August 2007 Archives

To The Evening Star


Thou fair-hair’d angel of the evening,
Now, while the sun rests on the mountain, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter they silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And was the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro’ the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover’d with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thy influence.

William Blake

Acts of Faith


Fr Mark, publishes a blog that I have come to visit regularly, Vultus Christi. Besides being is thing of visual beauty, he always seems to post things of real interest, an uncommon virtue in the blogosphere these days. But his posts are often more than just interesting. I don’t know how many times, since I discovered his blog, that struggling with an issue, or having a question come up in my mind, he has written a post that deals with the question. This post is just one example.

Specifically, my question, or rather, something that has been niggling in the outer edges of my consciousness, is my own conduct, if you will, in prayer. I feel I have gotten lazy. After my injury, especially, while bedridden and/or unable to move around very much, I took to regular prayer lying down. This habit has continued, really subconsciously. It has simply been a habit. The great saints would not approve of this kind of behavior. Fr Mark reminded me of this in his post, and provided the following summary of thoughts on the subject from Cardinal Newman:

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman teaches that the gift of the Holy Ghost that we call fear is the expression of faith. By fear Newman means profound reverence in the presence of God. “Can anything be clearer,” says Cardinal Newman, “than that the want of fear is nothing else but the want of faith, and that in consequence we in this age are approaching in religious temper that evil day of which it is said, ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?’(Lk 18:8).” The loss of reverence, the loss of holy fear, is an unmistakable sign of the loss of faith.

Acts of Faith Cardinal Newman continues: “What, will you ask, are acts of faith? Such as these — to come often to prayer, is an act of faith; to kneel down instead of sitting, is an act of faith; to strive to attend to your prayers, is an act of faith; to behave in God’s House otherwise than you would behave in a common room, is an act of faith; to come to it on weekdays as well as Sundays, is an act of faith; to come often to the Most Holy Sacrament, is an act of faith; and to be still and reverent during that sacred service, is an act of faith. These are all acts of faith, because they are all acts, such as we should perform, if we saw and heard Him who is present though with our bodily eyes, we see and hear Him not. But “blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed;” for, be sure, if we thus act, we shall, through God’s grace, be gradually endued with the spirit of His holy fear. We shall in time, in our mode of talking and acting, in our religious services and in our daily conduct, manifest, not with constraint and effort, but spontaneously and naturally, that we fear Him while we love Him.” (Parochial Sermons 5)

If we don’t act like we believe, pretty soon we won’t believe. The manner in which we worship affects our worship. If I am lazy in prayer, my faith will grow weak and flabby. Certainly, an undesirable situation, and one that is easily fixed. I have a couple of bad habits to break.

A Horrible Anniversary


Monday, August 6th was the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; tomorrow, August 9th marks the anniversary of the dropping of the second bomb on Nagasaki. Over those 62 years, there has been a lot of ink spilled on the moral rectitude, or lack thereof, of the decision to drop those bombs, ending World War II,

I have always thought the decision to drop those bombs to be the right one, horrible as the destruction and loss of life that resulted was. I think there is ample evidence that American officials were convinced that, had they been forced to mount an invasion of the Japanese homeland there would have been even greater destruction and loss of life to both the Japanese civilian and military populations, as well as to the American invaders. It was estimated that it would take a million soldiers to undertake the landing and that a significant portion of them would be killed. The belief was reinforced by Japanese ferocity, even in the face of hopeless odds, in battles from Guadalcanal to Okinawa and Iwo Jima. These struggles clearly indicated that the Japanese would fight to the death of the last soldier, rather than surrender. How much worse would it be when the battle reached the homeland itself?

Many have insisted that the use of such a destructive weapon on a civilian population was, at best, immoral, at worst, criminal. The argument goes that Japanese refusal to surrender was brought about by the Allies insistence that both Germany and Japan surrender unconditionally. They argue that, absent the allies insistence on this, and by offering at least the opportunity for some sort of negotiation, the enemy would have been more willing to consider surrender, bringing an earlier end to the war. That may have been true of the Germans, I think it unlikely that it was true of the Japanese. In 1945, it was clearly an already foregone conclusion that Japan could not win the war. She had no navy, no air force to speak of, and her army was being destroyed on the aforementioned Pacific islands. She had little, if any, remaining industrial capacity to rebuild either the navy or the air force; she had little or no capacity to sustain the battle, and yet she fought on. In fact, Japan would not surrender after the dropping of first A bomb; it took another to bring about the end of the war.

I think one point in all of this is too often overlooked. The decision to drop the bomb was a presidential decision and the president, by virtue of his oath of office, had a moral obligation to bring the war to as swift and successful a conclusion as possible. He had a responsibility to the country, not to mention the soldiers being prepared to carry out the invasion, to do what he could to save American lives and avoid unnecessary bloodshed. I think he had a responsibility to use the weapons at his disposal to accomplish that goal.

I wonder what we would be saying about Truman now if, instead of ending the war as he did, he had withheld the use of the weapon and gone ahead with the invasion. What would we say if, after the death of three or four hundred thousand Americans in a prolonged and bloody battle on the Japanese mainland, we learned that the invasion could possibly have been avoided with the use of one or two bombs? What president could live with that knowledge? That was the decision Truman faced, and I believe he make the right one. Let’s pray no other American president ever has to make that kind of decision again.

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