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A lover of the liberal arts, especially antiquity in its diverse forms, I am nonetheless wholly devoted to, utterly transformed by divine revelation. I seek to know the thought of the past, articulate my deepest longings aroused by the wise, and understand the uneasy relationship between reason and revelation; all for the sake of proper action and contemplation, both now and in the future.


Bubbles of the Backburner Pot: or, If You Want To Make God Laugh, Make a Plan; Or, Flying Blind

I had to leave Pasadena, though not without regret. It was an extremely informative time, one in which I spent a great deal of time listening for direction and contemplating my future. I attended Mass nearly every day and spent numerous hours on my knees. I came away with a stronger, clearer urge for the seminary. I am almost certain (still reluctant to lay it down with no chance of the contrary, you see) seminary lies in my future. The only question: what comes before it, if anything? Returning to Illinois via the Crazy Train, I assumed I would try to find a dead-end job at home before the fall, whence I would attend the seminary chosen for me. That was when Great Hearts called. Headmaster Diane Bishop told me a position in the faculty had opened and that she was attempting to fill it immediately. If hired, I would be teaching Ninth Grade Humane Letters (aka seminar) and Economics. I had a phone interview last Wednesday and they asked me to fly out as soon as possible to Phoenix for further conversation and a teaching demo. So I flew to Phoenix on Monday, met with the Headmaster and Head Humane Letters Teacher for lunch, and then taught a class on Huckleberry Finn.

Everything went about as well as it could go, barring their hiring me on the spot. There is one more candidate they are interviewing this week, probably todayish. I shall likely know of their decision this weekend. If they offer me the position, I should probably accept and move to Phoenix, where I would likely stay for two or three years, hopefully teaching Eleventh Grade Humane Letters and Greek. In being offered the job I should see the hand of God; likewise, if the position were refused to me, I should see further confirmation in going to seminary in the fall. So: how am I being prepared for this latter destination, and what course shall I take? I feel as though I am flying blind, but oddly enough I am calm - at least for the moment, for I do so like to have plans laid out well in advance, and drawing ever closer to the end of my grace period with no further plans sometimes worries me, but God will act in his own time, and even if the Great Hearts position is not for me, he will provide for me. I must only seek him with all my soul  and all these things shall be added to me.


New Adventure

I have moved to Los Angeles, specifically Pasadena. There are likely more job opportunities here in L.A. (even granting that it is the worst market in the nation) than there are in Sterling, and I only need a short-term, dead-end job to pay me $1000 per month till next July - hardly high expectations. Worst case scenario, I stay here till Thanksgiving and then tell M&D I've gotta come home, covered in shame. 

My goal in short term work is only to occupy myself till my longer-term plans shape up, and these are:

  • Grad school. I am shaping my application to University of Dallas. I need to write a couple essays and destroy the GRE. I am unlikely to be accepted (they accept only five to seven of thirty to thirty five applicants), but I know I will not be accepted if I do nothing, so why not take the chance? Were I to be accepted, I would choose U of D over both alternatives.
  • Great Hearts Academies. Kian Mapes contacted me and encouraged me to renew my late application for next year. I would likely hear little till February, so this is a pot on the back burner.
  • Seminary. No, it hasn't gone away. More and more I begin to suspect I am being called to the priesthood. I met with a vocations director, and though I missed the August 2011 deadline, he said everything on his end had already been approved, and all that remained was a formal interview with him and the Archbishop Michael Sheehan. There is a good chance I could be in seminary next fall.
So these are my options, and I need to think about working through them (especially all the hoop-jumping required of the first) even as I write my letters, read my books, and search for gainful employ.



A man in my position must inevitably consider, however briefly and abstractly, the seeming solution of suicide. It would, after all, end the enormous frustration concerning which I have written elsewhere.

Others have contemplated suicide, and perhaps this post shall be nothing but an offense to them, should they read it. Perhaps it was but a passing fancy (albeit a dark one) of mine, but I soon realized three objections which as far as I may tell, permanently rule out the possibility of my suicide:

  • I like living. Death is so terribly final, while life has ever so many possibilities. It seems a shame to abandon even such life as mine. 
  • A suicide for these reasons would be a fully conscious rejection of all life, an insult to every good and beautiful thing, and thus would almost certainly place me in Hell. 
  • I did not choose to live: my life was a gift to me. Since my birth into this world was unfree, it seems churlish and base to reject this great gift based only on accidental circumstances. Such behavior does not become a gentleman.
Instead of a potentially attractive choice, even the word has become a great horror.



Sweat is a remarkable substance, but it has only been made clear to me recently how remarkable. For the present I live in an exceptionally humid part of the world; my sister traveling in India says it is hotter here in the States on our parents' farm than it is in Mumbai. Annapolis is a comparable level of heat, and in both places one sweats at the slightest movement, even when one is reading.

Sooner or later this frustrated me and I felt restless. So in the hottest part of the day I went for a run. Predictably the sweat covered me entirely and when I came back I was wet indeed. For some reason I did not take a shower but sat happy as a clam in front of my bedroom fan. The sweat rolled off me, and when I dried something was different: the humidity did not affect me and I even shivered from the breeze.

Now this was something wholly unprecedented and I was unsure how to take it, aside from the sheer joy I felt. I knew a run in cold weather made tolerating the cold inside (I keep my house at fifty-five degrees in the winter) easier, but never dreamed that exercising in hot weather caused one's body to cool itself more efficiently, despite knowing, as we all do, that sweat is the method by which our body cools itself. I mean, duh. I even eventually showered and everything stayed the same. So I suppose this means I have adjusted from the desert to the humid plains, and shall have no more difficulties. Needless to say, this pleases me, and makes me turn an appreciative, benevolent eye to that once odious substance which now signals relief from the fire of the sun.



I suspect that power is the fundamental human desire, not pleasure. Pain we willingly tolerate and even choose for ourselves, so long as it is at our terms, but a loss of power, even without corresponding pain, is more infuriating than anything else. 

Clumsily written. The highest pleasure lies in achieving one's way.



When Nature is angry and does something never-before-seen, one becomes a frightened pagan, realizing with horror how very small and truly insignificant one really is and always has been.

I pride myself on my fearlessness - in truth I fear little during daylight hours, and a modicum of danger I find exciting. Nature and harm to my other selves is what frightens me, and this morning with the howling, shrieking wind and sheets of driving rain caused me not a little unease.


Graduation and Other Matters

Saturday, 21 May, 10:30 AM, I walked the stage and received my diploma. Big day. Biggest day of my life. A large chapter finished that morning and a new, dark, and obscure one began. I have no idea if the author is drunk or sober, but I suspect I'm in for a wild ride.

The facts: five years ago I was in the Boundary Waters, on the way to reclaiming my faith. Several weeks later I would fall to my knees in Smith Hall and vow to spend my life in service to God no matter what I wound up doing. I shortly thereafter abandoned my military aspirations and applied to and was accepted by, St. John's College at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the next four years my intellect, mind, and spirit were shaped and transformed to an almost unrecognizable degree. The school year was spent in Santa Fe with a brief excursion in Annapolis; the summers at my second home, HoneyRock Camp. I met men and women there whom I hope to hold as friends for the rest of my life, and my devotion to God increased during those periods in the North. St. John's and HoneyRock; reason and revelation.

To give an overview of even only my intellectual change would be too tedious and exhausting to write, and worthless, since no one could possibly read such a thing, not even me. Suffice it to say I do not have many answers, only that I am beginning to know what the right questions are and how to ask them. I have a love for books that I did not have, and an ability to read and write that I could not have dreamed of possessing in 2007, though even there it is in dire need of improvement. I met good people there too; friends I wish to hold for the rest of my life.

But what now? I am an alumnus of St. John's College, and currently unemployed. I know what I would like to do, and I have written of it here before, but I do not quite know the next step, though I recently discovered something which intrigued me: teaching at a liberal arts charter school in Phoenix, Arizona: Great Hearts Academies. I came away from St. John's a zealot for liberal education. I know what it can do and I have seen what benefit it has provided me and my classmates. I think that teaching the liberal arts is something I would be good at doing, something I would enjoy doing, and best of all, something which would be good for me to do. Great Hearts thus would be a stepping stone; I should still like to attend grad school, and armed with a doctorate, teach at a liberal arts university like Thomas Aquinas College or something like that. Perhaps even my alma mater would be a possibility, but I doubt that.

I applied to Great Hearts (and a number of overseas English teaching positions too), but am still waiting to hear from someone...anyone. Naturally this makes me nervous, for though I have enough money saved to make about a year's worth of student loans, I should very much prefer to find work by September. The alternative career path is still open, but I am beginning to suspect that if indeed I should go there, now is not the right time.

But still - waiting, hoping, unsure.


On the Greatest Human

A few days ago I began reading a book by the Sieur Louis de Conte, a French writer of the fifteenth century. It was not translated into English until 1896 by a man named Jean Francois Alden, better known as Mark Twain; he considered it his finest work - twelve years of research and two more of writing. As he said, "The other books needed no preparation and got none". The book is about the rise and fall of who I am now convinced is the most extraordinary, incredible, and greatest man who ever lived - excuse me, the greatest person humanity has produced: St. Joan of Arc, Joan the Maid, the Maid of Orleans, etc. Now before you sneer and dismiss this as sentimental-historic-romance, let us consider some important parts of the exceptionally brief life the Maid led. 

First, consider the state of France during the Hundred Year's War: the Capetian Dynasty (an unbroken line of French kings stretching back to the eighth century) had ended with the death of Charles IV, causing a crisis of succession: the closest relatives of Charles were women, generally excluded from French succession. Thus the closest male relative turned out to be...Edward III of England (this is why trans-national royal marriages are a bad idea). Naturally Edward claimed the French throne (no surprise here), and naturally the French objected (no surprise here either), since Edward was related to Charles only through the female line -  for his mother was Charles' sister -  they brought in Phillip of Valoir, grandson of Phillip III, a French king of the old dynasty. After some minor territorial disputes in northern France, Edward and Phillip declared war. 

This war turned out very poorly for the French. During the next ninety years or so, there were three major, exceptionally important battles, all in France: Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, all of which were decisive victories for the English and losses for the French. Agincourt (fought in 1415) in particular was a French disaster, ending in effect the war in victory for the English and in French surrender: Henry V, the "Butcher of Agincourt" (so called because against the international custom decreed by chivalric laws of war, he killed his French prisoners near the end of battle, for he feared they would overwhelm him) destroyed a French army almost ten times his size, killed over 40% of the French nobility, and forced the Treaty of Troyes, under which Catherine, the daughter of the current French King Charles VI, would marry Henry, and when Charles died, Henry would act as Regent of France, and his eldest child, male or female, would inherit the French throne. Henry died shortly after the treaty was signed, but not before his son, Henry VI, was born: thus this infant was the heir to the thrones of both England and France. At this time Western and Nothern France were in control of the English or their French allies, the Burgundians. Charles VII, Charles VI's son tried to claim the throne, but the English attacked and besieged the last major city not under their control, Orleans. A victory here would enable them to strike at the French heartland and end the war. No one expected Orleans to last particularly long, and Charles prepared to flee the country. At this time and in a very real sense, there was no such thing as France.

Enter Joan of Arc. Born in the village of Domremy to peasant farmers in 1412 (three years before Agincourt), she believed in mid-adolescence that God chose her to drive the English out of France, and specifically to lift the siege of Orleans and crown Charles VII at Rheims. At the age of sixteen she left her home, traveled to Vaucouleurs with her uncle, and petitioned the garrison commander, Robert de Baudricourt, to give her soldiers so she could travel to Chinon and visit the Dauphin (as Charles, heir apparent of France, was known). Naturally he laughed at her, but the following January gave her what she wanted after she returned and predicted a French defeat at Orleans, which turned out to be true. She traveled to Chinon, greatly impressed the Dauphin (she gave him an unknown sign), but was delayed in being granted an army by his advisors, who, being unnerved by her uncanny knowledge and predictions, feared she was from the devil. She was tried by an ecclesiastical court at Poitiers, and after three weeks was pronounced of pious, moral Christian character; that to spurn her would be an insult to the Holy Spirit. Further, that since she had divine mandate to perform a man's work, it was appropriate for her to wear man's clothing and armor - an important detail. The minutes of this trial are most unfortunately lost (as is the case with most 15th century documents), but the conclusions remain part of the public record.

She returned to Chinon, was granted her army, and went to Orleans, where she lifted the siege in only three days of fighting. In ten days Orleans was free and she had dealt a decisive blow to the English campaign. After freeing Orleans she began a campaign to free Rheims and crown Charles VII. She rode up and down the Loire valley, taking fortress after fortress by the seemingly imprudent strategy of storming the walls. Her army never suffered loss. Near Patay, remembered later as the English Agincourt, she destroyed an English army, captured the famous English general Talbot, and broke the back of their campaign - after Patay the English gave up thought of resistance, and castles all the way to Rheims capitulated without a fight; this part of the campaign is given the name Bloodless March. At Rheims her king was crowned and her mission over. She said she was sent to free Orleans and crown the king, and she had done so in less than two months: possibly the most successful military campaign in recorded history.

Naturally Charles VII did not accept her resignation, and so she tried to persuade him to attack Paris. He finally relented, but when she was wounded in battle he forced a retreat against her will and concluded a truce with the English. Shortly thereafter she was captured by the Burgundians, held to a prince's ransom, and abandoned by the French. For almost six months she lay in prison while the king and country did nothing. This  is particularly disappointing on the part of the French, since under chivalric law, the captured prisoner was obliged release if their ransom was offered. Bishop Pierre Cauchon paid the ransom on behalf of the Church to try her for heresy and witchcraft, although Poitiers had already tried her under suspicion of these charges and found her innocent. Further, since the ruling was passed by the Archbishop of Rheims, Cauchon's immediate superior, he lacked authority to try the case (in a modern analogy, it would be as if a Circuit Court re-opened a case which the Supreme Court had previously decided). But since Cauchon was paid by the English, helped orchestrate the treaty of Troyes, and was promised the archbishopric of Rouen, his poor exercise of canon law may be thus understood. 

The Maid of Orleans was tried for heresy in 1431. The court had one objective, to find her guilty, since obviously the English would not accept her not-guilty verdict. There were additional rules a court had to follow in an Inquisitional trial as opposed to a secular trial and Cauchon ignored them all, immediately rendering the trial invalid. The Vice-Inquisitor of France in particular complained he had no jurisdiction over the trial, a judgment which was later confirmed. As an ecclesiastical trial, it was required that adverse evidence against the accused be collected and included in the "proces verbal" (record of accusations), so a notary was sent to Domremy to collect it. His report of Joan's sterling character (he is reported to have wished such a character for his own daughter) meant the court had no evidence to continue, and thus under canon law she had to be released, preventing the opening of any trial. Opening a trial anyway, the court struck the notary's findings from the record and denied Joan access to a legal advisor, another violation of canon law, since she was a minor under twenty-one. Under Inquisitional guidelines, the Maid should have been held in an ecclesiastical prison, guarded by nuns. Instead, she was placed in a secular prison, guarded by English soldiers, and not surprisingly, given her beauty (concerning which her guards and subordinates testified later), subject to frequent sexual harassment.

The early trial of Poitiers had seen it fitting that Joan wear men's clothing and armor, but this, among other minor charges, was the angle Cauchon took in the prosecution. Finding her guilty, the court threatened her with immediate death unless she recanted, which violated yet another ecclesiastical law, since heresy was a capital crime only on a repeat offense. She relented from fear of the stake, fatigue of constant imprisonment, and illness. She was made to sign a document she could not understand, in which she confessed to the usual crimes of  heresy and sorcery (since an examination confirmed her virginity, she could not be convicted as a witch, for witches were consorts of the devil),  was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, and given feminine clothing. Naturally the English were incensed, but Cauchon had a plan for her relapse and execution: the guards returned her male clothing, stole her dress, and attempted to rape her, at which point she resumed wearing male attire and recanted her abjuration. The relapse into heresy was complete, and she was burned at the stake on May 24th, 1431.

Twenty years later, when the English were largely expelled from France, Charles requested from the Pope a new trial for Joan of Arc. Naturally it was not for any noble reason: some prominent nobles with English sympathies were questioning the legitimacy of his rule since the one responsible for it had been convicted of being a heretic-sorceress. Called the Rehabilitation and lasting months, the trial found nullified the previous conviction, in effect declaring her innocent. She was summarily declared a martyr and French national heroine. Four hundred and fifty years later, the Pope pronounced her beatification, and she was canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.

Now this inferior and brief retelling of the Maid's life may not seem to you to properly illustrate her greatness. So consider: she was a natural genius in the fields of law, theology, oratory, and war. In none of these fields had she any training or preparation whatsoever. The first army she ever saw was the one she commanded. When she was in command, she never lost a battle, and is without exaggeration the Deliverer of France, the embodied reason why France today is France and not an English province. Her subordinates remembered her particular genius in placing and ordering artillery, and she led one of the most successful campaigns in military history, doing for the French in seven weeks what took the English almost one hundred years. Further, no other person has ever received supreme military command of a nation at the age of seventeen. In her letters she proved herself forceful, eloquent, and persuasive, adept at reading political climates and men. In a skillful display of statesmanship, she orchestrated a reconciliation between Charles VII and Arthur de Richemont (he had supported the Troyes treaty but afterwards swore allegiance to Charles), and he became Constable of France, the King's closest advisor; in this role he influenced Charles to complete that which Joan began, In all of her trials, she sat alone against a panel of judges and defended herself against the finest sophists of the age, betraying an uncanny ability to recognize subtlety and hidden traps in seemingly unimportant phrases.

This last ability, competence at law, is perhaps her most remarkable.  Bishop Cauchon assembled decadent scholastics from the University of Paris, men who had spent their lives unraveling the parsings of sentences of Aristotle and doctors of the Church; their goal was to trap her in contradiction or make her unknowingly state something contrary to Church doctrine. How difficult could it be, reasoned they, since she was an illiterate peasant, whose education consisted of the Credo and a handful of prayers, all taught to her by her mother? Yet she persisted in recognizing and avoiding each and every trap they set for her: I will give one example: there are twenty more. She said that she could do nothing apart from the grace of God, whereupon she was asked if she was in a state of grace. Church doctrine states that one cannot know this: and for her to say yes meant heresy: to say no would be to condemn herself. Her answer, "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me", stupefied the court. How an illiterate 19-year old so successfully defended herself against so hostile and educated opposition is baffling to say the least; in the three months during which she was in interrogation at least five hours every day, the judges could make no headway in the charges against her.

 I can think of few plausible, natural explanation for this quality or any others she demonstrated. To be sure, there have been many exceptional generals, even many young generals; but without exception they began as soldiers, rose through the ranks to command, and/or were educated in the art of war. There have been many brilliant legal and theological minds, but study of law or theology, practice, and the benefit of a thousand mistakes have been necessary for success. There have been many uninspired prophets, but again she is singular: she predicted a French defeat at Orleans two weeks before it happened, predicted the location and exact day of the minor wound she received in lifting the siege, predicted her capture of the Burgundians months before it occurred, and at her trial declared that within seven years the English would suffer a greater loss than Orleans, which would shortly thereafter drive them from France; six years later, Charles VII captured Paris, and shortly expelled the English. These predictions are among the very, very few which can be conclusively shown to have been uttered in their specificity before the event; at the very least she was endowed with exceptionally good luck.

She is singular in the recorded human race, for all of her vast and broad abilities were each at the rank of master, ready to be exercised at will, with neither education nor preparation  nor previous practice. When one considers her irrelevant background (sewing, spinning, and taking care of herd animals), this becomes all the more incredible. I know of no one like her before her time and I shall not hold my breath for one like her to appear now or afterwards. Whatever men call great, let them search for it in Joan of Arc and they will find it. 


Renunciation and Second Plans

I am not happy with the last post. So I renounce it in entirety. I shall start over.

I shall, Dei volonte, graduate in late May. Six months afterwards, I must either be employed or in school. Now for some time I have longed to enroll in graduate school and work towards a Ph.D in Philosophy or Classics. I should very much like to be able to read Greek and Latin fluently, and I love ancient philosophy more than I can say. Plato and Aristotle, not to mention the Greeks in their entirety, seem more honest, more wonderful, and more true than anything modern I have yet read. There is a sense of dramatic, almost childlike wonder about them and a passionate love for the truth I have found nowhere else save perhaps the medievals. So either I should like to attend a school where they take Greece seriously and I can write a dissertation on Plato's understanding of Being, or else find a reputable Classics department and study there in the spirit of Seth Benardete. That is my greatest short-term goal.

But whence from there? Ultimately I think I shall become a priest. Obviously that is an immense decision, but it is the direction I have been leaning for almost five years now. That means seminary, talking with priests, etc.

The first option was to try and do that immediately after graduation. That meant applying to graduate school in the fall. But I also knew I wanted to take a year off, which complicates things; it means finding a job to pay off a year's worth of student loans, which means job hunting before the loans kick in. I have a little money saved - maybe enough to fend off a year of payment, though I would be flat broke come next fall. The JET program seemed like a perfect solution, for it pays well, offers overseas living, and was something I very much wanted to do. I applied and did not make the interview. So here I am starting over. I realize I had counted on getting into JET more than I thought, and the rejection was not a little disappointing. So in the short term here is what I need to do:
  • Find a job as soon as possible. I had hoped to find something fulfilling, but I need to stand on my own two feet, and if flipping burgers is necessary for that, I shall act precisely thus. 
  • Study for and take the GRE. Destroy it. Judging from people I know who have taken it, this should be only a minor challenge. 
  • Apply to grad school and seminary simultaneously, deferring the latter if accepted at the former. 
  • Work out the developing logistical details. 

This is a considerable amount of work to be done. I know how to make abstract plans well, but I did that before graduating high school and look how that turned out. I cannot at present imagine anything better than a Braniff education/St. Paul Seminary tag team, but I would have said the same five years ago about the Army. Further, I wish to please my holy God in making these plans, and I want to work his will in my life. Coming rapidly to a point where I must quickly make major decisions which will have great impact on my life, I am not sure how to go about this. Do I halt all activity on my part and wait for God to grant me the answer by dispensation? Do I resolutely proceed with the best possible decision I can make at the moment? Do I fast, pray, and seek God and make inquiries about jobs and schools simultaneously? If this is the answer, how will I know what his will is for me, and that it is not just my own desires, again in the case of the Army? St. Matthew seems to provide a sort of answer, but again interpretation becomes a problem. There must be some sort of self-negation, coupled with the faith that God shall direct the result into something greater than what I by my own efforts could produce. Needless to say, that is the hardest thing I have yet faced.

So there I am: lost, frightened, and confused in the infinite sea of will, seeking desperately direction, purpose, and final cause, the antidotes to despair.


Sick For The First Time In A Long Time

I hate being sick. I was intending to make this an absence-free semester in class, but I came down with some nasty chest-cold variant of the flu. This knocked out my being present for three classes. One of those classes was a seminar on Capital, which I was most sad to miss. I have been coughing up bloody mucus for awhile now, and being sick is wearying to the soul. I am unable to focus on my reading, and moving is impossible without going into a spasm of coughing Raistlen would be proud of.

At least it is almost over. It roughed up Writing Period, and consequently my essay was a little inferior to how I envisioned it, but so much the worse. Everything begins again tomorrow, and I have bigger things to think about, like what on earth I will do when I graduate. I either need to be in school or employed in six months, which makes it almost December when they kick in. But as far as this direction goes, I cannot see my purpose. I want to go to grad school in some classics department and earn a Ph.D studying the Greeks and finish up with seminary and the priesthood, but I cannot see how to do any of that. I need a car desperately and instead am $22,000 in the hole, have neither taken nor prepared for the GRE, and have not remotely begun my applications anywhere. Throw me a bone, God!

I need a win. And I need direction. But till then, I will try and boost my GPA and revel in this period of study. Some anime and Final Fantasy VIII on the side when I get home will finish the short-term picture.

It's almost time to enter real life. Sure could use that $20k..


Drunk Nephew

This is what happens when Geoff gives Caedmon alcohol. I am going to save this picture for the next nineteen years and give it to him on his 21st when I buy him his first drink.
My dear Nephew.



My computer took sick. I am backing up all important files online in a last-ditch attempt to save him. Alighieri may rise again yet. But in the meantime...