Sunday, July 13, 2008

So where have I been?

Well, let's just say life at work as been ... interesting. Having somehow, and only through the grace of God, managed to dodge the many bullets flying around I'm just now going to get back into the swing of a "normal" life.

So what have I been doing during all this time other than dodging work bullets? Mostly ... reading. I started with Questions and Answers - a collection of, as you'd guess, questions and answers from various groups over the beginning of Pope Benedict's pontificate. If you follow the Pope closely none of this will be new since these sessions were well-covered at the time; if not, however, this book is a priceless insight into the mind and heart of the Pope. With his wonderful way of treating even complex issues in the simplicity born of love of God he takes questions from groups as diverse as young children and priests of different dioceses in Italy and gently answers every question giving the same attention to a simple child's question as to a deep question from a priest. The contrast between the innocent yet sincere questions of the children and the less-a-question more-a-statement types of the priests of Rome cannot be missed.

Next I went to A Civilization of Love by the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson. Perhaps the best part about this book for me was that it was simply impossible to pin Anderson down to one political ideology - every time it seemed he was about to over-state a point he would produce a deeper insight into the topic and show he had always been trending to the center. Several time I caught myself thinking "I know where he's going with this" only for him to prove me wrong and point out what is truly not the left or the right, but the Catholic position. I would say his strongest points are those where he is talking about things done by the Knights as a group which, given his position, could be expected. He doesn't call us to anything extraordinary nor does he promulgate any particularly new teachings - what he does do, however, is remind us how much we can do even in the small things if only we do them, and do them in faith.

Finally, I just finished Augustine's Confessions as translated by Albert Outler and revised by Mark Vessey for Barnes and Noble Classics. I can't say much about the Confessions that hasn't already been said and far more eloquently so I'll only comment on the translation and the commentary. As good as this translation is, reading through it I came to understand the old latinist's saying that reading Augustine in anything but his original Latin is a crime - he was too much an artist with the language for all his finest points to translate into another language. It'll be a while before I'm ready for Augustine in Latin, however, so that's going to be a ways off before I can speak to it first-hand. One thing I found rather interesting, and this goes for both the translation and the notes, was how the secular viewpoint affected everything. A Christian would expect words such as Lord and God to be capitalized, and would be surprised to find them left lower-case as in this book. In the commentary you can tell the endnotes were written for literary studies rather than spiritual edification, and sometimes the notes belie a certain critical attitude to the Christian points Augustine is attempting to make. At first I found this annoying but quickly found it a source of learning as I had to think through some of the comments to decide where they may have missed the mark. It has been several years since I read Confessions, and I must not wait that long again.

What's next? I don't know for sure. I have some thoughts in mind, and if my one project comes together y'all will be among the first to know.