Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gone fishing

"It is said that Charles II., wishing to make sport with the Royal Society, at its first establishment, proposed to the Members to inquire the reason why a dead fish was so much heavier than the same fish when alive just before. Many learned essays were immediately written to prove that the thing was a matter of course, and showing the reasons why it was so; but at length it occurred to one of the disputants to verify the fact, and he soon found that the dead fish and the living one were both of the same weight!"

-Mechanics' Magazine - Vol. XV, No. 395, March 5, 1831

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Without supernatural aid...

Once, when he had behaved with particular rudeness to a young French intellectual at a dinner party in Paris at the home of Nancy Mitford, Miss Mitford, angry at his social brutality, asked him how he could behave so meanly and yet consider himself a believing and practicing Catholic.

"You have no idea," Waugh returned, "how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being."

-Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (quoting a story about Evelyn Waugh related by Joseph Epstein)

[Something to remember when we see Christians not acting so Christlike is that perhaps they are still much, much better than they otherwise would be if they had not God's grace working in their lives so much.]

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Poetic license" is the freedom allowed to writers for achieving literary effects by deviating from facts, conventional logic, or standard grammar and spelling.

"Political license" is the freedom allowed to politicians to make statements deviating from facts, logic, principle, or consistency to achieve electoral effects. Although sanctioned for politicians by long practice, this freedom is denied to ordinary mortals. When they say something silly, they expose themselves to immediate contradiction, derision or rude guffaws.

-John Frary

via John Wright

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this and every country but his own.”

—W.S.Gilbert, The Lord High Executioner’s Song

[Well, the past century hasn't exactly been anything to be enthusiastic about, but even then there is a truth to the statement. But it's the last part of the sentence I find highly relevant in many contexts.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters  

[Incidentally, a piece of interesting trivia: this quote was quoted in one of the most famous presidential speeches in history, Reagan's "evil empire" speech. In fact, it was this quote which led into his denouncing the Soviet Union as the "evil empire"]

Monday, November 5, 2012

If ever you have nothing to do, and looking to have some interesting reading, just google "Ye Olde Statistician" or "TheOFloinn", just to see author Mike Flynn's contributions to various discussions on diverse blogs on the Internet. Trust me, it will be worth it.

Mike Flynn is a science fiction writer (and a pretty good one apparently based on the reviews- indeed, one of the blurbs on his book Eifelheim was from Orson Scott Card, someone who even I, in my near complete ignorance of science fiction, have heard of. Card's blurb stated "Eifelheim...may turn out to be the best science fiction novel this year.")  However, I do not read science fiction, so admittedly I cannot comment much there. But from an apologetics and philosophical perspective, he is wonderful to read. 

Incidentally, his blog is

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Humanity is a parade of fools, and I am at the front of it, twirling a baton."

-Dean Koontz, Brother Odd (the quote is made by the protagonist of the story).

Friday, October 26, 2012

"The question is not whether the Church will survive persecution in the West. It’s whether the West will survive persecuting the Church."

The question is not whether the Church will survive persecution in the West. It’s whether the West will survive persecuting the Church. Meanwhile, in the global south and Asia, the Church continues to explode in numbers. The problem the Church faces is not decline, but insufficient numbers of vocations to handle the vast ocean of converts pouring in–including, by the way, unprecedented numbers of converts in the Islamic world.

-Mark Shea

Monday, October 22, 2012

My buddy Scott Hahn, the Bible scholar, likes to point out that the Psalter has more songs of complaint than any other kind of song. Complaining, he says, is different from grumbling. The Israelites grumbled in the desert, to each other. David complained- to God. We complain to someone we trust. Old King David wasn't just kvetching; he was complaining to a Father. He was singing the blues.

-Dion DiMucci, Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth (2011)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How many times does a man need to say something before he is safe from the accusation of having said exactly the opposite?

-C.S. Lewis
"A Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger" (1958)
The Essential C.S. Lewis (edited by Lyle W. Dorsett, 1996)

[As a Catholic, I can heartily sympathize with the above quote...]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Roman Republic fell, not because of the ambition of Caesar or Augustus, but because it had already long ceased to be in any real sense a republic at all. When the sturdy Roman plebeian, who lived by his own labor, who voted without reward according to his own convictions, and who with his fellows formed in war the terrible Roman legion, had been changed into an idle creature who craved nothing in life save the gratification of a thirst for vapid excitement, who was fed by the state, and directly or indirectly sold his vote to the highest bidder, then the end of the republic was at hand, and nothing could save it. The laws were the same as they had been, but the people behind the laws had changed, and so the laws counted for nothing.

-Theodore Roosevelt
Social Justice and Popular Rule: Essays, Addresses, and Public Statements (1923)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom Before Reading Sacred Scripture

O Lord Jesus Christ,
open the eyes of my heart,
that I may hear Your word
and understand and do Your will,
for I am a sojourner upon the earth.
Hide not Your commandments from me,
but open my eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Your law.
Speak unto me the hidden and secret things
of Your wisdom.
On You do I set my hope, O my God,
that You shall enlighten
my mind and understanding with
the light of Your knowledge,
not only to cherish those things
which are written, but to do them;
that in reading the lives and sayings
of the saints I may not sin,
but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment
and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul,
and the inheritance of life everlasting.
For You are the enlightenment of those
who lie in darkness,
and from You comes every good deed
and every gift.

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."

Churchill's response to Shaw: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second.... if there is one."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just came across a passage from the preface of Cardinal Newman's book Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England (1851) that I find especially helpful for Catholic apologetics. While in context it refers to responding to anti-Catholic attacks from Protestant sources specifically, it would, in fact, be applicable to anti-Catholic attacks in general from other sources (such as atheists, for instance) as well. In any case, long as the passage may be compared to what I normally post on this blog, I think it is well worth posting. 

Friday, August 31, 2012


You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father—who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third—“Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

-C.S. Lewis

Friday, August 17, 2012

"...hate the vice and love the man"

"Wherefore the man who lives according to God, and not according to man, ought to be a lover of good, and therefore a hater of evil. And since no one is evil by nature, but whoever is evil is evil by vice, he who lives according to God ought to cherish towards evil men a perfect hatred, so that he shall neither hate the man because of his vice, nor love the vice because of the man, but hate the vice and love the man. For the vice being cursed, all that ought to be loved, and nothing that ought to be hated, will remain."

-St. Augustine (354-430), The City of God, Book 14, chapter 6

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wile E. Coyote’s Biblical Life Verse: “He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back upon him who starts it rolling.” (Proverbs 26:27).

-Mark Shea

Friday, August 3, 2012

An important fact to remember concerning many "wars of religion"

Commenter on Mark Shea's blog:

It’s a good thing Christianity never had any schisms or disunity, or spilled enough blood over such theological divisions to float Cromwell’s navy…

Mike Flynn responds:

Cromwell — English. Irish — Irish. No further hypothesis is needed. As the old joke ran, “If the king of England woke up Hindu, the Irish would be facing Mecca by nightfall.” No one ever went over the top from the trenches crying “Transubstantiation and the Triune God!” Although they did do so crying “Hapsburg” or “Bourbon” or “Down with the King!”

Fact is, once the State had reduced religion to lapdog “established churches” the whole matter simply became a surrogate for political loyalty.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


"We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man."

-C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Asking a Christian to keep his religion out of the public square is like asking a married man to act single in public."

-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A quite new hatred of the Catholic religion has grown up within my lifetime- a hatred of its strict principles on certain points, which our neighbors, though their own liberty of action is not in the least interfered with, dislike as being a criticism of their own conduct, and a criticism which in their heart of hearts they know to be just

-Ronald Knox, In Soft Garments

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

" 'Slippery Slope fallacy' - the modern term for the act of correctly identifying the logical implications of a proposition."

-Commenter "The Deuce" on Mike Flynn's blog

Sunday, June 24, 2012

But if a man is in earnest in wishing to get at the depths of his own heart, to expel the evil, to purify the good, and to gain power over himself, so as to do as well as know the Truth, what is the difficulty?—a matter of time indeed, but not of uncertainty is the recovery of such a man. So simple is the rule which he must follow, and so trite, that at first he will be surprised to hear it. God does great things by plain methods; and men start from them through pride, because they are plain. This was the conduct of Naaman the Syrian. Christ says, "Watch and pray;" herein lies our cure. To watch and to pray are surely in our power, and by these means we are certain of getting strength. You feel your weakness; you fear to be overcome by temptation: then keep out of the way of it. This is watching. Avoid society which is likely to mislead you; flee from the very shadow of evil; you cannot be too careful; better be a little too strict than a little too easy,—it is the safer side. Abstain from reading books which are dangerous to you. Turn from bad thoughts when they arise, set about some business, begin conversing with some friend, or say to yourself the Lord's Prayer reverently. When you are urged by temptation, whether it be by the threats of the world, false shame, self-interest, provoking conduct on the part of another, or the world's sinful pleasures, urged to be cowardly, or covetous, or unforgiving, or sensual, shut your eyes and think of Christ's precious blood-shedding. Do not dare to say you cannot help sinning; a little attention to these points will go far (through God's grace) to keep you in the right way. And again, pray as well as watch. You must know that you can do nothing of yourself; your past experience has taught you this; therefore look to God for the will and the power; ask Him earnestly in His Son's name; seek His holy ordinances. Is not this in your power? Have you not power at least over the limbs of your body, so as to attend the means of grace constantly? Have you literally not the power to come hither; to observe the Fasts and Festivals of the Church; to come to His Holy Altar and receive the Bread of Life? Get yourself, at least, to do this; to put out the hand, to take His gracious Body and Blood; this is no arduous work;—and you say you really wish to gain the blessings He offers. What would you have more than a free gift, vouchsafed "without money and without price?" So, make no more excuses; murmur not about your own bad heart, your knowing and resolving, and not doing. Here is your remedy.

-John Henry Newman

Parochial and Plain Sermons, Volume 1, Sermon 3:
"Knowledge of God's Will Without Obedience (1834)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The over-emphasis on politics today is an indication that people are governed, rather than governing. The complexities of our civilization force us to organize into larger and larger units: we have become so intent on governing what is outside of us that we neglect to govern our own selves. Yet the key to social betterment is always to be found in personal betterment. Remake man and you remake his world. We gravely need to restore to man his self-respect and to give him his appropriate honor: this will keep him from bowing cravenly before those who threaten to enslave him, and it will give him the courage to defend the right, alone if need be, when the world is wrong.

-Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Way to Happiness (1949)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It is a good practice of humility, to consider the actions of others only to remark the virtues and never the imperfections; for when we have no charge over them, we must not turn our eyes, still less our attention, that way. We must always interpret in the best sense we can what we see our neighbour do; and in doubtful things we must persuade ourselves that what we have perceived is not evil, but that it is our imperfection that causes such thoughts; in order to avoid rash judgments on the actions of others, which is a very dangerous evil, and to be detested above all others. In things evidently bad, we must have compassion, and humble ourselves for our neighbour's faults, as if they were our own, and pray God for their amendment with the same earnestness that we should for our own, if we were subject to the same defects.

-St. Francis de Sales, The True Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis of Sales

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Blessed are the pliable hearts, for they will never break."

...they will try to render their hearts supple and pliable, submissive and ready to condescend in all things allowable, and to show obedience and charity in every undertaking, so as to resemble the dove, which receives all the lights the sun gives her. Blessed are the pliable hearts, for they will never break.

-St. Francis de Sales, The True Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis of Sales

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a right wing scoundrel. 'Hate' [i.e., accusing others of] is the first refuge of a left wing scoundrel. The Left, even more than the right, loves manichaean division of the human race into the Children of light and the children of darkness."

-Mark Shea (combox comment)

Monday, May 7, 2012

"One of the best ways to see how to violate all the rules of logic is to examine the arguments – if you can call them arguments at all – of those who try to defend abortion. First of all, the last thing they want to talk about is the very thing they try to defend, namely, abortion. They will talk about choice, freedom, the Constitution, the Church, women’s rights and sometimes, women’s health, but they won’t define or describe abortion itself. The reason is simple: abortion cannot be defended. As soon as it is described, or viewed, the human conscience objects to its obvious violence." -quote shared on a friend's Facbeook

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Socrates gave no diplomas or degrees, and would have subjected any disciple who demanded one to a disconcerting catechism on the nature of true knowledge." -G. M. Trevelyan

Thursday, February 2, 2012

From the (ironic) Preface to Hilaire Belloc's book The Battleground :-)

This book needs a brief apology. The writer has not only taken for granted that there is a God, but also design in the Universe and in the story of Mankind. He has affirmed a special design in the story of Syria and especially Israel, reaching a climax at the Crucifixion. He even seems to imply the Divinity of his Saviour.

All this must sound so unusual today that it may be thought an affectation, deliberately assumed to startle and offend. Such a feeling will be enhanced by the discovery that he takes the Gospel of St. John to have been written by St. John and even allows some historical value in the Old Testament.

The sole excuse he offers for his extravagance is that the present Generation is tolerant of novel ideas, and that he therefore may hope for indulgence.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"All language is shorthand..."

All language is shorthand; any sentence to express reality must be modified indefinitely...

-Hilaire Belloc, Essays of a Catholic (1931)