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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Point

Chilling stuff. Literally.

Define Your Terms, Feminist Edition

I'm not a feminist. I'm going to define the term, and then you'll understand why. 

Feminism is a political movement, the goal of which is to subjugate men to women. That's what it is. If you want to talk about what most people want it to mean, and all manner of ancillary desires that people have (most of which I share, by the way), we can do that. But numerous problems faced by women which induce them--and a fair number of men--to call themselves "feminists" does not mean it is defined accurately in that case.

For most people, feminism means recognizing the dignity and status of women. It means speaking out against sexual violence. It means encouraging girls to learn math and science (and everything else), or even play sports. I'm OK with all this, to a point. And feminists know this about most of us, which is why they like their movement being associated with all these things.

But you need to understand: these are just means to an end, for the real feminist. That's why I'm not one. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The New Puritans (Way Worse Than The Old Ones)

There's a show I love called, "Criminal Minds." It's about a "Behavioral Analysis Unit" of the FBI that profiles serial killers and other violent offenders. We've been touched by violent crime in our family, so we have a great interest and admiration for what law enforcement does in this area. Great show.

Anyway, there was a killer on the show who was murdering young women because of unresolved guilt over same-sex attraction, AND his parents sent him for "reparative therapy," where he was forced to watch pornography, and raped by a woman. It's so absurd, no wonder they think we Christians are insane.

I could lodge objections against some forms of so-called "nouthetic counseling" all day long, but bottom line, this craziness doesn't fit any "pray away the gay" ideas I know of! In any case, I may just scream if I am subjected to one more consequentialist argument this week. (specifically, that it's OK to be committing homosexual acts, because at least you won't be a guilty, gay, serial killer)

There was a great moment though, in this otherwise absurd secularist morality play: The killer went back to murder his own father, and, being confronted by the agents that he didn't have to do it, Agent Rossi said: (roughly) "Listen, man. I know he only told you part of the story. What about this other part? 'Love one another, as I have loved you'?" The guy gave up the weapon. I darn near cried, I'm telling you. There's power in the words of Jesus. There is limitless power in Jesus. As long as you can still hear the words of Jesus, no jam is too big. You can take that to the bank.

I don't want any kids disowned or hurt. Let me say that clearly, in case somebody from the University of Chicago with an axe to grind doesn't understand. But there is a panoply of evil that is no better, even if it's popular. You don't love your son or daughter by "accepting" their homosexuality; they aren't loving themselves, either. And we'll all know this without question when the (adopted) children of homosexual couples are no longer silenced.

Born Is The King Of Israel (Lk 2:22-35)

I could very well be imagining things; I can't say I felt totally contemplative in reading this Gospel. Still, the things which kept sticking out to me were "your people Israel" and, "the consolation of Israel." I can't get away from the joy and the sadness of what it must've been like, to wait, knowing that the transgressions of the covenant left God's People with a very circuitous route to the experience of His mercy. Simeon was faithful Israel, in his own way, carrying around in his body, and in his yearning, the death of Christ.

And Mary is faithful Israel par excellence. We don't need to wonder at foolish questions, like whether Mary could die for us; she is not the Savior. We have an impoverished view of our God and Lord, in fact, if the only thing we love Him for is his sinlessness. In any case, if we don't see that we participate in what God is doing for His People Israel, we have no idea how great the New Covenant is. Most of us reading this are Isaiah's "people walking in darkness." We have no earthly business being in on this party, and yet, we are. God restored his covenant people, and he invited the riff-raff (us) to fill out the crowd. Mary gets a share in the Cross, not because she is equal to her Son, but because He loves her. That's what Jesus always does with His loved ones; we'd better get used to it.

Isaiah prophesied, "He shall see his offspring; they shall prolong his days," and we read in St. Paul, "so that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." That's us again. Are you ready to think that the joy of seeing you in Heaven carried Jesus through the darkness of the Passion? That's how much he loves us! If you haven't heard that in awhile, well, there you go.

I knew someone who hated the worship song "Above All," because he thought it was too self-centered. Fair enough; in some contexts, he might have a point. But consider the chorus:

Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall*
And thought of me
Above all.

This is actually true. It just is. God is big enough that every single person is valuable enough to be the center of His attention simultaneously. Some of you live in big houses, or have smartphones, and you can't rest until you revile yourself sufficiently. The only thing stupid about this is that self-abasement isn't a material thing, unless you are using it to help others. Anyway, despise yourself for the right reasons.

And know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves you and me so much that He came in human flesh to break the chains of whatever is holding us back.

*I don't think the Father was punishing the Son for us. That is heresy. But He did swallow up all our sins with His gift of love to the Father on the Cross. Well, it's complicated. "He was crushed for our iniquities," true. But I want to conceive of that in a non-Calvinistic way. Ahem.

Monday, December 29, 2014

5 Amy Grant Thoughts

5. Her pop albums--namely "Heart In Motion" and "House Of Love"--are better than the Christian music that made her famous.

4. I love the title track "House Of Love," but it makes me uncomfortable. Is there a non-judgmental way to say, "Divorce and re-marriage make me uncomfortable, because they're wrong"?

3. I know someone who almost asked out Amy Grant, because he literally had no idea who she was. (Of course, there's a big difference in age, but that proves that she has remained absurdly beautiful for a very long time.)

2. I was going to say, "How come Amy Grant and Kenny Loggins never had a duet?" but they did: "Return To Pooh Corner."

1. I have like 50 songs I think are the Greatest Song Ever, but one of them surely is "I Will Remember You."


Yes! Please Read This!

This. 1000 times. In other news, I'm still not linking Joe Carter. Acton Institute, are you paying attention?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

C'mon Will, You're Better Than This

Dude, Bryan wasn't even a literalist, as he admits in his own unquestionably heroic testimony. Just read it. No, the teaching of evolution in the state of Tennessee had far more insidious purposes for Bryan. The textbook embraced social Darwinism, of the kind we fear, but progressives knowingly or not, routinely advance.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Weary World Rejoices

I got in the car to go to my brother's on Christmas afternoon, and the radio was on. We chose 106.5, the one adult format station that doesn't cave to seasonal pressure. If I want Christmas music, I'll go to church. They were playing "Locked Out Of Heaven," by Bruno Mars. It worked somehow.

It's a sketchy song, but it tells us something important. Even when people are doing the most selfish things, like using each other for sexual gratification, they are thinking of and hoping for Heaven. That's how much of a claim God has over us.

The power of Christmas and Jesus Christ is this: You don't know many people completely unaffected by the "magic" of Christmas. The worst person you know can't fail to notice that these days are different. That vague intuition, no matter how poorly articulated, is the work of grace. It's grace that can lead all the way to salvation in Christ, if one remains open to God's promptings.

The weary world rejoices, because frankly, we've cried enough tears to fill the desert lately. We don't have a choice. Maybe that's a good place to be, emptied of all pretense of ability and strength. As it is written, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom."

Let Christ in this Christmas. Don't stop at the faintest desire for goodness and joy. Chase him, and you will find he has really been chasing you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I'm Not "Super-Religious," I'm Christian

It's only weirdly counter-cultural to be an unmarried virgin because we have forgotten that fornication, or sex between an unmarried man and woman, is a sin. Our culture does two things very well: 1. It denies truth, which ultimately comes from God, who is Truth; and 2. It twists truth, so that which was once true contextually (like the fact that God loves you, even if you sin) swallows the rest of the truth (that sin is bad, and it separates us from God).

It's not all wine and roses, trying to be obedient to God. But we do it, because we believe that friendship with God is our highest end. Any real Christian you meet could tell you of his sins, even knowing, willful ones. Forgiveness of sins is a huge part of the story. Depending on what part of it you're looking at, it's the defining part of the Christian story. "You are to name him 'Jesus', because he will save his people from their sins."

I think evangelical culture has done a weird thing, too: the way that we talk about conversion and salvation makes people think that they have to pretend that things of this world have no real appeal. Of course they do. I could say one word, or one name, and completely distract the lot of you, myself included. There is a goodness in almost everything. Even intrinsic evils tend to cloak themselves euphemistically in an apparent good. Catholics are better equipped (or ought to be) to realize this than others may be. Anyway, to say this is to acknowledge the goodness of creation, as such.

The reason Christian subculture is often so weird is that it lies. We attempt to convince others and ourselves that the spiritual life is not a war, that we are not in fact fighting against ourselves in the fight against sin and Satan.

Beware the cult of "authenticity," though. Those Christians who make a big fuss about being "real" are sort of hoping they can trick you into the fold before they have to tell you how hard it is. For all we know, he or she is hiding something really huge, which his own lack of trust and surrender to God has morphed a flaw into a giant pus-bomb of wickedness which will be someone else's problem when they are long gone. I digress.

Anyway, I'm holding my "V-Card" (let the reader understand) not because the alternative holds no appeal, but because I have enough experience chasing Satan's shadow-puppets to know it's a bad deal. Satan is like a guy who takes you out for steak on your birthday, and skips out when the check comes.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Is there anyone who actually hates trees?

4. On the other hand, whatever benefits may accord from commoditizing literally everything, the unfettered exchange of goods and services via contract is not necessarily in accord with the common good.

3. There are real cases to made on both "sides" for a robust articulation of what Professor Cole Williams calls "economic self-determination." The Right absolutizes the self, to the exclusion of the whole; the Left obliterates the self for the sake of the whole.

2. We do not have a healthy economic ecosystem, for two reasons: 1. We have believed that people are mere economic instruments; and 2. We have degraded and stifled the moral intuitions of those same people, in pursuit of merely economic and material ends. In short, we lack the virtue to create wealth in sustainable, humane, and purposeful ways.

1. The "common good" is the sum of all conditions necessary for every person to reach the end for which they have been made. A purely materialistic end, pursued via either capitalism or socialism, degrades the dignity of the human person.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's Very Simple

Someone in my family posted a picture of the Twin Towers smoldering, with the meme, "This is why I don't care how the terrorists are interrogated!" It has all the finesse of a kick to the groin. Well, I do. And the reason I do is justice. It's not just or right to treat people's humanity like trash. It wasn't right the first time when they did it; you can spangle it with stars, and adorn it with country song lyrics, and it's still wrong. That's why the Enemy laughs whenever there's a war, because he knows that injustice will often be met with wounded, angry, passionate retaliation.

They are still people.

It's so simple, but it's so hard, because we think no one else is watching, that vengeance is OURS, we will repay. Maybe it's that simple atheism right there. It makes all the difference, doesn't it?

It's possible and very likely that these people have merited a thousand Hells by what they have done. But ask yourself this: do you want to join them? See, I think people roll their eyes at "turn the other cheek" and the like because they have no idea how real Hell is. (Or Heaven, for that matter.) They think Jesus was a pansy, if you will forgive me. No, my friends. Jesus understands the true weight of everything. The Buddhists were right about this: it all comes back. If nothing is forgotten, and if all debts will be paid, one way or the other, let's just say, that changes things.

Besides, wasn't Mom right when she said, "Two wrongs don't make a right"?

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Kickin' It Old School

It would actually be a tragedy if a woman defied her father, and married a man he hated. It's tragic either way. He might actually be a bad husband, and a good father would do everything possible to prevent that. On the other hand, if one is living in the small universe of possibility that ignoring Dad is a good thing, that's a tragedy worth mourning, too.

This is the song that prompted me thinking about it, and an interesting discussion besides. I'm not sure I would do it. I'm perfectly capable of an unshakable affection, which might be one reason I wouldn't. Maybe other people are smarter than my heart (and hers).

I would rather live in a world of "outmoded" traditions than this one, where we decide individually what we think best. How's that working out?

Friday, December 19, 2014

The God Who Is There

I believe God is here. I believe he sees what you will see when you read this. I believe He is one God in three distinct Persons. He hears me, and loves me. God is not a concept at the top of an enterprise attempting to do something else; He is God.

The whole world does what it does by His design. We are breathing because He sustains us. Understand what you do if you disdain someone who "gets religion"; unless you are disputing her particular claims or sincerity, (legitimate in the abstract) the other alternative is that you are saying, "I live in a world where He isn't there." You don't want to end your life living in that world; that is one aspect of Hell. I doubt the earnest atheist realizes the extent of what he claims to desire. Frankly, I think most atheists are really anti-fideists; that is, they don't believe we should just take a leap in the dark, believing a fanciful story "just because." I say, "Fair enough." I may not be the guy to give you all the reasons you might want or need, but I've got reasons. I know for sure that I see goodness plain as the nose on your face. I often see the lack of it, too, but my point is, what I see is real; it's not a construct. Don't we know this, in the recesses of our hearts? We don't need proof for the goodness of sex, or ham sandwiches, or forests, even if there might be a right way and a wrong way to enjoy those things. Nor does it preclude a person from forgoing sex and ham sandwiches to live in the forest for the sake of God's Kingdom, but in either case, the point is made: Those things are good. Good as such.

Failure is chiefly a falling short in corresponding to reality, the offer of supernatural friendship. It is only a "Law" in the barest of senses. Every moment of life is an opportunity to acknowledge the real, or to create a false "reality" for oneself. Once more, the latter is as close to Hell as we can get on this side.

Goodness is personal. He is the God who is there.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Little Things Mean A Lot

I suppose it's a good thing to be on the fence about needing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, if you are a well-formed Catholic with a strong conscience. It means that you are not the sort of person who lives the kind of life that the fear of judgment is inordinately terrifying. On the other hand, the saints seem preoccupied with their own sinfulness. That makes sense; if the light of Christ always shines, it'll see a lot of dust and dirt. In short, I went.

Maybe one gets a little proud on the road to Heaven, because I didn't want to go. I always think there might be a guy who hasn't been in 40 years, and I'm holding up the show. On the other hand, if I cared enough to speak these faults--even, blessedly, not mortal to my soul--God the Holy Spirit thinks these are more serious than I do.

And I felt more sorry about them in the sharing than I did when I was debating whether to go. I have to believe that was a work of grace. God never works shame in our hearts, but he does bring about renunciation. That's a key difference. Shame is the wounded pride of failing ourselves or others; repentance is the firm determination to walk with God, leaving sins behind. We might sin much in a repeated way; it doesn't mean we were not sorry, or that we don't intend to do better. It might mean there is a deep need or desire that we are trying to fill with something else. That something can look pretty good, even many times. We've got to keep our wits about us, so we aren't sucked down further.

He loves us. [Isn't it weird how you rip CCM/P&W all the time, and still link to their songs?--ed.] Yes, it is. However, if you were going to get a completely-unfitting-for-Mass praise chorus stuck in your head, on the condition that you'd actually believe it down to the core of your being, you could do way worse than this one. I want to believe this; if I did, I'm sure I'd live differently.

Read Of The Day

This is the reason Matheny's slack will be 5 years too long. On the other hand, he's great anyway, so it works out.

I'm Not Mad. Really.

I don't know what buffoonish person decided that you must be mad if you answer a simple question in writing or text with "Yes." but it's crazy. I'm not even comfortable ending a text without punctuation. I'm just not. If you ask me a yes/no question, you're going to get a yes/no answer, and probably with a period. I would feel weird putting an exclamation point there; am I excited? Are we laughing? I don't use smileys, either, unless I mean it. I shouldn't have to, to communicate a modicum of goodwill.

Anyway, tell you what: anybody reading this, if you get a one-word text with a period, that period means, "I love you very much, and I'm so happy that you took the time to ask me that question! I'm looking forward to the next time we meet! In person!" It seems a bit melodramatic, but actually, that's a lot closer to the reality than, "I'm angry and seething; I shall communicate my dislike with this period." Seriously, who decided that?

Not me. Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Let's Cut It With The "Fallen World" BS

It's certainly true that the world is imperfect in some way. We are imperfect in some way, and we know it even before we spend any time analyzing this or that moral situation. So I do not intend to say that we should deny original sin, or our inclination toward evil. The creation groans in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed, says St. Paul.

What really irritates me is when this phrase is deployed when grievous, avoidable, culpable human sin is present. We should say, "That is wickedness," or, "I have done evil, when I had it within my power to do otherwise, by God's gracious help." I don't know if some of you are in the grip of some determinism that disallows blaming the actual people responsible, but it bugs me.

I don't ever want to be so Christian that I talk and think like an insane person. Feel free to lament the fallen world when a young kid who hasn't even learned to ride a bike gets cancer, or a young woman dies before she becomes a mom. That's worth asking God, "Why?" Short of that, we know why: someone actually did something, and it's fruitless to blame God when the truth is plain. If that makes me too much of a Jesuit, or something worse, fine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Just Shut Up, And Let St. Edmund Campion Talk

Seriously, where has this guy been all my life? Every convert will luck into a few of these, but I'm not gifted like him to present them so clearly. Joe is OK, too.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Go Cards! [Baseball won't start for awhile.--ed.] Doesn't matter. WOOOO!

4. Thanks a bunch, Ireland. [He's Catholic now.--ed.] Chortle. True story.

3. I'll tell you why. Because R. Kelly is "ghetto." He was never quite acceptable to white people. The most racist thing is this right here: They/we don't expect better. The Cosby thing hurts, because he is like us. He gave us white people exactly what we wanted, in the very deepest recesses of our Lincoln-loving, paternalist souls: the ideal Black man. We could love him without cost, like an entertainer MLK. Man, it's hard to write that. But it's true.

2. Then again, I doubt Ali is any less beloved, though he was about as "unacceptable" at certain points as anybody. Liberal revisionism that worked, for once? Who knows?

1. If Will Smith does something heinous, I might curl into the fetal position and sob, with the rest of White America. Sigh.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaudete!

As you may or may not know, this is a plural imperative. In the Southern, then, it is "Y'all rejoice!" I think we all know things that aren't occasions for joy. Yet, this is a day for mercy, and therefore, joy. Mercy consists in this: we have not only pardon for sin, but the abiding invitation to be drawn ever more deeply into the life of the Blessed Trinity. While we cast aside what is common for what is eternal, we find the joy that is the promise of Heaven.

Friday, December 05, 2014

I'm Trying

If you're reading this blog, you know that I have a social media presence. Maybe it's vanity, and maybe those who say discussions in those places aren't helpful are right. Fair enough. I've always liked them, and as long as I have the time, I don't plan on stopping. Yet I notice that the public at large doesn't like grey anything. People--whether the media, corporations, political parties, you name it--put you in a camp, and they expect you to stay there. The drug of choice is a false dichotomy.

It's no secret that I'm a passionate guy, with many strong opinions on everything. But I find this intellectual challenge welling up inside to find the truth, even if I have to refrain from speaking to do it. Saying there is grey when others see only black and white isn't to say there is no truth; it is to say that it may take more time and effort than some people are comfortable with to find it.

I'm 34 years old. My days of being a "prophet" are numbered, if not over. The little flecks of grey appearing at the back of my head tell me that a new task is at hand: teach those after me how to think, how to acquire new information, and how to argue cogently (and sanely).

Most people don't think today; they feel. They react. It doesn't matter what "team" they play for; everyone does it. Frankly, I would like to go an entire 2 minutes without being prodded to feel outraged about something. The Duggars. Obama. Cops. Criminals. The gay agenda. Take your pick. Is anyone else just kind of tired?

We're talking about de-escalation. We need it. Not just for a breather, but to find truth. To find what's more important. Goodness takes longer than evil; evil strikes like lightning. How many tragic stories have a, "Next thing you know"? All of them?

Next time you decide not to say or write the first thing you feel, think that you may have struck a blow for the good. Love moves slow.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Fred Says Things Better, Again

I should just admit it. Recall, the Noltie Conundrum only works in a world where God supernaturally reveals things. It works as a dilemma because it demonstrates what legitimate epistemic doubt does to the ability to hold a supernaturally revealed truth x. It relies on the fact that one horn of the dilemma is completely unacceptable for the Christian: that God could err, or lie.

I also thought it was interesting, as I felt the force of it, that it relies essentially on love and goodwill to make the point. It's easy to take the other door, to simply say that Johnny Methodist isn't smart or saved; it's a great deal more fruitful to wonder if Sola Scriptura is the way God intended us to know the faith. (No, in case you're wondering.)

Every serious theological school has a Captain Jack; this backdoor appeal to expertise dies a quick death, upon reflection. At least it did for me.

Maybe the other door out would have been atheism or an existential agnosticism, but for the fact that Christian truth had existed prior to anyone influentially arguing for a change not only in doctrine, but in methodology. Aside from variances caused by later ecclesiological and theological commitments, Christians do agree on some things. It seemed wise to inquire at the basis for that consensus. To seek full communion with the Catholic Church is to recognize that the gospel itself requires a change not only in the content of what I profess, but the bases of my profession, and my horizontal relationship to those who profess it with me.



The Longest Confession Line Ever (And The Virtue Of Patience)

It wasn't that hard, really. I couldn't help but notice, though. That got me thinking. Firstly, this isn't the first time I've waited an hour, at least. I wonder what God is trying to say?

Secondly, I was acutely aware that there was no way I was leaving this line, unless the priest gave up and ran away. Even then, I can't guarantee I wouldn't pester him like I was the persistent widow. That's just how these things go. That's all you need to know about whether we believe all that sacramental stuff. Yes, man!

Thirdly, it helped me shake the dust off my mental feet regarding this Latin American Reformed guy who was arguing with me about the sacraments some weeks ago. I guess I was supposed to feel bad that mother Church teaches that attrition, or fear of the punishment of hell, is sufficient to obtain the grace of absolution. I just kept thinking, Dude, if I sat around worrying about whether I felt sorry enough, or the right kind of sorry, I would die of paralysis and terror. Let's just say that I would have to have reached a level of self-deception heretofore yet reached (thank God) to say that my sins are not sins, or that I desire steadfastly to remain in them. Make of that what you will. He apparently missed the incongruity of claiming that the sacramental ministrations of the Catholic Church are too easy to obtain and benefit from, whilst also claiming that the whole system is an unholy abrogation of the free grace of God in Christ! Pardon me while I enjoy this for a second.

Fourthly, I definitely had this song in my head. I blame Nicole DeMille, in case you are wondering. In other news, how adorable is KT Tunstall? I never actually liked that hit song of hers, about a black horse and a cherry tree, but I could get over it. [Maybe you should just marry a Scottish girl who plays the xylophone.--ed.] That's uncomfortably specific, no? I don't think God cares about that stuff. Whatever it means for immutable Perfection to laugh, I always picture God giggling at my plans, like those evangelical posters that make you feel bad for having plans and dreams. That all probably means I'm wrong about that.

Fifthly, once I got there, Fr. made sure to say--right as we were about to part--that God loves me, sin or no sin, and that He never stops. I think this makes people uncomfortable, because we really are practically as Pelagian as a good Baptist thinks we are, half the time. I actually don't think that an outbreak of "God Is Love" is the cause of all the wickedness in the world. I think our hearts are too small. It can be hard to grasp, for example, if "God" means, "my stern father" and "Love" means, "whatever I hope to find from that guy or girl who promises the world, that I don't really trust". I digress.

Stew on that, if you like.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

From The Department Of The Blindingly Obvious

Rick Warren, of course, is right. I can appreciate the positions of those who say I believe a "false gospel," but...

Firstly, are you sure? How do you know? (These turned out to be much more difficult questions than I realized.)

Secondly, how compelling is a "gospel" that has nothing to say about real human problems? In the end, I didn't think the Church that led the West to the very pinnacle of itself could be preaching a false gospel. At the very least, I could think critically about those who raised a dispute with her.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I like the song, "On Eagles' Wings." I'm sorry, but not.

4. Here is my Traditional Catholic membership card, and decoder ring.

3. On the other hand, Gregorian chant really isn't that hard, at the end of the day. Why are we singing hymns, then? [Especially when it's only an allowance in a less-than-ideal situation.--ed.]

2. You can add "Days Of Elijah," also. Keeping in mind that it's not proper for the liturgy.

1. There is a 99.9% chance that you are not a lector, or a minister of Holy Communion, even if you are routinely filling such roles. Those are instituted offices. It's a small distinction, but an important one. We should say, "I'm fulfilling the lector's role today," or "I'm assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion." You're not a lector unless you hold that office, and you are not a "minister of Holy Communion" unless you are a 1) Bishop, 2) priest, or 3) deacon. I think we have a big problem with this, because we misunderstand "active participation" as, "I get to do stuff in Mass." That's not what it means. It means uniting your whole life to Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and doing your best to understand what that means, as much as you are able. Anybody can, and should, do that.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Messing With That Cardinal Is A Bad Plan

A Catholic Cardinal, to the leaders of Geneva, and John Calvin, in 1539:

Let us here suppose two persons, one of each class, that is, from each road, let them be placed before the dread tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, and there let their case be examined and weighed, in order to ascertain whether a condemnatory or a saving sentence can justly be pronounced. They will be interrogated whether they were Christians. Both will say that they were. Whether they properly believed in Christ? Both will, in like manner, answer yea. But when they will be examined as to what they believed, and how they believed, (for this investigation, respecting right faith, precedes that concerning life and character,) when a confession of right faith will be exacted of them; he who was educated in the lap and discipline of the Catholic Church will say: -
"Having been instructed by my parents, who had learned it from their fathers and forefathers, that I should, in all things, be obedient to the Catholic Church, and revere and observe its laws, admonitions, and decrees, as if Thou, Thyself, O Lord, hadst made them, and perceiving that almost all who bore the Christian name and title in our days, and before it, and followed thy standards far and wide over the world, were and had been of the same opinion, all of them acknowledging and venerating this very Church, as the mother of their faith, and regarding it as a kind of sacrilege to depart from her precepts and constitution, I studied to approve myself to Thee by the same faith which the Catholic Church keeps and inculcates. And though new men had come with the Scripture much in their mouths and hands, who attempted to stir some novelties, to pull down what was ancient, to argue against the Church, to snatch away and wrest from us the obedience which we all yielded to it, I was still desirous to adhere firmly to that which had been delivered to me by my parents, and observed from antiquity, with the consent of most holy and most learned Fathers; and although the actual manners of many prelates and ecclesiastics were such as might move my indignation, I did not, therefore, abandon my sentiments. For I concluded, that it was my duty to obey their precepts, which were certainly holy, as Thou, God, hadst commanded in Thy Gospel, while Thou behovedst to be the only Judge of their life and actions; and, especially, since I was myself stained by the many sins which were manifest to Thee on my forehead, I could not be a fit judge of others. For these sins, I now stand before Thy tribunal, imploring not strict justice, O Lord, but rather Thy mercy and readiness to forgive."
Thus will this one plead his cause.
The other will be summoned, and will appear. He will be commanded to speak. Supposing him to be one of those who are, or have been, the authors of dissension, he will thus begin his oration: -
"Almighty God, when I beheld the manners of ecclesiastics almost every where corrupt, and saw the priests, nevertheless, from a regard to religion, universally honored, offended at their wealth, a just indignation, as I consider it, inflamed my mind, and made me their opponent; and when I beheld myself, after having devoted so many years to literature and theology, without that place in the Church which my labors had merited, while I saw many unworthy persons exalted to honors and priestly offices, I betook myself to the assailing of those who I thought were by no means pleasing and acceptable to Thee. And because I could not destroy their power without first trampling on the laws enacted by the Church, I induced a great part of the people to contemn those rights of the Church which had long before been ratified and inviolate. If these had been decreed in General Councils, I said we were not to yield to the authority of Councils; if they had been instituted by ancient Fathers and Doctors, I accused the old Fathers as unskilful and devoid of sound understanding; if by Roman Pontiffs, I affirmed that they had raised up a tyranny for themselves, and falsely assumed the name of Vicegerents of Christ: by all means, in short, I contended that all of us, thy worshippers, should shake off the tyrannical yoke of the Church, which sometimes forbids meats, which observes days, which will have us to confess our sins to priests, which orders vows to be performed, and which binds with so many chains of bondage men made free, O Christ, in Thee; and that we should trust to faith alone, and not also to good works, (which are particularly extolled and proclaimed in the Church,) to procure us righteousness and salvation - seeing, especially, that thou hadst paid the penalty for us, and by thy sacred blood wiped away all faults and crimes, in order that we, trusting to this our faith in thee, might thereafter be able to do, with greater freedom, whatsoever we listed. For I searched the Scriptures more ingeniously than those ancients did, and that more especially when I sought for something which I might wrest against them: Having thus by repute for learning and genius acquired fame and estimation among the people, though, indeed, I was not able to overturn the whole authority of the Church, I was, however, the author of great seditions and schisms in it."


Mark Shea Love-Fest, Volume 5000

I love Mark Shea. I just do. I'm sorry, but not. I have a buddy on Facebook who was a student of Dallas Willard, and he always peppers my News Feed with the awesomest things Dr. Willard ever said. After I read the Christianity Today piece on Willard, he made me intensely curious, and appreciative at the same time. Barth is like that, too. You love him, and you don't know why. Well, I know why: because he loves Jesus. And that's no small thing, even if a man holds ideas that are heretical, and even dangerous. I digress.

This poor DeWaay guy can't do anything, if his people ask anything outside his little box, except to shame them. This is the byproduct of fideism: the basic idea that divine truth needs no evidence, no proof, just a leap in the dark. It might even be true to say that I explored Catholic claims because "Because we say so/the Bible says so" wasn't good enough anymore.

Paging Christian Kingery! This seems like the beginning of a worthy epistemic discussion, one that I'll bet I can start, but am unqualified to participate in.


Men Are Pigs

Got your attention, didn't I? I don't mean to say there are no good men. I should hope not! I expect myself to be one. The thing is, though, we are selfish trolls, by default. That's the only way a starlet can say things like, "He'll either look at porn, or you" and no one really flinches. Women can lust, too. But I think we know that we live in a society that tolerates and embraces imbalanced male sexuality.

What I'm really sick of--beyond myself--is the attitude that we are entitled to sexual gratification. Dudes, that is garbage. God will send me a wife if he thinks it's good, and not before. He's calling me and you to chastity in any case. What is "chastity," anyway? It's the integration of our sexuality into the whole of our person, and to the plan of God as a whole. Plain English: Sex doesn't exist for its own sake. It has a place, and that place isn't at the top of the pyramid. That means that the girl you "have to have" doesn't owe you her heart, or her body. This also means that it's not her fault that you are sexually frustrated, or that the world hasn't affirmed you as a sexual being. Read that sentence twice, my brothers. I wouldn't type it if it didn't need to be said.

I know how it is, man. I've been "in love" so many times, it scares me. I'm just a lover, man. I can't be anything other than what I am. But you aren't "friends" with a woman until you can look straight in her eyes and say, "I'd love you forever, but if that's not the best for you, I'll do whatever else you need" and mean it. The first part is a thing you usually don't need or get to say, and that's OK. Your female friends probably know, if you've said or done other things to indicate your intentions. God-willing, you're only getting one shot at this. You're only going to marry one woman. That means you'll see the most incredible, amazing women marry other men, or no one at all. She's not yours until she is. I don't give a d*** what the culture says about it.

Your job at all times as a gentleman is to make the women you encounter feel comfortable and safe, even if one woman in particular doesn't deserve it, or makes it very arduous. It's not for the sake of self-image; it's for the sake of God, and the good of everyone. Feminism teaches women that this is outmoded, evil, and backwards. But is there anyone more unhappy than a woman in the grip of feminism? And is there anything more contemptible than a man in its grip, attempting to curry favor with its angry, confused female adherents?

It's our fault that they ever associated it with equality at all. Our failure to be the kind of men that women can respect. She may be smarter than you. She may make more money. But on her best day, she wants and needs to know that you're there, and you've got whatever it is under control. Romantic notions? I think not. Not from what I've seen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ The King

The Gospel made me cry. Matthew 25:31-46. It's true that it's a challenge, but the real test is not the works in themselves; it's to give yourself over to Christ's love. He doesn't just offer a giant cosmic hug; His love is his power to bring everything into subjection. When we step forward to participate in that re-ordering, we say what side we're on for the day when he reigns in triumph.

That triumph is a triumph in love, but make no mistake: the King has no rivals. They will be won over, willingly or not.

Perhaps we think God's love is a hippie-circle at Woodstock, but Jesus isn't a buddy; he's the ruler of the entire universe. There is no term, no election, and no opinion polls. The Mighty One will do what he wants. Choose this day whom you you will serve.

We therefore can't simply read this or preach it, and say, "Do stuff!" The doing or not has a personal dimension; that Person is Jesus.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Men Do Not Understand Women, But...

Women don't understand men, either. Not even close. They think they do; they might even swap vainglorious magazine articles about how much they do, but the truth is, unless we are comparing your average single young woman to a complete oaf and scumbag, the man understands way more. You think I'm crazy, perhaps, but I'm not.

My favorite absurdity about women is how they handle romantic attention. I'm taking a risk here, because I know women read this blog. Fair enough. I figure I'm single anyway; it doesn't get "worse" from here, for me. (Do not write me extolling the virtues of celibacy and other forms of special dedication to God; thank you. I am not denigrating it; I am single, knowingly. Meaning that I am treating it like a season for me, and a hard one, at that.)

Anyway, the silliest thing I ever have seen is when young women act surprised when a "really good friend" expresses romantic interest, they rebuff him, and then they have the gall to wonder why it "isn't like it was before." They'll even ask, "Why can't we just go back to how it was?" And this is moronic. Why? Because we are men; we are not built this way. At all. Does this mean they can't be friends? Of course not. But it means if you do, you had a really good base of friendship to start, such that he's comfortable and safe.

I'm not saying that he gets a free pass to be rude, cruel, or disappear forever. But you know what? It's totally goofy to wonder why he's put some distance there that wasn't there before. He's protecting himself, and you. A good man realizes that he can be a selfish, manipulative troll if he allows himself. He prevents this by sacrificing some closeness if necessary. If it doesn't change that much, that's an exceptionally good man; he's got selflessness coming out his ears. Here's the key, though: he's not a bad man if he can't do it. Absent any other behavior, this would be wholly unreasonable to expect. You will not be best friends with a guy who loves you, unless you love him back. I'm sorry, but not.

I'm not saying that the lady should be subject to repeated advances under the guise of "friendship"; this is manipulative and terrible. But short of that, for the love of all that is good, give the guy a break. If he's a great dude, he'll come to your wedding; he'll even be happy. If he cries a little when no one is around, try to understand. He's only a man, and he's doing his best. We do not default back to friendship; it was hard-won, and it is not easily kept. I really believe this is where homosexuality has really fouled things up between men and women; the gay guy that "totally gets you" is an aberration; he's not the ideal man; he's the epitome of its opposite, with all due respect.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Gateway, Part 2

I wholeheartedly grant that even a large preponderance of the so-called Reformers did not intend to be the arbiters of their own rule of faith, via Sola Scriptura. I grant that many of them, and the spiritual descendants after them, do not grant that they are biblicists. They believe that they have a healthy respect for tradition, and the accumulated weight of considered reflection over centuries. But what a person believes concerning himself, and the reality of what is, under the light of logic may well be different. Who is the arbiter of what Scripture says, if the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not? It would seem, quite frankly, that any alternate authorities do not function as true arbiters, if indeed that purported authority over the man is predicated on his prior agreement that it agrees with him. At this point, many will object, saying that no adherent of the Reformed or Lutheran (or other) system submits to himself, but rather, the Word of God. Yet it is the failure to distinguish between divinely-revealed things, and fallible human opinion that is most troubling. At this, many have protested, believing that the Catholic relies on a belief that the Scriptures are opaque, and not even profitable for reading. Nonsense.

I believe rather that even the most educated Protestant does not see the magnitude of the dogmatic variance that Sola Scriptura and its attendant ecclesiology has caused. He can't, really, because doing so would lessen the credibility of his claim that his particular set of doctrines x is divinely revealed truth. As Mr. Noltie is always quick to point out, every interpreter believes that his system--though acknowledged fallible in the abstract--is the most accurate reflection of the "plain" Scriptures. Might I suggest, however, that choosing between doctrinal positions in the absence of infallible certainty is most foolish? That certainty is the consequence of divinely protected infallibility. That infallibility marks the distinguishing feature of dogma versus pious opinion. In even the best form of Sola Scriptura, there is no systemic or methodological way to distinguish revealed truth from human opinion. There is no principled reason to assent to any particular set of doctrines over another, because it has no discernible advantage--that is, bearing the mark of divine origin--over another.

Preference and kinship are not sufficient reasons to assent to any doctrine. Thus, if an interpretive method leaves one with only preference and kinship to commend a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, this indicates that both the doctrine, and the method of discerning it, did not come from God, but from myself, or another human. I gave up being Protestant and Reformed because I could not know whether what I believed was actually true, and from God. That's what any Christian would, and should, do. You cannot lay your whole being down, you cannot preach to sinners good news to save their eternal souls, if you do not know that God said it. There cannot be half-way heralds of Jesus Christ. Ever. Anywhere. Martyrs do not die for "probably true." If, despite our best efforts, Sola Scriptura leaves us confused in the particulars, searching for the common denominator--and the lowest one, at that--and longing for a unity that can never be realized, maybe it's a bad principle.

I need to be clear: I never was tempted with agnosticism or atheism. Not even a little. But when we accept our disunity as Christians as something normal and unavoidable, we obscure Him who is Truth itself. We do not need to pursue unity for its own sake, but for Him, and his loving intention for the world. In a funny way, it was like playing hide-and-seek with Jesus. I found him hiding in plain sight, behind the Barque of Peter.

5 Thoughts For Tonight

Just a note: This will be Spurs and basketball related, because--aside from the continued good health of a struggling friend, and the Good News of Christ--today wasn't all that great for the world, though I have no personal complaints. Without further ado:

5. Dude, the Cleveland Cavaliers are legit. It's time to face up to the fact that LeBron James makes any team he is on into an acute threat for the NBA championship. And not because he does it all; he facilitates the flourishing of his teammates' talents. I am neither pro or anti-LeBron; I just know what I see. "King James" is not only arguably the best player in the game, he's one of the best ever. At 29.

4. I grant you that I am an avowed fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Because of this, you are free to dismiss what I will say. The Spurs are the most complete team I have ever seen. There is scarcely a meaningful distinction between a starter and a bench player on the Spurs. It's not an admirable goal, a mirage cultivated to create sympathy. They really play that way, and it breeds authentic sympathy and admiration among friends, and grudging respect among foes.

3. Tim Duncan: 19 points, 10 rebounds. Double digits in 2 categories, again. He's 38. He should be doing farewell tours, not crushing dreams. If they win again this year, the man deserves to be in the "Jordan conversation" as the best ever at any position. Yes, I said it, and I won't take it back.

2. Duncan, revisited: When Gregg Popovich, the league's best coach this side of Phil Jackson and the definition of "stern" and "dispassionate," says plainly, "I feel like we all work for Timmy," maybe we have underrated this guy the whole time. Not that he minds.

1. Hilarious. But that's Duncan. Even his hotshot nickname ("The Big Fundamental") sounds like a coach's pregame speech. This dude is one of the best ever, and he acts like the bench kid who slaps the floor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amen, I Say!

Oh, how funny and obviously adorable is this woman? Learning how much Jesus loves her, and a degree from Mizzou to top it off! Be still, my heart! [The grammar fascism would reach unprecedented and unhealthy levels between the two of you.--ed.] True story. She'd also get around to saying I'm not much of a writer; I like starting sentences with conjunctions, and I overuse commas. I blame some Oxford dude, and Mrs. Conway. [Those grammar lessons still give me nightmares.--ed.] Dude, I know. Like being Catholic or something. [Zing!--ed.] I'm in the club now; I say what I think.

The Gateway

I've said eleventy thousand times that the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded rests on The Three Things. If you're going to doubt it, it'll be about these things. Fair enough.

But what is much more sporting fun is to ask your friendly neighborhood papist and convert, "Just what in blazes made you consider it in the first place?" I'm so glad you asked! We could talk for hours about the unworkability of Sola Scriptura, and the attendant Noltie Conundrum, but it doesn't quite make it plain. What does is this: I realized that so-called "derivative authority" was a sham, that its logical system makes a distinction without a difference. I'm saying that everyone who has placed all their eggs in the basket of drawing a distinction between "Solo" and Sola Scriptura are playing mind-games with themselves, because it isn't there. If Sola Scriptura is unworkable, AND the ecclesiastical authorities set up subsequently have no real power, you're almost Catholic by default.

Christianity must be a faith received. It has been, and always will be. I now define Sola Scriptura as, "the rejection of ecclesiastical authority based on an individual interpretation of Scripture." I will grant you that the protestant leaders may not, as we say, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, in the immortal words of Spock, "What you want is irrelevant; what you've chosen is at hand!" I do not envy those who remain in such communities as the principle continues making a mockery of a principled theological-dogmatic continuity with traditional doctrine and morality. In one sense, authority is like a binary switch: you either have it, or you don't. If you've conceded that you do not, you can clothe it in the fine-sounding words of submitting to "God's holy word," but somebody is calling that bluff. Bet on it.

The only remaining question is whether the Catholic claim is writing checks you can't cash. But this is where it gets truly amazing: you cannot account in a principled way for the faith of the ancient Church without the Catholic Church! We're not wishing in vain for certitude, or jumping at high-sounding promises; we can see the truth of them in the faith of our heroes. It's either a true claim, or Jesus didn't come at all. It gets that stark. It's good to get there, because a Christian knows what to do. If I gotta choose between the barque of Peter, and unbelief, then bring me that popish Mass without delay!

Love Is The Answer (Again)

I love that song. Most people just chalk it up to my love of (in their view) terrible music, but the truth is that I love that song for a very specific reason. If you knew the intensity of my fight with God in '09-'11, you might get an idea. It's not going to win any theology prizes, OK? Sometimes, it sounds vaguely Arian. But Dan Seals will tell you, that song helped him become a Christian in 1996.

I didn't know that song until 2010. It came at the perfect time for me. I'm the kind of person who, for whatever reason, makes the simple things really hard at times. That's what I was doing in 2010. The plain message is this: Sometimes, you have to let go, and trust Jesus. It doesn't mean we stop thinking, or not care about Truth. But He is that Truth, and the plainest thing I know about Jesus is that His Name is Love.

Tell you what: I dare you to take the chorus of this song, and make it a prayer: "Light of the world, shine on me; Love is the answer. Shine on us all; set us free; Love is the answer." It's not proper for the funeral Mass, I grant you. But some time that day or the days following, if I die, I want people to hear this song. Thank you, Todd Rundgren, for writing this song.

Moreover, the acoustic version that Mr. Seals did on "In A Quiet Room, Volume 1" is truly haunting and fantastic. Some people don't like catchy songs or drum machines, so this version will go down easier. While I'm here though, please know that I would have paid at least eleventy billion dollars to hear George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley do a version. I digress.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You'll have to pardon the rudeness, but I find the mere suggestion that a Reformed seminarian, with his "literal" interpretation, is a better interpreter of Scripture than St. Anthony of the Desert hilarious.

4. And yes, that means that "Saints" are a real thing.

3. Which means that growth in both sanctification and justification is both possible, and necessary.

2. If that sounds weird or impossible to you, you do not yet grasp the Catholic position well enough to even refute it.

1. When the Catholic Church says someone is justified, that doesn't mean they were "declared" innocent; that means they are in fact innocent.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Love Like Jesus": A Subtle, Pernicious Form Of Dogmatic Relativism

Usually when people say, "I just want to love Jesus, and love like He loves" they do not mean they could do more works of mercy. We need to understand that, and see it for what it is: it's a cry for help. Sola Scriptura has done its nasty work, and the inability to know and come to agree on what Jesus has in fact said has reached its full flower. This person quite literally does not know what he or she is to believe. They've done the best they can to relativize whatever they could not fix, and here they are. Here's the thing, though: If you're going to even attempt to do or be anything like Jesus, you're already pretty far into the narrative of God's People. You've already accepted the authorities that gave us that story.

The Church was meant to be as visible as Israel was, and more so.

The New Covenant is the incorporation of the Gentiles into the People of God, which Christ--the Messiah, the Son of God and son of David, has willed to call His own Body, of which He is the Head. The story has not changed; it's only gotten more glorious and gracious. In light of this, the case for the Church, the Catholic Church, to be that which Christ founded, gets easier to make. Even in those most fractious times of the Old Testament, God was still speaking to His people. People have always gone their own way, even in very high places. Yet if you wanted to know what God said, you could always know. That's still true today. Some say that we have granted an invisible Church while denying it in practice. I remind them not to equate a real but imperfect communion with full communion. Also, it would be a mistake to equate the invisible workings of grace with an evidence for the fundamental nature of the Church.

It is a better place to be, by far, to be some sort of "confessional" non-Catholic with a whole raft of theological objections and other points to make. But even still, the biblical narrative as one of faithfulness to His people challenges the necessary counter-narrative he must hold, which is one where God hides and even deceives, until the "right" people come along.

To put it cleverly, what benefit in following Jesus would there be, if Jesus is not Jesus? There is no "basic Christian message." The things we must believe are necessarily connected to who Jesus is. To whom has Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film (1990) can't possibly be matched by the most recent one. [You haven't seen the recent one.--ed.] I don't need to.

4. I'm starting the Vikings defense/special teams against the Bears this week in fantasy football. I'm sorry, but not.

3. Speaking of football, it's a highly anticipated match-up this Sunday night: Patriots and Colts. Brady against Luck. The aging "Golden Boy" against "The Kid." [Boy, he is a gunslinger, too, that Luck.--ed.] The brains of Manning and the arm of Favre.

2. The family-size box of Cheez-Its stares at me, and I at it. We all know who will win the war, one delicious cracker at a time.

1. Al Roker is trying to set a Guiness World Record for the longest continuous weather broadcast: 34 hours. Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(Liberal) Read Of The Day

Good idea. You all know that my greatest sympathies with something resembling liberalism are in the area of prison/justice reform. I do not believe that anyone is simply a product of his environment, but neither do I believe it has no impact. Liberalism's failure in the US is directly related to the belief that people are inclined to the good. We are not; we are good with respect to our original design, and the end for which we are made. But, by virtue of those things, we have a dignity that ought not be thrown aside. In fact, for us to employ people whose sole function is to enforce the degradation of that dignity is itself a degradation of their dignity.

In theology or politics, it comes back to what we mean by "mercy." Mercy is not the forbearance of evil; it is rather the plain confession that a particular evil and its effects are not the end of a person's story. They really aren't meant to wallow in regret and self-hatred. "Go and sin no more" is exactly mercy, because it doesn't say that the sin wasn't sin, but it doesn't say that you or I are permanently defined by whatever it was. Mercy calls upward to God, to his better and higher plans, better than those devised by our foolish whims.

Our society hates mercy, and it hates it in two ways. Firstly, we love to destroy people. If you mess up, or you're just ubiquitous and kind of annoying, you do not exist as a person. Kim Kardashian. Justin Bieber. Jeffery Dahmer. Those aren't people, right? We've classified them. They are what they are, and we do not allow them to be anything else. The idea that they might be actual people with feelings and needs is a bridge too far. In the first two cases, we think, "They have money, and such an easy life--more than I have--so they don't deserve friendship or sympathy." You have a friend, and his name is Envy.

In the latter case, I grant you, mercy is not easy. That guy killed and ate people. You can't get worse than that. I was talking to a friend in college, recounting that Dahmer received Christian baptism before he was murdered in prison. He told me that if that man walked away forgiven, he wanted no part of God. Sit and think about that. I suggest that he could spend some time reflecting on his own trespasses. If hell is real, I would hope my worst enemy finds the mercy and pardon to avoid it. It has terrors far worse than anything we can dish out. And yet, we try our best to dish out the outrage whenever possible.

The reason is the same as the other reason we hate mercy: it shows us that we are guilty. That's the only reason we heap scorn on young misguided Canadian pop stars, and treat sex offenders like lepers, at best. We're the same people who design "family" TV channels that are nothing more than porn for teenagers. We're guilty, and we know it. Someone has to take the guilt. Better to project than admit we are the problem.


5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. "The Big Fundamental," better known as future Hall Of Fame player Tim Duncan, wasn't good tonight. 12 points and 13 rebounds. I know a lot of players who wish they could suck like that.

4. 4-3 now, and as much as we enjoy the role players becoming stone-cold killers--especially come playoff time--I'm sure you're asking what I'm asking: "Where the #$@! is Patty Mills?"

3. And Tiago Splitter.

2. And Marco Belinelli.

1. I guarantee you Coach is mad, because they gave up 100 points.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Checking In On The Drunk Ex-Pastors (Episode 15)

Jason and Christian, again. I want it known that 2006 was the only time I missed an election. I voted this time, and I was pleased to do so. I enjoy following politics as well. It's just interesting. I'm the political opposite of Christian, though. Stellman knows than I am ideologically flexible enough to be a good time.

It's hard to say I was happy about the results; there is enough variance in the Republican Party itself, with respect to the goodness of government as such that I'm a long way from feeling heady. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is so arrogant, and so fundamentally opposed to my view of the world that they deserve to get smacked. Hard. Over and over again.

Christian's non-faith still seems like a huge non-sequitur to me, although we have arrived at our places from very different starting points. I wasn't raised anything, but my childhood with alcoholics and those recovering from it was such that if you asked me at 12 years old whether there is a God, I would have just rolled my eyes at such a silly question. Of course God exists. Where have you been?

Let's just say that subsequent events do not allow me the luxury of entertaining that question in a vacuum. If you presented me at 18 with the basic Christian assertion that specific things which would not otherwise be known by reason or investigation have been revealed by God, I'd say, Dude, duh. Tell me something I don't know. He talks. He talks loud.

I need to hear more, because there is a difference between talking about God, and talking with Him. People who talk about Christianity and its cultural impact without talking about Christ sound like crazy people to me, no matter what the purpose. If you say, "Jim-Bob is a good guy, despite his Christianity, which I don't believe in," it's an odd statement, in two ways. First, who or what defines "good"? If it has some kind of objective reality, the non-theist already has a huge problem, because if he's not defining the term himself, it's referring to some Good, which everything that exists participates in, to greater or lesser degrees. If he is defining the term himself, he's essentially saying, "I agree with Jim-Bob (or Jim-Bob agrees with me) on whichever matters to which the term applies, and his non-agreement in other things is not significant." But what that would do to the truth-claims of a supernatural Being is less than clear. Suppose Jim-Bob were experienced by you in a negative way. It might make me or you less-inclined to listen to Jim-Bob, but it would not change the veracity or lack thereof of what is claimed.

I guess the whole conversation struck me in that odd way. Don't the laments over a Christian's alleged lack of Christ-likeness sort of presuppose the truth of what's been revealed? If not, it's just a human power-play, because my set of self-derived values would have no more to commend it than anything else.

More to say later.

Love Across Time And Space

That's what "Interstellar" is about. With all due respect, no one cares deeply about relativity. We need it as an explanation for why the characters face various problems related to time, but that's it. Dr. de Grasse Tyson wants to talk about it, but that's because it's all he has. That is what we call "emptiness," my friends.

The way I see it, we either talk constantly about things we can't measure because we're stupid, or because we're so much more than stupid. What would St. John Paul the Great say? Who would you rather be like?

Food for thought.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

I Have No Idea

Can you deeply appreciate a film if it fails to accomplish its purpose as a film? That's what I keep asking myself after seeing "Interstellar" last night. Is it worth it? Yes. Emphatically yes. Will you leave feeling satisfied? Probably not.

I'm not going to tell you anything else about it, because I don't know where to start. If you're a Christian and you like philosophy or theology, you should definitely see it. Heck, if you appreciate the Questions of Life, you'll appreciate it.

I have to put something like a Dad Warning on this. If you're a Dad, or you could be one, you'd better see this with people who will not mock you if you get emotional.

It's a weird feeling: to know the filmmakers didn't quite do what they set out to do, but that you should thank them anyway.

Friday, November 07, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The quickest way to improve the conversation on body image is to stop showing your body.

4. We men are rational animals, who will indeed be held accountable for our sins. But the key word is "animals."

3. Apart from grace and prayer, the best guy you know is a breath away from Super-Creepy Rob Lowe.

2. Still not Lent. But it is Friday. Fare thee well, Candy Bag.

1. I have concluded in half-seriousness that "Stand Beside Me" by Jo Dee Messina is an egalitarian anthem. I blame Tim Dukeman.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

O Holy Night

I feel Advent coming. I heard the hymn in my head today, and I nearly cried. It's not enough to say that it is powerful, moving, and reverent. Let the song be whatever it is. But don't let its subject escape your heart. There is something about the Incarnation that vibrates the soul with the generosity of God; His Law is love, and his gospel is peace.

People are quick to say that good feelings and intent don't make everything alright, but with God, this truism does not apply. His love and mercy swallows every lack, every evil. I only know that I hear the knock at the door of my heart, and I must answer. Don't stand in the way; don't hold it back; there is no penalty for an excess of emotion here.

'Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

A Weekly Shot Of Fred

Good stuff, buddy. Nor do I disdain using Obama catchphrases in other contexts. [You're such a commie.--ed.] I am not. Anyway, this gives rise to a fascinating intra-Catholic discussion with regard to just how much of Catholic teaching is "in the Scriptures," explicitly or implicitly. In any case, one reason why good Catholics tend to reject a reformational "Scripture vs. Tradition" dichotomy is that the Sacred Scriptures were once oral, and we still receive them orally in the liturgy. We preserve that "whether by word or by letter" attitude every day of our faithful lives.

Let that blow your mind.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Read Of The Day

Read this. Maybe we should talk about the fear of death, instead of pretending we don't have it. But then, it's like Fr. Whatshisname said the other day: how you live is how you die.

At the moment, the pleasures of life are useless to me, if people do not know that I tried to love them for God's sake. Easy to say, I guess, for me. And yet, how you live is how you die. Get started now, because I don't want bitterness and hatred stamped on the folder of my life, and neither do you.

Christ, have mercy!

5 Thoughts For Today

5. That was a butt-kicking of the highest order. It seems like some semblance of political order has been restored to my universe.

4. Did you hear about Iowa? As the House seats in that state went more and more Republican, Democratic supporters "re-located to the cash bar." I had to laugh at that one.

3. Harry Reid is so bad, he made me happy to see Mitch McConnell. There should be a t-shirt that says, "The days were so dark, we were happy to see McConnell."

2. How did a (once) pro-life Mormon become the second-most important guy in the Baby Murder Party? You wince, but you know it's true.

1. I'm happy for Cory Booker. Don't judge me. Obama has probably prevented a black man from becoming president for a century, but seriously, I can listen to him for like 5 whole minutes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Man, That Button Is Hot! (CCC, 2357-2359)

This is a hard teaching. But what else is new? It presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, and that's an important distinction. We may wonder why a little "harmless" sex of any kind seems to concern God, and our eternal destiny. But look around: Does our free and easy attitude really seem harmless?

What does it mean when it says, "disordered" a couple of times? Realize that every gift from God has an end or purpose. Sin is usually taking a good thing, and using it for the wrong end. Some things are by their nature disordered, which means that circumstances or ignorance don't change the bad character of the act. The tendency or inclination of homosexuality is not personally sinful as such, but it is part of the imperfection that results from original sin, from the Fall.

2358 reminds us that carrying the cross of these tendencies is not easy, and we shouldn't have a different attitude toward these temptations than we do toward our own.

We are all called to holiness, and each of us has a mountain to climb. Every once in a while, come alongside a brother or sister, instead of standing in the way.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Checking In On The "Drunk Ex-Pastors" (Podcast 14)

Jason (Stellman) and Christian had a re-hash of their discussion about what exactly constitutes "indoctrination." I still believe that the negative connotation it carries (which Christian takes as the real definition) is wrong. I would grant that some conceptions of "Christianity" are simply fideism, that is, claims without reason, with no basis in reason, as naked appeals to authority or the threat of punishment. But Christian should simply say that. That is, it does not follow that rejecting a set of beliefs proposed because the reason to believe is "because I said so" requires the rejection of anything that purports to be supernatural (agnosticism/atheism). All that is to say, I'm looking forward to more of Christian explaining his story.

Jason basically made that exact point in the first 15 minutes or so, and brilliantly, at that.

I agree with Jason on almost every point usually, but I have a growing appreciation of Christian. Frankly, it had been hard to imagine that someone who is not crazy or stupid could be on the "Left" (as both of these guys are). He would probably say the same of me.

I could have a beer with Obama, if I ignored everything substantive about him or his policies. And actually, that's pretty much what Obama has asked America to do. He's gotten an assist from the media, and from crazy people, who truly despise him. Obama can point to them and quasi-convincingly believe that everyone who opposes him is insane. That's a fairly easy move for a narcissist. Just sayin.'

Oh, You Mean Like Pastoral Theology

I think Mark is right (again). Feel free to read it all. I also think Cardinal Burke's approach of speaking directly and plainly works, too. It depends on the person. Or, in fancier words, "What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver."

It's one thing to be genuinely concerned that people will continue sinning when in the Church, because someone has never told them; it's quite another to simply decide that certain undesirables will never repent, and any show of affection or friendship betrays "the gospel". This is where Calvinism is truly insidious, actually, because it gives those who make such a determination theological cover for doing so. Catholics, however, have no such excuse.

Only you can know (and God) whether you have gone soft out of fear. Pray about it; pray for genuine and welcome opportunities to share your faith. As for me, I welcome anything that allows sinners to meet Jesus, even if it is their deception that makes the occasion.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What Is "Pastoral Theology," Anyway?

You hear a lot about how we need to be "pastoral" these days. What does it mean? Well, first know that the root of the word means "shepherd" in the language(s) from whence it came. At the most basic level in theology, being "pastoral" means to shepherd people toward God, who loves all of us more than we do.

The problem is that some people think "pastoral" means that we should hide the truth, or excuse sin, because the life God calls us to is too "hard" for some people. Or that our revealed truths are nice in theory, but not in practice. I couldn't imagine anything more wrong, or ultimately, more hateful.

Still others think that being "pastoral" is a cowardly set of actions, seeming to forget that our God will punish all evil and sin that has not been pardoned with unquenchable fire in the pit of Hell. They believe that we should simply preach the Catechism, and admonish whoever we find the same way: "You're probably on the way to perdition for these reasons, and moreover, Catechism XXXX says...etc."

Firstly, God really is Love. "A great high priest, whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me," as the mostly-true hymn says. We can't even possibly belabor this point; there is no way. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it. The most unchanging and most important truth in the entire cosmos is that one. God is Love. Sit with that awhile; ponder the ways and times that you do not believe it. These are the places that God needs to touch, to heal. Out of our unbelief flows our sins; out of His mercy flows our hope and salvation. I think most of the preachers of judgment today have no real idea of this Love. True love and concern for souls would rather sacrifice one's own place in Heaven than see others judged: "For I myself wish that I could be cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren..." says St. Paul. Do you really hear this from people? I confess, I don't love this way. Not even close. But it's a thing to which I aspire, by God's grace.

Secondly, what if you didn't know anything? Sure, you might be a rambling crazy-face, with an intuitive notion that things you've done and things done to you were subhuman some way. You might even yearn for better. But I'm guessing that at some early point you would have no idea where to even begin. What's a catechism? What's "hypostatic union"? Who is Moses, and most importantly, why does any of it matter?

Believe it or not, not all of us come equipped with theology degrees; we don't toss out fancy words, on the whole. We're just people. And now it's time for the definition. Get ready.

Pastoral theology is the science of translating the truths of God into words that can not only be understood, but so that the saving communion between God and each person can be cultivated. God desires to live in us, and through us, but no two are the same. If you speak the same way to everyone, not only will you not be understood, but the seed of God will not grow in some hearts. You will make copies of yourself, and not of Christ. Realizing this, I'd like to hear why some of you don't see a need to be "pastoral".

They say that the most recent Council was a "pastoral Council". What does that mean? I'll tell you. It means the bishops and the Holy Father(s) realized that all of humanity had become clueless, rambling crazy-faces, falling into a bottomless pit of sin and ignorance. You don't boom Thou Shalt Nots from the mountain in a situation like that. You've got to put everybody on the Rock, put up a picnic table, and start from the beginning. If you love people, that's what you do. The Grand Story hasn't gone anywhere; it hasn't changed. But we've changed. We've gone after the lost sheep, no matter how dark it gets, and how long it takes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Everybody, The "Sacramental Treadmill" Is Awesome

You hear that a lot. "Catholicism has people running on a sacramental treadmill, never knowing if God loves them, and if they are saved." I confess, I can't beat up on you too bad, because I thought this, too. I'm sure Jerry Bridges is an awesome dude; many people have begun to have a relationship with Jesus through his work. The book "Transforming Grace" is where he uses the word. He should be honest, and plainly accuse the Catholic Church of whatever errors he wants to name. It's better that way.

It's in that spirit of love, frankness, and fraternal correction that I say this: I have rarely read such dangerous, heretical nonsense. But then, that's the whole Reformation in a nutshell: giving some people a false peace, by telling them Jesus forgave them at the Cross for all sin, past, present, and future, and making the rest fearful and scrupulous, first telling those people that the sacraments of the Church don't really do anything, and then telling them that the smallest sin could damn them.

I'm sorry, but not. By the way, the question behind the question: with thanks to Mark Shea: "By what authority?" I digress.

I have never lived in abject terror of God's judgment or hell-fire since I came into full communion with the Church. Romans 3:23 reads totally different to a Catholic. You know what it means? None of us here is innocent; all of us here need mercy. What is "mercy", you ask? God is Love, as a preface. Mercy is the experience of God as Love in the realization that you are a sinner. It is divine love to sinners. There is no greater fount of mercies than the sacraments of the Catholic Church.

I'm not chasing love; I'm drowning in it. In Him. The Church has a human dimension, to be sure. And members of that community of sinners aren't always so divine, me especially. But in its divine dimension, the Church truly is the Body of Christ; His hands, His feet, to carry you and me to Heaven's glory. That's why we confess to a priest: because ultimately only God can pardon us, and only His true priest lends his hands and His tongue to Jesus Christ.

I don't need or want false peace, and false assurance. The Reformed don't have any assurance, anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Progressives can't do political humor, really. They can't laugh at themselves; always so earnest and serious.

4. If you're going to make fun of someone in a good way, you have to like them.

3. If you appreciate Rick Santorum, and his faith-based morality, calling him "Archbishop Santorum" is sort of funny; if you actually believe an evil, theocratic cloud is descending, you sound like a paranoid freak.

2. Another day it isn't Lent. WOOO!

1. We've heard a lot about "catcalls" lately; it seems to me there's a difference between being crude, and being appreciative. At least once a week, I want to say, "I'd like to get hopelessly lost somewhere with you, with no GPS." [That's because you are a directional moron. You'll marry the first girl who rescues you from starvation.--ed.] [shrugs]

Well, They Did It Again

The San Francisco Giants have won the world championship of baseball. I'm not happy about it; my praise will be grudging and sparse, and I make no apologies for that. My Cardinals were beaten by the lucky trolls, for one. And for another, just that: they were obscenely lucky. I still haven't figured out how they score runs; they don't really hit!

The ERA for the starters not named Madison Bumgarner was near 10; that's awful. The relief pitching was great, and obviously, it had to be. At this moment, I need to tell you how great Bumgarner really was, and is: he's played in 3 World Series, and he has surrendered about a quarter of a run per 9 innings over all of them. Forget winning; you're fortunate to score against him. When my profound distaste for them all wears off, I will say that it is one of the most impressive things you'll ever see in this game. He started and won games 1 and 5, and he pitched in relief 5 innings in Game 7. Two days of rest. He's the reason the Giants won, with all due respect. In one of those funny quirks of the game, the starting pitcher cannot be credited with a win unless he pitches 5 innings (among other things). In such a case, the official scorer has the discretion to decide who gets the win. It is customary that the relief pitcher who is in the game when his team takes (and holds) the lead gets it. In this case, the scorer's discretion was wisely used in awarding it to Bumgarner, though the Giants took the lead before he entered.

The other amazing thing is how little the Giants struck out. Strikeouts are extremely helpful to pitchers. In most cases, runners cannot advance when a batter strikes out. There are a myriad of ways to score on a batted ball, and pitchers know how reliant they are on their teammates behind them when that occurs. Though the relationship between winning and the raw total of strikeouts is tenuous--you can miss a lot of bats, and still lose--the occasions of strikeouts during a game can be crucial. For example, with runners on second and third, and less than 2 outs, a batted ball in play is likely to score the runner from third, even if it's not a hit. Sometimes, you just need a strikeout. The fact that the Giants rarely did is a big reason why they won.

I'm happy for Giants pitcher Tim Hudson. He labored 16 years in this game before he got even close to the World Series, and now he is a champion. A true gentleman, and a consummate professional. He leads all active pitchers in wins, with 214.

Congratulations to the Giants and their fans. You outlasted and beat this year's Team Of Destiny, (the Royals) and that is no small feat. You were not beaten by The Cardinal Way, and the best organization in baseball. You beat the team with the most wins in the National League, the Washington Nationals. You survived a one-game do-or-die with the troublesome upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, and their limitless optimist, manager Clint Hurdle. In the end, whatever I feel about it, I can't take that away.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Point Is...

At no point, to use a mathematical analogy, does 0*any number= anything but zero. So, if you have/assume not only fallible humans, but sinful ones, ecclesial communities with derivative authority (and not divinely-protected authority) and Sola Scriptura (and perspicuity, which follows necessarily from it) you must assert that the Holy Spirit protects and teaches a person as he interprets the Scriptures, if you wish to distinguish human opinion from revealed truth. At that point, and not before, does Sola Scriptura become a problem. You can see with your own eyes that there is no dogmatic agreement there; in fact, an invisible "Church" to use Newman's phrase, is a theory to account for a difficulty. The problem is, it doesn't do it very well. It's a uniquely Protestant problem, not simply a point of Catholic apologetics. The Catholic apologetic point is to say, "You can't account for the doctrinal consensus--imperfect as it is-- in a principled way, via Sola Scriptura." But understand that it's a whole other discussion.

Even if I were to completely ignore the subjectivity challenge inherent in Sola Scriptura, that is, that in appealing to Scripture, each individual is appealing to his own interpretation of them (or to that of another individual's, which the person accepts derivatively) we absolutely cannot avoid the problem articulated by Fred Noltie. Read it. Read it all. The Reformed don't feel the problem right away; I'll leave you to do some soul-searching for the reasons. I digress.

Dogmatic relativism is a necessity, if the inability to form consensus on the content of revelation persists, and conceiving of the "Church" invisibly accomplishes that goal. But it fuels the further problem of knowing specifically the content of revelation. If the Catholic Church's dogma and authority is indentifiable (and asserted to be wrong, incidentally) the realization comes that all communities formed at the Reformation diverge from the Catholic Church at different places (and with each other). The obvious conclusion is that they cannot all be right in the same way at the same time. To suggest that they could is this relativism. The challenge is this: Why should I believe anything if I cannot be certain it came from God, and thus, is infallibly certain?

Here is the funny/sad part: You hear "tribalism" on the tongues of many Reformed evangelicals today, whether they got it from Dr. Anthony Bradley or not. But given the interpretive chaos of Sola Scriptura, isn't the "tribalism" objection tantamount to saying, "You refuse to relativize dogma in the same way I do"?

 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Is Ecumenical Dialogue?

It sure seems like the Church does a lot of talking. Maybe too much, some fear. What is "ecumenical dialogue" anyway? I'm defining it this way:

An ecumenical dialogue is a bilateral conversation regarding the content or application of revealed truth, principally concerned with defining terms, for the purpose of reaching agreement in that revealed truth.

Appreciation is by no means excluded. But appreciation cannot be the end of dialogue, for appreciation is a rejoicing with and in the truth.

Begging The Question

What are "heresy," "orthodoxy," and "church," anyway? If you think we need to go back to the early Church, you are unwittingly saying, "I want everyone to be members of the Catholic Church." Otherwise, you are imposing ecclesiastical authority and the doctrines they articulated in an ad hoc fashion. Realize what a unique situation this creates: you might even know the Catholic Church is the source of these truths, but refuse the rest (and the jurisdiction). To be blunt about it, such a person could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14)

Most people can't be said to knowingly, willfully reject Christ and the Church in this way. They either dispute the Church's claim to be uniquely founded by Christ based on a false notion, or the data which would make the claim reasonable are presented inaccurately or incompletely.

In the most simple terms, my axioms can be summarized by two things: the faith must be received, and it must be infallible. Sola Scriptura violates both, because you can't know whether what you seem to submit to in Scripture is from the Holy Spirit, or from yourself. Or, shorter: whether you received or created the faith you profess. Infallibility is a unique characteristic of divine supernatural revelation: God cannot err, or lie. To surrender infallibility is to consent to atheism; the uniqueness of God's nature reflected in speech-acts distinguishes whatever is said from merely human opinion.

Yet wishing to preserve infallibility given Protestant assumptions (Sola Scriptura, perspicuity) causes some version of our beloved Noltie Conundrum: either my opponent (and the interpretive tradition he comes from) is not "saved," or God the Holy Spirit is lying/confused. One could intuitively decide that whatever we can't agree on isn't that important, anyway, but in that case, it isn't dogma. And practically, this is insane. This sounds good when the Papal Borg Cube is bearing down, but sooner or later, something has to matter to your eternal soul.

If "conservative" Protestantism is the selective application of Catholic authority and doctrine, then atheism is the logical end of "liberal" Protestantism's use of the human dimension to cast doubt on the divine origin of dogma.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Read Of The Day

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes good stuff a lot. I've linked her here on the blog, as you'll see on your right-hand side. One day, she will write something I hate, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess she's on the political "Left" somewhere, but that reality just leaves me saying, "Please keep talking; I'm still listening."

I love those people!

Of Course They Called It Quits

Whatever you may feel for another impossibly sexy person while you are on "The Bachelor," it won't be the things that make a marriage. Poor Juan Pablo and Nikki; they are chasing this cultural phantom called "love," when it's really lust, or at best eros, when even that must become a self-giving love rooted in the eternity of the Kingdom of God.

I watched a season, I'll admit. Brad and Emily. I'm still mad about it. Because that little girl Emily gave birth to had a raw deal when her father died in a plane crash. This plane crash. We owe it to our kids in justice that they grow up with Mommy and Daddy who love each other. Emily obviously wants, on some level, to make the best of it. But you can't really do that on a whim, on TV.

Jesus is so good to us, He gives us grace through the Church to accomplish what we ought to do anyway, in the Sacrament of Matrimony. That's change I can believe in.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I want to put some big speakers outside Rachel Maddow's house, and blast "Angry All The Time" by Bruce Robison. [OOOH, it's a Reverse Noriega!--ed.] A what? [You heard me. Just think about it.--ed.]

4. At the risk of objectification, she is really attractive. A guy who says, "You're beautiful when you're angry" is crazy. She might be cute when she's mildly annoyed, but true anger doesn't help anything.

3. I'm debating going back and listening to all the episodes of Drunk-Ex-Pastors, but then, I can't even be bothered to watch my Netflix shows, which I intentionally queued to watch.

2. My political crush is Christine O'Donnell. Yeah.

1. Pray for a thing I want to do. No other details.

I Believe In Indoctrination (Drunk Ex-Pastors, Episode 13)

If you don't start with something that cannot be questioned, you're a bad parent. No; I will force them to memorize things; I will have them learn it and memorize that Catechism. And the saints. Kids need things like that. Like you need to wear bike helmets.

Christian at the end starts to make sense, because he's talking about "motives of credibility." But "question everything" is dumb. No one does that, and no one should.

Alan Noble, Call Your Office!

I'm still annoyed about Derek Rishmawy's asinine Tweet from yesterday, something about Reformation Day, yay! because we don't need indulgences, blah, blah, blah. Fine, if you are moved to dissent from the Catholic Church, do it. But at least get it right: Indulgences can't grant pardon for sins. They never could. You could read whole volumes of Reformed dogmatics, but you can't survey the official Catechism of more than 1 billion Christians for 10 minutes? But I get it: It's more about putting on a good show for your friends. Well, you're on notice. I'm watching.

I hope you had a good "holy day" celebrating a divorce. How very postmodern.

Now, And At The Hour Of Our Death

It seems to me that death is all around us. It's almost absurd that we always act surprised. We do, though. Everybody's got those things, those sins, which seem like a little harmless fun. But what if you died before you finished reading this sentence? What would be the verdict of your life?

The truth is, we're all Brittany Maynard (Diaz). We're all Oscar Taveras. It invites us to ask and answer the great question in life, posed by the great American philosopher, Scott Stapp: "What's this life for?"

If you don't know, it's time to find out. We were not put here for ourselves; God put us here, to live for Him, for love of Him, and others. We don't have the right to live forever, but we have the opportunity. Jesus Christ died so that our sins may not be held against us. Ever since the message of his salvation has gone out, God has been reconciling the world to Himself in one body, the Church. The Catholic Church.

It is not enough to know that Jesus died for you; you must be baptized into His death; it must be yours. You must feed on the true Bread which came down from Heaven. When the children of God confess their sins, they know it is Christ who pardons, as it is written: "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Don't waste your life. Don't waste a moment.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Breath Of Life

"You've gotta shorten your swing!" I would yell at my TV nearly every time Oscar Taveras took his swings at the plate. A good hitter needs to get his hands through the ball as quickly as possible. Pitchers love long swings; long swings have many holes. I was tough on Oscar; St. Louis has astronomically high expectations for its team and players, and he was no exception.

But in that dugout, on this team, you could see the kid grow. You know that this is the place to fail, while you learn to succeed. When you pull on that uniform, you join a huge family. Oscar is family; the wins and losses don't matter as much as playing with heart and guts. All the way to the end.

The family that lives and dies with the count and the score is reminded that at the end of the day, it's only baseball. If you knew you had hours or minutes to live, what would you do? How would you be remembered?

I pray that in those final moments, Oscar and his girlfriend knew true joy, and that, by the mercy of God, only those who remain taste sorrow.

A Thought

Romans 9:21-23: "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory..."

2 Timothy 2:20-22: "In any great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart."

It seems that the second text precludes interpreting the first in the manner of Calvinists. For if St. Paul means to put forward the metaphor to describe a salvation that is only passively received, why does he suggest that a person could go from one kind of vessel to another in the latter text?