Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Good Point


Don't Sell The Farm, Ray

I was with a buddy on the way to Mass, and he was telling me that he was strongly thinking of switching parishes. There wasn't anything wrong; it's just that, with the kids grown, he never makes it there terribly often. It was pretty random that I was there myself, actually. I was in a jam, and that's where we decided to go.

It was the sort of liturgy I hate. I could overlook contemporary music, if in fact we had not been explicitly instructed otherwise. In the grand scheme of liturgical abuse, though, it can be much, much, worse.

I was also annoyed, because the music guy and his "band" were loud and talkative the entire time prior to Mass. The Blessed Sacrament is right over there; shut up. If a long-missed friend wants to whisper "hello," fine. But this is not common space.

I didn't know what to think of the priest, either, because he was old. "Old," for the uninitiated into the Latin Rite of American Catholicism, means, "I was ordained in the '60s or early '70s," and that could get dicey, if you want to, you know, actually believe the gospel.

On we went, and I was wrong. He seemed alive with faith and love. If you want to fault him, you might because he didn't preach on the grave sin of contraception or something. He did, however, oblige us to look at the crucifix, saying, "Here at the cross was the greatest act of love ever seen on Earth." Yes, indeed. I'll take it.

We began to sing again, appropriately enough, "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever." If you've been some kind of evangelical at any point for at least 2 years, this song is literally in your DNA. Even if you want to forget the words, you can't. Thanks, Darlene. I'm being sarcastic and serious at the same time. But for the fact that it's about God's love in Christ, I hate this song. On the other hand, that's a big "But." It's as if God then said to me, "Remember this?" Yes, Lord, I remember. I forget sometimes, but I remember.

And I could hardly keep the tears from welling up. Later, my buddy asked if I was alright. Yeah, I'm better than alright. He loves me. We can't throw off the sin which so easily entangles unless we know this, not only in our heads, but in our hearts, in the place where we are most resolutely us.

I think--after I tried to tell him what happened, about half a degree short of outright sobbing--that he decided to stay. "To whom else shall we go?" Not that going elsewhere in town is leaving Christ, but let us not go anywhere to do anything without knowing God's love for us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On The Tongue, Thanks

As in, "How JK would prefer to receive Holy Communion." I wish I could tell you I had some pious reason for that, but no. I am more confident in the functioning of my mouth than my hands. Then again, not wanting to drop the Lord is a pious reason.

I do not take the chalice, unless charity has required it. That is, recently, a dear woman was so forward about serving me that it seemed right to do it. I am not at all confident that liquids will go where they should, even on my very best day. People might ask, "What is it really like, to have a severe physical disability?" This is my best attempt to describe it: Consider for the moment if you had to think about every movement of your body before you made it. What if you were simply used to not being able to move certain ways at all? Realize that a random twitch, spasm, or tightness could completely foil what you are trying to do, even if you've done it the same way hundreds of times. You'd have to be ready for almost anything to happen, and frankly, to accept it with grace. Like anybody, I like to do things myself when possible. The reality is, I don't do anything as quickly as I'd like. Nothing. I still am reminded of this all the time. I try not to scream at the sky when something goes wrong, but that is a work in progress, depending on the situation. A dear friend was telling me he admired my patience. It's not patience; it's the (forced) redefinition of annoyances or inconveniences. Taking 10 minutes to put on a shirt is merely annoying; getting stuck somewhere (hopefully free of pain) is awful. That is rage mixed with fear and whatever else. Three minutes extra in the McDonald's parking lot waiting for hot fries doesn't even register. I digress.

Did you know that the Council fathers ["Council Fathers" seems weird, yet correct.--ed.] of Vatican II did not envision Holy Communion under both species as terribly common for the laity? Vatican II did not change anything like that. They want us to recall the faith of the Church: That Christ is present--body, blood, soul, and divinity--in either. The passionate Protestant objection that the chalice was denied the laity proceeds from unbelief in the Real Presence! Stew on that for awhile! I'm not missing anything. Aside from reasons of piety (avoiding spillage) I should desire to exercise as much faith as I am able. Do I believe what the Church teaches me? You'll find out, if health or prudence demands receiving one or the other. Every time a "Communion" story makes national news, I think, "If these people held the faith of the Church, this is a non-story." And that makes me sad and angry every time.*

*Or in conduct of life, when Communion is denied for manifest grave sin.

I suppose the ubiquity of the chalice for the laity is a big plus, given the apparent relative commonality of gluten-related problems. Yet low-gluten wafers/Hosts are now common, also.

Mass Is Mass

It really isn't my place to decide (or yours) that the "New Mass" isn't as good as the "Old Mass." It just isn't. The "Old Mass" isn't even old! The bygone ancient days of 1962! O woe to the Church in America! Whatever shall we do?

You have a right to demand that we celebrate Mass according to the liturgical rubrics. We have the right and the duty to strive to worship with the most sacred music we are capable of producing. I actually believe that. If we're not doing this, or working toward it, we are tolerating liturgical abuse and mediocrity.

But here's what I don't believe: I don't believe Vatican II is a swear-word. I don't believe I need to play word-games, deciding what is "dogmatic" and what is "pastoral," then deciding I can ignore the latter. I don't pine for the "good ol' days." I just got here; I think this is the greatest Church ever, because it is. Not because we are so awesome, (we aren't) or that ideas don't have consequences (they do) or that pastoral decisions are always wise (definitely not). Christ founded the Church, though, and He has been protecting it all this time. Did that change when I fell asleep last night? I thought not.

You love the Latin Mass; good for you! Don't make it an idol. Worship Christ, who is present in every Eucharist. Certain "traditionalists" think that as long as they don't form a schism, they can nurture infidelity in their hearts. Guess what? When you essentially pretend that Vatican II didn't happen, when you judge others (including the bishops) who don't feel it necessary to join you at TLM, that's exactly what you are doing. I'm calling you out; I hope it makes you mad.

But JK is done being nice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I guess I'm supposed to be mad that John Roberts didn't strike the healthcare law down. We Republicans have blathered on about "activist judges" for 30 solid years, and then we act surprised when a man nurtured not only in the law, but in that political environment, decides not to be one. Makes total sense.

4. If the Koch brothers are supporting Walker, no offense, but I'm not. I'm not liberal; I just don't believe in a libertarian conception of society.

3. What do you call the anniversary of full communion with the Church? A Churcversary? Euchaversary? Popeversary? (Happy 7 years, Rachel Kondro!)

2. [That was easily the worst list point ever. I am ashamed to know you.--ed.] Hey, if I don't have stupid humor, what've I got?

1. "Interstellar" is one of the best films I've ever seen. Third time now. And I'm more convinced of it. "The Judge" was even better. But yeah, I'm not sorry.

Friday, April 17, 2015

CCC, 841 (Again)

One of the wonderful things about being Catholic is that the work of theology changes. No longer must I scour the Bible in a frenzied ad hoc effort to construct a theology, a "Christianity" that makes sense. All I have to do is try to make what God has revealed through the Church accessible to people. It's still hard work, but it's not from scratch. It's like an open-book test.

Still, this paragraph of the Catechism is a controversial one. We could split hairs, and begin an arcane discussion about levels of assent, and the authority of the Catechism, but we're not going to do that. Instead, here's my best shot at this paragraph, as a faithful Catholic:

The Bible is a love story between God and his people. His love is creative, in that it created everything we see. When our father Abraham was called, there was still much we did not see or know explicitly. Suppose people who had come from Abraham and his faith parted ways with us over things that were revealed later? Suppose after they did so, traditions and practices arose which are quite unlike we know as the faith today? Could we still say that they adore the one merciful God that called Abraham? I should think so.

It does not obligate us to agree with those traditions, practices, and beliefs which grew up later. Especially that which rejects the Son of God. Yet it is common ground, and worthy of mention.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I hate "The Notebook." Yes, I know. But seriously, they committed ADULTERY. Nor do I recall a Declaration of Nullity proceeding happening as the music swelled. Don't even ask me. I won't watch it ever again.

4. If you lose your last game of an 82-game season to another playoff team, and fall from a 2 seed out of 8, to a 5 seed, while maintaining a record that merits the 4 or the 3, that is sick and wrong.

3. OK, I love "A Walk To Remember" slightly more than "The Notebook." But, just so we are clear, my daughter (if I have one) is not marrying an atheist while I'm alive. I don't care what her diagnosis is. A putative minister would have never let this go down in real life. And yes, Landon became someone we like, admire, and root for. Still, I call shenanigans.

2. Star Wars and Star Trek are 2 different worlds. I understand that the balance of you just see or hear "Nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd" at the mere mention of either one, but it matters. If they are mixed, the person who hatched that idea will pay.

1. Standardized tests--whatever their merits--are obviously written by twisted people.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Love Actually

I think a lot of our problems in the Christian life stem from self-conversations that start, "[Name], you idiot..." Sin is one thing, but sin is a deeply personal act of betrayal, and it's only seen in the light of perfect Love.

Instead of seeing our lives as the joy-filled effort of experiencing God's pleasure in every moment, we think we have to please Him ourselves. God actually loves us. It's not abstract; it's the fundamental truth of being. St. John says, "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us..."

Our faith has to have teeth. That is, rather than get hemmed in by interminable debates about faith and works, it is better to say that good works are the "therefore" in the sentence that begins, "Jesus is Lord; therefore..." Innumerable good deeds apart from him are worthless in God's sight, and the words alone aren't enough.

God has never hated us. Even at our most distant, most self-involved, Christ died for us. It is all very well to tell others Jesus died for them. Do we believe it ourselves?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Words Mean Things

I think a lot about our socio-political culture, because I like politics, and more importantly, I like people. An important concept in politics is called "framing". One frames the issues or the opponent in such a way to make the political situation more favorable to one's own position.

Your average Democrat knows that defending the senseless murder of innocent children in the womb is almost impossible, so she frames the issue with euphemisms. Euphemisms, recall, are words to obscure or soften the blow related to something morally unacceptable or otherwise unpleasant. Important people know that telling the truth about abortion would turn most sensible people against it and the Democrats faster than admitting they mostly agree with Bernie Sanders on economics.

"The right to choose," "women's rights" "reproductive freedom," these are all euphemisms for abortion. One doesn't have to convince all the people, or even most of them, that it is acceptable. Only enough to get people distracted, or worried about something a little closer to their experience. After all, I can't worry about every problem in the world, right?

And so it goes. The deep irony of all this is that the abortion issue and related issues are the only time that a Democrat worries about the size of government. The only time you can witness this is when we want the US government to perform its most primary task: defending the fundamental right of people against unjust aggression. It would be funny, if it were not so grave.

We have one more thing to talk about. One other way that an abortion advocate obscures the fact of what he or she is advocating is to mention the hard circumstances in which people tend to find themselves when the killing of an innocent person is on the table. They know that most ethical systems hold that the gravity of an offense is lessened by external pressures. The powers that be want you not to consider the circumstances in the abstract, but always through the eyes of a person, down on her luck, so to speak. You want to feel for her; you want to like her. If they can get you to burn with anger toward the selfish man who got what he wanted, and "left her alone," so much the better. Even Planned Parenthood pines for the '50s, when it suits them.

Our popular culture is loaded with stories and instances of consequentialism, which is a philosophical position that judges the morality of a thing based on its anticipated consequences. Did anyone see the film, "Million Dollar Baby"? It won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2004, I think. Great movie. Well acted, great characters, great story...except for the end, when Clint Eastwood kills his boxing protege, severely disabled from a cheap shot in the ring. She doesn't want to live "like this," which is dependent, and in a wheelchair. I get it, man. If you watch it, you'll feel what they want you to feel. But after the feelings died down, you'll feel what I felt, and what I know. It is never morally acceptable to take the life of an innocent person. That's what an "intrinsic evil" is: a thing which cannot be morally acceptable, regardless of the circumstances.

It's probably passe to believe there are intrinsic evils in the world, and to believe that governments have no right to sanction them. I don't care; I'm tired of people not saying what they think, and what they know.