Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020, in emails

 Dear Dance Moms and Dads,

We're so excited to send out our catalog of classes for this coming semester! Please note that this year all students will be appropriately socially distanced. All students over the age of 18 months should wear masks. No parents will be allowed in the studio during classes, unless their student is under six. (Correction: we've just gotten word that parents will be allowed in the studio if they are wearing masks. If they are not wearing masks, they should not be on our grounds at all, even to let students out of the car, as per our CYA protocols.) Keep dancing, and let's stay healthy!

***

Dear Parents,

We are so excited to welcome your student to campus! Please note that you are not allowed in the dorms this year, and in fact we don't really want you on campus. It would be most convenient for us if you'd hire a helicopter and parachute your student in, along with all her belongings. There will be no fall break this year, as per our CYA protocol, so the first time students will leave campus will be at Thanksgiving. Please have your student pack up her whole dorm room and bring it home during Thanksgiving break, to avoid a repeat of spring semester, as kids who thought they were going home for ten days still don't have most of their possessions six months later. Reach for the stars, and let's stay healthy!

***

Dear Employees,

Thank you for your valuable contributions to the company during this stressful time, and your patience with our ever-changing situation. All employees will now be remote for the remainder of the fiscal year. Our new CYA protocols state that all participants in company-related Zoom meetings must be masked to avoid the negative publicity that would ensue if someone were to screenshot a meeting and share it with the implication that our employees don't wear masks at home. We're all in this together, and to help foster solidarity, everyone's pay will be cut by 10% until the earnings pick back up. Keep innovating, and let's stay healthy!

***

Dear Volunteers,

Thanks for all your dedication and hard work! We're so excited to get started on our planning for this year! Let's meet to exchange ideas. We can't actually gather on the grounds of the place you'll be volunteering, due to our CYA protocols, so how about everyone bring a folding chair to the picnic tables the parking area the empty lot behind the Piggly Wiggly? God bless, and let's stay healthy!


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Identity

A while back a friend shared an entertainment news story about actor James Roday deciding to go back to using his real last, Rodriguez.  The reason why he started using a made up last name is interesting: when people would see the name James Rodriguez applying for a role, they'd expect him to look very Mexican.  They'd invite him to try out for roles like gang members.  And then when Rodriguez, who is half Mexican, showed up looking like a fairly average white guy, they'd tell him he didn't look right for the part.  So since for an actor their name is part of their brand, he started working under the name of James Roday.  Now that he's established himself, he's decided to switch back to Rodriguez out of solidarity with his background.

Actor James Roday, who is now going back to his real name of James Rodriguez

This struck me as interesting because I live on the other side of that coin: like Roday/Rodriguez half my ancestry is Mexican but I don't look at all Mexican myself.  But since it's my mother's half of the ancestry that originates in Mexico, I also have a name from the Irish/English side of the family.  

None of which would be tricky if talking about coming from a Hispanic family was like talking about coming from an Irish family, a background which relates to foods you grew up with and bits of culture and memory which have carried over from the old country.  But in the US having a Mexican background is not just a piece of family culture or history, it's considered to be membership in a race and thus gets tied up in notions of racial politics.

This stood out to me as a teenager, when I decided that I'd deal with the fact that the PSAT and SAT didn't allow you to put your race down as "mixed" by listing myself as "Hispanic" on the PSAT and "white" on the SAT.  

I hadn't done any prep before taking the PSAT, and although I was generally good in school my scores were a "good but not great" 90th percentile.  This was not good enough to qualify me for any National Merit scholarships, but it did qualify me for a Hispanic honor role recognition, which was apparently only given to the top 1% of Hispanic students taking the test.  

I was kind of embarrassed to realize that the PSAT scores of Hispanic students were enough worse than the average that you could be 90th percentile overall but 99th percentile among Hispanics, but I showed the certificate to my maternal grandfather and he was proud of my achievement.  

Some colleges were also proud of my achievement, but in a less flattering way.  Harvard sent me a recruiting letter in Spanish.  This was difficult because I couldn't read Spanish.  My maternal grandparents had spoken it as children.  My mom had learned it as a foreign language in high school.  I had never learned it at all.  I got someone to translate the letter for me, and it turned out to explain that they had services which would help me with English if I applied there.  They never sent me any recruiting materials in English.  And indeed, I'm pretty sure they would not have admitted me as a white student.  When I took the SAT (after having got myself a book of sample tests and practiced) I got a 99th percentile score, but even so the only top ten college that I applied to only wait-listed me.  

I suppose I could have taken the Elizabeth Warren path and put myself down as a "person of color" but it seemed clear to me that when you checked the "Hispanic" box, a college expected you to have grown up poor in the bario, or struggle to speak English, or be able to write essays about how you worried that your parents would be deported.  I had grown up in the middle of the middle class, with a father who was a science educator and a mother who taught us at home and brought us up to share her love of books.  Claiming to be "Hispanic" according to the definition that colleges and employers had in mind seemed like it would be clearly dishonest.  And I didn't want to take benefits and considerations which were set aside for people who had truly grown up disadvantaged.

But there is a frustrating aspect to the fact that in the US these days, discussions of background are so frequently tied up with discussions of discrimination and oppression.  It means that someone like me, who doesn't look Hispanic enough to have someone making negative assumptions about me, and who doesn't have a Hispanic last name, ends up seeming like he'd be somehow faking to talk about coming from a Hispanic background.  

As racial problems go, being dismissed as "yet another white guy" by politically active online warriors is the most first world of problems, so I'm not exactly here to complain.  But it is a rather cut-off feeling at times.  I'm proud of the stories of my ancestors who walked across the US/Mexican boarder around 1900.  I'm proud of my grandfather who excelled at his studies despite having to go to the schools for Mexican kids rather than the ones for white kids in the little mining town in New Mexico where he grew up.  And I'm proud of the American identity that he built for himself and his children, through a career in the Navy starting in 1945 when he has seventeen.  I wish that the way that the US talked about race didn't mean that if you weren't oppressed because of your background, you can't claim it without seeming like a poser.

Monday, August 10, 2020

21 Days to Boldness

Need some strength going into the academic fray? Some intrepid Catholic high schoolers in the Columbus area, including our 16yo Julia, have created 21 Days to Boldness, an online retreat for anyone ramping up to the new school year, and today is Day One! You can sign up for daily emails, or follow along on the website. 

What is 21 Days to Boldness?

21 Days to Boldness is a do-it-yourself retreat made by high school students from around the Diocese of Columbus. 21 days before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we will enter into a time of prayer and fasting as a community. Each day, this page will be updated with a reflection that should take ten to fifteen minutes to complete. Each day, we will pray for the holiness of a different group of people at and around our schools. There will be saint biographies, encouragement from people around the city, and even a challenge on a specific way to live with boldness that day. We truly desire to see our community set on fire with new love of Christ, we hope you’ll join us on this retreat to make it happen!

Who can participate?

Anyone! While certain parts of the retreat will be geared towards high school students, we are inviting anyone who wants to participate to join us. Parents, siblings, graduates, teachers, youth ministers, and even clergy are all more than welcome.

When does it start?

Our first day of prayer will be on August 10th and our last day will be on August 30th, the day before school is scheduled to begin. If the first day of school is changed for some reason, we will be sure to discuss our options and update this page accordingly.

For Day One, Julia roped in her grandpa, my own Pops, that man of scripture, to give a video reflection on humility. Check back on Monday to read Julia's own reflection on St. Thérèse.


Monday, August 03, 2020

Book Give Away Winners and Some Reviews

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the blog giveaway to win a copy of If You Can Get It. We had so many sign-ups that we drew two names, and so readers Mike and Callie have inscribed books wending their way through the US mails to them.


But of course, if you didn't win but would still like to have a signed copy, drop me an email at brendan.m.hodge@gmail.com and I'll send you a signed bookplate which you can put into your own copy.

There have been some really wonderful reviews that people have written of If You Can Get It, and I wanted to share a few.

JulieD has a review up at HappyCatholic:
I couldn't put this book down, which is really surprising when you consider it is the sort of story that I usually avoid (2 sisters making their way in the modern world today).

These sisters are polar opposites who are 10 years apart, so there is a generation gap also. We follow Jen through career crises which shake her confidence in herself. Her experience in China made me laugh. I can easily believe the scenario is true to life. I really liked all the business experiences — they were well explained and I was on board. Meanwhile, Katie plays X-box all day until told to get a job. Which she breezily does at a Starbucks. I liked watching Katie find her levels of competence, none of which had to do with a job in the business world.
...
The publisher compares Jen and Katie to the sisters in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. (I'd say the book is more like Emma, actually, considering Jen's journey from having the perfect life to realizing others might have more on the ball than she thought.)

Thinking of that helped me see why I liked this book. Jane Austen talked about normal, ordinary life with regular people who were out of money, had lost their boyfriends, had silly parents, and who thought they were in control of their lives. This book is the same sort of story. It is not Jane Austen to be sure. But it doesn't try to be. In some senses it reminds me of the gentle novels by Elizabeth Caddell or Enchanted April or Miss Buncle's Book. Although it is not those novels either. They are hard to categorize and so is the appeal of this one....
Click through to read the whole hting. Her point about the novel being difficult to categorize is something that's been particularly striking me as I try to do my part to market the novel. A standard marketing approach is to identify readers who like a particular book or TV show and assure them that if they like that, they will find this to be more of the same. That works great with clear genre books, but less well with difficult to classify pieces. And this, apparently, is just such a difficult to classify novel.

Another reviewer who talked about the difficulty of classifying the novel is someone who reviewed it on Goodreads. I'm particularly gratified by this one because it's written by someone I didn't know and also someone who isn't Catholic and thus was addressing the novel with an outside perspective. As such, I couldn't be more happy than to see this kind of reaction:
This book is fantastic, but I'm having a really hard time characterizing it. It's not romance, though there's romance in it. It's not women's fiction/chick lit, though it has many elements of that genre. It's maybe something like faith literature (if such a thing exists), because frankly, this book is one of the best examples I've ever read of that (maybe made-up) type. But even saying that is unfortunately misleading because while faith is an important part of the story it is so naturally and thoroughly presented that it isn't at all didactic or pushy or any of what too many "faithful" authors fall into when they try to let their faith be the ends and means of a story.

The thing is, faith (or even religion) doesn't even show up until well past midway in the story. Hodge does an incredible job pulling me into Jen's life and making me care about her. She's so lonely and barely knows it, so seeing her navigate one big disruption after another and come into herself through those disruptions was brilliantly done. Building the connection with her much-younger sister is only the start of her reevaluation of her priorities and I loved being along as she stumbled and learned and grew.

And even more brilliantly well-done is Hodge's use of the specific to connect with and illustrate the universal. Jen's family was nominally Catholic growing up so we see lots of that variety of faith in the story as her parents and their community come on-scene later on. But we get a lot of variation within that specific community; from Paul, the deeply devout but thoroughly humble, to her parents who are enthusiastic with the simplicity of the newly re-converted, to her sister who we see go through a discovery and exploration journey. Jen's own journey is more complex and maybe that's the power of this story; for if the point is to show Catholicism as superior then it's interesting that our only viewpoint character explicitly doesn't end up following that path herself. She gains respect and understanding for it. And becomes an enthusiastic supporter of her newly-devout family. But it's clear that isn't going to be her path, or at least, not in that way.
...
A note about businessy things: Jen is a capable and high-performing manager/director and we see a lot of that on the page. Hodge obviously knows his stuff and gets literally all of the details right. This is a rare and powerful thing and one I deeply appreciated. Better still, he doesn't bog down on those details at all, instead putting them firmly in service to the story. I'll read more of him for this alone because, like action sequences, business details are really hard to translate into story without bogging down. So seeing someone do so seemingly effortlessly is a real treat.
...
A note about Faith: I already said most of what I wanted to about this topic above, but am adding this note to those it might reach who are Mormon (like me). Get this. Read it. It's fantastic and I think you'll really enjoy it.
You can read the full Goodreads review here.

I think the answer to the difficulty I mentioned, of marketing a hard-to-classify novel such as this, is that it really has to spread by word of mouth and reviews. As such, if you read it and enjoy it, do please post a review and tell others that you enjoyed it. I don't begrudge the world the chance to read Sassy-Talking Strong Woman Saves The World From Evil With The Help Of Scruffy Man VI, but I'd like to think there's a place in the literary world for endeavors such as this as well.  

Amazon reviews and ratings are also particularly helpful, so if you've read the novel (and especially if you've bought it from Amazon and would thus be a "verified buyer") do please take a moment to give it a star rating or write a review.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

No One Else

Darwin and I have been listening to the original Broadway cast recording of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, an artsy rendering of part of War and Peace by Tolstoy. (Spoiler alert: the great comet is as negligible an element of the show as it was in the novel. But I'm sure it looked spectacular on stage.)

This musical did a lot of avant-garde stuff, but I think one of the reasons it couldn't breach the mainstream consciousness like Hamilton is because it seems to actively eschew singable melodic lines for an emotional soundscape which relies heavy on recitative. I don't need all the fingers on one hand to count the songs that have a tune that you can hum. 

The best of these songs, however, is a beautiful aria by Natasha, alone and lonely, reflecting on how she met her absent fiancé, Prince Andrey. 

 


NATASHA: 

The moon—

First time I heard your voice
Moonlight burst into the room
And I saw your eyes
And I saw your smile
And the world opened wide
And the world was inside of me

And I catch my breath
And I laugh and blush
And I hear guitars 
You are so good for me

I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you

Oh the moon
Oh the snow in the moonlight
And your childlike eyes
And your distant smile
I’ll never be this happy again
You and I
And no one else

We’ve done this all before
We were angels once
Don’t you remember?
Joy and life 
Inside our souls
And nobody knows
Just you and me
It’s our secret

This winter sky
How can anyone sleep?
There was never such a night before!
I feel like putting my arms round my knees
And squeezing tight as possible
And flying away
Like this...

Oh the moon
Oh the snow in the moonlight
And your childlike eyes
And your distant smile
I’ll never be this happy again
You and I
You and I
You and I
And no one else

Maybe he’ll come today
Maybe he came already
And he’s sitting in the drawing room
And I simply forgot

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Do Not Bind Up Heavy Labels

Some of the same Catholics who believe that abortion is wrong but feel that "pro-life" is too freighted a term to want to use it without careful qualifiers about what they do and do not want to be seen as aligning with seem to be willing to say that the only reason why someone would be hesitant to identify with the phrase "Black Live Matter" is they're racist.

Maybe I'm just getting middle-aged and tired, or maybe it's that I've actually come to understand how a lot of people bridle at being told that they MUST endorse some particular phrase or else they are support a clear evil, but I don't think it's a good idea to go around telling people "if you don't rally behind the political movement that I think will solve Evil XYZ, then clearly you support Evil XYZ!" It's not actually a very persuasive argument, and if you do manage to persuade someone it may be in the opposite direction, causing them to conclude: "Fine. If all those people say I must endorse Evil XYZ, then I will."

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Would You Like A Signed Copy of my Novel?

If You Can Get It is now available. Perhaps it would be audacious to say "wherever books are sold", but it is available directly from Ignatius Press, from Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and from any bookstore which stocks Ignatius novels. I'd also encourage anyone so inspired to ask their library to acquire it.



But as our blog readers have been a huge support to us in our novel writing, I'd like to give everyone the chance to have a signed copy of If You Can Get It, so I've got two ways for this to happen.

Signed Book Giveaway
I'll be giving away a signed copy of If You Can Get It via a drawing here on the blog. If you'd like to put your name in the virtual hat, email me at brendan.m.hodge@gmail.com and say you're like to be part of the book giveaway. I'll have the youngest Darwin draw names from the literal hat in one week, Saturday Aug. 1st, and notify the winner. If you already have a copy, you can still enter the drawing and either get a second copy or have me send a copy to the person of your choice.


Bookplate Giveaway: Turn Your Copy Into A Signed First Edition
If you already own a copy, or you aspire to get one, or you simply want a handsome sticker to decorate your laptop lid, I've acquired a set of bookplates which I can sign and send out. If you'd like a signed bookplate, email me at brendan.m.hodge@gmail.com and let me know:

1) the address you'd like me to mail the bookplate to

2) how you'd like the bookplate addressed, and any special message (example: "To Aunt Polly, Hoping this book will be some recompense for the hedgehog incident") Otherwise, I'll just write something non-controversial such as "I hope you enjoy the novel"


Thanks again for your support of our writing over the years. If you feel so inspired, it would be a huge help for readers to post reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and if you have your own blog provide a review for your readers. With a hard-to-categorize novel such as this coming our from a small press, word of mouth is really the only way for this work to find its readership. If you have a blog or podcast or some such and would be willing to do a review or interview, feel free to email me.

UPDATE: Cliff reminds me down in the comments that although I've been living book promotion a lot lately, not all our readers are as familiar with it. So the quick pitch: If You Can Get It is a light, contemporary novel dealing with work, family, and the balance between the two.

The back cover blurb is:
Jen Nilsson has an MBA, a nice condo, and a fast-track job at a tech start-up in Silicon Valley. If her big product launch goes well next month, she may finally land the marketing director job she's been gunning for. But then her younger sister, Katie, just out of college and estranged from their newly devout parents, blows through the front door, dumping cardboard boxes and a lifetime of personal drama onto Jen's just-swept floor.

Family is family, and Jen lets her sister, the embodiment of all that annoys her, move in. Maybe she'll turn aimless Katie into a model adult. But when Jen's own well-laid career plans hurtle off the tracks--a corporate buyout, a layoff, and a disastrous business trip to China--she turns more and more to Katie for support and begins to reassess the place of family, and love, in her life.

If You Can Get It explores the quirks and the humanity of the twenty-first-century business world but finds its heart in the deepening relationship of two sisters as different as Elinor and Marianne of Sense and Sensibility.

Genre-wise, it's kind of hard to classify, and in this sense Ignatius really took a risk on a new author because it makes it much harder to market than a novel which fits neatly in a bucket such as SF, Fantasy, mystery, or romance. Addressing the difficulty of defining the genre, one reader said: "To me, it feels like you wrote it for humans who think the world is interesting and life has meaning, or for people who might be subtly convinced of the same by a novel."

Here's a review which I thought captured it pretty well and is somewhat longer.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

History After the Apocalypse

The title of this post is the title of a book I really want to read, a book that so far as I can tell does not exist, and yet a book which I'm probably not competent to write.


The story of that stretches from 1492 to perhaps the late 1800s (when the last of the American Indian tribes in what had become the US were confined to clearly defined reservations) is a story of clashing civilizations -- clashes that were often at least partly military in nature. We know, to some extent, these stories ranging from the conquistadors' attack on Tenochtitlan to the Battle of Little Bighorn. But in the background of those explicit clashes between colonial and native powers was a medical, technological, and civilizational apocalypse that was going on in slow motion from 1492 on.

As Europeans and colonists interacted with the native cultures, they brought with them (often unknowingly, sometimes knowingly) a set of diseases which were common in Europe but unknown in the Americas: smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, plague. The whole range. They also brought animals and technologies (horses, guns, etc.) which had not previously been available. And between these diseases, these technologies, and the pressures of the interacting civilizations, the native civilizations which confronted Europeans and later Americans were not the same cultures that would have existed in their absense.

To pick one example: when we read about Squanto, the member of the Patuxet Tribe who interacted with the Puritan settlers near Plymouth in the 1620s, there's a whole background history which is not that of friendly tribesmen meeting Europeans for the first time. Squanto had actually been tricked into boarding an English vessel back in 1614 and taken to Spain. In Gibraltar ship captain Thomas Hunt tried to sell his Native American prisoners into slavery, but a group of friars freed them and instructed them in the Christian faith. Squanto later lived for some period of time in England, traveled with English sailors to Newfoundland, and then sailed down the coast, also with Europeans, from Newfoundland back to Plymouth. In the meantime, the Patuxet tribe had been decimated by diseases caught from Europeans, and they were under military pressure from tribes further inland who were trying to move into their territory. In this context, we see the Patuxet tribe offering hospitality to the Puritan settlers.

Or to move forward a couple hundred years in history, the Plains Indians with whom the US Cavalry famously clashed in the mid 1800s were a set of civilizations which had already been significantly changed by European contact. The horses that they rode were not a species native to the Americas, but were the result of the introduction of horses into the Americas by the Spanish. They had adopted metal edged weapons (technology which had not existed in the Americas before) and firearms. So, for instance, the Comanche were a fairly peripheral Native nation until they became the masters of horse-based hunting and warfare, with which they proceeded to dominate a large swathe of the southern plains.

To the other Indian nations which the Comanche sometimes terrorized, the sudden power of this particular tribe must have seemed like yet another aspect of a growing apocalypse of disease, technological change, military incursions, and new upstart powers.

Obviously, every part of the world has its currents of change. When Europeans first came in contact with the Americas, Spain and Portugal were two of the greatest powers, England was a comparative upstart, Russia was dominated by the Mongols, and the Ottoman Empire was a major threat to European kingdoms. A lot changed over the following four hundred years, and only some of that was directly related to happenings in the Americas. Similarly, there would doubtless have been lots of change in the Americas even without the arrival of Europeans.

But because of the direction of disease, technology, and population flow, to many native cultures it must have seemed particularly apocalyptic: pandemics with fatality rates that Europe hadn't seen since the Black Death or before, radical new technologies, and the pressure of a seemingly endless stream of new people looking for land to live on in their very different ways.

There's a lot of fiction which attempts to imagine apocalyptic events befalling our modern culture (and in 2020 that seems a bit on point) but to my knowledge there's not a book which focuses on the apocalypse which played out on the other side of the cultural barrier from us during the centuries of Euro-American expansion at the expense of native cultures, and I'd really like to read a history written from that point of view.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Dreary Flickering of the Mind

From our current readaloud, The Screwtape Letters, as the devils strategize about how best to handle a human who has recently had an experience of grace (letter 13):
It remains to consider how we can retrieve this disaster. The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the the long run, the less he will be able to feel.
And from letter 12, always one that convicts me:

As this condition [reluctance to think of God because it means truly repenting] becomes more fully established, you will gradually be freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's newspaper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and out-going activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, 'I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.' The Christians describe the Enemy as one 'without whom Nothing is strong.' And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. 

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the an away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
We are in a slight post-vacation malaise, which consists of listlessly scrolling through dreary social media posts. We both of us know that we would feel better if we would settle down to write, but writing feels like so much effort, with so little to show for it at the end of the night. The present effort, however, matters -- trying, however weakly, to tap into God's creative powers, is always going to be a more eternally significant endeavor than hitting "refresh" one more time.

If you're feeling the malaise, read The Screwtape Letters along with us. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

Take and Read


Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. Very long time readers may even remember the early draft of it.

It's been a very long path, but this week If You Can Get It is available from Ignatius Press in both hard copy and ebook. It's on an early-release sale at the moment, and if you want to support the only Catholic publishers which takes the risk of printing new fiction, I encourage you to go buy it direct from their site. Amazon also has If You Can Get It available from their Kindle store, but they won't have physical copies available for another week or two, though you can pre-order.

Here's the back cover description:
Jen Nilsson has an MBA, a nice condo, and a fast-track job at a tech start-up in Silicon Valley. If her big product launch goes well next month, she may finally land the marketing director job she's been gunning for. But then her younger sister, Katie, just out of college and estranged from their newly devout parents, blows through the front door, dumping cardboard boxes and a lifetime of personal drama onto Jen's just-swept floor.

Family is family, and Jen lets her sister, the embodiment of all that annoys her, move in. Maybe she'll turn aimless Katie into a model adult. But when Jen's own well-laid career plans hurtle off the tracks—a corporate buyout, a layoff, and a disastrous business trip to China—she turns more and more to Katie for support and begins to reassess the place of family, and love, in her life.

If You Can Get It explores the quirks and the humanity of the twenty-first-century business world but finds its heart in the deepening relationship of two sisters as different as Elinor and Marianne of Sense and Sensibility.
One of the things I wanted to do with this novel was address the experience of Catholicism in modern America from a somewhat outside perspective. My main character, Jen, grew up as a Christmas and Easter Catholic, but since she went to college and moved away from home, her parents have reverted to a more active participation in their faith. Catholicism is thus something that's both familiar and alien to her, and as several characters who do have conflict with the Catholic subculture come into the story, Jen is repeatedly confronted with lived Catholicism in forms that seem unfamiliar or even unsettling. With falling away, conversion, and reversion being such common experiences in the modern Church, I think this is a very common set of experiences, and one which those of us who live within the subculture often don't run into.

Another thing I really wanted to work with in the novel was the developing relationship between two sisters who are far enough apart in age that they've never really known each other as adults. Jen moved to the West Coast immediately after college, and so when her ten-years-younger sister Katie unexpectedly moves in with her, she has to form an adult relationship with someone she last lived with when Katie was eight years old.

Finally, I wanted to use the novel to provide a realistic view of the kind of corporate environment in which many of us live most of our waking hours. So often, novel heroine's either work in picturesque little cafes or bookshops, or they have "creative professional" jobs at businesses such a fashion magazines. These can provide heartwarming or comic settings, but they often don't bear much resemblance to the business world as I've experienced it, and I think that the business world can actually be a pretty interesting place, both in the challenges it presents and the human dramas that play out in it. So I wanted to show both why Jen finds her job so absorbing. Yes, perhaps she's a bit over-focused on her career at times, letting it get in the way of her family relationships, but she's also really good at it and finds it fascinating. And I'm gratified to find that many readers have found this aspect interesting as well. One of the Amazon reader reviews says, "I never thought I would love a novel that spends many pages on modern business culture, and yet HERE I AM."

I hope you'll enjoy If You Can Get It, and if you do please feel free to cry it from the rooftops and encourage everyone else to read it as well.

Go West Young Darwins!

It has been quite here as of late, and that is mainly because we have been on vacation. Long, long ago, last winter, we had said we should take a family vacation in honor of our eldest heading off to college. Up till now, all of our vacations have been family get-togethers or reunions with old friends. We'd never gone somewhere just to see things and relax. So vacation for vacation's sake was the goal of this vacation, and the graduate suggested Yellowstone as the place she'd like to see.

As the crow drives (if crows could drive) it is twenty-five hours of drive time from our town outside of Columbus, OH to Yellowstone's north entrance. We took it in three days.

The first day was a big driving day. Our goal had been to leave the house as six, and we pulled out of the driveway by six-thirty, which is near record-breaking promptness for our family of nine. We drove to Fort Dodge, Iowa with not much more than a couple pauses at rest stops to consume sandwiches made of deli meat and cheese from the cooler. Despite the pandemic, rest stops were mostly open and were a reliable source of bathrooms as were gas stations. Many fast food places were drive through only.

The kids became connoisseurs of rest stop seesaws.


Out plan on Day Two, was to drive from Fort Dodge to De Smet, South Dakota and see various Laura Ingalls Wilder related sites, then continue on a couple hours before stopping for the night.

De Smet is well worth a visit. We'd listened to On the Shores of Silver Lake as we drove and this turned out to have been the perfect book to have listened to since the first thing you see on the Historic Homes tour is the surveyor's house in which the Ingalls spend the winter of 1879/80 in that book. Laura describes it as the largest house they had yet lived in, and that really tells you something because it is quite small.


Right next to the surveyor's house (which itself has been moved from its original location) is the one room schoolhouse which Laura and Carrie attend in The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie. It's been restored to something like it's original condition after having served as a home for some years after being used as a school.
During normal times, this visit is a lot more hands on, but due to the nature of the times, were weren't supposed to be touching anything.

The final original Ingalls building on the tour is a few blocks away, and is the house in town which Charles Ingalls built for the family two years after Laura's marriage. This house (expanded several times by Mr. Ingalls until it reached its current configuration) looks like a fairly standard Victorian wood house, so the impressive thing here is perhaps that it was built almost exclusively by one man who wasn't even a builder by trade. Here you can also see a lot of original Ingalls artifacts.

The gift shop building back at the start of the tour not only has a number of Little House related books, but also some displays of family documents, pictures, etc. Overall, the tour was well worth it, and we enjoyed it a lot. We took the opportunity to pick up a copy of the annotated Pioneer Girl (Laura's original unpublished memoir of which the children's series was an expansion and fictionalization) and Rose Wilder Lane's two novels based on her mother's materials.

The other De Smet attraction is the Ingalls Homestead living history attraction. This is on the original homestead land where Charles Ingalls had his claim. They've built a recreation of the homestead shanty in its final expanded form described in Little Town on the Prairie, and that recreation stands pretty much where the original house stood. A few of the original cottonwood trees which Pa planted still stand on the property. Other buildings are recreations of other buildings described in the books or are used in the living history activities. We arrived just as things were shutting down at 5:00pm, but the entire thing is open without admission cost after their business hours are over, so we were able to look around. It was fascinating to see the size of a homestead claim and what the actual topography was like in the area after having read the books all these years.




One of the highlights for the kids was that there were kittens in the barn that wanted to be played with.

The next day we drove about seven hours, but with an extended stop in the middle to visit Badlands National Park. I hadn't known much about Badlands prior to this trip. I'd picked it because it was directly along the way and the pictures I saw online were impressive. We were really glad we made the stop. The badlands themselves are amazing to look at, and since they're formed by erosion the park service allows people to walk around on them as they like. We also got the chance to see prairie dogs and big horn sheep while in the park.






We had one more stop before going to Yellowstone itself: the Museum of the Rockies. This is the final resting place of Big Al, the allosaurus who lived fast and died young in our favorite dinosaur special, The Ballad of Big Al, (narrated by Kenneth Branagh.) It turns out that The Museum of the Rockies doesn't see Big Al as the central star of their show the way that we did, but he's there and worth the visit.


We had wanted to stay somewhere nice while visiting Yellowstone, and of course we needed somewhere that could accommodate nine people. We found a historic log house on land ten minutes drive from the north entrance. If you ever need a place to stay with a large family near Yellowstone, we can't recommend it enough. It was so wonderful we wished we could spend more time just hanging around there.




The park itself is amazing, and the two and a half days we had looking around inside were just enough to hit a few highlights. You could easily spend a week just on Yellowstone itself. If planning your own trip, keep in mind that the drive time between different parts of the park is significant. We put three hundred miles on the van just driving around the park.

We did the usual volcanic features: Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. We also hiked the south rim trail along the "grand canyon of Yellowstone" and saw the waterfalls. That was a really good hike, and MrsDarwin and I wished we could have done more like it, but it wore the kids out badly and features a few points where it was very necessary to hold on to the younger kids lest any small adventurers take a sudden plunge down a slope. We also took an evening drive up through the Lamar Valley. We got to see lots of bison on that drive, and also spotted a wolf in the distance (no picture, as without strong binoculars it just looked like a moving black speck) and fell in with a group of wolf chasers who had been following it as it ran parallel to the road taking a hunk of bison meat home to its pups. We spent an exciting forty-five minutes driving with the wolf chasers from overlook to overlook and watching the wolf.










Since we were so far west, we drove another day to visit a college friend who farms in central Idaho. We'd gone through a lot of farmland by the point, but nothing quite compared with the huge fields on Idaho's high prairie. Our friend's family has about six thousand acres under cultivation.


From this furthest point, it was three long driving days back to Ohio. We put nearly 5,000 miles on the car in total during the vacation, but the kids were troopers and we saw amazing amounts of this wide country.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The James Challenge

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.
James 3:1-2 
We're used to reading scripture in dribs and drabs, a verse here and a verse there, but I challenge you this weekend to read the entire book of James. Five chapters. It can be done in less than twenty minutes. And because James speaks sternly of people setting themselves up as teachers, I won't highlight any verses, because what is edifies you will certainly be different from what edifies me. (And I'd end up including the whole book, hence this challenge.)

I'm using James as my examination of conscience for confession today. 



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Rocky Mountain High

I remember back in the summer before I went to college, my family took one last vacation all together to Mackinaw Island. I was 18, and my youngest brother was 3. Now, as my 18yo daughter prepares to go to school in August, and my youngest turns 3 in a week and a half, our family is doing the same. We're taking our longest road trip ever, to Yellowstone National Park. Nine people, twelve seats, eleven days.

We are determined -- DETERMINED -- to leave the house by 6am on Sunday, which is why this week has been a crescendo of preparation. At the moment, the sounds of the van being vacuumed out are drifting in through the window (as well as the kids shouting at each other while they vacuum the van). Someone has to be on baby duty to make sure that the young man doesn't slip out the door at every opportunity and stand by the tree out front -- the same place that his brother, at the same age and level of impulse control, was when someone called CPS on us. Remember that? Our washing machine was just replaced yesterday, so I'm working through the laundry mountain before we go to the Rocky Mountains. Sneakers have been ordered. Goodwill has been visited. Presents have been salted away for the children turning 10 and 3 over the course of the trip.

Our first big stop will be DeSmet, SD, to visit the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. On our drive, we'll be listening to On The Shores of Silver Lake, and Little Town on the Prairie. Fortunately, we're not likely to be struck by a freak blizzard in the last days of June, so we'll just have to imagine being lost on the snow-covered plains.

We'll also be driving through Badlands National Park, and passing near where the Battle of Little Bighorn was fought. This is especially timely, because Joseph Medicine Crow, the last Plains Indian War Chief, and the last living person to have heard an oral history of the battle recounted by a participant (his uncle was a scout for Custer), just died at age 102. We may also stop at Pompey's Pillar, a sandstone formation covered with Native American petroglyphs, as well as the carved signature of William Clark, dated July 25, 1806 -- the only physical evidence along the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark named the feature after Pompy, the son of Sacagawea.


Yellowstone is important, of course, but one of the absolute highlights of our trip is the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT, where resides the skeleton of Big Al, the allosaurus, subject of a Walking With Dinosaurs special narrated by Kenneth Branagh. (My 6yo can recite it in Sir Ken's accent.) We've been fans of Big Al for years, so this is in the nature of a pilgrimage. I expect a tear or two to be shed in his presence. 

From there we head to our house by the north entrance of the park. I dunno, maybe you like roughing it on vacation, but we are not roughing it. We are renting a charming old house that has been tastefully restored, and it has ambience and nice bathrooms and a balcony over the kitchen from which you can lower a basket so that someone can send you up sandwiches. We had debated whether, if the north entrance of the park were still closed in July due to COVID-19, we should just drive the whole way and stay in our lovely house anyway. But now the north entrance is opened and we get the best of both worlds.

Then, Thursday and Friday in Yellowstone! It's not enough time, of course, but it's more than we've ever had there. I'm not set on seeing Old Faithful erupt. I want to walk some trails and see some gorgeous scenery, and see a bison from far away, and a bear not at all. It's going to be chilly at nights, so we're digging through the coat closets now.

Saturday we drive 2/3 of the way up Idaho to visit a college friend on her farm. Sunday is a birthday, so it will be farm fun and celebration, and then Monday we're trekking back across America. We'll wave at you all as we go past.



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Thoughts on the Zeitgeist, and Linkage

First of all, Anonymous Goose would be a great name for a band. This is related to nothing except that it's always a good time to propose band names, a lá Dave Barry.

**

As a teenager, I lived in East Westwood, in Cincinnati. We lived for for a few years on Baltimore Ave., between the Montana exit and McHenry Ave., near the Fay Apartments project. The white people in the neighborhood were generally older folk who'd lived there for 50, 60 years, and there were diminishingly few of them, mostly on the side streets with back yards that fell precipitously down ravines. Cincinnati is a city of Appalachian hills.

And then there was us, crazy religious whiteys in a community house. I walked places and distances, in safety, that I would not let my own children go. Is that prejudice or prudence? I don't know. None of the people I knew from that time, black or white, still live over there. The house on Baltimore was demolished years ago for being unsalable. No one in higher places, black, white, whoever, cared much about that neighborhood.

Then we lived on McHenry, again religious whiteys, again in safety. Again, side streets of hill and ravine. I drove a monstrous blue van, in which I should have been pulled over numerous times and wasn't, but then, most people in the neighborhood drove piece-of-shit cars. I used to take friends, black and white, places because I was the one who could drive and had access to a vehicle large enough to transport groups. I drove fearlessly and with impunity in situations which I would be, again, hesitant to send my own children into. Prejudice? Or prudence? I have no doubt that both the color of my skin and a general "girl next door" quality gave me a social immunity that other people did not enjoy. I also have no doubt that the same qualities, combined with a religious element, gained me a reputation as an oblivious sucker, easily prevailed upon to help people out. Useful White Friend.

It was not until I was a sophomore in college that my dad bought a house in Westwood proper, not the toniest address in Cincinnati, but not necessarily a place that people got out of if they could. 

Everyone has their own stories, and mine are out of the norm in many ways (as I discovered when I confessed that I'd never had a #metoo moment), but the only time I've ever heard an explicitly racist remark was not from anyone in my declassé religious bubble in Cincinnati, but from a senior member of my comfortable, upper-middle-class family in the Deep South. 

I do not make any generalizations about the experiences of my friends, relations, fellow Cincinnatians, or members of entire ethnic groups. I can only speak of my own experience.

***

None of us can avoid centering ourselves in a public conversation, but nonetheless it’s a little bemusing to watch white Catholics, in the name of anti-racism, presenting a project as an attempt to “welcome other voices to the table.” The lack of self-awareness of the paternalism – or, shall we say, maternalism, since most saying things like that are female – is startling.

It’s rather like those times – many – when Catholics pray words like, “May we reach out to the poor” – a “prayer” which expresses quite clearly our sense of the “poor” as Other and not included in the “we.” Not really the Body of Christ.

In some ways that reflects our natural tendency to be self-referential and tribal, but the point of this post is to point out a few ways in which the embodied structures of Catholicism reinforce these tendencies, as well as racial division, especially in the United States. 

I think it’s important to understand, first – and this is something I’ll come back to in the second blog post – that the American Catholic experience on race is unique, and that’s because the United States is unique. Yes, there are other multi-cultural societies, but none quite as multi-cultural as we are here, along with our unique – especially in the 18th century – approach to religion and civic life.

Moreover, do know that throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the American Catholic hierarchy’s actions – and inaction –  on racial issues were judged mostly negatively by others around the world, particularly Rome. In other words, most American bishops and religious order leadership during this period reinforced, rather than resisted racism. And that was noted.

This is startling to some because of a particular narrative, quite prevalent in the American Church since the 1980’s. It’s a triumphalist, self-satisfied narrative, the outgrowth of apologetics enthusiasm,  that has glossed over institutional sins  and presented a story of American Catholicism in which the main point about race has been something like: “Well, Catholicism didn’t split during the Civil War like the Protestants. And, er, Pierre Toussaint, Katharine Drexel and Augustine Tolton, you know. And that one cool Black parish in my city.”

As I said, I’ll dig into that a bit more later. But for now, let me suggest a few points to consider that might help understand American Catholicism and race and perhaps help expand the conversation beyond Maternalistic White Saviorhood.


The casual reader of American Catholic history might well have come to believe that all was mostly well in the history of Black Catholics in the United States. For the narrative that many are familiar with is one that places institutional Catholicism in favorable contrast to mainline Protestantism, with the latter’s role in upholding discriminatory civic policies and traditions. Somehow, in our mind, the work of St. Katharine Drexel and the Josephites and the image of Catholic religious marching in Selma tilts the balance in our favor against segregated and separated Protestant bodies.

Historical reality is, of course, much more complicated. We can celebrate the existence of all-Black religious orders of sisters, but why did they have to exist? Because white religious orders wouldn’t accept Black women as members and white religious orders didn’t want to serve Black populations. We can celebrate, for example, predominantly Black parishes and schools in New Orleans, but why did they come to exist?  Because the institutional Church acceded to Jim Crow laws, both in letter and spirit.

In short: when we look at the history of the Catholic Church and African-Americans in the United States, there is no room for institutional or majoritarian self-congratulation. It’s a history marked by fearful submission to civic, cultural and social prejudice, which teaches us, among other things, that there is nothing new under the sun.

And, like all history, it’s quite interesting, and for those with the time and motivation, provides endless fascinating rabbit trails. 
***
 
Brandon is being level-headed, as usual.


People tear down public monuments for the same reasons they build them, and while moral principle sometimes makes a showing somewhere, it is never the heart of the act. People build or tear down public monuments

(1) because doing so curries favor with those who are seen as powerful; or
(2) in order to express, in visible form, authority, superiority, or dominance over prior generations or a current population.

That's it. We don't randomly go about monument-building or monument-breaking; we have a point, and the point is never a purely moral one but is instead primarily a point about who controls destiny. 

Protests are not magic; they do not accomplish anything except as part of the proposal of a practical plan for solving what is being protested. This is why most effective protests are protests for or against very specific laws or policies; it just goes with the nature of such a protest that everybody knows what could be done to solve the problem being protested, and the protest raises the incentive for actually using that solution. But it's clear, if you look around, that there is no general association of the protests with specific solutions. And protests not generally associated with specific solutions don't get much done in the long run, because they aren't in fact incentivizing anything but looking like you are responding to the problem -- which is a dangerous thing to incentivize in politics.



Thursday, June 11, 2020

Truth, Lies, and City Budgets

The flavor of the week is "defund the police" -- the idea that the role of police (and their funding) could be reduced or eliminated and that money could be used on social services that would prevent crime instead. As a result, a lot of people who've probably never looked at a city budget before are suddenly trying to share information about how much money police departments have, and from some of the things that I'm seeing shared many people do not yet have good instincts for what is likely to be true. One graphic that I've seen shared repeatedly in different places purports to show the percentage of city funding in Columbus, OH (my nearest big city, though I'm not in Columbus itself) which goes to police. And as the OSU PhD candidate in Political Science who appears to be the source of the graphic quipped, it appears to show that "Cities are just police departments with some underfunded social services on the side"

The problem is, this graphic is deceptive to the point of being false.


Now, I myself am no expert on city budgeting. But this just looked very wrong to me, and like everyone else I've got access to Google, so I went and looked up the Columbus City Budget website. The graphic mentions the General Fund, and if you click on the link for the General Fund at the link above, you can get a detailed PDF breaking down that part of the budget. Here's what I found. The General Fund is a total of $965M in planned 2020 spending. Some of the other line items on the graph are correct, but it leaves out a large one in order to make its overall point. Police are budgeted for $360M but the Fire Department is the next biggest line item at $271M. The other line items are numerous and small, so it might be easiest to provide this graphic for the General Fund:
As you can see, the Police Department accounts for roughly a third of the total General Fund spending. But here's the thing, a city turns out to have multiple budget areas. The General Fund is not all of city spending. Click on the All Funds summary which is right below the General Fund, and you discover that total city spending across all funds is actually $1,816M. The General Fund is only half of spending. Looking all the All Funds summary, we see that major spending areas include Water, Sewage, and Storm Systems, Electricity, Street Construction, etc. Let's look at the big pieces of that total $1,816M in spending.
But wait a minute. When you think about your city, you probably think about city schools. Well, they turn out to have their own separate budget, which is provided here. It also breaks down into a General Fund and other funds, and the total of all those for the 2019-2020 school year was $1,523M.
So now we find that police spending is only 11% once we account for other funds and for Columbus Schools. But you know what we haven't seen yet? We haven't seen those social services that people are talking about funding instead of the police. Do we spend 11% of the city spending on police but nothing on helping people?

No. But different types of government funding come from different government entities. Social services come from a combination of state, federal, and other funds, and you can read about Ohio's total social services here. However, these are total Ohio numbers. It seemed like a fair solution for seeing how those social services weighed against the spending in Columbus on police would be to take the total Ohio population of 11.69M and the Columbus, OH population which is 892k and simply do a percentage allocation saying that Columbus got 7.6% of Ohio social spending. Now let's put that all together:
So, is a city just a police force with a few under funded services tacked on? No. That is a totally false statement designed to get clicks, and the only way that it was made to look like that was true was by deceptively selecting just some items out of the general fund of the city budget. And is police funding in general totally out of proportion with the funding of social services? That depends on what you think the right level is. Police spending is 6% of the total city, school, and allocated social service spending that I show on the above graph. Police spending is roughly equal to spending on Mental Health, Addiction, and Developmental Disabilities combined. Is that right? Informed citizens can made decisions about those topics, but no one can be informed when looked at flagrantly deceptive information.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Novena for Order 2020: Day 9

I don't know what it says about the order in my life that I almost forgot to post the last day of a novena I'm sponsoring. But in these nine days the order of my days has been almost office-like, sitting down to write in the mornings and afternoon, picking up again after dinner. I won't say I haven't gotten distracted because there are too many people who can testify against me, but there has been a sense of routine.

I've also been following the news, yes, and I've volunteered to help again with religious education at my parish next year (whatever it looks like) because that's where I'm most likely to be able to know, love, and serve families who look and live differently than mine.

***
For Ordering a Life Wisely

St. Thomas Aquinas

O merciful God, grant that I may
desire ardently,
search prudently,
recognize truly,
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You
for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God

Grant that I may know
what You require me to do.

Bestow upon me
the power to accomplish your will,
as is necessary and fitting
for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God,
that I may not falter in times
of prosperity or adversity,
so that I may not be exalted in the former,
nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything
unless it leads me to You;
may I not be saddened by anything
unless it turns me from You.

May I desire to please no one,
nor fear to displease anyone,
but You.

May all transitory things, O Lord,
be worthless to me
and may all things eternal
be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without You
be burdensome for me
and may I not desire anything else
besides You.

May all work, O Lord
delight me when done for Your sake.
and may all repose not centered in You
be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, my God,
that I may direct my heart to You
and that in my failures
I may ever feel remorse for my sins
and never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord my God, make me
submissive without protest,
poor without discouragement,
chaste without regret,
patient without complaint,
humble without posturing,
cheerful without frivolity,
mature without gloom,
and quick-witted without flippancy.

O Lord my God, let me
fear You without losing hope,
be truthful without guile,
do good works without presumption,
rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness,
and -- without hypocrisy --
strengthen him by word and example.

Give to me, O Lord God,
a watchful heart,
which no capricious thought
can lure away from You.

Give to me,
a noble heart,
which no unworthy desire can debase.

Give to me
a resolute heart,
which no evil intention can divert.

Give to me
a stalwart heart,
which no tribulation can overcome.

Give to me
a temperate heart,
which no violent passion can enslave.

Give to me, O Lord my God,
understanding of You,
diligence in seeking You,
wisdom in finding You,
discourse ever pleasing to You,
perseverance in waiting for You,
and confidence in finally embracing You.

Grant
that with Your hardships
I may be burdened in reparation here,
that Your benefits
I may use in gratitude upon the way,
that in Your joys
I may delight by glorifying You
in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You Who live and reign,
God, world without end.

Amen.

translation by Robert Anderson and Johann Moser
from The Aquinas Prayer Book