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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Playing The Hits

I went to Confession today, confessing things I've done before. The advice was the same, too. But God, as supreme Love, keeps no record of wrongs, either. I must give thanks for His priest, who embodies this spirit also. It was much like I had never gone there before.

Do we know the bounty of His love, or are we expecting to be endlessly whacked with a celestial clipboard, at best?

This is not to say we don't have doctrines and dogmas and so on. Too many think "love" cares nothing for these. But I invite you to consider this: if God indeed wills our salvation, as He says many times, then we ought never think God is against us. On the other hand, lest we think we have the power within us, we remember that every single movement toward God we have undertaken or will undertake is enabled by His grace. This is a great and holy mystery.

The encouragement we must draw is this: we acknowledge our sins without being sucked down by them. If we give up on ourselves, we paradoxically claim that our sins are greater than His grace! May it never be!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Don't Poke The Bear

I'm a bit testy today on social media. [Aren't you always testy?--ed.] Probably. I don't have hate-watch groups and "I got banned by Jason Kettinger!" clubs yet, though.

I just don't like traditionalists. I don't like them. I don't want to hear about the Latin Mass. I don't care. I've tried to care. I'm not a hippie; I just attend the Novus Ordo all the time, and I. Don't. Care.

I want the Holy Mass to be reverent, and according to the rubrics. But everything after that statement is the first step to dissent. I want no part of it. I understand that the pope is not routinely infallible; I also understand that many people feel the need to remind him of that. I'm sure his spiritual director has tons of work to do. Good. But you are not that guy. I digress.

I'm not always nice, or even charitable about it, if someone is talking about what I consider irrelevancies. I'd say I was sorry, but I am not. This is a rant. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

A Good Theologian

A good theologian repeats things others have said. I am definitely wary of anything that starts off, "You won't find this on Catholic Answers or EWTN..." You think you're too good for them? There's your problem. I'd love to have the impact they've had.

Cleverness is sometimes the enemy of the truth. You're not too good for the Catechism, either. Idiosyncratic theologians are generally bad theologians.

Don't reinvent the wheel, please.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Couple Different Things

There could certainly be some value in simply stating, "Abortion is murder," but to my mind, St. John Paul II had no reason to condemn consequentialism, if the most difficult cases brought forth no sympathy. In other words, real people we would identify as non-monsters are tempted to do evil that good may result every day. Do you actually help anyone by identifying the Democrats as the party of baby-murderers? Does that serve to create space to discuss anything, though it may be factually correct? In fact, I believe you call that "virtue signaling," don't you?

In other news, I will go to my grave believing that Bernie Sanders is not really a socialist, because words mean things, and Bernie of today dropped in 1985 is a standard-issue Democrat. Reagan might call you that for effect, but he'd crack a smile at a 52 percent tax rate being described as "socialist." "Madam," he'd say, "You haven't seen high tax rates."

But then, nobody has a sense of proportion or balance these days. And yeah, you might spare a thought to recognize that saying some redistributive plan is counterproductive, unnecessary, or even unfair will never carry the same weight morally as, "Don't kill the innocent." Which is to say, if Bernie Sanders didn't advocate abortion, euthanasia, and the re-definition of marriage, I'd consider voting for him. Are you kidding? Any sane person dreams of the day when our political spectrum and space on all sides is freed from inhuman errors. Or are you so partisan that any member of your tribe, no matter how odious, is preferable to the other?

And that doesn't even consider the fact that Republican economic plans don't adequately encapsulate the principles of our Catholic social doctrine. Most people simply check the boxes next to the obvious indignities, and figure Pope Leo was a good libertarian.

I'm not the most patient person I know, but I long for days ahead, when smart people argue specific things, according to principles. Right now, we even discuss verbally with memes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Street Catholicism

I have friends who used to use this phrase to describe the world of numerous private revelations and popular devotions, in contrast to the "comfortable" Catholicism of the Bishop's Church and the Catechism. In the end, it was a good-natured joke for us.

Unfortunately, many dissenting voices are not joking. They disdain the "institutional Church" to promote whatever "real" practices they prefer. Fr. James Martin, SJ, is such a voice. He apparently believes that being "gay affirming" is the way to freedom. He also mistakenly believes that those of us who uphold all the Church's teachings are chained, fearful, or bigoted.

Let me tell you something. I don't merely assent; I lovingly and joyously assent. If what the Church teaches is what Jesus gave us, not believing it is rejecting Jesus Our Lord! I hope the thought of it causes you grief, as it does me.

We all struggle and fail. But as always, it's what we do in response that defines us. I got into pastoral theology to lead people to the truth. That's literally what it means. "Pastoral" could never mean, "lead people where they want to go." We are fickle, and often wrong. But if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, it's to Him we must go.

Any father who doesn't tell his children the truth does not truly love them, no matter what he feels. And that's truth from the street.

The Greatest Band In The World

For sheer longevity, iconic songs and albums, social impact, and widespread appeal, it has to be U2. Here's a little cultural penetration experiment: take an LP that you don't own but is reputed notable. If you know all the words and can sing along, it's significant for music pop culture. [Didn't you do this with "Rumours," by Fleetwood Mac?--ed.] Yeah, truly creepy.

The reason I bring this up is that I know two people who have no idea who they are. I guess if you spend the '70s and '80s in Israel and Argentina training Catholic clergy, you might not know who they are. The rest of us, especially in the English-speaking world, well...

I'm actually looking forward to hearing entire releases I've never listened to.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

If People Speak The Truth, Believe Them (Even If It's Ugly)

I'm a proud Yankee, in the sense that I'd still be punishing the South for the Civil War, if it were my call. Lincoln wasn't perfect, but close enough. Especially for the time. I have sympathy for particular people, like General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson, who were not monsters, and had many fine qualities, despite fighting for an evil cause.

It's the revisionism about the causes of the war that's not only irritating, but dangerous. If we choose to ignore the plain words of the Confederates themselves, to the effect of black inferiority, or in challenge to the universal equality spoken of in the US Constitution, we delude ourselves.

It was about slavery, absolutely and unequivocally. Were other things also worthy of sympathy? Of course. I have no particular sympathy for self-interested Northern--nay, northeastern--factory owners, who didn't mind the European tariffs falling on the South. I think the utter destruction of the South was terrible and counterproductive. I think the courage of soldiers on every side of every conflict is worthy of honor in itself, provided they fought honorably.

But if Confederate sympathizers put up a monument to their alleged devotion to states' rights, and to remind blacks and Yankees they're still strong, I am calling it on the carpet. If South Carolina puts up the battle flag in the middle of the civil rights movement, only the willfully obtuse could miss the message, and it's not a good one. God bless Gov. Haley--the child of Indian immigrants--for having the brass to do the right thing, even if it was too late, and took a tragedy to make it happen.

I'm aware that people on the left like to erase anything that doesn't fit the narrative of "progress." Believe me, that's often ignorant as well. But in this case, I'd like to congratulate them for agreeing with me.

If this post grates on you, don't worry. I don't mind if you like Gone With The Wind. That's where the "Lost Cause" should stay.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

On The Other Hand

Setting aside the car accident, I want to return to an aspect of my daily experience. We're not the same. Most of you have no experience living with cerebral palsy. You don't think about moving an arm or leg; you just do it. If you had major orthopedic surgery in your youth, it'd be a story of an injury, not a rite of passage. So many things are different.

And yet.

The one thing we all want is to feel loved, understood, and valued as people. I believe we all share a common fear that we are alone, that no one understands, that no one really cares. If you really want to help me, don't fret the physical things; let me know that the lurking fear every human knows, at least for these moments, isn't true or real.

There are people who lay it on pretty thick, in terms of "demythologizing," in a sense, the life of disability. To paraphrase one speaker, I don't need an award for living.

And yet.

I must learn to live with the curious tension of desiring the ordinary, but living with something else. We all must negotiate together that appropriate level of sadness and awareness of defect, and the charge to live well. I think the disagreement I have with some disability advocacy is that, in fact, there is something wrong. Let's not beat up on ABs (let the reader understand) too much. Missing or non-functioning limbs (or whatever else) is not the way it's supposed to be.

Being a Christian clarifies much of this tension. While groaning in expectation for all to be revealed (Romans 8) we are simultaneously loved by God. It's God who has declared the facts of the resurrection of the body, and the new creation. I don't cry in my Coke at the unfairness of it all, true. But it would be absurd to look at His restoration on that day and say, "No thanks, I'm good."

The great American philosopher John Legend once said, "We're just ordinary people." Partly true. A cross is an opportunity to love extraordinarily inside an ordinary life. The saints are those who took the opportunity and ran with it.