Favorite Subjects

Okay, fair enough. I have more than one favorite subject. One is St. Polycarp. Another is fist-fights involving clergymen.

St. Polycarp wrote a letter to the Philippians. He gave props to St. Paul. But St. Polycarp added a few edifying words of his own, including:

Serve the Lord in fear and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and have believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory, and a throne at His right hand…He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved…Faith is the mother of us all.

…So to return to the metaphysics of morals: Can we deny that the fundamental foundation of morality is faith?

We do not know God. That is, we know that He exists, but we do not know Him as He is. We cannot see that He watches our every move.

Rather, we believe that we will be judged for our actions by the omnipotent Creator. Because we believe what Christ has revealed, we want to please Him.

I appreciate all the responses on this subject so far. Any thoughts on this?

…P.G. Wodehouse is the funniest writer of all time. Only he could successfully narrate a priestly fist-fight, involving Bertie Wooster’s old college chum, the Rev. H.P. “Stinker” Pinker, who intervenes to save Gussie Fink-Nottle from the hands of Roderick Spode:

…It was not, as I was saying when I interrupted myself, pusillanimity that held him back. Under normal conditions lions could have taken his correspondence course, and had he encountered Spode on the football field, he would have had no hesitation in springing at his neck and twisting it into a lover’s knot. The trouble was that he was a curate, and the brass hats of the Church look askance at curates who swat parishioners. Sock your flock, and you’re sunk. So now he shrank from intervening, and when he did intervene, it was merely with a soft word that’s supposed to turn away wrath.

“I say, you know, what?” he said.

I could have told him he was approaching the thing from the wrong angle. When a gorilla like Spode is letting his angry passions rise, there is little or no percentage in the mild remonstrance. Seeming to realize this, he advanced to where the blighter was now, or so it appeared, trying to strangle Gussie and laid a hand on his shoulder. Then, seeing that this, too, achieved no solid results, he pulled. There was a rending sound, and the clutching hand relaxed its grip.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried detaching a snow leopard of the Himalayas from its prey — probably not, as most people don’t find themselves out that way much — but if you did, you would feel fairly safe in budgeting for a show of annoyance on the animal’s part. It was the same with Spode. Incensed at what I suppose seemed to him this unwarrantable interference with his aims and objects, he hit Stinker on the nose, and all the doubts that had been bothering that man of God vanished in a flash.

I should imagine that if there’s one thing that makes a fellow forget that he’s in holy orders, it’s a crisp punch on the beezer. A moment before, Stinker had been all concern about the disapproval of his superiors in the cloth, but now, as I read his mind, he was saying to himself, “To hell with my superiors in the cloth,” or however a curate would put it; “Let them eat cake.”

It was a superb spectacle while it lasted, and I was able to understand what people meant when they spoke of the Church Militant…(Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, chapter 15)

…Also, all parents should definitely watch this important public service announcement:

4 thoughts on “Favorite Subjects

  1. I’m at a loss for words — now, you know that’s probably a lie, because I’m seldom at a loss for words. There’s so much content, especially with the past-blog references. But, here’s a try at the subjects I see as predominent:


  2. (now that was quick; I guess i’ll just have to post in stages):

    1 (cont.). St. Polycarp certainly died ideally, no pride nor bravado, admirably. I have often wondered how it would be for me; and my most frequent daydream is of an intruder at 8:30 AM Sunday Mass at St. Raphael’s, carrying an automatic weapon. I already know exactly what i would do — up to a point. I’m an usher, so I would begin walking calmly toward the person. Beyond that, it’s transactional; and I pray that the Lord would guide me. Sounds like a wimpy response; but you can only train so far. After that, you have to leave it to the instinctual training that you’ve received, both genetically and environmentally. I can tell you that I’m probably more suited by instinct to this situation than most would be; but I have some past experiences that supports my ability to act appropriately in such circumstances, and some that do not.

    2. Priestly fisticuffs: beginning with Friar Tuck, and on to The Reverend Mr. Black, I’ve always felt that the ability to act with physical aggression when it’s appropriate is part of the calling. I am also reminded of The Quiet Man — though not a man of the cloth, still an honorable man. I’m further reminded of the bucolic painting of the Master of the farm, laying down his rake, and reading the Bible to his farm hands while they all ate lunch. There are, of course, more of the paintings depicting various aspects of the scene as the day progresses, so the Master is no saint, that we would recognize. But, there is more to being in this World, but not of this World than gentle words, or physical aggression for that matter. The secret is the balance and appropriateness of the action — and the courage to carry it out as you perceive it must be carried out. It’s the only way to be a total human being is to have all these elements; and the only way to be a saint is to consistently and conscientiously conduct yourself in the way that God intended.

    3. Star Wars: yes, you must talk to your kids about the movies. For that matter, make sure they watch E-T The Extraterrestrial too; and YOU must watch all these movies with them. I have no idea what Asylum’s bit is, so I’ll just speak from my experience. When films touch emotions in adults consistently, there’s life lessons there for the kids — and for the adults. You must be able to communicate the life lessons; and, as always, use words as little as possible.

    First, make sure the movies are age-appropriate. Second, make sure you know what YOU think of the life lessons offered; and be sure that you’re on firm theological, philosophical, and pragmatic grounds BEFORE you discuss them. Third, then, a gentle, open-ended-question discussion may reveal a depth of knowledge far beyond your expectation (see Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Early Childhood). Fourth, give it time; revisit it over a day, a week, and a month later — always open-ended. Remember to enjoy the TIME and THOUGHTS.

    Finally, on the subject of science fiction, I remember Mad Magazine’s spoof [from a long time ago in a World far away] on Flash Gordon, “Flesh Garden”, in which Flesh says, “No, Jill, I’m not going to kill this Glarzex because he’s threatening us, nor because he’s an inimical threat to humanity; I’m going to kill him for the sheer joy of killing.” In short, loosen up, don’t take these life lessons too seriously.



  3. Dear Joe,

    As always, I’m happy that you are seldom at a loss for words. This excellent post, along with your #2, inspires me to relate a story told at the Mount.

    From Fr. Brannen; (liberally paraphrased)

    In a foreign country, a priest witnesses a 9 yr old child being stolen from her parents. He races after the abductors and eventually runs them off the road. The man in black emerges from his car with a baseball bat and starts swinging as the abductors confront him. One abductor ends up prostrate on the ground, bleeding. The other runs away. The priest is able to rescue the frightened 9yr old and return her to her parents.

    Fr. Brannen’s comment? “Now, THAT’S a shepherd!”

    Sometimes, being the good shepherd involves fisticuffs and baseball bats!
    Love Jeeves and Wooster! Thanks for the laugh bright and early this morning!

  4. Forgive the mangling of the direct quote as I don’t have the text immediately available but I have always found joy in the Rev. P “Stinker” Pinker’s brand of clumsy, muscular Christianity.

    ‘It was like the story Stinker tells about his time in seminary, while when spreading love and cheer throughout South London, he was kicked in the stomach by a costermonger.’ (Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves)

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