Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Ecclesiology of the First Century Church: An Exercise in Hopefully Plausible Speculation

Disclaimer: This post is really long.  Like really, really long.  If you're gonna read the whole thing, you might want to get yourself something to drink, or perhaps a healthy snack, first.  Like maybe a grapefruit?  Grapefruit is pretty cool, you know.  

Got it? Then read on!

Ecclesiology, for the unaware, is a word for the structure of a Church or other religious body.  Now, while I'm sure you've all been hoping for an exciting examination of the structure of 1st century Persian Manicheanism in comparison to the Manichean church of the 4th century, I will instead (surprise!) be examining the ecclesiology of a more obscure religion called...(now where did I put that slip of paper?)...ahem..."Christianity."  Perhaps you've heard of it?

Apparently, Christianity is a pretty big deal.  Who knew?

I've been thinking about this topic quite a lot lately, and I have thought of it quite a lot more over the course of my lifetime; this post is essentially me trying to work out and fit together the various thoughts and ideas I've had on this topic in a way that halfway makes sense.  It will be mostly speculation, and, while I will make references to sources where appropriate, this is not a real work of scholarship with citations and such--that, if it comes, will be another project.  What this is is essentially what I've come to think and speculate after reading many of these sources and trying my best to understand and synthesize them.

Now, the Great Question of 1st century Christian ecclesiology, whether you're a Protestant, a Catholic, or a Whatever, is, essentially, "How do we get from Paul to Ignatius?"
St. Paul thinks
That is, the Apostle Paul's writings (which you can find in the New Testament) are pretty much THE source we have as to the day-to-day workings of the various Christian churches circa 50-60 AD, and from them, people have developed all kinds of theories about how things worked; these are supplemented by information we get from the Didache (a 1st century catechitical text) and the other books of the New Testament.  While I'll go over it in more detail later, the long and the short of it is that the Pauline letters show us a church structure with basically two levels of organization: the local one, composed of officials known indifferently as "presbyters" (elders) and "episkopoi" (overseers) and inferior officials known as deacons; and the super-local one, composed of inferior officials known as "prophets" and "teachers," and superior officials known as "Apostles."
St. Ignatius plays with lions
However, if we jump about 50 years forward to the years at the very beginning of the 2nd century, shortly after the death of the last Apostle, we have seemingly a completely changed ecclesiastical structure, universal throughout the entire Church.  One of our earliest and best sources for the structure of the Church at this time is St. Ignatius of Antioch, a Bishop (hey, what's that? you may ask.  Well, that's kinda the point) of Antioch in Asia Minor, who at around the turn of the century was forcibly removed from his flock and taken to Rome to be fed to the lions.  Along the way to his destination, Ignatius wrote a series of letters to various prominent churches in the Roman world, presenting his final lessons on doctrine and practice while preparing to meet his Lord.  In this letter, Ignatius emphasizes one single thing over and over and over and over again, with as much emphasis as it is possible to give anything: the absolute centrality and necessity of communion with "the Bishop," the singular official presiding over almost every Church throughout the world.  The Bishop, Ignatius makes clear, is simply the fulcrum point on which the Church itself hangs; those who are in communion with the Bishop and obey his authority are within the visible bounds of the universal Church, and those who are not are heretics and schismatics.  And lest you think that this was simply Ignatius day-dreaming a little bit on the road, his letters (and the fact that they were preserved by the communities he sent them to) make it very clear that all the Churches he writes to already possessed just such a Bishop, who already made all these claims and was obeyed by the vast majority of the faithful.  Besides this, in every place to which Ignatius writes, there are also the two other groups of officials which we have already encountered, the presbyters and the deacons, whose role (according to Ignatius) is to assist the Bishop in carrying out the work of the Gospel.  Apostles, as we might expect, are looked back on as part of a past age.

So, looking at this development, one question should jump out at us almost immediately: Whence the Bishop?  Where did this Bishop guy come from, anyway, and why is he suddenly the boss?  Over the course of the years, scholars, theologians, and people in tutus have proposed any number of theories as to the origin of what is called the "monarchical episcopate" (or, put more simply, the Bishop being in charge), the most prominent of which are probably the theories of Apostolic Succession and Gradual Elevation.  The first theory is that the Bishops were appointed by the Apostles as their direct successors, to, essentially, fulfill their role in the community; the second is that the role of the Bishop developed gradually over time from within the ranks of the presbyterate, with one presbyter gradually becoming more and more prominent within the body until he came to be seen as an order existing above it.  We'll go over what I think of all this a bit later.

However, this is not the only major question of first-century ecclesiology.  Even if we leave aside the seemingly post-Biblical role of the Bishop, there's still the question of what, exactly, is meant by the terms presbyter, episkopos, apostolos, and diakonos, officials whose roles are all very much debated in scholarly and Christian circles.  This question is obviously one of great importance, as it has important implications for how we view the entire question of ministerial roles in Christianity, the priesthood of all believers, apostolic succession, etc.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trioculus, Jaxxon, and Waru are Star Wars

Following from the incredible hypothetical success achieved by my "Morn is Star Trek" post, I have found myself frequently and hypothetically pestered by fans, compressed air machines, and other air-moving appliances, all buffeting me with the same question: "What about Star Wars?"

I admit that when I first hypothetically heard this question, I did not take it very seriously, and answered it with the famous, proverbially hypothetical reply: "Well, what about it?"

However, after thinking long and hard on the issue, I have come to the hypothetical conclusion that this answer is somewhat flippant, and that it behooves me to take the feelings of my hypothetical air-moving appliances more seriously than this.

So!  Here, my beloved compressed air machines, is my answer: I am a Star Wars fan because Trioculus, Jaxxon, and Waru are Star Wars.
Star Wars!

Allow me to clarify.  Now Star Wars is, as we all should know, The Space Opera of all Space Operas, the Space Serial of Space Serials, boldly charting the way out of the God-forsaken Seventies with the heart of a Flash Gordon serial, the head of Joseph Campbell, and the hind-quarters of Star Trek.  Many people have many reasons to love Star Wars, from love of sci-fi technology, naval tactics, and politics to love of operatic characterization to love of mythology to love of pop-culture philosophizing to love of Harrison Ford to love of Jar-Jar Binks.  All of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to be Star Wars fans--except for the last one-- and I wouldn't want to challenge any of you who hold to them.  But for myself, the main reason why I continue to enjoy and appreciate Star Wars is because nowhere else in fiction does the evil Emperor of the Galaxy have a secret three-eyed pacifist son who ends up getting impersonated by another three-eyed mutant who turned to evil after being teased as a child about his third eye.
Star Wars!
Also, nowhere else in fiction does a giant, carnivorous green bunny rabbit team up with a desperate group of smugglers and criminals to fight off a vicious swoop gang while constantly remonstrating about his dislike of Space Carrots.  
Star Wars!
And, of course, nowhere else in fiction is a noble, heroic Knight with telekinetic powers rendered helpless by the mere presence of a giant pile of orange goo with healing abilities.
Star Wars!

And yet...all of these things are Star Wars!  That is to say, all of them are "canon," all of them "really happened" in the exact same fictional universe in which Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star, Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, and Jacen Solo was captured and tortured by extragalactic invaders.  All of these things, dark and happy, good and bad, serious and silly, philosophical and nonsensical, coexist in the same universe, the same setting, and sometimes even the same time.  At the same time as Emperor Palpatine is committing genocide against Alderaan, a giant green bunny is travelling around the underworld doing odd jobs and calling himself a "rocket rabbit."  At the same time as the Empire is struggling for its life in massive battles and campaigns throughout the Core, a three-eyed mutant is being proclaimed Emperor of the Galaxy and hunting desperately for the lost Glove of Darth Vader at the command of a dwarf dressed in a sparkly robe.  At the same time as the New Republic is dealing with political strife and resource problems, a gooey, extra-dimensional entity with anti-Force properties is creating an apocalyptic cult on a space station orbiting a crystal star.  

This, ultimately, is the real genius of Star Wars.  Don't get me wrong--the Star Wars films, especially the originals, were and are brilliant, and would be remembered and enjoyed by generations no matter what.  However, if that's all Star Wars was, and all Star Wars remained, we would not still be talking about it today, and I would not still be writing and thinking about it on a regular basis.  However, what makes Star Wars ultimately great is that the films are not all Star Wars is.  Star Wars, according to the official policy of Lucasfilm, is also innumerable books, comic books, and video games, all of which (with a few exceptions) are officially canon, and all of which really happened within the overarching universe of Star Wars.  That's what makes Star Wars great--what makes it not just a series of films, or a series of books, but in a sense a real universe, filled with many things silly and serious, grim and ridiculous, deep and shallow.  

Star Wars thus becomes far, far more than the mere "vision" of one man, and far more, indeed, than any one man's vision could ever hope to encompass.  

Of course, the various sources don't always play well together, often seem to contradict each other...but of course, these contradictions and various representations are always smoothed over and explained in the end.  Indeed, in this, Star Wars becomes even more like the real world--for what historical sources do we have which do not have seeming contradictions, strange points of view, and just plain oddities, which must be made sense of in the same manner? Likewise, this vastness of the universe provides so much room for cross-pollination, expansion, and continuing creative growth; a character, a species, a planet, a ship, can start off in one source by one author as a random mention with no explanation, then get a backstory in another work from another author's pen, and become the key to saving the Galaxy in a third.  Military campaigns and political events originally portrayed in a hundred unconnected sources can be brought together into a comprehensive, tantalizing picture of Galactic history and civilization, with room for debate and speculation to last a lifetime--a picture that is always being updated with information from new sources and stories.  Far from being "stifling," the vast continuity of Star Wars provides so much potential for stories and creativity that it's frankly insane--and the requirement of doing some research to keep from blatantly contradicting another source is no harder than searching Wookieepedia, and certainly far, far easier than writing any kind of historical novel.

Thus, ultimately, the Star Wars universe and setting becomes a place of almost infinite creativity and creative potential, with room for the both most serious hobbyist and the most unserious humorist.  

And that, my dear compressed air machine, is Star Wars.

Star Wars!

But, really, guys, now that all of that tom-foolery is out of the way, allow me to be serious for a moment.  
If you haven't understood the point of my post up until now, let me make it crystal clear for you: Waru is Star Wars.  You like Star Wars.  Therefore, you must worship Waru!  

C-3PO Loves Waru

Waru, you see, is an extra-dimensional entity with anti-Force properties and the ability to heal people by encasing them in his orange goo.  He created the Cult of Waru because he loves us and wants to devour our life-essences.  Though the evil Jedi and the evil Republic drove him from our dimension and dispersed his cult, nevertheless the loyal followers of Waru know that he shall one day return and fill the entire universe with his gooey orange majesty, punishing all those who opposed him and rewarding his loyal followers!  Join the Cult of Waru today!

Also, Trioculus is the rightful ruler of the Empire, and I highly recommend that you enlist in his forces immediately, lest he find you and punish you with his Lightning Power of the Dark Side.  The Eye of Trioculus is upon you, peon!  Dark Greetings!

Oh, and don't do Space Carrots, kids.  Seriously.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why are the Papists Aggrieved?

St. John Fisher, Aggrieved Papist

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two English Catholic saints who were martyred rather than bow to the newly-founded State Church of Henry VIII.  By what is by no means a coincidence, today happens to be the beginning of the US Bishop's "Fortnight For Freedom" campaign, a two week period dedicated to prayer and demonstration against President Obama's "HHS mandate," which requires all Catholic and Christian institutions to provide free contraceptives and abortive drugs under the provision of healthcare.  I will be posting frequently about this over the next few weeks, to explain exactly how and why this is so objectionable, why it must be prevented, and why it demonstrates that President Obama should under no circumstances receive a second term of office.  For now, though, I will begin with some more general observations.

In these trying times, we see all around us many, many people both small and great who consider this entire campaign and this entire issue simply facetious, blown-up, and simply a big whopping deal about nothing.  To them, all the talk by the Bishops and by Catholics about "religious freedom" and about "religious beliefs" and "principles" is simply a pseudo-intellectual cover for the real reason why these people oppose the mandate: essentially, psychological and emotional hang-ups on the past, a fear of women and female sexuality, and an overwhelming and irrational desire to force women barefoot into the kitchen to make them sandwiches.  They honestly cannot see why in the universe Catholics will not simply get over their silly little hang-ups and rejoin the larger society, why they will not give up their emotional prejudices and acknowledge the great Principles of Sexual Freedom and Women's Rights--or at least, as the government generously allows them, simply practice their beliefs in private as much as they want, without trying to impose their prejudices on the rest of society or act as though they have any application to anyone besides themselves.  Really, Catholics have no reason to be upset at all.  Haven't we given them plenty of room, really more room than we should?  Certainly, the government finds it necessary to suppress some of their practices (like that of running hospitals and schools that don't give out contraception) that are dangerous to the health of society at large; but otherwise, they are and will be left in perfect peace, without disturbance.  What could Catholics possibly be aggrieved at?
Cardinal Dolan, Aggrieved Papist

The answer which you see more and more people coming to is simply that these people are really and truly dangerous and unreasonable, with a psychological need to impose their prejudices on everyone else, and that this entire affair is no more than a cloaked attempt to eliminate contraception from the entire nation, a War on Women.  Thus, the proper response to the Catholic campaign for "Religious Liberty" is to attempt to reasonably persuade everyone you can within the enemy camp how much it is their own interests to remain peaceable, and otherwise prepare one's defenses against the onslaught.

By what is simply a coincidence, yesterday I came across a book open on a table, and my eye was drawn to a quote from a man with very similar problems with the Catholics of his own day.  I will quote at length:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Morn is Star Trek

In the world of hypotheticals, all the time people come and ask me: Captain Peabody, why are you a Star Trek fan?

This is an important question, and I always take it with the utmost seriousness.  Whenever I am asked this question, I immediately turn around slowly, stroke my hypothetical mustache, raise my hypothetical glass high, remove my hat from my head with my hypothetical third arm and place it over my heart, and give the solemn answer: Because Morn is Star Trek.

"But wait!  But wait!" The hypothetical reader* cries out.  "What IS Morn?!  And why is he Star Trek?"

To this, I always reply by saying this picture: 
As you can see, the first and most important reason why Morn is Star Trek is because Morn is by far the handsomest and best-looking character to ever grace the Star Trek universe, period.  On Star Trek, Morn was always depicted as quite the ladies' man, and it's not hard to see why.  That nose!  Those whispy hairs!  Kirk?  Riker?  Step aside, gentlemen!

The second reason Morn is Star Trek is because of his second stomach.  Morn has a second stomach, and using Origen's principles of Biblical interpretation, we can say that this is obviously an allegory for the dual nature of Star Trek as both television and film, and also for the dual existence of Star Trek in both the minds and experiences of those who create it, and also in the hearts of the fans: it is this latter stomach, of course, that contains a massive supply of latinum currency, thus signifying the fact that it is the fans who provide the funds necessary to keep Star Trek alive, and also that feature films tend to be more profitable than television shows.  Likewise, the fact that this latinum has caused his hair to fall out signifies the way in which the influence of money and success has caused Star Trek as a whole to lose its original virility and freshness.  Morn's relationship with his hyper-capitalist bartender Quark, of course, and his consequent drinking habit, signify Star Trek's constant need for affirmation and (more importantly) material support from the studios, and Quark and Morn's generally-positive relationship signifies the studio's general esteem for the Star Trek long as Morn pays his bar tab on time.  Morn's many squabbling siblings, of course, signify the many other sci-fi franchises and TV shows that have been inspired by Star Trek, and his difficult mother signifies the demanding sci-fi fanbase, for whose affection Morn and his siblings are forced to compete.  Like Morn, Star Trek is frequently said to be saying an awful lot of meaningful things, and yet somehow never actually manages to say much of anything onscreen.  In addition, Morn's quarters, which contain nothing but a mud-bath and a black velvet painting of a Matador, of course signify the two things that single-handedly keep the franchise going: the murky depths of popular culture, and William Shatner's toupee.

I could go on, but I think I've proved my point.  No other character in Star Trek other than Morn so completely encompasses Star Trek as a franchise.  The great thing, too, for all you English majors out there, is that there are multiple possible readings of Morn as an allegory!  There's the out-of-universe one that I've given, but also an in-universe reading, a cosmological reading (where Morn's appearance, properly interpreted, gives a rough map of the Star Trek universe), a mystical reading, a socio-political reading, an anarcho-feminist reading, a fascist-Rastifarian reading, and of course the ever-popular Swedenborgian Reading of Morn, best exemplified by Professor Bosh's magnum opus The Illusiveness of Eschatology in Lurian Psycho-Physical Sociology: The Swedenborgian Reading of Morn.

Alright, I think that is enough foolery for the moment. The real reason that Morn is Star Trek is far more mundane, and far more interesting.  See, the thing is, Morn was not supposed to be a Star Trek character.  He started his existence, in fact, as one of dozens of masks created by the makeup crew to serve as background extras for the very first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Morn was never supposed to be a character at all; he was just one mask among many, designed to be shoved onto an extra and shoved into the far background of one shot, and then at some later point, probably half a season later, be again shoved onto a completely different extra and shoved into the back of another shot.  Instead, of course, Morn ultimately became the stud of a character you see today.  What happened?

In short, Star Trek happened.  First, enter Mark Allen Shepherd, an actor happening to attend a massive casting call, and then happening, by chance and head size, to be picked to inhabit the then-nameless suit and appliance.  Then, by an even greater coincidence, Shepherd ended up accidentally getting left off the call sheet, and, by an even more astronomical and uncanny chance, decided to wander onto the set to see what was going on at the exact day and time when Morn was supposed to appear.  Then, when the shot was ready, by another coincidence, he got picked out of the crowd of hundreds of extras by the director and put in the foreground of an establishing shot.  Then, Shepherd successfully performed in the suit in such a way that the executive producers noticed him among all the other extras, and hired him for other episodes.  Then, as the series continued, Shepherd was hired again and again, appearing at Quark's bar practically every single time the set was used, and becoming a constant presence on the show.  Then, the unknown alien began to be mentioned in dialogue and in scripts, had main characters talk about him, interact with him, and even give him a name and a species.  Thus, in practically the blink of an eye, that random mask and suit became Morn, a full-fledged character and a living, breathing part of Deep Space Nine and Star Trek.  Over the course of the full seven years of Deep Space Nine (the kind of series run that only very successful shows and Star Trek series get), Morn was talked about, developed, and ended up becoming, in places, a key part of the plot of episodes and the show as a whole, even getting an entire episode about him...all without uttering a single word onscreen.  We learn about Morn's demanding mother, his squabbling siblings, his second stomach, his lost hair, his criminal past, his shipping business, his weekly sparring matches with Worf in the holodeck, his popularity with the ladies, and a hundred, thousand other things.

Through all of this, Morn is, in reality, nothing more than a few pounds of latex and rubber on an actor, sitting silently at the bar, listening to Quark talk, or walking around the station...essentially, doing pretty much nothing...and yet, in the world of the show and in the minds of its viewers, he is a living, breathing, talkative, charming, amusing person, with friends, family, and a life of his own...who also happens to be a hideous alien with two stomachs.

This is, frankly, the kind of thing that could only happen on a television show, on that week-in, week-out grind of episodes, year after year, where characters can be built up out of nothing, elaborated on, talked about, and developed in a way that is simply impossible to do in feature films...and it is also, frankly, the kind of thing that could only happen on Star Trek, in that strange world where the hideous aliens that populate the background of shots not only aren't just vicious cannon fodder to be gunned down by the hundreds, but are expected as a matter of course to be thinking, vital people with lives and problems of their own, where (to quote Nick Meyer) even the aliens are human, where the audience is invited to buy into a setting and suspend their disbelief to an extent undreamed of in most fiction, where characters and situations can be taken to absurd and whimsical lengths that would never, in a thousand years, fly in any Earth-bound show, where writers and producers have (or at least had) the opportunity to have fun and let their imaginations run wild without constantly worrying about being cancelled or not appealing to the right demographics, and where (in short) the background of the world has the potential to be as rich and varied as the foreground.  There are many other characters and situations that exemplify these things as well, but for me at least, none of them do so in so obvious and so handsome a fashion as Morn.

 Morn, with his trademark onscreen silence and off-screen talkativeness, is certainly a comic character, with a number of running jokes associated with him; but, as I've shown, in the world of the show and in the mind of its viewers he is ultimately much, much more: a living, breathing character exemplifying all that Star Trek can be.

Having said all that, I will now invite you to watch Morn in action, in a scene that he doesn't even appear in no less!

And that, my dear hypothetical, is why I am a Star Trek fan.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Of Cosmos and Cosmetics: "The World" in John

I tried to give this post a better and more entertaining title, but it didn't take.  Truly, there are never enough puns for all the tasks for which we require them.

Much is frequently made, even by Biblical scholars of some repute, of the purported presence of "Dualism" in the Johannine literature of the Holy Scriptures (that is: the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, and the black sheep Revelation).  Now, admittedly, "Dualism" in the context of religious and literary studies is a very vague term indeed, and can mean anything from a full-blown cosmology in which opposite Good and Evil deities divide the world between them (as with the Manichees, the Cathari, etc) to a perceived overuse of the number two (as with certain descriptions of the Gospel of Matthew).  In this context, being called Dualist may not be anything particularly worrying.  Nevertheless, scholarly treatment of John's writings has frequently used this perceived dualism as a stick with which to discredit his "brand" of Christianity as sectarian, exclusivist, Puritan, or even proto-Gnostic.  John, certain people accuse, is obsessed with rigid divisions between darkness and light, above and below, the church and the world, children of God and children of the Devil, to such an extent that his belief-system may be safely dismissed by all forward-thinking and progressive persons as sadly reflective of a regrettably intolerant mileu, and certainly not something to be unquestioningly or uncritically applied to the complexities and ambiguities of the modern world, which science has so definitively shown to be incapable of simple, definitive...
Ahem. Sorry.  Slipped into my "progressive 19th century Biblical scholar" voice for a second there.  You get the idea.

Now, responding to such charges is obviously a vast topic, especially since the terms under discussion are so vague and so ambiguous.  To give John's doctrines on all of the multivarious topics that fall under the heading of "Dualism" would take a great deal of time, and no doubt I will come back to the issue in future posts.  For this post, however, I will merely provide a brief exploration of John's use of a single word, the way in which I think this should be understood, and the implications for his theology.

Monday, June 4, 2012

An obvious point that bears repeating

The simple fact is that for as long as Christianity has existed, from the moment of its conception to the present day, it has with all its authority and all its might stood for a certain doctrine of sexuality and sexual morality, a doctrine that has at many times dramatically distinguished it from the beliefs and practices of the world at large.  This doctrine is itself an elaboration of the sexual morality of Judaism, which has been maintained by the Jewish people from the time of Moses up until the present day in the face of opposition from hundreds of different societies without any substantial alteration.

Likewise, the simple fact is that these doctrines have never been considered peripheral to their respective moral systems, but from the very beginning have formed some of the most distinctive, most important, and most tenaciously held tenets of their respective faiths; one of the things that most distinguished the Christian or the Jew of the first century from his pagan neighbor, and which the Christian or Jew held to most strongly and was most unwilling to part with or compromise on, was his sexual morality, his complete, holistic doctrine of what sex is and what it is for.   Thus, people who reject this morality by appeal to Christianity or Judaism are simply historically and doctrinally indefensible--they are guilty of far worse than merely taking words out of context, but of something very close to deliberate obfuscation of plain and obvious facts.

The fact is, if one wishes to dissent from this doctrine of sexual morality, one is not merely dissenting from the "current beliefs" of the Church--one is dissenting from and rejecting the entire 3000-year-plus Judaeo-Christian tradition at perhaps one of its most basic and dogmatic points.

If one wishes to dissent from Christian sexual doctrine, one is of course free to do so--but let there be no pretense about it.  You are rejecting the dogmatic teaching of Jesus, of Paul, of Peter, of John, of James, of Augustine, of Athanasius, of Aquinas, of Luther, of Calvin, and of almost every faithful Christian or Jew for the last 3000 years.  You do not like or agree with what Christianity and Judaism have to say about sexuality and sexual morality, and so you reject it.  I respect honesty far more than I do agreement.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe

Welcome, dear guest, and God bless you!
I will be using this blog to create posts about things that I am thinking and working on, or which I find interesting or amusing at the moment.  These will almost certainly concern many of the following topics, with varying frequency and in no particular order: history, religion, Christianity, Catholicism, Star Trek, Star Wars, philosophy, Thomism, science fiction, ducks, G.K. Chesterton, "all the angels and saints," ecclesiastical history, theology, Classics, Starcraft, funny internet videos, songbirds, the Holy Scriptures, Latin, Ancient Greek, Amanda Mckittrick Ros, the Middle Ages, and poems about cheese.  I confess freely that I am very much an amateur at quite literally all of these topics, and thus write with no authority whatsoever, infallible or otherwise*.

The main purpose of this blog is to get me thinking and expressing my thoughts in a more coherent, simpler, and ultimately more effective manner, to allow me to synthesize, criticize, and summarize what I am learning and seeing, and to ultimately get me thinking more clearly and more correctly.  The secondary purpose of this blog, which is admittedly more of a long-shot, is to in some way engage with (admittedly hypothetical) readers and perhaps even amuse and/or inform them.  The reader should be warned that my posts may often be poorly thought out, poorly developed, unclear, incoherent, vague, foolish, or simply flat-out wrong.  I ask you to bear with me through this, as it is a necessary evil in the pursuit of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.

This much about the blog itself.  Otherwise, for the purposes of familiarity, I will add that I am a male undergraduate currently enrolled in university in the Southern regions of the United States of America, a Classics Major, and also a Catholic Christian who takes his religion seriously.  I will almost certainly reveal more information about myself as time goes on, but this should be plenty to get things started.  

I also hate writing about myself.  It feels wrong, and makes me uncomfortable.  This blog is very much intentionally not a personal journal in which to discuss my life, its oddities and happenings, and my wonderful, wonderful personality.  Hopefully, now that this is over with, I can get on to more interesting and less disturbing the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  How lovely!

I commit this blog to the patronage of the Most Holy Trinity, St. Thomas More, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Blessed Mother of Sorrows, Mary Immaculately Conceived.  If you are the praying type, as St. Thomas More said frequently, "Pray for me, and I will pray for you."

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostri.  Amen.