Monday, January 31, 2005

The Holy Father!

Fox News reports this morning that John Paul II has the flu. But they also report this story. The accompanying photos of our Holy Father are best photos I have seen of him in some time - he looks happy and full of vigor.

I am going to try to blog a little later, but I am starting to do my taxes for the year - my first time as a small business. Hopefully it won't take too long.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, January 27, 2005


In late September we bought 50 chickens. 25 were brown egg layers. 25 were billed as the 'frying pan specials' - roosters which within 8-12 weeks are ready for the fryer. All these chickens were mailed via USPS when they were one day old.

You are supposed to keep them at 90 degrees F for the first week or so and then slowly let them acclimate to the temperature - certainly not exposing them to cold until they are fully feathered.

We don't have an incubator, nor do we have electricity out at the chicken coop. So, it being late September (80's during the day - 60's at night) decided to bring the chickens into our bathroom at night so they wouldn't be exposed to the cooler air. Number one son became their surrogate mother, gathering them each afternoon and bringing them upstairs to the master bath. We did this for a week and then set them on their own in our coop.

We only lost two to sickness (the cold weather), and those we lost the first two nights before we decided to bring them in every night.

Of course we lost over half the chicks early on by massacre - the details of which you can read of here.

The brown egg-layers will start laying sometime in the Spring. (We have 8 or 9 left). We will keep a rooster or two to fertilize so we can perpetuate the flock. The remaining 8 roosters are ready for the pot.

There was a small chicken coop which came with the house. It has a perch and 9 laying 'bins'. It also had a small fenced yard. We doubled the size of the yard especially since we expected to have 50 chickens.

So today I butchered our first home-grown chicken, and we ate him tonight. Yesterday we isolated the rooster and only gave him water for the last 24 hours. (Supposedly I figured this would make the job cleaner.) Number one son went into the isolation chamber and brought him out to me. I tried to follow the instructions given in John Seymour's (may his soul rest in peace) "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It". I tied the feet together and laid his head on a board. I laid a dowel across his neck, (I held one end, son held other) and I broke his neck. It was not as easy as all the literature claimed. After he finished twitching, we dipped in scalding water. I plucked him. (By the way, my dog Challenger of the massacre fame was going nuts the whole time.) I sawed off his head on the neck with a cheese knife (next time I should do it farther down). Then I brought him into the kitchen and finished the drawing etc. It took me an hour and 10 minutes. Next time I think it will take half the time. Two things I learned. 1. Our knives are not nearly sharp enough; 2. I should do the whole procedure outside. Once I got to cutting around the vent and drawing out the guts, it was a little smelly.

When finished I realized that one of these "frying pan specials" would not feed our family.

Dinner: The chicken was a little tougher than we are used to but had a better (stronger) flavor, but not so much as to be gamey. Next time we will probably put him in the crockpot.

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Difference and Clearing my head

This morning we had to take one the cars in for brakes and an overheating problem. I left first and asked Mrs. Curley if she remembered where the Auto Shop was. She said that she thought so, "Once you're in Camden, you turn left at the Pizza Hut", She said. I replied, "No, you turn left at the Bank of America." Turns out we were both correct. Just goes to show the difference between two people - you tend to pay attention to what is on your mind and what you are interested in. (Mrs. Curley's response to my analysis: "If you would make more money I could get more pizza)

When we first moved to Bethune and got our dog Challenger, I used take him and one of the boys each day on a walk through the forest (pine tree farms) which border our property. Our neighbor leased these areas to hunters for the deer season, so our walks ceased. Now that deer season is over, I am back to taking this walk/run every afternoon at about 4:00. One of the fascinating things for both myself and the boys, is seeing clear animal tracks on the trails. We have positively identified deer and racoon, and tentatively identified coyote and possum.

These walks also clear and sharpen my mind. I tend to work out all my outlines and do all my writing in my head first before ever committing to paper. I had an article deadline last Friday but couldn't seem to put it together. An hour in the woods with Challenger (and God) solved my problem.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, January 24, 2005

I responded last week on a piece posted at El Camino Real, here, regarding the New Rite originally from Seattle Catholic.

Jeff tried to attend Mass at a Novus Ordo parish this weekend with disasterous results - see here .

I was very adamant in comments at El Camino Real and here that the Novus Ordo is not inferior to the Traditional Mass (which I also have a great fondness for). I continue to believe this is the case. However, I am not naive. A proper Novus Ordo can be very, very hard to find. While for some, this makes the case for abandonment of the Novus Ordo - I differ. A Traditional Mass is hard to find in many dioceses also. Both are gems to be cherished when found.

An Anglo-Catholic youth (later converted) in the 1930's describes his first experience at a Catholic Mass, - "where the Latin was, when audible, badly pronounced; the music was ghastly, and the religious art was utterly vulgar. As for the priest, he appeared bored by the whole performance, except when he delivered a brief sermon ..." - Fr. Paul Van K. Thomson, "Plus Sign on the Roof".

My point is that the "happy, holy, reverent, thriving days" of old were not always so happy and holy.

I am sorry that Jeff and his family had these troubles this weekend. I have been through them myself so many times that my heart aches. While Jeff was almost exposed to "Gather Us In" this weekend, at least he didn't have to endure, "Sing Hey to the Carpenter" - (more on this later.)

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Weekend

Pro-Life March in Columbia on Saturday. It was like old-home week as many of our friends we had not seen since moving to Bethune came out for the march. Former Governor David Beasily was present (as he always is - even when he is not running for office). My only complaint is that the last few years the speeches have turned into a Bush rally. While Bush has rhetorically furthered the cause to end abortion, frequently his actions show he is more a Republican than pro-life, i.e. nomination of Gonzales for AG, stumping for Senator Spector, etc.

Sunday night we always have a special desert after dinner. Tonight we were finishing off the ice cream in the freezer. As I opened up the neopolitan ice cream we found the missing ice cream scoop - just another reminder that our dear number one daughter has left us of her most recent visit.

I need to blog about music in Church - but will gather my thoughts and do it later this week.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Shroud - More Evidence

This article which I saw first at Open Book (Amy Welborn) reminds me of my Jubilee visit to Turin and my pilgrimage to venerate the Shroud.

The Holy Shroud is purported to be the burial cloth of Christ. A life-size image of a victim of crucifixion in the manner prescribed in the Gospels is contained on the cloth. The origin of the Holy Shroud is controversial as some scientific evidence, most notably the Carbon-14 dating results of 1988, have ‘disproved’ the ancient origin of this cloth. Of course the news today linked about lays great doubt on those test results. Other scientific evidence supports a 1st century origin of this cloth; and theories and evidence which refute the Carbon-14 date of 1260-1390 AD suggest further tests should be performed - as does the news this morning. Investigations conducted on the Holy Shroud with state-of-the-art technology have failed to show definitively how the image on the cloth was formed. The image of the crucified man is not a painted image and resides only on the topmost layer of fibers in the cloth; while human, male, blood stains at the side, hands, feet, and head of the image penetrate the cloth. Remarkably, the photographic negatives of the image, are actually a positive image, which reveal a more detailed view of the crucified man and his torture.

Exposition of the Holy Shroud normally occurs only during Jubilee years. However there was also an Exposition in 1998 to commemorate the anniversary of the Holy Shroud’s arrival in Turin. Our Holy Father, John Paul II venerated the Holy Shroud during the 1998 Exposition.

Fortunately I was in Italy on business during the Jubilee year Exposition and made reservations to venerate the Holy Shroud for the morning of September 6th in San Giovanni de Baptiste Cathedral. I have been an avid follower of the scientific and historical studies concerning the Holy Shroud since graduate school and have read numerous books and scientific papers studying the historical and scientific origin of this cloth.

The pilgrimage began with a walk through palace gardens, which called the pilgrims to silence and prayer. A short video presentation in 5 languages ensued which detailed the major features of the Holy Shroud. The pilgrims then proceeded past a raised image of the Holy Shroud especially prepared for the blind. As we approached the Cathedral, numerous prints commemorating past Expositions were displayed. Finally we entered the Cathedral and were led to the Holy Shroud. I knelt 6-10 feet from the Holy Shroud and prayed for the wisdom to understand more fully the sacrifice and suffering of God for man.

We were allowed approximately 5 minutes per group of pilgrims at this proximity to the Holy Shroud. However as my group and the following several groups were very small, I managed to remain for some time after my allotted 5 minutes elapsed.

Exiting the Cathedral we were allowed to reenter the Church in the rear and venerate the Shroud at some distance for as long as we wanted. There I prayed for the soul of my Dad and all my departed loved ones.

At the end of the pilgrimage, two temporary chapels had been set up – one for Eucharistic Adoration and one for the Sacrament of Penance, available in any of 12 languages. I availed myself the opportunity for both.

I then proceeded to the Holy Shroud museum several blocks away, where I was able to see some of the original photographic plates and the camera from the first photograph of the Shroud – when the remarkable ‘negative’ discovery was made. Also, replicas of the scourging instruments used by Romans in the 1st Century and matched to the wounds on the Shroud were displayed. Many other items relating to the known and speculative history and the scientific studies concerning the Holy Shroud were exhibited.

I was drawn back to the Cathedral to pray in front of the Holy Shroud again. Making my way back to my hotel, I made visits at some 7 Jubilee Churches, including St. Therese, St. Lawrence, and The Church of the Holy Martyrs. These churches, though small, were more magnificent in d├ęcor than any Church I have found in America.

The true origin of the Holy Shroud may never be definitively proven or known. However, regardless of what science proves, the message of the Holy Shroud remains spiritual. I knelt in awe of this portrayal of the sacrificial love of the God-Man. What Love has been given us – what love do we return?

For further information I recommend:

A Doctor at Calvary”, by Pierre Barbet
The Blood and the Shroud”, by Ian Wilson
The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence”, by John Iannone
“The Silent Witness” (Video - Ignatius Press)

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Worth Repeating

The ongoing discussions both at El Camino Real and below regarding the Traditional Latin Mass vs. the Novus Ordo, prompted me to write in the comments here about what I see as one of the benefit of each of the rites. I think it is worth repeating now:

One of the benefits of the "quiet Mass", the traditional Latin Mass, is that it becomes very clear that the Priest is acting in persona Christi, the intercessor between man and God. He prays out loud to God as our intercessor - the prayers that are in our hearts.

One of the greatest benefits I see to the Novus Ordo, and in particular the Eucharistic Prayers being said in the vernacular, is that it becomes easier to pray those prayers in your heart - with understanding - while still keeping your face on the altar (as opposed to reading out of a missal).

Hopefully the correct implementation of the Novus Ordo will continue and become widespread; as we also hope that access to the traditional Latin Mass becomes widespread, so that both spiritualities can be satisfied to the fullest extent possbile.

Why I hate to read the news in the morning!

UPDATE: I think we could have predicted this back-peddling. As said below, the damage is done. Many Catholics in Spain are now scandalized and/or frustrated.

It looks like the USCCB is not the bishop's conference with unorthodox spokesman and staff. See this outrage reported this morning on Fox: here .

Contrast this with the pastoral letter that the bishop of Scranton wrote to his diocese on the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In this letter (published in the January Catholic World Report) Bishop Martino speaks the unvarnished but joyful truth about chastity and makes parents accountable for the education, guidance, and protection of their children. He even criticizes the presence of sex education in some Catholic schools.

Then we have the case of last year where the bishop (now retired) of Worcester testifies (on behalf of the entire Massachusetts bishops' conference) to the Massachusetts legislature that some form of law recognizing and allowing homosexual union benefits (as long as it is not called marriage) is acceptable to the Church - letting all the Catholic members of the MA legislature off the hook. Of course the Bishops in Massachusetts back-peddled from these statements - but as in the case reported above - the damage is done. More Catholic faithful are confused, frustrated, angry, and tempted to join schismatic groups.

May God have mercy on us - and send us more holy bishops!

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty and the Movies

Reading the article on Cardinal Mindszenty at Seattle Catholic here recalled to me my experience with the movie, "The Prisoner". It was advertised in the Ignatius Press catalog as being based on Cardinal Mindszenty's case. Having just read his autobiography, I ordered as a family Christmas present. Mrs. Curley and I watched with our then middle school (or possibly younger) daughter.

Shocked we were when the "Cardinal" in the movie was broken because the interrogator discovered that the "Cardinal" hated his mother for being a prostitute!!!! This was not the story I had read about Cardinal Mindszenty.

I called Ignatius Press the next day and complained on two counts: 1. the only similarity between Cardinal Mindszenty and the cardinal in the movie was that both were imprisoned in a country behind the iron curtain; and 2. that there should have been a warning regarding (adult) content in the advertisement or on the movie. The customer service rep at Ignatius Press apologized; (she said she was a fan of Cardinal Mindszenty and so she would make sure something was done to fix the catalog blurb).

For several years the blurb next to the movie "The Prisoner" remained the same - that is a movie based on the Cardinal Mindszenty story. I have been disappointed and have ordered any movies from other sources because of this.

I was surprised last week to find a new blurb next to "The Prisoner" in the latest Ignatius Press catalog. It no longer mentions Cardinal Mindszenty. I believe the new blurb was the result of a new edition of the movie - as the catalog picture is different - and not due to my complaint several years ago.

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What is going on elsewhere

Jeff at El Camino Real has some thoughts about rural life and interdependence here. I view the interdependence perhaps with a different angle as I tried to explain in the 'comments'.

Then I see the Jeff's next entry: here. I take a stronger issue with the point of view expressed in this one - which was excerpted from an article at Seattle Catholic . The author says: "But the new rite, it would seem, does not give us enough Catholic doctrine to prevent Catholics from unwittingly becoming Protestant in their thinking." Now is this why Scott Hahn, Steve Wood, Jeff Cavins, Mark Shea, etc., etc. etc. converted to Catholicism under the new rite? In fact, if you read The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn, you get the idea that his road to Catholicism would never begun if he had attended a Mass in Latin. It was his hearing all the scripture contained in the Mass which started him thinking that maybe Catholicism did contain the Truth.

The abuses to the Liturgy in the Novus Ordo are not the fault of the Novus Ordo, but the fault of corrupt clergy. (Yes, the English translation could be better and will be within a year or so). In fact, no matter which rite you attend, you get out of the Mass what you put in. Where incompetent or corrupt clergy have purposely hijacked or put their own personal entertainment ahead of the Sacrifice - I grant, it can be difficult to impossible to worship. I have experienced some of the worst abuses in my life. There is no excuse and it is profaning the sacred when these abuses occur. But again - this is corrupt clergy, not a watered down rite.

There have always been different charisms in Catholicism - which are complimentary. Some people (assuming the Novus Ordo is being said properly: check out St. Joseph or Good Shepard in Columbia, SC; St. Catherine's in Lancaster, SC; St. Mary's in Greenville, SC ; and Stella Maris on Sullivan's Island, SC - just to name a few) will find the Novus Ordo Liturgy in the vernacular more spiritually uplifting than the traditional rite in Latin. Others will find that the traditional rite brings them closer to God.

"The closest thing to Heaven" is THE MASS in whatever rite - because of the Eucharist! Christ is offered as the Sacrifice in reparation for our sins! He is the Bridegroom. The Mass is a preview of the Wedding Feast in Heaven! - Novus Ordo or Traditional.

Not withstanding Michael Davies analogy (may his soul rest in peace), my children were fed milk not water this morning in at St. Catherine's in Lancaster, SC.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Christendom College - St. John the Evangelist Library

Returning number one daughter to Christendom College this weekend. Had a chance to visit the new library there. I wish I had a library like this one near me. Every Catholic periodical worth mentioning was there. Browsing the stacks - I could spend weeks and weeks discovering and researching and reading these classics.

Maybe a book finding trip for Requiem Press is called for in the near future?

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Until mid-November I saw deer on the way to morning Mass at least 3 times a week. Then a few weeks into the hunting season, they seemed to disappear. With hunting season over they are back. On Monday on the way to the beach (see below), we saw a small herd (5-6) in an open field. This morning we saw one doe in a field and a couple dead doe on the side of the road.

Monday morning my children saw two wild turkeys come out of our cedar trees and walk on the front lawn for a while (then the kids natural noise scared them off).

I saw what looked like a weasel in the woods behind the cornfields (behind our house) last week.

Finally, we have started to see rabbits in an around.

Stay tuned, Thursday we slaughter and eat our first home-grown chicken.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Beach

Yesterday the Curley's went to Myrtle Beach (actually Surfside Beach just south of Myrtle). My oldest daughter goes back to college at the end of the week, so we decided to do the beach trip we had wanted to do when she came home sick at fall break. So I rose early to get some work done and then brought a manuscript to review on the beach. Thus I worked, but played a lot also. (I should do this more often.)

It was a marvelous day. The fog came and went, and the temperature hovered between the high 60's and low 70's. The children gathered shells, built sand castles, played pirates (with their new wooden swords), chased seagulls, and got tired. The air was too cold to go in the water, but most of the kids managed to get wet to one extent or another anyway.

The beach was empty except for a few strollers. A warm winter day at the beach is marvelous. It is beautiful - (Mrs. Curley says that the beach reminds her of God more than almost any other place) - and you don't have to worry about being crowded and surrounded by immodest wear.

Except for gas, (the ocean is a little more than 100 miles from us), the day is also a very inexpensive. A day like yesterday reminds us why we like South Carolina (as opposed to New England) especially in January. (It also is a reminder on the advantages of educating your children at home.)

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, January 10, 2005

An Interesting Cultural Shift

We live in the Bible Belt. Southern Baptists are predominant - especially in the rural areas where we live. On Sunday mornings you can still hear radio shows which denounce Catholics for allowing the races to worship together, being cannibals and idol worshipers, etc.

Thus it is with some surprise that I am starting to see in gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores throughout the countryside: votive candles with pictures of Our Lady, the Sacred Heart, and the saints on them; refrigerator magnets with Christ of the Divine Mercy and Our Lady, and like items.

The influx of the Hispanic population in the area (10 years ago they used to be just seasonal migrant workers) as a permanent population is starting to change the culture.

Of course there are also great efforts to "convert" the new Hispanic population to "Christianity". The Catholic Church is making great efforts to retain the faith of these Catholics - trying to have the Liturgy available in Spanish as widely as possible. (Of course some would argue that if the Liturgy was celebrated in Latin this would not be an issue.)

As Catholics have moved to the South in the last forty years as part of the general migration in this country to the sunbelt, we have been more or less accepted by Protestants in the South, but this acceptance has not gone so far as to find Catholic literature in the "Christian" bookstores, or Catholic artwork and statues in gift shops. So why the accomodation of the Hispanic population? I think it comes down to economics. The Hispanic population is very identifiable in South Carolina and thus also their catholicity. With this reconizable population migration in such a short time, the economic benefit of offering Catholic religious items has itself become recognizable and has outweighed other considerations.

In any case, the Catholics in South Carolina are the winners as we have a growing Catholic population.

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Love Stories

My sister always sends us some classic (and not so classic – but entertaining) movies (videos) at Christmas. While swashbuckling adventure stories will always remain my favorites for fiction reading and movie entertainment, the occasional love story has its place. Unfortunately, tales of authentic love are few and far between historically, and even rarer in the present culture.

Popular culture tales of love (in books or movies) invariably depict the courtship phase of the relationship. The couple falls in love, are then separated by circumstances or misunderstanding, and are finally, joyfully (and tearfully) reunited to live happily ever after (hopefully married). This formula has not changed much in the history of books and motion pictures. The only substantial variation on this formula occurs when the couple is permanently separated at the end of the movie, but carry their ‘love’ for each other into eternity (i.e. Romeo and Juliet). These tales have fatal flaws in that they most often portray love in as merely or mostly a feeling.

The love between Romeo and Juliet, perhaps the most hailed ‘love story’ of all time, does not end in a sacrificial giving, but in a self-centered ‘sacrifice’ based on a desire for immediate gratification. Each decides that they can not go on with life without the other and so take their own lives. The benchmark of true love must be how the action or sacrifice benefits the beloved, not self. Thus these final actions by Romeo and Juliet have no benefit to the beloved, but only demonstrate an attempt to satisfy the feelings of the action-taker. Authentic love is not based on feelings, but on the will and is demonstrated by suffering and sacrifice (if necessary) for the sole benefit of the beloved or for the love commitment itself, without regard to self-gratification.

I believe a love story – if it is authentic – should be modeled after Christ’s love shown in the Gospels. We remember that Christ suffered and died for his bride – this then is the model of true love and thus married love. (If those of you who are single don’t believe suffering is the hallmark of authentic love – just wait until you are married, ha! ha!)

Therefore, I submit two of the great (fictional) love stories, concern married couples. These are classics, both of literature and film so I will discuss them without completely summarizing the plots. (For those who haven’t read these, or seen their respective movies, I hope this effort encourages you, rather than giving away the entire plot). Of course the two works I am speaking about are The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and Random Harvest by James Hilton.

The Scarlet Pimpernel may seem an odd choice. It is better known as a swashbuckling drama played-out during the French Revolution. But this is also a drama played-out between husband and wife. They have a problem in their marriage with trust and communication. The husband doesn’t trust his wife because of he heard has heard that she once betrayed a family to the guillotine. Because of the evil he sees in the French Revolution and the secret part he is playing to rescue victims of the guillotine, he no longer shares his true identity and deepest passions with her. She is confused and bewildered why her husband has become so very distant and almost another person. Yet for brief moments in the tale he throws off his distance from her to tell her that he truly loves her. He remains with her, and she him. The faults of the two lead characters are very real. How often do we assume our spouse’s motives and intentions are contrary to our well-being and thus we become distant or play back at the same game? Yet this couple is determined to remain faithful to each other until problems can be resolved - even while their stubbornness and faults are weakening their marriage. Eventually their trust and communication problems are resolved – but this resolution is only possible by their continued commitment. Neither spouse in this drama is a perfect model for us, (who is but Christ?). But the perseverance in an difficult marriage is a model for married couples; today's culture encourages divorce as soon as one spouse 'feels unfulfilled'. Modern culture would have put a different twist on this story. Marriage is a covenant witnessed by God, and with God’s assistance, especially through the sacramental graces of matrimony, (there for the asking), our problems in marriage can also be resolved – but only through perseverance in love.

The second story, Random Harvest is perhaps more of a model of Christ’s love. The husband, becomes separated from his wife and through amnesia doesn’t even know he is married. Yet his wife seeks him out and serves him as a secretary for years - out of love for him. She has no hope he will ever recognize her. Yet she continues to serve. How much is this like Christ’s love for His Bride? He died for us – who do not know Him, who do not appreciate Him. We as spouses must serve each other with no concern for recognition or appreciation. This is love.

Dietrich Von Hildebrand says in his book Marriage – the mystery of faithful love (Sophia Institute Press) that all marriages have the purpose of attaining the highest possible communion or mutual love possible between the spouses. Some marriages in particular are truly made in Heaven and have the potential of being a true living example to the world of Christ’s spousal love. In the other extreme, (such as is the case in at least part of Random Harvest), one spouse must forego receiving the love of their spouse and must spend their life “primarily in sacrifice and renunciation, in care for the salvation of the other” – who is not participating in the love of the marriage. Thus the purpose of every spouse in every marriage, no matter the nature of their particular marriage, will not be realized until that spouse truly lives in a spirit of sacrifice - fully embracing his vocation.

So maybe the next time we sit down to read (or view) these stories, or other love stories, we can compare them with the True Model and be inspired to a greater commitment to love and joy in our own marriages.

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!


Mrs. Curley and I have educated our children at home for 7 years. I had a discussion last night with two gentlemen (who I consider best friends) about homeschooling and Catholic education in general. In that light – especially since I often can be more articulate on paper than verbally, I thought I would write some of my thoughts about these topics.

I am going to start by defining the goals of education – because this is key to understanding why home education is the option we continue to pursue. In this definition you will find lofty goals; one has to determine how the options available for your children meet these goals.

One would think that it would be fairly simple to come up with a definition of what a good education is. However there are different levels of success and failure in education. For instance, take the ‘simple’ skill of reading. Obviously if students can not read then the education has failed. But let us look now at various levels of success, which may also be failures depending on the age and capacity of the student:

1. if the students can read, but don’t;
2. if students can and do read, but only read trash (pick your definition);
3. if students are willing, and do read classics and comprehensive works, but can’t fully understand them (reading comprehension);
4. if students have reading comprehension skills for comprehensive works but can not logically communicate this comprehension;
5. if the students can logically communicate their comprehension, but can not analyze and discern the reading in the light of Truth.

Note that as we raise the criteria for a successful education more and more factors contribute to the success or failure of the education – some of these factors being out of the control of any individual educator and sometimes out of the control of any specific school system.

Now let’s look at History in the same way. Knowing the important figures, dates, and events in history are the basic skills. Understanding why historical events happened is a higher skill. Being able to analyze current events and relate them to historical events is a greater skill. Understanding that one can not simply measure all events in history by today’s cultural standards is still a further skill. And being able to look at and understand history in light of the Incarnation is the still greater skill.

We could analyze every academic discipline as we have reading and history to come to a conclusion about the ultimate goal of education – understanding of course the intellectual maturity and capacity of the child further defines the limits of reaching this goal. Thus education is surely learning basic academic skills, but it is much more. Education is also learning how to learn. Education is about learning how to think logically – not just what to think. Education is learning to recognize and discern the Truth.

With this in mind, we now look at three educational settings: public schools, private schools, and the home.

Certainly the current debate about education in our society has centered on the failure of the public schools systems to provide even the basic academic skills (as I have defined above). Thus many of the measures that have been put in place recently in the public school systems simply measure the basics and not the higher skills of education. However, in today’s secular culture, even when a public school supplies the basic academic skills and some of the higher order skills to its students, we note that the highest order of skills are necessarily missing because we have a government mandated “value-free” learning environment. Thus secular bias (even when it is not a “liberal bias”) is institutionalized in today’s public schools. There is no avoiding this fact. Therefore the education gained at the best of public schools must be heavily supplemented to obtain the highest skills of education. This must include both instruction in the Faith and correctional instruction to reverse the secular bias taught in many academic disciplines.

A private school – especially a Catholic school can provide, in part, what the public schools can not. A Catholic school has the freedom and the obligation to teach its students about the Christian world view; about history in view of salvation; about science in terms of Revelation (note that they are never in conflict). However, most Catholic schools are not fully equipped to do this, especially as most use the same texts (with the same secular bias) as the public schools. Further, the teachers at these schools often have been educated in this secular bias. Thus you have a situation where a Catholic school actually teaches anti-Catholicism in history class for instance – without even knowing it. A Catholic school has the opportunity to also provide Catholic culture. This would include frequent opportunities to receive the sacraments, enforcement of modest dress during the school day and at school functions (yes, even for the cheerleaders), etc. Here again, we see that even private school education can not stand in isolation. Both the parents and the school administration will help determine the catholicity and excellence of the school.

The Holy Father has written that education in the home, specifically from parents, “since it is connected with the transmission of human life…is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others” (my emphasis). This is true regardless of whether the student is in public or private school or educated primarily at home. Thus parents have a grave obligation in overseeing the education of their children, regardless of where they spend their ‘school days’. The actual instructional role of parents will vary depending on the culture of the educational setting. An excellent public school setting will necessarily mean more time in teaching our children and discussing with them the doctrines of the Faith and the Catholic worldview. A poor public school setting will require this, plus teaching and encouragement in the academic subjects. An excellent orthodox Catholic school may require less of an instructional role and more of a nurturing role, but a less than excellent orthodox Catholic school will require much the same effort as a poor public school – maybe even more effort because the parent must explain to the child why the ‘Catholic’ school is not so Catholic.

Because of the grave educational responsibility of parents, a home education can not want for excellence in teaching basic academic skills even if it can provide an advantage on creating a Catholic culture, as these basic skills are building blocks for more comprehensive insights and understanding.

When considering home education, parents must decide if they can successfully provide for (at home) the educational goals defined above, better than the other options (public or private) available overall. This is a comprehensive analysis taking into account finances, academics, culture, personality and skills of the student, etc.

Education is not like a bureau with a drawer for reading, a drawer for history, a drawer for math, a drawer for science, and a still separate drawer for religion. The academic subjects are integrated. God’s creation and His plan for man’s salvation touch on every subject: sometimes to create wonder and awe, sometimes to give guidelines, but always to teach us how to live and how to die. Education is about learning to discern Truth. The true goal of education is ultimately about preparing your child to work out their own salvation.

From the small holding in Bethune on this traditional feast of the Epiphany ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

American Masculinity

As discussed here by Jeff and others at El Camino Real, there are aspects (here the discussion was of salesmanship) of the American Male Model which are somewhat unique to America, or at least to modern times. We forget that historically America is a Protestant culture. Catholicism had a rough acceptance here. (I read an essay once whose thesis was that the public school system got its jumpstart when Protestant-America wanted to make sure the new Catholic immigrants were indoctrinated into the Protestant values of the New World.)

The idea that prosperity on earth is a sign of God's favor is an Old Testament ideal and an American Protestant ideal - but not a Catholic one.

The logical conclusion to Capitalism is Utilitarianism - the only value man has is what he can produce. Man is a tool for the prosperity of others.

Thus we arrive at the idea that masculinity is determined by the ability to "close the sale".

Although it has taken some time, Catholics have been indoctrinated into Protestant America as planned. Some examples: Democratic 'Catholic' politicians do not see the incompatibility of their pro-abortion voting record and their Catholicism (to them the so-called separation of church and state is a religion in itself on equal footing with Catholicism). Republican 'Catholics' are more "Republican" than they are Catholics - [where is the outrage from them on Bush's nomination of Gonzalez as Attorney General? (Read more about this topic here.)]

I have heard from and read articles in national magazines by people who are generally considered orthodox Catholics, who dismiss out-of-hand Pope John Paul II's encyclicals which touch on economics, ("the pope is not infallible in economics so we don't have to pay attention - he just doesn't understand capitalism because he comes from Poland.")

We are so indoctrinated that we can not often even recognize these tendencies in ourselves. I have just (slowly) begun to understand this in myself during the last 5 years or so.

In the preface to "The Maccabees - Forgotten Heroes of Israel" (Requiem Press) I wrote: "In the American culture a flawed idea of manhood has evolved. The ideal male (in this culture) is a self-made man: a self-reliant and self-sufficient island. This idea of manhood - while not being professed by most men - is nevertheless ingrained in our culture and comes through in some of our attitudes, even if subtly. For instance, the American male views religion as good - it is necessary for the order of society. It is good training for children, even young men. But religion is primarily for the weak, it is a crutch. (It is part of raising children, but not part of real life.) In this culture, there is no relationship between man and God because man doesn't need God for his daily activities (he is self-sufficient). This culture goes back, in part, to our Founding Fathers. It is perpetuated to a certain extent in all brands of Christianity found in America - both in American Protestantism and in American Catholics. Thus this culture of the American male is a roadblock to our proper relationship with God."

There is much more than can be said, about the American brand of masculinity versus authentic masculinity. As Jeff implied, authentic masculinity can be defined as "Men who strive for the ... cardinal virtues of justice, wisdom, courage, and self-control".

From the small holding in Bethune ...

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Catching Up

Merry Christmas as we approach the feast of the Epiphany!

New Year's Eve we set the clocks ahead 2 hours to simuluate the New Year arriving without having to actually stay up. We sang, shot off some fireworks, did some dancing, gave thanks for the blessings (of which there were many) of 2004, and prayed for a joyous 2005.

January 1st was not a Holy Day of obligation in our Diocese because it fell on a Saturday. Maybe (although you would still get an argument from me) you could make the case for relieving the obligation if it fell on a workday; but January 1st is a paid holiday for many people, and falling on a Saturday, is a day off for many more. Therefore I cannot understand waiving the obligation for this feast. As it was, there was not a Church within 60 miles of us which had Mass on the 1st (except for the vigil Mass for January 2nd).

We received a very nice endorsement for Requiem Press' first release "Witnesses to the Holy Mass" from Dede Laugesen Director, Holy Baby! DVDs & President, The Rosary Project. She wrote, in part: “Witnesses is an extraordinary book about love and blood sacrifice for the Eucharist! Reading it will inspire a greater devotion to the Catholic faith, especially the Mass. Once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. Once I finished, I couldn't wait to share it with others… Having read the book, I feel a greater desire to defend my faith even unto death. Thank you!" - (Requiem Press thanks you for the endorsement.)

On Sunday January 2nd we had a Christmas party at our 'small holding'. It was the first time many of our Columbia friends had ever seen the house (or since moving-day at least). The 20 or so children who came had a great time climbing trees, playing with dogs, cats, and chickens and generally running with plenty of room. While some may not have understood why we wanted to move from the city, perhaps seeing their children have such a time gives some understanding. Mrs. Curley and I have talked about moving to the country since before we were married.

Hopefully I will have some time later today to blog about this. It touches on my current interest in culture.

From the small holding in Bethune...

Oremus pro invicem!