a pilgrim and friend of God.

Quotidian (IX) – Vigil of the Apostles Ss Peter and Paul

In Vigilia Ss. Petri et Pauli Apostolorum

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the principle pillars of the early Catholic Church; both worked tirelessly, Holy Scripture tells us, to spread the Gospel from Jerusalem westward (and perhaps eastward, tradition holds), and both received the martyr’s crown:

Lochner, LOCHNER, Stefan Martyrdom of the Apostles Altarpiece (interior left wing)

Introit (Acts 12.11)

Nunc scío vere, quia mísit Dóminus Angelum súum: et erípuit me de mánu Heródis, et de ómni exspectatióne plébis Judæórum.

Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation, of the people of the Jews.

[Gregorian Chant – clip]

Today’s vigil – the day before a major feast – is often marked by prayer and fasted, but since the vigil falls on Dominica, or Lord’s Day, fasting is unnecessary.

Note: the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is a holy day of obligation in most countries, but not the United States of America.

Moreover, this feast occurs during the old Octave of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, which after the major Octaves of Our Lord (Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, Corpus Christi), Our Lady (Immaculate Conception, Assumption), and Pentecost.

Quotidian (VIII) – St Stanislaus Day

S. Stanislai Episcopi et Martyris

I have two essay-like ideas in the works:

1) The Francis Option: how families with usually one income, one parent staying at home, and often with many children can themselves be a witness to Christ by showing familial love, reliance on parochial-networks of support, and patience, the gift of poverty will afford them great missionary/evangelizing opportunities in a culture that struggles with avarice, sex without consequence, divorce, and careerism. This Option would not be an alternative to the Benedict Option, but likely a compliment to it.

2) Mary and the Psalms: In addition to my Christian burial book (currently Christ Among the Tombs), I’ve been thinking of a book on the Blessed Mother, largely modeled after Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI/Father Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series. But because Sacred Scripture only says so much (explicitly) about the Virgin, the work would be broadly speculative, using the Old Testament, the Fathers, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, alongside the practices of medieval piety, as a matrix of how to think about the earthly career of the Mother of the Word Incarnate. 

While thinking about such a task, and imagining a slow reading of the Sacred Scriptures, mixing my exegesis with that of the figures above, I began thinking first about the Psalms. I haven’t read the Old Testament devotionally or studiously in a number of years, but I do pray the Psalter within the Divine Office. Saint Augustine noted that the Psalms, though always attributed to the authorship of King David, should be read with the voices of both Adam and Our Blessed Lord, the new Adam. And since Eve is connected to Adam, so there must also be a place for Our Lady, the New Eve, as a hermeneutic for reading the Psalter.

In addition, I am going to begin praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary this summer.

Andrea del Sarto, "Assumption of the Virgin" (detail), 1526-29

Andrea del Sarto, “Assumption of the Virgin” (detail), 1526-29

The Selfsame


Your question of translation is a fantastic one, linguistically challenging because it is philosophical, even theologically, challenging: The idea is a self-existing thing.

Idea (idea) is not the difficult part; it is a Greek word brought into Latin, meaning, notion, idea, from the verb ἰδεῖν, to know, see.

But what about this thought of the self-existing thing.

Consider, of course, Saint Augustine:

“And with a loud cry from my heart, I called out in the following verse, ‘Oh, in peace!’ and ‘the self-same!’ (O in id ipsum!) Oh, what said he, ‘I will lay me down and sleep!’ For who shall hinder us, when ‘shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory?’ [1 Cor 15:54] And You are in the highest degree the self-same (Et tu es id ipsum valde), who changest not (qui non mutaris)… [Confessions, IX.11]

Augustine is very interested in a phrase that occurs in the Psalm 4.9: In peace in the selfsame I will sleep, and I will rest (Douay Rheims); In pace in idipsum dormiam, et requiescam (Vulg.).

Only the Lord God is the selfsame, for it is written: I am who am (Ex 3.14, Ego sum qui sum.), and in another place: Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to day; and the same for ever (Heb 13.8, Iesus Christus heri et hodie ipse et in saecula).

Moreover, the phrase (your father’s?) calls to mind the legal/logical expression: res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.

But to your point:

Idea est ipsa eadem (in se or sibi),

The idea is itself the same (in itself or for itself).

Charles McCants, M.T.S.
Instructor in Humanities

Meditatio (I) – Pharao’s Chariots

Feria V post Cineres – 19 Feb 2015
Thursday after Ash Wednesday – Lent

Carrus Pharaonis et exercitum emus proiecit in mare.
Pharao’s chariots and his army he hath cast into the sea. (Ex 15.4)

From this morning’s Lauds, we read in the Canticum Moysis (Canticle of Moses, Ex 15) that the Lord God, as a part of His people Israel’s redemption, has drowned the pursuing Egyptian army in the waters of the sea.

This is baptism, the redemptive action of the Lord God upon his people, the Church: the body of the sinner, the chariots of Pharao, is plunged and drowned in the watery tomb of Christ’s saving blood; the demons who haunt, taunt, and tempt the sinner, his army, are scattered, exorcised from about the body of the sinner.

I have baptism on my mind because my friend and colleague’s newest son was recently baptized this last Sunday (right before the Lenten cut-off), and the right was performed in the usus antiquior (i.e., in both English and Latin).

After the saving sacrament of baptism is completed, however, the care of the soul is taken up in Confession, both in the Sacrament of Penance and in the public confession, called the Confiteor (lit. I confess)

We see all this clearly in the Confiteor of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (see below): firstly, to Our Lady, Mary ever Virgin, whose matronal care we as Christ’s disciples are entrusted; secondly, to Saint Michael the Archangel, who is vigilant in battle against the Adversary and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls; thirdly, to Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Our Blessed Lord and the one to whom Our Lord submitted himself to John’s baptism to fulfill all justice. Into John’s care we commend our prayers concerning both baptism and confession, as he is the patron of the First Sacrament, but also since John came in the way of justice, commended his own disciples to fast, and confessed Christ to be the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, connecting John to both confession and to Christ’s absolution of our sin. Our Lord, moreover, even said of John that “amongst those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than him; fourthly, to the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul – the former whose successors guard the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and to loose, and the latter who tells us that with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. In addition, these Apostles made fertile the ground of the Eternal City with the blood and witness of their martyrdom.

The chariots of Pharaoh are also the old man that the Apostle warns us about:

Put you also all away: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth. Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.

Note that the old man is given over to all manner of verbal sins. The old man, originally corrupted according to the desire of error,  is now crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. With this, it is only fitting that confession be made such an integral part of all remission of sins.

Canon Law commends the faithful to perform, among others, two things: first, once admitted to the blessed Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year (Can. 920 §1) during Eastertide. And second, All the faithful who have reached the age of discretion are bound faithfully to confess their grave sins at least once a year (Can 989). In this way, it is often encouraged that we make a good confession now during the forty days of fasting and prayer,.

In ending this meditatio, let us return to Pharao’s chariots; look, lastly to the Song (of Solomon/Songs):

To a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots
I have likened you, O my beloved (1.9, trans Griffiths)

My graduate advisor Paul J. Griffiths offers this in his commentary on the Song:



Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Ioánni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et vobis, fratres: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Ioánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et vos, fratres, orare pro me ad Dóminum, Deum nostrum.

I confess to almighty God, to the blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brothers, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, brothers, to pray to the Lord our God for me.

Being Religious


Paul J. Griffiths, Religious Reading (1999)

Hearing Mass, chanting the Our Father, doing penance, giving thanks, making a confession, creeping to the Cross, singing Laudes, saying a Hail Mary, blessing oneself, intoning the Kyrie, kneeling at the consecration, genuflecting before the tabernacle, bowing before the altar, kissing a relic, teaching catechism, receiving instruction, receiving the host.

The blessing of throats of the feast of Saint Blaise.

The blessing of throats of the feast of Saint Blaise by Dn Brad Watkins at Saint Thomas More Academy, 2015.

Lords and Dominions

I’m currently watching Beckett, a film about Thomas Becket’s life and ultimate martyrdom during the reign of Henry II, grandson of William, called Conqueror.

The priests and religious bow as the king walks into Canterbury Cathedral; the king bows before the tomb of the holy martyr sepulchered beneath the altar of Christ, and so the authority of the Church. This is political theology.

A course I wish to teach, in time, is about political theology: God’s governance of creation, pagan governance without God, and man’s governance before God.

My ultimate question would be something like: how would the head of state — a governor, king and/or the people’s governance and council, senate or assembly, — conduct himself, itself, or themselves were the attainment of heaven and the worry of Hell his/their concern.

For meditation:

And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. (Gn 1.16)

By me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things, By me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice. I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me. (Pr 8.15-17)

And he said to them: The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that have power over them, are called beneficent. (Lk 22.25)

Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20.28)

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and as the vessel of a potter they shall be broken. (Rev 2.27)

On Academic Ambition (after the academy)

It was just over a year ago that I completed my coursework and thesis at Duke University’s Divinity School for the Master of Theological Studies program.

At the beginning of that second year, Laura and I were preparing for the October advent of our first daughter (we now have two!), and I was working with my thesis adviser biweekly to chart out on my thesis—On Christian Burial—reading the necessary preliminary work to support the endeavor, and aiming to finish a solid draft of all three chapters, plus an introduction, in my Winter vacation. I knew that it would be a busy break, especially as my wife eyed her own return to work at the new year, but I thought I could secure a few good, long workdays at the library and the draft would be complete by 15 January, just in time for my final semester of courses to begin.

But then I heard back from Saint Thomas More Academy, whom I had contacted earlier in the year and who alerted me to a part-time teaching spot that might very well turn into a full-time position. This position would be lecturing in Classical and Medieval History. Had it be Latin, I would have been quite at home and happy to jump in with little preparation, given that I have taught Latin for seven years prior to my time at Duke. But lecturing in history would be another animal entirely, and even though I was very familiar with Medieval history, especially Church History (which is really just History History, given the place of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages), but I couldn’t just rattle off the cuff a lecture on feudalism or lay investiture or the Hundred Years’ War without some serious preparation and writing out formal lectures for the the overwhelming majority (90%) of the topics in the course.

Since this part-time position might become a full-time one, and since he already resigned myself to the idea that I was not going to pursue doctoral studies after my time at Duke, I knew that this semester at STMA, and the preparation necessary, was the most important matter on my December 2012 docket. In this way, my burial thesis took a quick backseat to laying out and composing history lectures.

My part-time position only required me to teach from 10am-1:15pm every Monday/Wednesday/Friday of each week. I also had a week off for Winter Vacation in February and a full ten-day sabbatical for Holy Week and Easter. At Duke, my classes only required me to be on campus all-day Tuesday/Thursday and in the late afternoon on Wednesday. It was a snug fit, but it was possible, at least on paper.

I had done the lion’s share of lecture writing that December holiday, which meant I only had to give them and grade three classes full of attending tests, quizzes, and essays once the semester began. But I also had a full course load at Duke, featuring Christian Ethics, Theology & Music, Catholic/Protestant Virtues & Vices, and Philosophical Theology, co-taught by Sean Larsen and Stanley Hauerwas. Ethics and Philosophical Theology would require about 300+ pages of reading a week combined, and Virtue/Vice asked for deep and thoughtful readings of William Langland’s Piers Plowman and various works of John Milton, including Paradise Lost. With our first daughter still learning to sleep through the night, moreover, there was very little space for my thesis.

As the semester moved forward, I found myself enamored with teaching again and doubled-down on my decision to pursue a position at STMA. I also found myself very taken by David Aers synthesis of history, theology, and literature into a seamless garment of complexity, along with style of pedagogy was what I wanted to be as an instructor, certainly as a history lecturer. In Philosophical Theology, I was taken by deep readings of Augustine and Aquinas, all under the eye of Hauerwas in his swan-song semester. Alongside, Mary Margaret was becoming a delight to play with in the evenings before going down around 6:30 each night, leaving Laura and I just enough time each night to see each other, eat dinner together and to enjoy each others company, before returning to my own readings and papers around 9pm.

This long list of wonderful occupations is a nice way of inferring that the thesis was not gaining anything close to my fullest attention. And while I had done the preliminary readings, and while it only required thirty pages and approval from my advisor and the program’s director, I knew I would only limp-in with a strong C+/B- effort and commitment.

On Christian Burial

(Only the cover page; not actual thesis)

In the end, that’s about what the thesis was. Three chapters (Death, Burial, Relics)–needing about 15-pages each to develop and accent–became two longer chapters (Death and Burial); Relics, though completely charted, has been been never written. I had to rethink and rewrite the introduction with only two chapters in hand. My advisor was gracious in his comments, but I knew that he was likely being merciful on me and my familial and occupational situation.

Since leaving Duke, a number of friends, all of whom are now in masters or doctoral programs (two at Boston College, one at Marquette, one at Yale, one at Carnegie Mellon, one finishing up at Duke), as well as a small host of others, have asked to read my “great account of Christian burial and its philosophical, theological purchase on our lives.” In my eyes, for them to read the thesis in its current state would be like asking my wife to read the pubescent poetry I wrote at sixteen years of age. All the same, they have been gracious in giving me their doctoral essays and dissertation abstracts, for commentary and conversation. In truth, I know I should return the favor, but you don’t put new wine into old bottles, but new wine they put into new bottles. To keep such a conversation going, I know I need to revise/rewrite and write anew (especially on Relics) my thesis.

I think Christian burial is a serious topic and is, in fact, a major place of theological reflection and writing. I also think it has great import on current culture, whose opinions on such topics presses a movement past emphases on a good death and a beautiful requiem, and on to the now seemingly ubiquitous celebration of life. Such movements are dangerous.

I believe my theological training at Duke and my years at STMA since have prepared me to write something worthwhile for a good few to read. A book or pamphlet on burial won’t reach the best-seller list, nor would I likely bind such project and gift it to my relatives for Christmas. But there may be something in writing a well-written account of death, burial, alongside a renewed theology of relics, that could and should find a place in the theological conversations we have as our grandparents and even parents begin to move closer to their own (hopefully) peaceful ends.

Closer to the ground, there is something to be said for finishing the task one has started through (perhaps difficult) revival of the original vision of the project and through steady and constant renewal until the project’s completion.

I hope I have more to say on this soon.

On Liturgical Calendars

Sabbato infra Hebdomadam V post Octavam Pentecostes
Festum Sancti Vincentii a Paulo Confessoris (-1969)
19 July 2014

Today is the Saturday, the sabbath (sabbatum) of the Christian week, which falls before Our Lord’s day (Dominica [Diem]). In this way, Saturday is the final day of the Christian week.

In the older Roman calendar, today also marked the (third-class) feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, a 16-17th century priest and worker of great mercies. Since the 1969 revisions by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Saint Vincent’s day, now a memorial, has been moved to September 27th, the date of his earthly death and birth, as the Church holds, into Heaven everlasting.

Calendars in general can be confusing. The Liturgical Calendar, which documents the many solemnities, feasts, and memorials of the Church is something that I have always been drawn to and attempted to understand in some capacity. This capacity is somewhat complicated when you factor in the many waves of revisions the Christian Calendar has undergone in the course of history.

For most of my life since my conversation and reception into the Roman Catholic Church, I have attended to the most recent revision, that of Pope Paul VI’s motu propio “Mysterii Paschalis” (14 Feb 1969). A complication has arisen, however, when back in May I purchased a four-volume set of the monastic breviary, once possessed by a Benedictine sister.

The title pages in full: Breviarium Monasticum. Pauli V. et Urbani VIII. S. Pontificium Auctoritate Recognitum. Pro Omnibus Sub Regula. SS. Patris Nostri Benedicti Militantibus [Monastic Breviary, recognized by the authority of Popes Paul V and Urban VIII. For all (the Church) Militant under the Rule of Our Most Holy Father Benedict).

Sabbato ad Laudes

The calendar in this Breviary publication dates to before the Paul VI’s revisions, which state that today is Saint Vincent’s Day. No feast, solemnity, or memorial occupies July 19th. (It should be noted that Saturdays on which no feasts fall are marked as “an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Further, the memorial is a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that great Saturday on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, was the only one of the disciples to hold vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection; it is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ; and it is a sign that the ‘Virgin Mary is continuously present and operative in the life of the Church.'” This is certainly no bad idea.)

The Monastic Breviary also attends to an older form of praying the psalter in one week, vis-à-vis the Liturgy of the Hours, which spreads the psalter over four weeks. The latter also attends to the most recent calendrical revisions. The more condensed from of the Psalter in Latin was the primary reason for purchasing the breviary. Not only this but the Monastic Psalter itself is pre-Tridentine (ca. 540: link).

Were I to belong to a Traditional Latin Mass parish, where the older form(s) of the Roman Calendar were still held and celebrated, I imagine I would not have any difficulty in moving forward in this. But I do not. Sacred Heart Cathedral, it is true, does host a low Mass the first Sunday of each month, and I, along with a friend, do have unique dreams that Sacred Heart would become a Latin Mass parish, once Holy Name of Jesus, the proposed new cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh, was dedicated, but I do not believe or have any good reason that it will. The only locus for this strange and unique hope is that Sacred Heart was one of the few parishes in the area before the liturgical revisions to celebrate the old Mass. Perhaps one day it might again, or at least be open to a weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form, and not just a monthly occasion of the lovely and drawing form of Our Lord’s sacrifice.

Sister Nature

(The Wayfaring, 15 May, 2013)

This last Tuesday I hiked up Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s tallest mountain and the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The weather was cool and breezy and so perfect for a 5.6-mile hike up a relatively strenuous assent on a path beset with large loose stones, treacherous exposed tree-roots, and a gradient rise that tested my 31-year-old legs both going up the mountain and coming back down.

The assent of Mount Mitchell, or any mountain of significant altitude and rigor, is difficult because gravity works against the hiker’s muscles as she lifts her body up each human- or nature-made step. The descent is also demanding, but in different ways; gravity now relentlessly brings the body’s weight down onto the fragile knees and onto the rocks and roots, which must be navigated with agility and grace. The descent is especially taxing since the hiker is already tired from the climb, and descent, like falling, is never at one’s own pace but always at the behest of gravity. The hiker has to call upon every resource from within, to be attentive in body and mind in order to descend the mountain carefully.

But Mount Mitchell State Park is beautiful. Only a few power-lines and a few distant cellphone towers from the view at the summit distracted me from taking in everything that this mountain has to offer. I’m glad it’s a state park so that I don’t have to go out and find my own trails up and down Mount Mitchell. Its provision as “state park” is important for preserving the area of nature for recreation and for leisure. It is certainly good for communities, like the group of friends I hiked with on Tuesday, to use places like Mount Mitchell to endeavor and accomplish a difficult task such as climbing a mountain together. This form of bonding in a group of hikers calls upon many of the virtues and their cultivation, namely patience, prudence, and fortitude. Climbing a strenuous mountain demands these virtues.

What about the virtue of justice? Justice is the virtue of rendering to one what is owed to her. Win’s recent piece and many of the thoughtful attending comments allude to this very interesting and necessary question: what is nature or creation owed?

Some are eager to posit souls to animals or to talk or act as if all of creation collectively has a spirit of some kind. The regular name for this is “Mother Nature,” which finds its foundation in the Greek mythological goddess of Gaia, a personified form of “earth” [].

In many ways I  am sympathetic to this affection as a Christian: creatures are created to fulfill their goods as creatures, and we as human beings do well to foster these goods and not to hinder them. I think, though, it is ultimately uncatholic to think about creation as the spirited Mother Nature that many pagans throughout the centuries have regularly attributed.

G.K. Chesterton, the 20th Century Catholic writer and English wit, offers a good and correcting alternative:

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the Garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in the proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our Mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.[1]


[1] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. 115-16



Books and Communities

From yesterday’s (May 2, 2014) New York Times, David Brooks, “Love Story”:

Today we live in a utilitarian moment. We’re surrounded by data and fast-flowing information. “Our reason has become an instrumental reason,” as Leon Wieseltier once put it, to be used to solve practical problems…

Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments. Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves…

I’m old enough to remember when many people committed themselves to this sort of life and dreamed of this sort of communion — the whole Great Books/Big Ideas thing. I am not sure how many people believe in or aspire to this sort of a life today. I’m not sure how many schools prepare students for this kind of love.

It’s a complex piece, especially since I was not familiar with the poet, Anna Akhmatova, or Isaiah Berlin, but it is a vision of how individuals but more importantly communities can be shaped by a love of literature, especially poetry, and sharing their lives together in reflection and creation.


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