Reminder: the ‘orans rubric’ for the Our Father still needs fixin’

What is a Rubric? From Wikipedia: A rubric is a word or section of text which is traditionally written or printed in red ink for emphasis. The word derives from the Latin: rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk,[1] and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier. From this comes the saying you will see now and then on coffee cups and t-shirts, “Do the Red, Say the Black”.

Actually, as this post suggests, rubrics can clarify, or obfuscate. Forgive me, but Church Regulations should work to make things clear instead of leaving us with Rubric’s Cubes to try to sort out.

In the Light of the Law

On the list of ecclesiastical matters urgently needing attention these days, the odd practicing of laity using the orans gesture during the Our Father (and in turn that gesture’s morphing into a rite of hand-holding, often aisle-filling, discombobulation) is, I grant, fairly low in priority. Nevertheless, the orans issue has come to my attention twice recently, and neither time has the author in question seemed aware of the analysis of this issue that I first offered back in 2005. My feelings aren’t hurt, it’s just that, I wonder why more people don’t look more carefully to see whether their good questions might have been treated by others elsewhere. Oh well.

Bottom-line: the rubric calling for the priest to make the orans gesture during the Our Father, a prayer now prayed with the congregants (and not on behalf of the congregants, as had been the case for more than a…

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Ignorance as the Pinnacle of Thought

How, exactly, did we get here?


I was talking with my son-in-law Nathan the other day and he told me about a conversation he had with a fellow student in his Continental Philosophy class. I can best describe the consequence of Continental Philosophy as received by today’s gullible youth through the exchange Nathan had with his fellow student (we’ll call him Barry.)

Barry held up some object, I think a coffee cup, and the conversation went like this:

Barry: “Prove to me this is real.”

Nathan: “What?”

Barry: “Prove to me this is real.”

Nathan: “What?”

Barry, insistent: “This! Prove to me this (shaking it) is real!”

Nathan, insistent: “What?!”

His interlocutor never got it. In many many ways.

When I recounted this episode to Frater Cowculus, holding up my cell phone instead of a coffee cup, he said that while he guessed he really wouldn’t do this, probably the only appropriate response would be to ask to see the cell phone, then drop it on the floor and smash it under his hobnailed boot. When the person freaked out, he’d say, “What? Is it real now?”

A fun variant would be to have this conversation in a parking lot at night under a street lamp, and ask to see the phone and then heave it into the darkness, out of sight. When the person said, “What the…” one could respond, “Now? Now, when you can’t even see or touch it, you think it’s real? How stupid is that?”

Such is the world of intellectual thuggery.

But, of course, the question being asked is not the question that was originally posed by Descartes. It is the mutated version of the original question, and an example of how, when you miss the mark by as little as one degree, it matters a lot when the target is a thousand miles or a thousand years away.

“Prove to me this is real” is the illegitimate child of “How do I know this is real?”

But to faux intellectuals, who don’t want to struggle with that question, it has metastasized into an odd sort of boast-as-challenge: “Prove to me this is real,” becomes, “See, I’m smarter than you,” in some weird sort of baseless self-affirmation.

Chesterton had something to say about this:

“It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.” – Heretics

The Frater Bovious corollary is: “Don’t say stupid things and think thereby you are smart. Otherwise don’t get upset at me for your inability to find your non-existent cell phone.” Another corollary would be, “Continental Philosophy is an opiate, with all that implies about its impact on your actual ability to reason vs your perceived ability to reason.


Faith is a Four Letter Word

That Starts with “W”


mustard seed

How does a mustard seed have faith?
What does that even mean?

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) Faith. The final frontier. To boldly go where the mustard seed has gone before. (Apologies to Kirk and Picard and Gene Rodenberry.)

It seems that ‘faith’ is typically thought of as believing without reason. Yet, we are rational creatures, it seems that believing without reason is, well, irrational. Are we being fully human if we are being irrational?

Can you truly believe without reason? To paraphrase Socrates, is an unexamined faith worth believing? Perhaps not. How else can we think of faith?

Here are two considerations.

First Consideration:

What if, when we say “faith” we actually mean “framework for investigation”? Is that different from the idea of “framework of belief”? Is it possible that some a priori belief is necessary to reason? Is it not true that what we bring to an investigation affects the answers we find? Even if we are only looking for facts, is it not true that we will simply miss some facts because we aren’t looking for them? Or conversely, is it not the case that we will see facts that we want to see? Or interpret facts to fit our framework? This idea is called “confirmation bias” and it is considered a fallacy in formal logic because it means that we will see the evidence that supports our position, and not see the the evidence that does not. But, can we truly be rid of confirmation bias? At some other level, isn’t confirmation bias simply necessary? It seems that we may be stuck with confirmation bias, so we should perhaps choose our biases carefully.

It seems the case that in the empirical sciences a specific framework of belief is adopted in favor of some competing framework. A choice has been made. Don’t the investigative sciences start with the belief that there are in fact things to investigate and that such investigation is worthwhile?

Descartes explored the idea of what can we know and how do we know, and determined to set aside all previous thought and start from scratch. His endeavor led him to the famous statement “Cogito ergo sum”, I think, therefore I am. Was this a product of a soaring ego, determined to start from scratch and ignore all thought before him? Or was it simply an honest attempt to rigorously lay a foundation for rational thought, due to a suspicion that something could be wrong with the centuries of previous conclusions? A belief that there was fruit to be found by exploring this suspicion? Is there a difference?

What did this thinking of Descartes provide? What did we gain, and what did we lose? On the one hand, many will argue that we gained a formalized scientific method. On the other hand we lost the concept of Truth with a capital T. The question that used to be asked, “What is true?” was replaced with “Of what can I be certain?” These are different questions and their answers are bound within the framework under which they are considered.

Less immediately obvious, and the reason why Descartes is called the father of modern philosophy, is the overthrow of Aristotelianism (a sort of systematized common sense world view) in favor of, ultimately (and perhaps to his dismay), a materialist world view. Whether this is good or bad depends on who you ask. The point is, we have different world views in discussion these days and they are the result of certain frameworks for investigation. Or, to put it differently, everyone has a belief system.

Leaving off from this admittedly non-rigorously developed first way of thinking about faith, we shall move to the second, which presumes the first.

Second Consideration:

Taking what the Bible has to say as having any value is certainly a faith position, or a framework for investigation. Within that framework, what does it mean to say a mustard seed has faith? Here is the quote under consideration:

And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)


If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed… how does a mustard seed have faith? What does that mean? Does it have to mean anything? If not, then what is the point of the story? Of the whole Bible? Why read it? The Bible is full of these bizarre stories. Are we supposed to just accept on faith that they are there for some inscrutable reason? What’s the point of that? So, what does it mean to have the faith of a mustard seed? Can we suss it out? Let’s investigate.

What does a mustard seed do? It grows into a mustard tree. In every case where it is provided the opportunity to do so, it grows into a mustard tree. Not a mulberry tree and not a vanilla orchid. Not wheat, not even quadrotriticale, favorite foodstuff of tribbles.

So, what does a mustard seed do? Given the opportunity and amenable environment, it will do exactly what it is supposed to do. A mustard seed, and presumably a tribble, are in complete conformity with the will of God.

Is this not the meaning of having the faith of a mustard seed? To be in complete conformity with the will of God? If we were in complete conformity with the will of God, and it was so ordered that we needed some obscure Biblical tree to jump into the ocean, would it not be so? If we act in accordance with the will of God with the same integrity as a mustard seed, is that not faith? And does not that mean that faith is a work? Is work? We are told:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. 13* Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14 if you ask * anything in my name, I will do it. 15* “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn 14:12-15)

I don’t know. Sounds like work to me.


“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

–Bertrand Russell

Now You’ve Done It!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Undo.”


“Aren’t you sick and tired of ‘fake’?” They were walking down the aisle of the local Tom Thumb. “Look, here, Crystal Light ‘Natural Lemonade'” (he had made the bunny quotes sign, you know where you put up both hands with your first two fingers extended and then you crook them as you say “natural lemonade”.)

“What’s wrong with that?” she asked and immediately regretted.

“What, have you seen the commercial? ‘Just like Grandpa used to make.’ Yep, that’s what I want, chemicals just like grandpa used to mix up in the basement. Blechh.”

She was silent. As I walked by she glanced at me with a sort of pleading look in her eyes. I gave a mini-half-shrug/eyebrow raise as if to say, “Now you’ve done it!” And then out of morbid curiosity I stopped about a shelf length away and acted interested in the doo-dads hanging from the clip-strip attached on the shelf.

He had stopped and was reading the label of the offending Crystal Light. “Natural Lemonade.” He said it with an emphasis on ‘Natural’ that bespoke a deep disgust with this topic, and I sensed I was in for an epic rant.

“It’s all a damn lie! Look, should anyone eat this crap?” He shoved the box in her face:

crystal light ingredients

2% Natural Flavor

“How can something 98% fake be ‘Natural'”? He didn’t wait for an answer–it was a rhetorical question. “And look at this package! So bright and pleasing and promising what it cannot deliver. We can go to the produce aisle, buy some REAL lemons, squeeze them up in a jug, add some REAL water and REAL sugar, and have REAL LEMONADE like Grandpa ACTUALLY made! But, no. Here is the lie, if you drink this, you will look like Cindy Crawford. And so easy. It’s ‘Light’ so have that bacon cheeseburger. After all, you are dieting with Crystal Light!! Hell, you’d expend more calories making REAL lemonade than tearing this little box open and stirring in chemicals that we have no idea what our body is doing with them!”

He was rolling now.

“If I were king of the world, I don’t know what I’d do first. Un-invent artificial sweeteners, or un-invent marketing. This is a lie. ‘Natural’, pfft. Whatever dude. Here’s what it’s really saying: ‘You say you want to lose weight, but you really don’t. If you did, you’d do something real. Like exercise and eat less. God Forbid. But why should you deny yourself, and why feel guilty about anything. Here, we’ll help. You can lie to yourself, with hardly any impact on your conscience, because we take care of the lying for you!'”

He paused to catch his breath.

“My God, this is the hand of Satan! The sin of willful ignorance! Thomas Aquinas–this is exactly what he was talking about. We deliberately swallow this BS so that we can do what we want and pretend it’s somebody else’s fault. Holy Cow.” He stopped, and stood with that thousand mile stare. “Holy Cow indeed.”

They had worked their way back up toward me, and I was frozen in fascination. As they reached me, he realized he was still holding the box of sin in his hand and went back to put it on the shelf. She muttered to me, “And I’m the one that encouraged him to get that degree in theology.”


An Embarrassment of Riches

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Five a Day.”




(Day 7) I’ve been here for a week now, and everything is as they say. I’m on a private island, exiled here “for your protection” they said. House arrest, says I. Each morning the ship comes in, my only contact with the outside world, and deposits my supplies.

I got to pick what I wanted, five food stuffs. Each morning I get a a six pack of eggs, 2 oranges, a pint of milk, a small loaf of french bread, and two Cuban Monte Cristo #2 cigars. I had to argue about those. “I’m consuming them,” I said. The HC (Head Captor) relented, admiring my taste.

Most of the early part of my day is spent gathering firewood and setting it up to dry so that I can keep a fire burning. They gave me a lighter, but I have used it sparingly since I don’t know if I will get another one. I found a piece of rebar left over from the construction of the abandoned Jack Tar village about a mile from the drop point, to light my cigars with. I just leave it in the fire until it is red hot, and the cigars light easily.

(Day 21) I really wish I had requested scotch instead of milk. I wasn’t thinking. Or, I was over-thinking, believing I needed the nutrition in the milk rather than the solace in the scotch. Smoking a cigar and sipping on milk just isn’t doing it for me. And scotch doesn’t need refrigeration. I pretty much have to drink the milk up by midday.

There are other foods on the island, I’ve been able to catch some fish and roast them up, and with the oranges, milk, bread and eggs, I seem to be nourished. Sometimes, sitting and poking at the fire, staring into it as mankind has done for ages, savoring my evening cigar, I’m content. Other times, I am lonely. So lonely.

I am reminded of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”

(Day 67, I think) Caught my beard on fire today. Leaning over the fire cooking eggs, got a little close and pfft. So, now I guess I know how to “shave.” I’ll just use the rebar and carefully trim my beard and hair. Maybe. Lost track of the days of the week some time ago. I had been trying to rest on Sunday, and say some extra prayers and such, since there is no priest here. But, I just lost track one day. They all seem to melt together. I think I detect a change in the weather. A little cooler. A little less humid. But, I have no idea what day it is, and am not sure how long I have been here. Now, I just guess when it is Sunday. For some reason, I have lost interest in tracking time. It seems pointless. So, I throw in some extra prayers when I am not foraging further and further for wood, or just exploring. Or just laying around.

(Day whatever) I decided it is Lent. I took some of the cigar ashes and rubbed them on my forehead. For Lent I decided to stop daydreaming about attacking the ship that delivers my food and killing all my captors with my sharpened rebar tempered in the daily fires. Partially this is because I don’t have sharpened rebar (it’s a daydream) and partially because I’m just not sure I’m supposed to be having such thoughts of mayhem as my constant companion. I also decided to quit cursing eggs, though I had gotten quite inventive with my invective. My captors have no idea what indignities they would suffer as I forced them to emulate a chicken laying an egg. Ah well, giving it all up for Lent. I figured I would count out 40 days (skipping my arbitrary Sundays) and at least start a calendar again. I decided not to give up cigars for Lent.

(20 days into Lent) I have decided, even with the loneliness, I’ve got it pretty good. The weather is tolerable when it is not excellent. I don’t have to get up in the morning and go to some job I hate. I don’t miss TV but I do miss Pandora, the Voice of Enigma Channel. I replay that scene in Summer Rental where John Candy is learning to sail and says to the gnarly old sea captain, “You must know a lot of ocean songs.” Skully replies, “I do. Here’s a sea ditty me mother taught me.” And he breaks into the theme song of the Love Boat. I laugh and laugh as I puff my cigar and watch the moon over the ocean. For some reason I feel very alive.

(Good Friday) Lent has been good for my state of mind, and I don’t want it to stop. What next I wonder? I reenact the scenes I can remember from Jesus Christ Superstar (The Passion of the Christ, while a much better film, just doesn’t have all the cool songs.) Giving up thoughts of mayhem has balanced me out. Now I greet my captors cordially, and thank them for the effing eggs and inquire politely if I can change my foodstuffs. They laugh and say no. It doesn’t make me mad anymore. Have I given up? Or am I just a better person? Why do I feel so… rich?

(Easter Sunday) When the eggs come, they are hardboiled and colored! I stare incredulously, and then look at the HC. He shrugs, says they figured out what I was doing when they saw the ashes on my forehead, and decided to surprise me. That moment of mercy and companionship washed over me and I knelt down and cried and thanked them. The HC pulled me to my feet and said, “The political situation changed. Your exile is over. It’s been over for a couple of weeks, but we thought you might want to finish your Lent. You seemed, I don’t know, whole.”

A moment of silence. “Gather up whatever you want, your exile is over.”

Send in the Clones – With Apologies to Frank Sinatra

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Clone Wars.”


What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) Dolly the sheep, remember her? She is known because she was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. The cell was taken from the mammary gland of an adult sheep. Believe it or not, this is where she derived her name. One of the scientists involved in this, Ian Wilmut, said since Dolly derived from a mammary cell, and they could not think of a more impressive set of mammary glands than those of Dolly Parton, they named the sheep after her.

So, scientists do notice things outside their test tubes and petri dishes.

Dolly has three mothers, one provided the egg, one provided the DNA, and one carried the clone to term. Sounds like a pilot for a sitcom, right? “Post-modern Family”, maybe?

She was not the first animal to be cloned, but was the first cloned from an adult, differentiated cell, which demonstrated for the first time that a differentiated cell could revert to what is called the embryonic totipotent state, capable of developing into any part of an animal. Dolly was successfully bred, and produced a total of six offspring. She was euthanized at around age 6.5, roughly half the normal lifespan for her breed. She was severely ill with arthritis and lung cancer. It is not thought she developed either condition from being cloned, though there was some speculation that she might have been genetically six years old at birth since that was the age of the donor sheep.

The Daily Post prompt noted above asks, if you could clone yourself, how would you split up your responsibilities? This is a good question, not the least of which is the moral implications of such an action. The answer is, I would not clone myself, and here is why:

What is the difference between the animate and the inanimate? As Aristotle and Aquinas note in the graphic above, there is an animating principle. This is one of those things that sounds like they are using the term to define itself, and that usually means people don’t really understand the concept. So, here’s a thought: Why is there life at all, and how did it get started? The short answer is, “No one knows.”

So, saying that there is an animating principle at least acknowledges that something is different between a rock and a ladybug. What is that difference? One is alive, and one is not. What makes the difference? For lack of anything else, some sort of principle of animation is at work in the ladybug that is absent from the rock.

The Latin root for the word animate is anima, and is translated as breath or soul. Yup. soul. The Greek word is pneuma, and means, you guessed it, breath or soul. In traditional Chinese culture, they have a word for the animating principle also. Variously called “life force” or “energy flow”, the word is qi or chi, and you will never guess what the literal translation is. Yup, breath or air or gas.

Our word “soul” comes from an idea that seems common across a large part of the planet. An animating principle, generally recognized by the fact of some sort of air exchange.

What is the point of all this? Simply, some things are dead and stay dead. We have no examples of anything that has never been alive, coming to life. Life, so far as we know, always comes from life.

Some things are alive for a time, then they are not. The animating principle, though not often thought in this way in our American culture, is the soul. Some do say, “Their soul has left them” when people die. Many, such as atheists, will scoff at this statement. Replace it with, “Their animating principle has left them.” Seems obvious when put like that, does it not?

Something unique is involved in life, and for myself, that uniqueness is tied up in God breathing life into inanimate clay in Genesis.

The implications for me are as follows. A cloned creature, in as much as it is alive, has a soul. The Greeks, while believing that all living things, including plants, have souls, noted variations. There is the vegetative soul that animates plants. The sensitive soul which animates animals. And the rational soul which animates human beings.

The rational soul imbues a dignity into the human person. That means that humans cannot be considered as means to an end, as they are ends in themselves. Humans ought not be used.

Consider implications of cloning. Why not clone yourself (or compatible others) for spare parts? If the reader does not think that will happen once the technology is sufficiently advanced, than the reader is naive. I cannot use another human being, regardless of how derived, as livestock. But, someone will. Oh yes, someone will.

What about cloning and raising soldiers? Again, they would be human beings, used as means, instead of recognized as ends in themselves. And this would be an affront to all of humanity.

In both cases, I suspect the argument would be, “They aren’t really people, they are clones.” But, they would have rational souls, and would therefore be fully human, despite any wordplay. And, depriving them of their human dignity would deprive all mankind of human dignity. Rephrase the last line of Sinatra’s Send in the Clowns:

But where are the clones- send in the clones
Don’t bother, they’re here.

For these reasons, given the chance, I would not clone myself.