be easy.

Then, after noting the sad American response to terrorist attacks over the past couple decades and the eventual surprise of actually responding with force after 9/11, Lewis closes with the scary thought that those who are calling for an end to this war, to these battles--at least on our part--may end up proving that Osama bin Laden was right about at least one thing: America has not the heart and will to fight a protracted war:

From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

Go read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Literary Meme: What Are You Reading?

Was over at Right Reason trying to find out the latest with regards to Dr. Francis Beckwith's decision to return to the Catholic Church and I found this:

I don't usually do "memes," but I like this one:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open it to page 161.

3. Find the fifth full sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.

5. Don't search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

I have two books side by side. So here are both:

"For he looked every minute of a hundred years old!" (Leon Bloy, The Woman Who Was Poor)


"'But I must take it off over there.'" (dialogue from "Drinks in Helsinki" in Roger Scruton's Gentle Regrets)

And as Maxwell Goss says at Right Reason:

"Feel free to post your own sentences in the comments, readers .... It'll be fun to see what y'all are reading." You can do so below by clicking the comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stabat Mater -1-

Who composed the music to this? I have been trying to figure out for quite some time what piece this is: what, who, which CD? Let me know via comments box or email.