Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

What's a Tempo Run?

I've modified this little blurb from an email to a friend who asked me what a tempo run is. Some of you who don't run might still find it interesting. People don't often realize how much thought goes into training for running. I'm hardly a running expert, but I am happy to tell you what little I've learned from my experience, and perhaps will do so periodically over the coming weeks, months, or years. As always, I'll try to put a spiritual spin on the whole thing.

When you run distance, there are two dimensions to your race - distance and speed. Your ability to go a distance is developed by those weekly long, steady distance (LSD) runs 8, 10, 20 miles at something below your race pace. Distance needs endurance, and that's what these runs build. Your ability to go fast (but sub-sprinting) is determined by your cardiovascular capacity. Speed workouts are what really push that - intervals on a track, etc. But in a long cross-country or road RACE, you need to go fast not just for a few hundred meters at a time, nor just to finish, but ideally to finish in a short time period, right? So tempo runs train the body and mind to sustain faster speeds over longer distances.

So a tempo run is faster than your target race pace, but NOT a dead sprint. It should be sustainable over the distance you are going to run (so it will be a slower pace for longer distances). And you should do it for farther than you would likely run an interval workout. So if your intended race pace for the marathon is 9:11 min/mile (4 hours for 26.2 miles), you will want to aim your tempo runs, once or twice weekly, for a pace at like 8:30 min/mi, and for a distance of say 3-5 miles. You might do 15 min warm-up at a pleasant pace, followed by 30 min at 8:30 or 8:45 (something that will work you hard, but that you can sustain for the time/distance), followed by 15 min cool down at a pace where you can catch your breath and relax a bit. And just like any workout, you gradually build toward goals.

In the spiritual life, we sometimes have periods of pleasantness and ease. When things get hard, lots of folks bail and go back to their old way of life. Sometimes we have sharp, painful periods, like the death of a loved one, that pass quickly and leave us to recoup over months or years. Other times, we have somewhat less intense but more prolonged trials, like the care of a sick spouse, or long periods of dryness in prayer. Trials that aren't as intense, but are much, much longer. It is best to train in the spiritual life not only to be able to go the distance, or with grace to be able to sustain hardship, but to be able to sustain hardship over a distance too.

I'm not sure how to do that. Your ideas (as comments, especially) will be greatly appreciated. Maybe this retreat I'm on (this email is pre-prepared and delay-published) will help me figure this whole thing called Christian life out. Lolol. Let's keep praying for each other, dear reader.

Being Kind is Good

Click here for interesting article about kindness among a generation reared to believe that we humans are nothing but wild animals in a competition for survival. Especially among conservatives, kindness has gotten a bad rep because of what is (rightly, I think) perceived as mealy-mouthed duplicity by relativists who use "kindness" to rationalize every sort of immorality under the sun.

But that's not what kindness is. Kindness does not equal "nice". Kindness is about being gentle and considerate, even when one must do something unpleasant or painful. Just as a nurse can be gentle while giving an injection, a parent can be kind while teaching discipline, and a priest or governor can be kind while laying down the law. St. Paul tells us that love is "patient and kind," (1 Cor 13:4). It is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), he writes, by which we commend ourselves as servants of God (2 Cor 6:6). God has been kind to us by showering us with grace (Eph 2:7), and that we are to do likewise for each other as Christians (Eph 4:32; Col 3:12). Likewise, he writes that we should be kind to all (2 Tim 2:24).

The "progressive" totalitarians think it is "kind" to coerce families into this health-care package or that, to foist gay marriage onto communities that are nauseated by the thought, and so on. It is notable, though, how unkind government and large corporations are to deal with, even when they are "doing it for our own good."

Telling somebody "no" might be the right and loving thing to do in a situation, but that is a hard love to accept. Kindness is perhaps the attitude that permeates and points out the loving motivation of actions which otherwise might not be so obvious. Kindness manifests affection. Who doesn't like to receive a little random act of kindness, or an extra thoughtfulness from someone we 'know' loves us? Who hasn't had an easier time accepting a hard truth because it came to us from one whom we knew to love us? We damage the effectiveness of loving actions when they are poisoned by harshness or insensitivity, and perfect our loving actions by doing them kindly.

We in the Church should always strive to increase our love and make it more evident by bathing it in manifest kindness.


I've gone on retreat and won't be back until late night on Saturday, August 1. Please say a prayer for me. I am trying to write a few quick posts in the meantime, in part, because I've got a lot on my mind. Precisely because I've also got a lot to do, I can't promise much will appear over the next week.

The above picture is not Omaha, where I'll be for my retreat. It is Montserrat, Spain, where my friends and I traveled for a mini-day retreat while in Barcelona a few years ago. Let's pray for each other, dear reader. I'll offer to the Holy Mother of God the intentions of any who pray for me during my retreat.

Excellent Article on Dietrich von Hildebrand

Dietrich von Hildebrand, author of (among other things) Transformation in Christ, has been probably been (aside from the Sacred Scriptures) the single most important influence on my understanding of how one should live as a Christian. InsideCatholic has reprinted an article from Crisis Magazine (Feb 2000) by Thomas Howard about this giant among souls. I cordially invite you to read the article and meet the man by clicking here.

I Love Fr. Frank Pavone

I am honored and flattered to have him speak on our behalf as Christians in the face of a culture that cares little for human life. He undoes stereotypes.

Blast from the Past

I ran the Rockville Twilight 8k Run tonight as a tempo run workout because I didn't do one yesterday. I decided to run it as a tempo run about 3/4 mile into it. A tempo run is a run at an uncomfortably brisk but manageable pace - working hard, you might say, but not quite racing. Tempo runs might be arranged so that different segments are at different paces. That's kinda like life. And originally, I thought, I'd just go out and do it at my marathon pace. But running 5 miles at marathon pace isn't going to help much. Running 5 miles at a tempo pace might just, though. Again, like life: sometimes you gotta push it because anything less won't do, or because, what the hell, why not? I don't want to settle into a least-common-denominator or a let's-not-make-waves sort of way of living. A higher sort of life is gonna require sacrificing a little comfort, that easier pace, and pushing against the forces, internal and external, natural and even supernatural, that push against us.

It was a fun race, always has been, and it was like a stroll down memory lane, since I have done it a number of times in high school and college, but I think only once since. Tonight the air was cool (unusually) and townsfolk were out in numbers to cheer (reliably). A number of my friends and I met up for it, and several of them new or baby runners. A good time was had by all.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

"But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart," (Luke 2:19).

Justice Ginsberg Admits Eugenic Agenda Behind "Reproductive Rights"

This quote is almost impossible to believe. Justice Ginsberg actually came out during an interview with the New York Times this weekend and said that when Roe vs. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court, she had thought at the time that it was a good policy to help limit the reproduction of the poor and others "who Americans don't want too many of."

Check out the interview for yourself (on the fourth page of the article), as well as this commentary.

There has never been any doubt or denial, even by groups like Planned Parenthood, that its founder, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist and openly advocated the culling of ethnic minorities like diseased cattle. Such views were very common before other advocates of such ideas, the Nazis, discredited them with their own obvious and overwhelming evil. But Planned Parenthood and other groups have insisted that their founder's legacy has been split, with the good parts (like "reproductive choice") being enshrined and the bad parts (like forced abortion and targeting minorities for abortions) have been jettisoned.


The Longest Seven Miles

This morning I went for a run with a friend of mine, Dave, who I met during last year's Marine Corps Marathon. We ran 7.3 miles or so down by his neck of the woods in northern Virginia, starting about 7:30 a.m. Mental notes to self:

1) As I am not used to running early in the day, I need to be careful to eat heartily the night before so that I do not get hungry and depleted during the run;

2) Sunny, 85*F, and humid is normal in Maryland and Virginia during the summer, and 7:30 a.m. is no exception;

3) That's why I prefer to run at night, when even if the heat hasn't broken, the sun has at least set;

4) Walking a few hundred yards is better than giving up;

5) It would have been easier still, in a perverse way, just to have stayed in better shape.

These lessons are applicable in some ways to life in general. For instance, it is good to plan ahead, know what one is getting oneself into, and to show up with enough reserves to get the job done. Likewise, reality can be harsh and draining, not just during the summer; sometimes taking it easy on oneself is the most prudent thing to do. Just get back in there, and don't give up.

Caritas in Veritate

It's a funny little thing that the Holy Father did with the title of the encyclical that he released today. The title is Caritas in veritate. It means "love in truth," (not, by the way, "love truly" as the English may be construed; in Latin, that would be different). Now, even though the encyclical JUST CAME OUT, there is already all sorts of commentary being printed about it. How can these people have read it? Perhaps they have advance copies, dear reader, but I haven't. And I haven't read a word of it yet. But I have noticed one thing that none of the commentators have mentioned.

The title's wrong. It's backwards. The Holy Father is, I presume, quoting the scripture verse:

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love," (Eph 4:15-16).

Well, I also presume that the Holy Father knows what he is doing, and so he has done it deliberately. But why? That's a good question. Let's read the encyclical (by clicking here) and find out.

Happy Birthday, America

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Soraya and the West

Last night I went to see The Stoning of Soraya M. with a number of friends, and I have a lot that I want to share about it. First off, as a friend pointed out, the movie is not entitled The Almost-Stoning of Soraya M. That's important. So is the plot, though the plot has no amazing twists and turns. You know how it ends from the outset, especially if you've read the book upon which it is based. A man (Navid Negahban) accuses his wife, Soraya (Mozhan Marn), of adultery because he wants to be rid of her so he can marry another woman. Sharia law as interpreted under the Ayatollah apparently prohibits divorce without the wife's consent, which Soraya will not give because she hasn't any independent means of supporting their children. So her husband, Ali, accuses her of adultery and demands justice - stoning. The entire village, where they live and where she has spent her whole life, knows that she is innocent, but nonetheless go along with the charade for their various reasons. Only her aunt Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo, Exorcism of Emily Rose, House of Sand and Fog) comes to her defense. The town has a closed-door sham trial after which she is taken to the town square, buried to her waist, and pelted with stones until dead. The next day a French-Iranian journalist (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ, Frequency) is stranded in town by car trouble. Zahra meets him and tells him her story of Soraya with the hope that he will deliver her message to the outside world. The story is true, and the movie apparently hews close to the book and to reality.

I haven't wrecked anything by telling you the plot, dear reader, because the plot, while the point, isn't the principal power of the movie. The same plot might have been delivered lamely and wrecked everything. Instead, the cast and crew have delivered the viewer a masterpiece: gripping cinematography, powerful visuals, powerful score, and heart- and gut-wrenching acting that develops all characters involved immensely in a remarkably short period of time. The characters all feel real enough that if I met the actors on the street, I would have difficulty remembering that the man who played the Ali, Soraya's husband, isn't actually lustful and malicious, that the actor who played the mullah isn't actually a brazen hypocrite and opportunistic toady. Yet the movie laudably avoids generalizations or flattening characters out with self-righteous portrayals. The central characters, with the exception of Ali and Zahra, are complex creatures, and even these two can hardly be called superficial or false. Their roles and motivations are simple, and the actors' delivery makes them real and human.

The violence inflicted upon Soraya is gripping, but the violence imposed upon her is hardly the worst horror. And it would have come across as just another violent movie except for the humanity of the characters so manifest through the actors' artistry. Soraya's sham trial, at which she is not even permitted to be present or to face her accusers, will leave any Westerner open-mouthed with disbelief. The malice of her husband is astounding. The tension that builds in the one's heart and stomach is almost overwhelming as one watches the plot move inexorably forward toward the merciless murder of a perfectly decent and innocent woman.

I heartily recommend the movie to every adult with the stomach for it on two bases: (1) its artistry and craft, which are superb; (2) the lessons, both general and specific, that it contains and transmits without preaching. Still the caveat must be given that women in the theater were openly weeping; the movie is both extremely graphic and emotional, especially at the end.

Soraya's story has to teach us about a number of general lessons about which reviewers have commented. Mob mentality can block out reason and go to extremes. Check. Evil lurks in the human heart. Right. Fine. True.

I have seen one more specific lesson mentioned by reviewers, that Sharia law is hopelessly inadequate and that we in the West must be careful about embracing or tolerating it. There should be no talk of finding a niche for it in civil society, in the way that society allows corporations and churches to have their own internal by-laws. True there, too.

What I have not heard a lot about is the fact that the action depicted in the movie still persists in Middle Eastern countries today. Feminist groups like NOW should be up in arms but are oddly still. Intellectuals and the universities should be railing against draconian laws and irrational concepts of justice but haven't stirred. As pro-reform demonstrators were gunned down in Tehran a couple weeks ago, our President, just back from a trip to schmooze with the mullahs, was oddly silent. In fact, there is a deafening silence from our establishment. The movie is inconvenient for these groups in our civil society.

Most feminist groups in the US have gradually become flattened in their composition and purpose, from a diverse group of radicals for a range of legitimate rights, to a lobby of largely upper-middle and middle-class white women rationalizing abortion. This President is committed to helping them, so they leave him alone. He's better than George W., after all, they say. Barack Hussein Obama, for his part, is committed to detente with the Muslim world (appeasement?) as a path to peace and probably to keep oil affordable for a few more years. So he says nothing, not so much as "boo" to sheiks and mullahs considering their treatment of human rights. And the Islamist world continues merrily plotting the destruction of the West. The media and intellectual establishments say nothing because they are enamored of the President, too busy reminding us that Islam is a religion of peace, and have their hands full rationalizing abortion to an increasingly pro-life populace.

And poor Soraya will fall out of our minds almost soundlessly, like, well, a stone in soft sand. That is, if we ever bother in the first place to think about her and those others toiling under Sharia law with her. We forget her at our own peril though, because she was immolated by the same enemy that wants to grind us up as well. While I agree with Islam that adultery is immoral, I don't agree that folks (let alone only women) should be stoned for it. That makes me lax in Sharia's mind. The fact that the West tolerates things like women's hair makes us lewd, in their mind. While there is a great deal of lewdness here in the West, women's hair is hardly the issue. They seriously believe that justice is serve when an accused has no opportunity for a defense. There is an irreconcilable clash of worldview here, and those who oppose our view hate us for holding it. We'd best remember that when getting chummy with them.