"Terrifying and enraging"?

Ash Wednesday Notes

I've been wanting to read Romano Guardini's The Lord for some time. This past Christmas I received it as a gift but had not so much as opened it, so I decided to make it my Lenten reading. If I had looked first and seen that it's 625 pages long I might not have chosen it. Sure, to average fifteen pages or so a day doesn't sound like it would be a problem, but it's probably not especially quick reading, and I know from experience how missing just a few days can completely wreck projects like this. Well, I'll proceed. I read twenty pages today and am greatly impressed.

After noting the failures and crimes of various figures mentioned in the genealogies of Jesus, Guardini says:

He entered fully into everything that humanity stands for--and the names in the ancient genealogies suggest what it means to enter into human history with its burden of fate and sin. Jesus of Nazareth spared himself nothing. 

In the long quiet years in Nazareth, he may well have pondered these names. Deeply he must have felt what history is, the greatness of it, the power, confusion, wretchedness, darkness, and evil underlying even his own existence and pressing him from all sides to receive it into his heart that he might answer for it at the feet of god.

I'll probably be posting less during Lent, though "less" may mean shorter posts, not fewer. We'll see. Either way I'm going to make a big effort to stay away from current events, politics, and so forth, and to concentrate on the permanent things. But before I drop that stuff:

For at least ten years I've been writing that secular liberalism or progressivism or whatever you want to call it is a species of religion, and that the so-called culture war is essentially a conflict between two religions. Other people may have been saying the same thing then, but if so I didn't come across their writings, and I thought I was saying something that was not the  conventional wisdom. Now suddenly I'm seeing it everywhere--for instance in this piece by David French. It has become in fact a pretty conventional observation. Although it's pleasing to be vindicated, I'm not entirely happy about this development, as the idea is central to the book for which I'm now trying to find a publisher, and which now has that much less to be said for it. Oh well. 

I'm also thinking I may sometimes post pictures without words, partly in an effort to quiet my always-chattering mind a little, and to encourage silent contemplation, on my part and yours. But also I like posting pictures, and haven't been doing it for a while. They're pretty conventional, I know, and very limited in range. Most are taken within a hundred yards of my house. But I am continually amazed by the world.

I'm a little shocked that spring has come around again. The cypresses have been leafing out for a couple of weeks now. They're one of my favorite spring colors.


This was a notable Ash Wednesday. I went to Mass at the cathedral in Mobile, and for the first time in many years I did not hear "Ashes." Griping about it had become an annual custom for me, and I'm glad not to have to work on stifling that irritation, though I guess rejoicing that I didn't hear it is almost the same thing as griping about it. I had been working on treating it as a penance, with not much success. Anyway, as my wife said, the great thing about it is that you don't have to actually hear it--all you have to do is think about it to get it stuck in your head.

At that Mass Fr. Michael Farmer delivered the best Ash Wednesday homily I've ever heard. This is something close to an accurate transcription of it in its entirety:

Today we enter a period of deeper devotion, a time of fasting, prayer, and penance. Start doing it. 


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"Although it's pleasing to be vindicated, I'm not entirely happy about this development, as the idea is central to the book for which I'm now trying to find a publisher, and which now has that much less to be said for it."

I wouldn't worry much about that. No one seems to have done it yet in narrative form. Look at J.D. Vance. Quite a few writers had said similar things to what he was saying, but he cast it as a memoir and 'Hillbilly Elegy' became a huge success. Narrative non-fiction is a big thing these days from what I understand.

And also, we have talked about no one wanting conversion stories, but there was a time when that is all anyone was reading. The fact that the book is the sort of thing everyone is talking about could work in its favor.


I have had that book for close to 40 years, and I have been looking for something for Lent, maybe I will. Check it out.

I do have one other thing, but it is pro ably not long enough for all of Lent.


I'd say that after 40 years it's definitely time to either give it a try or give it away.

Y'all's points about the book are good. I guess there's no reason not to say this in public: I discovered a few days ago that one of Wipf & Stock's not-so-academic imprints recently published a book that's sort of in the same general ball park as mine, and that they accept unsolicited proposals. Even have a detailed procedure. So I'm working that up now. Also extracting a couple of chapters that I think can stand alone and submitting them around to places like First Things.

Nice picture to see, Mac. Only snow here. When Farmer returned from Italy I noticed that something happened over there where he upped his game with regard to homilies. This short one notwithstanding - though it is a goodie.

There was a reason for it being so very short. It was the noon Mass and a lot of people go on their lunch hour, so it's usually short and usually not very many people. But the cathedral was full and so distribution of ashes and of communion was going to take a while. So he was no doubt trying to help out the people who needed to get back to work.

Snow certainly has its beauties. :-)

I wouldn't mind snow one bit if I didn't have to drive in it.

30-odd years ago I worked with several guys from Michigan. This was in north Alabama where we do get the occasional significant snow (6-12 inches). One day when there had been a recent snowfall we were driving to lunch and I remarked that the snow-covered fields were pretty. The response from one of them was "Snow is s**t. White s**t." I was shocked and it kind of stuck in my mind. :-)

Same here, except I would have to know that my electricity, and therefore my water wouldn't go out for very long.


I have spent the vast majority of my life in heat, humidity, with a chance of tropical storms. I needed a change, so the snow is not bothering me. Now I do think that a significant difference between out here and a place like Michigan is that the low humidity allows for very bearable low temps. If it is in the 20s and sunny doing something outside is pretty easy. Tshirt and light jacket works fine. Teens and single digits you have to dress more for it. At night it always feels much colder; but I'm not very interested in going out at night!

I'll blame the humidity for the fact that I wear a fairly heavy jacket and a hat when it gets down to 40 or so, if I'm going to be outside for more than a few minutes. Hat is very important now that I have hardly any hair on top.

I have decided to read Caryll Houselander's Guilt.

I figured out that I have only had The Lord for 30 years, so it can wait.

This whole comment might be more interesting without the punctuation.


On the other hand, if you wait another ten years to read both, you'll have more guilt to work with when readying the Houselander one.

The Lord is great btw.

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