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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Among other things, I am a total Fanilow. There's just something about the frankness, the undiluted emotion, that appeals to me. When we get to Heaven, God won't take our Love and say, "Too sappy." I suppose when feeling gets too much, it's misdirected or unmoored from reality. That said, rock on, Barry!
I am a huge Fantorum, too, if you hadn't noticed. Even if they hadn't told us he was Italian, you can figure it out. That's a masculine genitive plural (Latin) run amok. What do you figure the family name was in Italy? I say, 'Santore.' I love your sweaters, your ill-informed economic policies, (sort of) your snark, and your faith. It kills me. I haven't been this enthusiastic since Bush-Gore. This is how you do 'establishment,' GOP. I went from, "He's better than Romney" to, "Show me the wall, and I'll run through it" Mode.
We're going toward Easter, and the supreme demonstration (and vindication) of Love. In that vein, let me send the warmest of Christian affections out to everyone out there. Please forget my failures, and I hope the sun shines ever so warmly where you are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

5 Thoughts Before The Arizona Republican Debate

5. Ari Fleischer is a smart dude.

4. James Carville is likable at least on TV, despite his belief in all sorts of progressive lunacy.

3. I hate CNN, but Erin Burnett could make me switch networks. Ahem.

2. It's your time, Rick. Don't screw it up.

1. Go Santorum!
The thing that bothers me the most about William Placher's "Readings in the History of Christian Theology" (volume 1 of 2) is that his ecclesiology (Protestant, invisible) leads him to say dangerous things about Christology that, at best, are confusing. I guess when you don't/can't construe determinations of a valid Ecumenical Council (with no clear definition or necessity to define what that actually means, see paragraph 884 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church) as true as such, you end up with 'gems' like this: "'Monophysite' Christians still survive in the Coptic Church of Egypt, and 'Nestorian' Christians spread throughout much of Asia, but the Chalcedonian compromise set the terms of orthodoxy for most Christians." (49) Are you trying to be equivocal on the meaning of the word "Christian"? It's not by accident that monophysitism is a heresy. Good grief. Look, I get it; not even all 'Nestorians' are actually Nestorians nowadays. I'll do you one better: Not every person who holds a heresy (if unintentional, and by invincible ignorance) is doomed to eternal hell-fire. I'll walk something else back, too: No Protestant minister I ever met would write anything that dumb. But don't anyone dare ask me why I'm Catholic.
I'm sitting here on Ash Wednesday. I'm not going to be able to go to Mass, but I am refraining from meat today. I wonder how serious No Meat Fridays are in Lent? Is it more important than other Fridays? I don't usually keep that custom/discipline. Quite frankly, I'll probably need some sort of edict from the Archbishop to start, because not eating meat is so unnatural to me. One time, I went an entire meal without eating meat, because it all was suffused with cheese/onions/something gross, but that was not a willing choice. Anyway, I didn't come here to tell you that. I should probably piously comment on this, but I didn't come here to tell you that, either. Oh, fine. I don't think Catholic apologists and other leaders should tease Catholics about the penances they impose on themselves. Sure, they might seem weak from the outside, but not to the person who chose it. The good I have chosen to lay aside has been a gateway to anger and frustration at times, and because that itself is a gateway to worse things, there you go. Lent is a season of repentance and turning from sin, but the disciplines in it are also to lay aside attachments and strengthen spiritual muscles of self-denial. I can remember last year, as a candidate for entry into the Church*, I wanted that denial to help me focus on the urgency of my decision. [Just think, Tim: All we had to do to keep him was force him to drink a soda.--ed.] Fat chance. Anyway, I don't sense the solemnity of the season quite yet, because I'm excited and hopeful for all the catechumens and candidates, here and everywhere.
I wanted to talk about Jeremy Lin. I may not have the right to just adopt myself into the culture simply because I spent nearly 2 years at an American Chinese Protestant church, or because my two of my best friends (and many others) share that ethnic background. Still, by observation, there are things I should say. I want to hear Jeremy talk about race. I want him to be blunt with us about the discrimination he's faced. I want his own prejudices and racism (if there is any) to be talked about as well. It needs to be. On the one hand, we are not going to homogenize Jeremy into our monolithic "American" culture, at least not completely. And we need to be OK with that. On the other hand, there is a pernicious tendency to absolutize and lionize those ethnic markers, and juxtapose them in complete opposition to that American culture and its political system (and people). Dr. Anthony Bradley, I may be looking in your direction. There is nothing more debilitating to any dialogue about "race" than, "You wouldn't understand, and you can't, because you're white." Even if it is true that the first response to all the Marxist garbage about the issue in politics is "colorblindness," which denies that distinctiveness, that "otherness" that longs to be expressed. Even if that impulse to homogenize is a "White" impulse. (Let me add that there is nothing worse, possibly, than a Christian, who, having imbibed some bad ideas uncritically, repeats them as "gospel imperatives.") We can say that the pressure to conform is coming too fast, or doesn't leave room. But especially if one is a Christian, we ought never to say, "You wouldn't understand..." Because it's arising directly from the Marxist "divide and conquer" playbook. Jeremy Lin has East Asian (Chinese) heritage, but he's an American. More importantly, he's a Christian. Let's let him explore and express all of those things (in order of importance, God-willing) and realize that as he does this--and as we allow each other to do this--we are enriching our shared experience together.
*Note: My starring of the word "Church" above itentionally and exclusively refers to the Catholic Church; that is, those in communion with the Bishop of Rome. If you are Orthodox, I'm sorry about Constantinople, and perhaps the imperious manner various holders of that venerable Chair may have had. Even so, they do hold it. Ahem. If you are Protestant and this offends you, be advised that your various individual mental phantasms of what constitutes the Church are not an ecclesiology. Thank you; come again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

5 Thoughts While Reading St. Irenaeus

5. He may be irenic, but he doesn't put up with heresy.

4. He says there would still be a rule of faith even if the Apostles had not written anything.

3. Seriously, I think he had a dog named 'Paradosis.'

2. On the other hand, he says you can refute the heretics with the Scriptures.

1. I have no idea what these heretics are talking about, but it sounds like they made a mean fruit salad.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Letter To My Family

Before I take an exam laughably called, "Fundamental Theology," (we'll get to that shortly) let me reach out as the slightly older brother to the RCIA class at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. It's February now, getting toward Easter, and the night you will (God willing) be received into the loving arms of Mother Church. I don't know most of you, and you don't know me, but my name is Jason, and I sat right where you sit each Monday night. I have been bribed with the same cookies, allegedly read the same books, prayed the same prayers, and sported the same befuddled look as you do about 56% percent of the time. You need to know that I pray for you often. Some of you have oddball reasons for being where you are, and that's OK. There's nothing they haven't heard. Some of you may be currently Protestant, and wondering what sort of funny joke this might be. Some of you want to become Catholic, but are not sure you can. I understand. I really do. In fact, February was the scariest time for me. What I want you to do first is breathe. You are alive and well enough. Your life will not end on that night (presumably) and whatever you fear is not nearly so bad as you think. I want you next to look at the front of the room where you sit Monday nights. There is a crucifix there; whether you go through with it, or you walk out and say, "No, thanks," I want you to remember that the crucifix there is a personal message: JESUS LOVES YOU. Every person who has taught you lives in the reality of this, and takes it as a personal opportunity to communicate that to you. You are blessed even to make the briefest of acquaintance with the priests you have met. They love you, and no, they don't care if that sounds corny.
You've most likely heard about the Rite of Election coming up. Unless you've definitely decided you're not going to become Catholic, I'd recommend attending and participating. Even in the case of uncertainty, go. God is gracious to give graces and blessings you cannot presently anticipate. Our Archbishop is a wonderful holy man, who will teach you plainly the things of Christ.
Some of you, from deeply committed Protestant backgrounds, have words floating in your head: "legalism," "Mary," "Trent," and "justification." There may be others. In any case, your teachers and your priests are all too ready to answer any of those if needed. Bryan and Carol have sat there, too, with those same floating words. It might be intellectual, but for others of you in that place, it is much more personal. You have friends and family questioning you, maybe even attacking you, and you're not sure about this whole deal. In that place, I ask you to do two things: Walk, and pray. Some time very soon, go in to the Cathedral and walk around. Pray with your eyes open. Look up. See the simple scenes on the walls before you. Not the beauty, nay, not the beauty. The pleasure of beauty is for another day. But notice the Apostles. Notice the scene depicting Pentecost. Simple men who found their way to Jerusalem to do what good Jews are supposed to do. But on that day, God had other plans. And a new age dawned right in front of them. Everything they knew was about to change. Well, almost everything. Do you realize--brother or sister who has confessed Christ in another place, maybe even believing that the leaders here were your enemies in the gospel--what God is actually doing? God is calling His children back home to the Mother we never meant to leave. This is your home. This whole Church is where you belong. If you have been attending Mass, pay special attention to the Liturgy of the Eucharist and all the prayers therein. If you listen closely, you will hear your own heart crying out to pray these same prayers. It is not as though we'd done nothing before. But nothing so clear and direct. I no longer have doubt that prayer matters. It's as if these prayers must be said. Like all broken humanity waits for their utterance. Perhaps time will pass and I'll discard such romantic notions, but I think not. I no longer want to live without these prayers; I pray my own words in union with these.
And this Jesus Christ who comes to us in the Eucharist! Love so plain, it melts you. From the altar there, he's calling you. Even now, I know.
Do you know, there is another place not far away where you can know His love? You needn't fear Confession. This might be where Christ's love is deepest. "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them..." You need to know this. God's grace is greater than your sin, every time. "Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more." Legalism? Ha! A lie straight from the pit of Hell.
I just want to wrap it up by saying that I love you. You may not think you're going to make it, but you will. We know it. One day at a time. One prayer at a time.