Holy Hypertext

Fr. Busa presenting.

In 1946, Fr. Busa started work on his magnus opus―the Index Thomisticus―as a literary and research tool to search all of St. Thomas Aquinas’ written works. This would be providential more for us than him but, sometimes that’s how Providence works.

The Index Thomisticus is considered the beginning of the field of computational linguistics. The total work contained approximately 11 million words, each morphologically tagged and lemmatized by hand.

The project comprised of over 500,000 lines. He started his task by using 10,000 index cards.

In 1949, Fr. Busa met Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, and convinced him to sponsor the Index Thomisticus Project.

The two met in IBM’s New York City office. Fr. Busa asked Watson to team up on a project that would make word searches on a computer possible. Mr. Watson shook his head and said, “It’s impossible for machines to do what you are suggesting. You are claiming to be more American than us.”

The difficult, we do it immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.

The Jesuit did not give up and slid a punched card bearing the multinational company’s motto, promulgated by Watson himself, towards the CEO. It read: “The difficult, we do it immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”

Fr. Busa turned to leave in a bid to challenge him. And, as one doesn’t turn down Jesuits easily, Watson rose to the challenge saying: “All right, Father. We will try. But on one condition: you must promise that you will not change IBM’s acronym for International Business Machines, into International Busa Machines.”

And, upon that fateful day, at that fateful moment, in a handshake between colleagues and geniuses, the computer became a great deal more “user friendly.” The result of this meeting was “hypertext”—the overall structure of pieces of information displayed on a computer display, or other electronic devices, with references (hyperlinks) to other text which the reader can immediately access, linked to each other by dynamic connections that may be consulted on a computer at the click of a mouse.

National Catholic Register; h/t to Fr. Z.

Epiphany Proclamation a. D. 2017

NOVÉRITIS, fratres caríssimi, quod annuénte Dei misericórdia, sicut de Nativitáte Dómini nostri Jesu Christi gravísi sumus, ita et de Resurrectióne ejúsdem Salvatóris nostri gáudium vobis annuntiámus.

Die duodécima Februárii erit Domínica in Septuagésima.

Prima Mártii dies Cínerum, et initium jejúnii sacratíssimæ Quadragésimæ.

Sexta décima Aprílis sanctum Pascha Dómini nostri Jesu Christi cum gáudio celebrábitis.

Quinta vigésima Máii erit Ascénsio Dómini nostri Jesu Christi.

Die quarta Júnii Festum Pentecóstes.

Quinta décima ejúsdem Festum sacratíssimi Córporis Christi.

Die tertia Decémbris Domínica prima Advéntus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi, cui est honor et glória, in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

Prophetic Raven Banner

BL Add. MS 33241, f.37v.

Now they had a banner of wonderfully strange nature, which though I believe that it may be incredible to the reader, yet since it is true, I will introduce the matter into my true history. For while it was woven of the plainest and whitest silk, and the representation of no figure was inserted into it, in time of war a raven was always seen as if embroidered on it, in the hour of its owners’ victory opening its beak, flapping its wings, and restive on its feet, but very subdued and drooping with its whole body when they were defeated. Looking out for this, Thorkell, who had fought the first battle, said: “Let us fight manfully, comrades, for no danger threatens us: for to this the restive raven of the prophetic banner bears witness.” When the Danes heard this, they were rendered bolder, and clad with suits of mail, encountered the enemy in the place called Aesceneduno, a word which we Latinists can explain as ‘mons fraxinorum’.

Encomium Emmæ Reginæ.

Cosmic Contentment

It is said that Paganism is a religion of joy and Christianity of sorrow; it would be just as easy to prove that Paganism is pure sorrow and Christianity pure joy. Such conflicts mean nothing and lead nowhere. Everything human must have in it both joy and sorrow; the only matter of interest is the manner in which the two things are balanced or divided. And the really interesting thing is this, that the pagan was (in the main) happier and happier as he approached the earth, but sadder and sadder as he approached the heavens. The gaiety of the best Paganism, as in the playfulness of Catullus or Theocritus, is, indeed, an eternal gaiety never to be forgotten by a grateful humanity. But it is all a gaiety about the facts of life, not about its origin. To the pagan the small things are as sweet as the small brooks breaking out of the mountain; but the broad things are as bitter as the sea. When the pagan looks at the very core of the cosmos he is struck cold. Behind the gods, who are merely despotic, sit the fates, who are deadly. Nay, the fates are worse than deadly; they are dead. And when rationalists say that the ancient world was more enlightened than the Christian, from their point of view they are right. For when they say “enlightened” they mean darkened with incurable despair. It is profoundly true that the ancient world was more modern than the Christian. The common bond is in the fact that ancients and moderns have both been miserable about existence, about everything, while mediævals were happy about that at least. I freely grant that the pagans, like the moderns, were only miserable about everything–they were quite jolly about everything else. I concede that the Christians of the Middle Ages were only at peace about everything–they were at war about everything else. But if the question turn on the primary pivot of the cosmos, then there was more cosmic contentment in the narrow and bloody streets of Florence than in the theatre of Athens or the open garden of Epicurus. Giotto lived in a gloomier town than Euripides, but he lived in a gayer universe.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

So Fixed a Faith

I added in this second trinity of objections an idle instance taken from those who feel such people as the Irish to be weakened or made stagnant by superstition. I only added it because this is a peculiar case of a statement of fact that turns out to be a statement of falsehood. It is constantly said of the Irish that they are impractical. But if we refrain for a moment from looking at what is said about them and look at what is done about them, we shall see that the Irish are not only practical, but quite painfully successful. The poverty of their country, the minority of their members are simply the conditions under which they were asked to work; but no other group in the British Empire has done so much with such conditions. The Nationalists were the only minority that ever succeeded in twisting the whole British Parliament sharply out of its path. The Irish peasants are the only poor men in these islands who have forced their masters to disgorge. These people, whom we call priest-ridden, are the only Britons who will not be squire-ridden. And when I came to look at the actual Irish character, the case was the same. Irishmen are best at the specially hard professions–the trades of iron, the lawyer, and the soldier. In all these cases, therefore, I came back to the same conclusion: the sceptic was quite right to go by the facts, only he had not looked at the facts. The sceptic is too credulous; he believes in newspapers or even in encyclopædias. Again the three questions left me with three very antagonistic questions. The average sceptic wanted to know how I explained the namby-pamby note in the Gospel, the connection of the creed with mediæval darkness and the political impracticability of the Celtic Christians. But I wanted to ask, and to ask with an earnestness amounting to urgency, “What is this incomparable energy which appears first in one walking the earth like a living judgment and this energy which can die with a dying civilisation and yet force it to a resurrection from the dead; this energy which last of all can inflame a bankrupt peasantry with so fixed a faith in justice that they get what they ask, while others go empty away; so that the most helpless island of the Empire can actually help itself?”

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.