Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blogs Old and New

Solitary blogging -- as Mortimer Adler famously said about solitary reading -- can indeed be as horrible as solitary drinking. And yet there arise circumstances when all three solitary endeavors become either necessary or convenient. Such is the case now with Thursday Night Gumbo. While Vehige and I still get together more or less regularly to eat dinner, watch movies, and solve the world's problems, we are finding it harder and harder to set aside time for the chronicling of our evenings' dialogues that this blog was originally intended to document.

I have become the primary high-school curriculum teacher for my oldest two daughters. And Vehige, while continuing his yeoman service as a stay-at-home dad, has also become the de facto director of religious education and RCIA director for the parish in which he and I are both members. As those of you who check in here with any regularity have noticed, those burgeoning responsibilities now leave us little time to pontificate and argue in this space as regularly as we used to.

And so some changes must be made. "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often," as Venerable John Henry Newman once observed. Thursday Night Gumbo will remain as a blog where Vehige and I can comment on topics with respect to which we have individual -- and probably divergent -- opinions, whether theological, aesthetic, or cultural. For instance, this will be the appropriate forum for our eventual cage match debate on the subject of Molinism. (Whenever you think you're man enough, Vehige.)

In the meantime, my own ruminations on a dazzling variety of subjects will be found from now on at my own blog, The Coming and Passing of Things, where I can address topics such as opera, and boxing, and the rightful succession to the British throne, and my pomegranate crop, without sarcastic comments from Vehige.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vehige: This Is A Test

As of yesterday, April 27, 2010, the Dioceses of Dallas has two new auxiliary bishops. Don’t know what that is? Jump on over to Bishop Kevin Farrell’s blog to find out.

Today, the Dallas Morning News reported on Bishop Seitz’s and Bishop Deshotel’s ordination. In the article, which you can read here, staff writer Scott Farwell writes: “Catholics believe bishops are inspired descendants of Peter, one of Jesus’ original 12 apostles.”

I’d planned to write a piece on where that statement goes wrong. But then I decided I’d rather do something else.

So consider this a test -- a test of your understanding of Catholic ecclesiology.

Mr. Farwell makes three mistakes in the above statement. Two of them are quite blatant, the third is more technical.

Can you spot them?

The comment box is open. Grades will be issued on Friday, around noontime.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vehige: Two Birthday Exchanges

Based on actual events.


Early evening. The Vehige family is sitting around the dinner table: two kids on either side and Mom and Dad at either end. The only girl of the family, Mary, sits to Dad’s left.

Here’s your present, Daddy.

From under the table, Mary brings out an awkwardly wrapped present and hands it to her father.

Thank you, honey.

Dad opens present as Mary sits and watches nervously. The rest of the Vehige family looks on.

Dad pulls out a 10-inch string with a half-dozen beads at either end. He looks at his daughter, smiles, but doesn’t quite know what it’s supposed to be.

It’s a bookmark, Daddy.
I made with with all of my
favorite beads.

Dad’s smile widens when he hears this. He gets up, goes to his bedroom, and returns with a beat-up paperback. The bookmark is in the book.

It’s great, honey.
What a wonderful present.

I was worried it wouldn’t
be long enough.

(holding up the book)
See, it fits perfectly.

Mary beams, slides off her chair and gives Dad a big hug. Dad looks at Mom, who is smiling.



About an hour after dinner. Dad walks into his study and finds a birthday card sitting on his desk.

He opens the card. A heart cut out from a piece of white paper falls out. In the card, the eldest son, Tim, has written an apology for talking back to his father that morning.

Behind him, eldest son enters room.

Do you like it?

Yeah, I do. It’s great.

Tim smiles, seems relieved.

It’s been sitting there all day.
I thought you didn’t like it.

I just found it, Tim.
I think it’s great.

(with the gravity of a nine-year-old)
I found the heart on the ground
near the trash can at school
and thought I’d give it to you.

Well, thank you son.

Tim exits Dad’s study.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vehige: MacJournal — Does It Work?

I’m a Mac. Almost two years ago, nettled at how slow Windows was and annoyed at how many times Word crashed — and swayed by just how cool the Mac commercials were — I begged, pleaded, and cajoled my wife to let me buy a MacBook. She conceded, and I’ve been a very happy Mac user ever since.

As happy as a clam (whatever that means).

In the meantime, my blogging around here has been sorely lacking. To say the least. Part of it had to do with having nothing to say . . . or least with having nothing I thought worthy to write about. Part of it had to do with being involved in other things. Part of it had to do with trying to balance a fourth child with homeschooling (an act that got the best of me; my kids now attend a local Catholic school). And part of it had to do with additional responsibilities at my parish (I’m the RCIA Director).

Now, as much as I love my Mac, the one thing miss from Windows is a piece of software called OneNote — a very nice organizational tool that allows you (a) to separate your notes into multiple, self-contained documents while also allowing you to (b) search said documents for various topics.

Thus I could have a folder that kept all my notes on the Old Testament, and for my notes on the New Testament, another for systematic theology, and a fourth for moral theology. (At the time I was using OneNote I hoped to convert all my old college notes to the computer, thereby killing two birds with one stone: cleaning off a closet shelf and reviewing all my classes while I typed in my notes.) Then, if needed, I could search all my notes for all references made to, say, the sacrament of baptism, or the Eucharist.

I actually saw OneNote a the first step to getting serious about writing some of the books I’ve had in mind.

Then I bought a Mac, no longer wanted anything to do with Windows, and hence lost OneNote. I can’t say I was too upset, but I was a bit disappointed.

A few months ago, I learned of a piece of Mac software called MacJournal. After taking advantage of the fifteen-day trial, I realized that I had found a replacement for OneNote. In fact, being the Mac fanboy that I am, I’ll say that MacJournal is better than OneNote. Like all things Mac, it’s easy to learn, intuitive to use, and it doesn’t crash.

Now, why am I telling you all of this?

Because MacJournal not only functions as a journal, but also as a blogging software. Never heard of that myself until I stumbled upon MacJournal. Blogging software, if you don’t know, allows you to compose your posts off line — and even tag or label them — and then lets you send them to your blog without ever having to log into your account.

Which is pretty darn cool for several reasons.

First: I hate writing posts in Blogger. I always inadvertently push the just right keys that publishes the post too soon, or takes me to another web page, or opens a new window. Or something.

Second: Working on Blogger also has the supreme disadvantage of having to be on the Internet while writing — which means having to log on to Blogger. Since I always have MacJournal open (I’ve come to use it for a variety of reasons), I can start a new document and begin writing without that hassle. (Small things like these really irritate me; I don’t have a very frustrating life.)

Third: More than that, I hate writing posts in Word (when I used it) and Pages (Mac’s alternative, which is, yes I’m going to say it, better than Word) and then having to copy and paste it into Blogger. The format never carries correctly; I have to sit there and figure out which words I bolded, which I italicized, and where the links should go.

But with MacJournal, I can work on a post at my leisure and simply send it to Blogger knowing that it’s going to show up on the blog exactly as I intended.

So this post is a test post to make sure all the wires are connected and Thursday Night Gumbo gets this from MacJournal. If it works as it should — and I have complete faith that it will — this fact means for you that I should be blogging more.

But no promises.

Yet, at the very least, the coolness of MacJournal and my desire just to use it should get you something.

[UPDATE: MacJournal will also update any changes I make to my original post — like this one!]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Richard Dawkins...

...demonstrates the scientific method.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Woodward: Ash Wednesday

Among the many spiritual adjustments that Lent encourages us to undertake, surely one of the most important--and yet one of the most antithetical to the spirit of modernity--is the re-ordering of priorities that should come with the contemplation of our mortality. It's an image of that mortality, after all, that we get smeared on our foreheads. And although the new liturgy allows a rather bland alternative commentary on the symbolism of the day--"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel"--the traditional (and in my opinion preferable) admonition makes clear just what the symbol means:

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you will return.

The medieval theme of memento mori was not a morbid dwelling on death but an exhortation to remember, given the fact that each of us will die one day, the things that are eternally important. The ashes on our foreheads will do their job if they invite us to consider what is worth our time here on earth and what isn't. In the haunting line from T. S. Eliot's poem "Ash Wednesday":

Teach us to care and not to care.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Woodward: Abraham Lincoln

I think it can fairly be argued that Abraham Lincoln was the most subtle thinker and the most elegant prose stylist of all American presidents. Here, in his own words supplied to a Chicago newspaper in June 1860, is an account of his formal education.

"Abraham now thinks that the aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He was never in a college or academy as a student, and never inside of a college or academy building till since he had a law license. What he has in the way of education he has picked up. After he was twenty-three and had separated from his father, he studied English grammar--imperfectly, of course, but so as to speak and write as well as he now does. He studied and nearly mastered the six books of Euclid since he was a member of Congress. He regrets his want of education, and does what he can to supply the want."

All education, in the last analysis, is self-education. Abraham Lincoln simply exemplifies that truth more dramatically than most people.

Care to speculate on how many current members of Congress have "nearly mastered the six books of Euclid"?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Woodward: Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Marian apparitions don't figure prominently in my devotional life, but I am emotionally attached to two -- Guadalupe and Lourdes -- partly because of the convincingly miraculous nature of the apparitions themselves, and partly because the Virgin reported to have appeared in those two places is so immediately and authentically identifiable in her words and actions as the Mother of Our Lord.

As for the miraculous element, I know of no saner and more commonsensical analysis than Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson's, in the little book on Lourdes that he wrote after making a pilgrimage there in 1908.

There is no arguing with people who say that, since there is nothing but Nature, no process can be other than natural. There is no sign, even from heaven, that could break down the intellectual prejudice of such people. If they saw Jesus Christ Himself in glory, they could always say that "at present science cannot account for the phenomenon of a luminous body apparently seated upon a throne, but no doubt it will do so in the course of time." If they saw a dead and corrupting man rise from the grave, they could always argue that he could not have been dead and corrupting, or he could not have risen from the grave. Nothing but the Last Judgment could convince such persons. Even when the trumpet sounds, I believe that some of them, when they have recovered from their first astonishment, will make remarks about aural phenomena.

But for the rest of us, who believe in God and His Son and the Mother of God on quite other grounds--because our intellect is satisfied, our heart kindled, our will braced by the belief; and because without that belief all life falls into chaos, and human evidence is nullified, and all noble motive and emotion cease--for us, who have received the gift of faith, in however small a measure, Lourdes is enough. Christ and His Mother are with us. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Is not that, after all, the simplest theory?

For anyone who wants a painless--in fact, an entertaining and inspiring--introduction to the story of Lourdes, I can recommend the classic movie The Song of Bernadette. In the title role, Jennifer Jones won the 1944 Academy Award for Best Actress, deservedly. And Gladys Cooper and Anne Revere should both have won the award for Best Supporting Actress. My favorite scene is the opening two minutes of this clip, depicting the first miraculous cure.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Woodward: Civilization...

...does have its small triumphs. It will soon be legal to buy a beer in the town where William Faulkner was born.

Not that Faulkner himself was particularly known for drinking...beer. Bourbon was his libation of choice, and he chose it often. He once explained the health benefits of his heavy drinking by pointing out that "there's a lot of nourishment in an acre of corn." He was a very civilized man.

Legal beer sales may seem an inauspicious victory for civilization but, as the article linked above points out, Faulkner himself once campaigned for the measure. And wouldn't it please him to know that from now on, in New Albany, Mississippi, "the human heart in conflict with itself" will at least be able to go get a beer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Woodward: Renata Tebaldi

Today would have been her 88th birthday.

Hers was one of the most beautiful voices ever to issue from a human throat, and (much less significantly) one of the first sounds that made an opera lover out of me. She recorded prolifically, thank God, which guarantees that her legacy is secure for generations to come.

Here's a sample of what made her one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. The Buenos Aires audience gets a little carried away at that final A flat. But who can blame them?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Woodward: Hyfrydol

"You can take the boy out of Protestantism, but...."

I confess that I have a partiality to hymn-singing that will forever separate me from the most fastidious of the Catholic liturgical purists. I spent the first 22 years of my life as a Protestant -- first as a Methodist, then as a Presbyterian, as my parents' own sectarian allegiances dictated. We sang mostly good old 18th- and early 19th-century hymns in those days -- Watts and Wesley -- and I am still occasionally stared at by my fellow Catholics in the pews when they notice that I can sing "Crown Him with Many Crowns" or "Rise Up, O Men of God" without looking at the hymnal.

My favorite hymn tune, I think, is "Hyfrydol." It comes to us from the staggeringly rich tradition of Welsh choral song, and it is -- in my opinion, at least -- almost heartbreakingly beautiful. Its metrical structure makes it suitable as a setting for any number of texts. It's the traditional tune for "Alleluiah! Sing to Jesus" and is also often used with the Advent hymn "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus." Last week at Mass we sang it as the tune for the great Charles Wesley hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling."

The text to this last-mentioned hymn caused a minor theological rift between Charles Wesley and his more famous brother John (the founder of Methodism). John Wesley detected in his brother's poem a hint of Christian perfectionism -- the false doctrine that human beings can attain a degree of holiness on their own that fits them for heaven. I suppose the offending lines were these:

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place.

The fact that nothing in those lines should trouble a Catholic today -- but did cause trouble between two Protestant brothers in the middle of the 18th century -- perhaps says more about the course of religious history in the last 250 years than any number of books on the Great Revival or Modernism or the Social Gospel or the Spirit of Vatican II. I consider myself a well-informed and conscientious Catholic, and yet I feel closer to Charles and John Wesley than I do to Hans Kung or Charles Curran or Joan Chittister or .... Unfortunately the list could go on and on.

In any event, I am happy to sing "Alleluiah! Sing to Jesus" or "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" or even a really Protestant hymn like "Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing" -- as long as it is to a tune as beautiful as this:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Woodward: Science and Religion...

...Can they get along anywhere?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Woodward: The Christmas Season

Technically, the Season of Christmas will continue for three more days, until the Baptism of the Lord this coming Sunday, January 10. But the Woodward Christmas tree came down today, and that brings the season to a close for us, sentimentally if not liturgically.

If there is a historical place and time associated with Christmas in the popular imagination (other than first-century Palestine, I mean) it's surely Victorian England, thanks to Charles Dickens. (Who wouldn't have enjoyed spending Christmas with the Cratchits, or the members of the Pickwick Club?) But for a long time now I have also thought of Christmas as a medieval holiday. Maybe because we have to go back pretty much that far to encounter a time when the feast was relatively free of the secularism and commercialism that disfigures Christmas nowadays.

I discovered this wonderful collection of medieval and Renaissance Christmas music, performed by Lionheart, only towards the end of the season this year, or I would have recommended it sooner. It is full of the quiet joy that Christmas itself must once have been full of. And it includes music devoted to almost every one of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. For example there is a song for December 29, "Seynt Thomas Honour We," to be sung on the feast of St. Thomas Becket. It includes this beguiling -- if unsettlingly graphic--pair of lines describing Thomas's martyrdom:

"The king but little while him spared:
Knights in church his crown off-pared."

Despite the lyrics, it's a lovely song.

Here's a downloadable sample--a medieval carol still popular today--to show you just how good Lionheart and this CD are.

See you in Ordinary Time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Woodward: The Curse

January 3, 1920, is often cited as the day on which the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, thereby incurring the "Curse of the Bambino" and condemning themselves to 83 more years without a baseball world championship. The deal to sell Ruth to the Yankees was actually reached the day after Christmas 1919, but some part of the paperwork was completed on January 3 and that is the date listed in most baseball histories.

Ruth had annoyed Harry Frazee, the owner of the Red Sox, with his unreasonable money demands. (He wanted his salary doubled to the unthinkable sum of $20,000 a year.) Frazee had also suffered some financial reversals in his other business -- producing Broadway shows -- and needed cash fast. And so on this day 90 years ago, the Bambino -- the best left-handed pitcher Boston had ever had and the best hitter New York would ever have -- was gone, and with him (if one believes the legend) went four generations' hopes of seeing the Red Sox win a World Series.

For those who believe the Curse was real, this is what it looked like in action. Bill Buckner (a very good first baseman, actually) improbably lets a Mookie Wilson ground ball roll between his legs, allowing the Mets to beat the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and making possible a Game 7, which the Mets also won. (Ignore the commercial.)

And this is what it looked like when the Curse was broken at last.

The Red Sox got $125,000 for Babe Ruth in 1920. In June 2005, the sale contract -- the piece of paper -- was purchased at auction for $996,000.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Woodward: Feast of St. Thomas Becket

From Robert Hugh Benson's invaluable little book on "the holy blissful martyr":

And so the miracles went on. The Christian world went wild with enthusiasm, as is proper when a saint goes to God by the road of blood. Faith was kindled, and God rewarded it according to His promise. Devotions sprang up; pilgrimages began; men returned from Canterbury bearing little leaden phials filled with "St. Thomas' water"--that is, water in which a minute drop of the holy blood had been mixed; and the shrine of Canterbury began to take its place with the great centres of the world's devotion--with Rome, Jerusalem, and Compostella. Still the fame increased. Even Gilbert of London, once his friend and lately his enemy, was healed of disease by a drop or two of "Thomas' water"; as Henry himself, a little later, when his sons rebelled against him, gained the upper hand, as he himself confesses, through the intercession of the Saint whom he had done to death. On the Continent altars were dedicated to his honour; and particularly worthy of notice is one little chapel in Notre Dame de Fourvieres at Lyons which the Saint himself, years before, had been asked to consecrate. He had consecrated the rest of the church, but, upon being asked to name a saint for this chapel, had refused, saying it must be kept for the honour of the next martyr that should die. That honour was his own, and the chapel was dedicated to himself.

We live, and have long lived, in a time when the encroachment of government power on the rights of religious expression has seemed like a remote -- almost a quaint -- feature of earlier, more brutal periods of history, and nothing that we should ever fear ourselves. I am not confident that we will be living in such a time much longer, or that our children will ever be able to live in the kind of confidence we have. If there is today a prayer appropriate to the feast of Thomas Becket, it is surely the prayer that today's churchmen will have the courage to stand fast, as St. Thomas did, in defense of Christ's kingdom against the assaults of a godless secular power.

I'll recommend once again (with the same reservations I had a couple of years ago) the famous movie version of the story. It's a bit preachy, and a bit melodramatic. But it portrays forcefully the moment in the life of any man of principle when he must say, "This far and no farther."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord
and of His Christ.
And He shall reign forever and ever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Venerable Pius XII: "The Love Which Breathes From the Gospel"

In order that we really may be able, so far as it is permitted to mortal men, "to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth" of the hidden love of the Incarnate Word for His heavenly Father and for men infected by the taint of sins, we must note well that His love was not entirely the spiritual love proper to God inasmuch as "God is a spirit." Undoubtedly the love with which God loved our forefathers and the Hebrew people was of this nature. For this reason the expressions of human, intimate, and paternal love which we find in the Psalms, the writings of the prophets, and in the Canticle of Canticles are tokens and symbols of the true but entirely spiritual love with which God continued to sustain the human race. On the other hand, the love which breathes from the Gospel, from the letters of the Apostles and the pages of the Apocalypse, all of which portray the love of the Heart of Jesus Christ, expresses not only divine love but also human sentiments of love.

--Haurietis Aquas, 1956

Venerable John Paul II: Incarnation and Redemption

The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly--and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must "appropriate" and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he "gained so great a Redeemer," and if God "gave his only Son " in order that man "should not perish but have eternal life."

--Redemptor Hominis, 1979

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Woodward: Feast of St. Juan Diego

Happy Juan Diego, true and faithful man! We entrust to you our lay brothers and sisters so that, feeling the call to holiness, they may imbue every area of social life with the spirit of the Gospel. Bless families, strengthen spouses in their marriage, sustain the efforts of parents to give their children a Christian upbringing. Look with favour upon the pain of those who are suffering in body or in spirit, on those afflicted by poverty, loneliness, marginalization or ignorance. May all people, civic leaders and ordinary citizens, always act in accordance with the demands of justice and with respect for the dignity of each person, so that in this way peace may be reinforced.

--Pope John Paul II, Homily on the Canonization of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Woodward: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Perhaps the greatest of many great gifts to the Church from my favorite Pope, Bl. Pius IX:

Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race. And since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth, and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she asks, she obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard.

--Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus

Here are two very no-nonsense little commentaries on the dogma, by two world-famous Catholic preachers who were very good at talking to Protestants.

A Protestant is apt to say: "Oh, I really never, never can accept such a doctrine from the hands of the Church, and I had a thousand thousand times rather determine that the Church spoke falsely, than that so terrible a doctrine was true." Now, my good man, WHY? Do not go off in such a wonderful agitation, like a horse shying at he does not know what. Consider what I have said. It is, after all, certainly irrational? is it certainly against Scripture? is it certainly against the primitive Fathers? is it certainly idolatrous? I cannot help smiling as I put the questions. Rather, may not something be said for it from reason, from piety, from antiquity, from the inspired test? You may see no reason at all to believe the voice of the Church; you may not yet have attained to faith in it--but what on earth this doctrine has to do with shaking your faith in her, if you have faith, or in sending you to the right-about if you are beginning to think she may be from God, is more than my mind can comprehend. Many, many doctrines are far harder than the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of Original Sin is indefinitely harder. Mary just has not had this difficulty. It is no difficulty to believe that a soul is united to the flesh without original sin; the great mystery is that any, that millions on millions, are born with it. Our teaching about Mary has just one difficulty less than our teaching about the state of mankind generally.

I say it distinctly--there may be many excuses at the last day, good and bad, for not being Catholics; one I cannot conceive: "O Lord, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was so derogatory to Thy Grace, so inconsistent with Thy Passion, so at variance with Thy word in Genesis and the Apocalypse, so unlike the teaching of Thy first Saints and Martyrs, as to give me a right to reject it at all risks, and Thy Church for teaching it. It is a doctrine as to which my private judgment is fully justified in opposing the Church's judgment. And this is my plea for living and dying a Protestant."

--John Henry Cardinal Newman

Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed or her, or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?

Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?

--Archbishop Fulton Sheen