Scribbles, &c.

Currently reading: Time for God by Jacques Philippe đź“š

The rooster is the last survivor of our chicken-keeping days and since there are no more hens to watch, he just hangs out with the dog all day. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Today I repaired an appliance, got a haircut, and watched the grandsons. We grilled hot dogs and sweet corn and, having swam all day, they’ll leave here exhausted. We will also be exhausted, but the good kind. Tomorrow I’m slated to serve at two masses. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Pear, elderflower, and pawpaw

Today we were instituted as acolytes! Preparation continues - this weekend’s intro to homiletics was a tee-up for a week at St. Meinrad for more intensive study in July.

I was visiting my 96-year-old grandmother in the hospital yesterday. She’s not doing well; I was able to see her receive the Anointing of the Sick and receive communion. She’s said that she’s ready to go and I’m inclined to take her at her word.

Every so often, a little tune would play over the hospital PA system. I had a hunch and asked a nurse. Turns out I was right: a little lullaby plays whenever a baby is born in the maternity ward. I think I heard that song a half-dozen times or so. On the drive back to Nashville I was on the phone updating my wife. As I told her about this I just started bawling.

Served Mass this morning with our pastor. There have been a couple of boys serving on Wednesday mornings too, but today it was just me. Prayed for the grace to be attentive and to fittingly serve and everything went perfectly. Even had to readjust the missal before holding it up - the ribbons for the Collect and whatnot were in the wrong spot. Again, smooth. The usual small group remained after for Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings. Since this Saturday we’re to be instituted as acolytes, I asked Father what, if anything, would be changing.

Oh, he got the biggest smile. Everything, he said. After Saturday you will wear an alb, not that (pointing at the cassock and surplice). You will no longer be an altar server. Then he ran through the basic duties of the acolyte - purification of vessels, simple exposition, EM - and the need for a bit of catechesis with the others on the role and responsibility. Here I had been worried that maybe Saturday was going to pass unnoticed, but apparently not. I think this last Sunday may have been my last time sitting in a pew for a while.

Aurora borealis in TN!

Hello cicada!

Dcn. Bill Ditewig writes about re-thinking the idea of “permanent” and “transitional” as they pertain to the diaconate:

First, we must immediately retire the use of adjectives to describe a deacon as either a “permanent” deacon or a “transitional” deacon. For decades now, scholars and bishops have pointed out that there is only one Order of Deacons, just as there is only one Order of Presbyters and one Order of Bishops. All ordinations are permanent, so calling a deacon a “permanent” one is redundant, and calling a seminarian-deacon a “transitional” deacon is sacramentally wrong. All deacons are permanent. We do not refer to a presbyter who is later ordained a bishop as a “transitional” priest!

I’ve thought about this a fair bit, actually, and it makes a lot of sense. Dropping the terms would be easy enough. There’s only one diaconate, so qualifying it one way or the other seems kind of dumb. Disconnection from the cursus honorum also makes a tremendous amount of sense. Seminarians aren’t discerning the diaconate; they’re discerning the priesthood. The two are formed in different ways for the two very different vocations.

Feeling a little fried. Just wrapped our class on the Eucharist, for which a paper and oral exam are still pending. Beyond that, there’s the reading and prep for an upcoming weekend on Homiletics (which is a tee-up for a week-long intensive at St. Meinrad in July). Hovering over those are the reading and planning for the closure papers in the fall, but directly in front of me are the notes for tomorrow night’s OCIA mystagogical conference on the laity. And of course, family, household stuff, day job, &c.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for me.

Some stuff is still amazing

I’ve been in tech for my entire life. I’m old enough to remember the Apple II rolled into the classroom on a cart for Computer Class. Professionally, I’ve been involved in it long enough to see some technologies reappear under new names, usually during sales presentations. “Workflow” showed up in the late 90s, then slipped off the radar screen long enough to become “Business Rules Engines” a decade or so later, a solution still very much in search of a problem. Most of the stuff I’ve seen has eventually failed to live up to its hype, even as the less attractive, less glamorous stuff continues to deliver day in and day out.

Even so, I’ve generally had a ball over the years, turning a hobby into an actual job that’s provided pretty well for me and my family. It would be easy to affect a sort of jaded Luddism, but frankly, there have been some things in the last year that leave me as slack-jawed as the the first day Mrs. Mingledorff. Here are five of them.

  1. Pihole, which scrubs so much crud from the average web-browsing experience that going without it is just a hard “no.” Like a bidet, once you’ve gotten used to it, there’s simply no going back.

  2. Alexa, Siri, LLMs, and generative AI are finally where the science fiction computers of my childhood and adolescence were supposed to be. Still waiting on the Orbital Marriott Hotel, though.

  3. Tailscale is one of the simplest things I’ve ever set up. I’m still looking at the config, wondering if I’ve gotten something wrong somehow, but no, it was really that easy to replace my wireguard setup for VPN connectivity.

  4. We’ve had a Chevy Bolt EUV for a couple of years, and it still sounds like the future every time I drive someplace. It’s a shame that GM is discontinuing Car Play in future models.

  5. Wireless charging is, let’s face it, pretty cool. it looks like magic. I wish everything supported it.

Peony bloom

Pawpaw covered in blossoms. Here’s hoping they set some fruit!

On Free Choice of the Will…

This image may be a bit too large; here’s a link to it instead.

Currently reading: Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky đź“š

Let’s get things started.

I wonder what it would take for the Holy See to start posting PDFs of encyclicals and other ecclesial documents with proper formatting along the lines of a text-to-LaTeX-to-PDF workflow. I just converted two (Mysterium Fidei and Ecclesia de Eucharistia) because I couldn’t find any versions online that didn’t look terrible. Now they are beautiful and ready to be marked up and annotated in Zotero. The biggest hassle, frankly, was moving the citations from the endnotes to footnotes on each page.

Isn’t that pretty?

screenshot showing a beautifully formatted page of text

Bishop Erik Varden of Norway delivered the Navarra Lecture recently and every bit of it is worth reading. Such beautiful stuff.

Theology is the intelligent, humble, praying engagement with the deposit of faith handed down in the Church, nothing less. When the Church tries to keep up with passing fashions, she is bound to fail. She will always lag a few steps behind. She risks cutting a sorry, even comical figure, like late-middle-aged parents who attempt to adopt the dress code of their teenage children. This fact reveals the fragility of in-sub-culturation. It teaches us that Catholic engagement with contemporary culture must touch the still waters of the depths, not the flotsam washed up on beaches.

Backlit stained glass in the chapel

After ditching FreshRSS and riding with just plain old newsboat for a while, I’m giving MiniFlux a go as a self-hosted RSS aggregator. It set it up on the old laptop running the GOES terminal and barely registers a blip in load. The presentation, moreover, is minimalist and clean. It also renders well on phones and various tablets. Some clients are available (newsboat, for one), but the browser UI is so nice and snappy I tend to just use it. You can tweak the CSS for it and customize it if you like. My feed count is hovering somewhere around 145 right now and growing, and it’s nice to have a consistent, centralized place to corral them all locally. Every so often, I back up the OPML file in case the thing goes toes-up.

Class this weekend on catechetics, and some rumination on the capstone project that lies ahead of me. There are several options available, but I’m leaning heavily toward a trio of textual analyses from the list of books provided. Though the papers will be standalone and graded by different instructors, I plan to link thematically, at least for my own purposes. I hope this will give me a larger framework for the semester’s worth of work, drawing from the others as I treat each one individually. Some texts by Augustine are the main contenders, but I have some time to decide. Originally I had planned to do this in the summer of 2025, but we’re thinking about doing some traveling then, and I’d like to have the decks cleared completely for that. This means doing it sooner, which will overlap with ongoing coursework.

I hope everyone is having a good, peaceful Lent. Last night at RCIA, I led the discussions on contraception, IVF, and other related topics. I’ve run with this one for several years now, and every group receives it a bit differently. There weren’t many questions or surprises. My theory is that this year’s cohort - mostly young adults and new families - has probably already Googled all of this. At the very least, they got to hear it live and in person. Next week starts the period of purification and enlightenment, then the downhill run to Holy Week. On the other side of that, I take over full time for 7-8 weeks of mystagogy.

I’ve managed to sneak into - assume myself - into serving at the 7:00am Wednesday mass. Last year, I noticed that the priest was alone, so I offered to help the following week and then just stuck around. I’ve spread the word to the other parish men in diaconal formation in the event they want to trade off with me, and we’ll make it A Thing. Everyone else is working then, so it’s just been me so far. I don’t mind the at-bats, though, and I greatly appreciate the chance to assist. Interesting to see up close the tiny differences and quirks of each priest in their particular styles - one moves quickly and efficiently, another a bit more slowly and reflectively. A third is newly ordained and still very careful. By now, I’ve internalized enough of the mechanics (“do this, stand here, go there”) to participate more in the liturgy rather than thinking two steps ahead about What Comes Next. It’s been a privilege and a blessing for sure.

De Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life has been very fruitful for morning prayer. You can’t go wrong with de Sales if you’re still looking for some Lenten reading. Read one chapter/meditation in the morning and let it sit with you throughout the day. It’s wonderful stuff.

God bless!

I’m in San Jose for work at the moment and remembering being here for a conference in 1996 called - wait for it - Internet World. I was wondering if anything from that period survived online and I came across a CNN article reviewing bits of the event:

To completely understand the interactive TV concept, you need to be familiar with the latest acronym in an industry awash with acronyms: VRML, short for Virtual Reality Markup Language. “It’s really cool,” says Silicon Graphics' John McCrea. What is it? 3-D, for one thing.

McCrea says VRML describes what happens when a Web page comes to life. “Things are spinning at you. Logos, product shots, that’s just the beginning. Exciting, cool content is what’s going to make VRML take off this year,” he said.

I took a closer look at Pi-hole’s administrative tools and set up per-client domain blocking. One of my Lenten goals is to disengage with social media altogether, and this configuration will keep me from reflexively opening Twitter and the like during the first few days. Seems to work pretty well! I’ve included my phone, workstation, and tablet. My devices have on-demand VPN connections enabled, so I’m always connected to the home network for ad filtering and remote access to the various odds-and-ends I have running at home. It’s been working so well that I went ahead and enabled it well ahead of Ash Wednesday.

I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of moderating my usage, but a recent local news event had me checking feeds frequently for updates, and before I knew it, I was in it all the time.

In other news, I’m working on a short paper to close out a history class and have been deep-diving into Guatemalan history and the Catholic Church’s role therein. The particular diaconal focus is on gaining some insight into the spirituality of Guatemalan Catholics, particularly newcomers to our parish. I have some upcoming business travel, so I’ve gotten some excellent texts squirreled away on the iPad and a couple of short books on Blessed Stanley Rother and St. Pedro de San JosĂ© Betancur. Both of these are in Spanish and on loan to me from a Dominican sister at our parish who spent some time in Guatemala recently for language classes.

Still plowing through Taylor’s A Secular Age. So far, it’s going a bite at a time. I can say that reading about Taylor was easier than reading Taylor directly. Maybe it’s just the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but I’m seeing his name pop up everywhere these days. Even in articles about polyamory. He came up in lectures over the weekend as well. Very weird.

My spiritual director suggested I read An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Frances de Sales, so that’s a chapter a day as part of my morning prayers. One of the things I’m sort of groping towards is a diaconal spirituality that draws from the sources I’ve engaged with over the last few years - Desert, Benedictine, Carmelite, and Dominican. It won’t be presbyteral and certainly not monastic. It will have to be something else entirely.

The de Sales reading and renewed time for daily contemplative prayer will hopefully provide some space and silence for listening. Quieting the dull but somehow piercing idiocy of social media will also help. And the Breviary, of course. Always the Breviary.