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Thursday, December 29, 2016

I Found My Keys

After not finding them for nearly an hour. Bob Denver ("Gilligan") died, as well as Debbie Reynolds, (Singing In The Rain) mourning her daughter Carrie Fisher who died, as I'm sure you heard. Every day is a mix of triumph and tragedy, with mostly tragedy, or so it seems.

But I found my keys.

I told a friend yesterday that the transient pleasures of this life will never be enough, and that's surely true, no? We're crying more as a culture, because we can't hide the emptiness anymore. It might be mawkish and shallow, but it's a start.

And I found my keys.

My favorite coat now is a gift from a friend, and it belonged to his cousin, who died suddenly. I only know of him from a few stories. There is likely nothing I could say to understand what he was like. How do you summarize a life?

But I bet he'd be glad I found my keys.

And of course it's a metaphor; you really shouldn't leave home without your keys. You can't have thieves breaking in, stealing your treasure. Even if you did, you'd be worried all day. You'd come back and immediately inventory everything. Your keys unlock the doors to places that hold the most important things (and people).

It's good to find your keys, your purpose. But also to take an inventory. What matters? What have I held on to? Is it worth treasuring? When sorrow, disease, and death come, do I still know what it's all about?

On Celebrity Deaths

I do suppose there is something to be said for celebrity worship being the tendency of a decadent and dying society. You'll get no shortage of pieces making that point, and there's truth there. But before we choke on our moralistic alleged detachment, we may consider a few things.

These are real people, actually made and loved by God. No matter what they've done, it's still true. The flip side of worship is actually envy. People seem to think that because they have money and fame, we are entitled to say whatever we like, to mock and demean them for things we don't like. There must be a great love of money or self, in order to accept this.

In another way, we overlook the possibility technology affords to expand friendship. I never met Dale Earnhardt or Robin Williams. But their talent and nearness through the gift of technology creates a bond of friendship, however small, that requires acknowledgment.

I recall that Dr. Alan Noble wrote about the difficulty many felt when Kevin Durant, one of the best basketball players on the planet, left his original team and community to play for another team. Instead of saying that people ought not feel betrayed and whatever else, perhaps we should say that the economic realities are not conducive to the bond of friendship. Pro sports leagues and teams are not averse to fostering those emotional bonds, when it serves them. Shared experience and goals create meaning.

I for one don't blame people for attempting to find meaning in people they have never met. We have worked so hard to destroy the things that make for friendship and community that we'll take anything, no matter how remote.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

George Michael, 1963-2016

I'm probably not anywhere close to the biggest George Michael fan, but his music was in my ears when I started to listen to music. I have appreciated so many songs, and some especially so, that I do feel I have lost a friend.

I will never forget seeing the footage of him standing next to Elton John and I think Sting, as they sang "The Lord Is My Shepherd" at the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales. As incongruous as it may have seemed to see two of Britain's gay icons in that moment, it was far from unwelcome.

What can I say? I really believe I could see underneath all the burdens weighing him down. His troubles aren't hard to find. But I wish we'd met. He'd have at least one person who didn't want anything from him.

It does console me to hear the stories of his great but unheralded generosity, whether a college student who got a tip worth thousands of dollars to pay a debt, or kids with cancer. I know natural virtue is just that, but who knows? One of those people could have been Jesus in disguise.

As I was telling a friend right before I heard the sad news, I pray for him. No reason to stop now. This is how I want to remember him.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Some Of What You Call "Political Correctness" Is Actually Necessary

One of the grave things about the state of our discourse is a high amount of reactivity and emotivism. By the two terms I mean a high likelihood of emotional decisions. Very few people are deciding issues or voting choices via a reasoning process. Another description could be used: tribalism.

In my opinion, most of what is described as being "un-PC" or "telling it like it is" is really just confirming already-held beliefs, and the fallacy of "poisoning the well." If you can convince yourself that the other side isn't worth hearing out--say for example, posting the sarcastic hashtag "#tolerance" alongside articles of progressives being unreasonable--you don't have to make an argument that holds any water. The cycle continues.

Something big is lost, in the rush to win the argument that is not an argument: the space to hear each other. If you have an argument for the minimum wage, or nuclear disarmament, I definitely want to hear it, even if you haven't arrived at the truth that a fetus is a person, for whatever reason. That's just one example. And it's not only because I don't want to live in hostility any more. It's also because, if my experience and my reasoning are incomplete or faulty, then you can help me.

We can't really come together, as we often say we want, until we make a personal decision to accept the fact that we do not possess at this moment the totality of true reality. Some people confront this recognition by changing everything into an opinion; they fancy themselves high-minded relativists, but in so doing, they cheapen and deny the value of the whole effort.

Which, again, is not to say that the totality of reality is a fiction; it's just that, I am a feeble vessel for describing it. Alongside my passionate commitment to the truth is hopefully the recognition that I may not understand what I am trying to find, or even to defend. My arguments to those ends may be bad indeed. My apprehension of relevant supporting information could be in error.

I meant this to be about politics, but it could be about much more. So much the better. Most of all, I have failed to embody these ideals. But if we name them, we have a goal for which to keep striving.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Feel Free To Bring Me A Plain Red Cup (It's Not Christmas Yet)

Most people who get upset about wars on Christmas and such don't really fully celebrate Christmas. Christmas itself lasts 8 days, and the season lasts until Epiphany (typically January 6). Also, if you don't actually attend Mass on Christmas, you haven't really kept Christ in Christmas, at least not fully.

I guess I could get upset that a bunch of secular types want us all to say "Happy Holidays" instead. But the thing is, "Holidays" is short for, "holy days," and I can think of nothing better than sanctifying particular days to annoy those stodgy, heretical Puritans. Yes, I went there. You'll live.

If I'm being completely honest, I don't really mind other people's religious holidays, either, unless they happen to celebrate by doing evil. To actually believe in Jesus, and to further believe that our world should be different because of Him is so radical that it seems pointless to fret that some greater past has been lost. To rejoice in Christ is always to live in the present, with future hope in our redemption.

Infection Of Doom, Day 14

So that's been happening. It's mostly in my ears now. I can hear two things: Jack, and Squat. I had an antibiotic, but I had some unfortunate and inopportune side effects, [Are side effects ever opportune?--ed.] so I stopped. Yes, I know that's bad. But some effects are merely unpleasant; others, in context, prevent you from doing anything.

In other news, "Mittens" didn't get the Secretary of State job; it's probably for the best, sir. At least you won't be tainted. Too harsh? I think not. But who knows? Everything may work out.

The lesson for the week is this: peace at the cost of the truth is not peace at all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Steadfast Love

This is the entire theme of the Bible. There are others, of course, but this is the heart. God is steadfast love. There are many people who worry that talking about how God is Love waters down religion. I suppose that is a valid concern. But when we realize that we have not attained what we hope for, then we know the cost of failing to tell the truth about sin. Sin keeps us from loving communion with God forever. That's what we hope for. If we don't tell someone about something that is holding them back from the greatest gift they could ever receive, do we really love them?

I think some people have a vision of what they want the Church to be and do, so they listen to people who "tell it like it is" and they try to start a culture war in the Church; who said what to whom, who's "soft," "faithful," et cetera. In short, a huge waste of time.

There appears to be others who personally get stuck where they are. They might even make a to-do about being "authentic," or some such, but in reality they are afraid to love God. The more you love God, the more you lose control.

Others just need encouragement. The enemy earns his tag as the accuser, because he takes one sin and blows it up. The evil one wants us to despair, because he wins if we ultimately do despair.

The ultimate truth is that every moment of life is an opportunity to love God more like he loves us. A saint misses less of those opportunities than the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent: Covenant Theology On Steroids

Covenant theology is the study of how God has chosen to relate to humanity, both before our fall, and after. God makes covenants--sacred binding agreements detailing what God promises to do, and what promises He expects his people to keep. Through all the history of salvation in the Old Testament, it has not been a story of success on our part at all. But God has chosen to renew those covenants throughout the story, forgiving and blessing His people continually, and repeating the promise of a Savior and King who would finally deliver them from sin, once for all.

There are two major bookends to the story of Israel in the Old Testament: the Exodus from Egypt, and the Babylonian Exile. The first showed God's power of deliverance, and the second showed the wages of Israel's breaking of the covenant. In short, death.

The context of the New Testament when you start is God's people in exile, waiting for deliverance. That's why in one place it says a holy person was "waiting for the consolation of Israel." You don't need consolation unless you are sad. You don't need a solution without a problem.

Everyone who sins is a slave to sin, says St. Paul. Being a sinner is like being in bondage in Egypt, or exile in a faraway land.

But Jesus is the consolation of Israel. He is the consolation of you and me. He's waiting for you there in the confessional, and in the Tabernacle.

We enter into the stories of ages past because Israel understood that to remember God's past mercies is to actually be present as it were, when they first occurred. That's why the words of the Passover memorial are in the present tense. Our rejoicing at seeing Christ, and even receiving Him in the Blessed Sacrament become part of the whole story of God's people. That's a thought worth holding on to: that Abraham, Moses, and David rejoice with me as I celebrate, mourn as I mourn, and do all the other things this life requires.

That old dusty Bible starting to seem relevant yet? I hope so, and I wish us all the very best in preparing to receive Him this Advent.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Different World

I was watching Rachael Ray this morning. She's a celebrity chef. She still cooks on her show, but you can tell she is trying to branch out. Anyway, she had a financial planner on to give advice. The planner asked an audience member she was helping about expenses. The young woman offered that she was engaged. As the planner began describing one of her savings plans, she said, "You can keep this in your room, you and your fiancé." An innocuous comment about a money jar got me thinking.

I live in a subculture where unmarried people don't live together. They don't have sex, unless they mess up. Think about this for a second: it's not even about mercy and compassion; people like you and me mess up all the time. But the whole point of naming sin is to say that sin is part of a culture, a way of being, that we don't want.

If you are one of those people who fears being "judgmental," ask yourself if you are witness to a behavior that you would accept in your own life. If you answer "no,"--or you at least know you shouldn't accept whatever it is--then it's at least very possible that the most merciful thing you can do is to tell someone that what they are doing isn't right.

You'll take some heat, most likely. What else is new? But if you spoke the truth without rancor or malice, then you actually loved your neighbor as yourself.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Another Cross-Examination

I learned long ago that you had better bring the goods, if you are going to argue with Bryan Cross. Actually, I hope he has a good spiritual director, because I just assume I'm wrong, at this point, and it may not help in his cultivation of the virtue of humility!

In general though, have you noticed how little actual argument is in the public square? Once you realize it, that data point may be distressing. I believe that our lack of reason is the presenting problem in public discourse.

One could argue that the common good is the beating heart of the social doctrine. Any philosophy which denies that the common good even exists is incompatible with the Catholic social doctrine.

It doesn't help some people to tell them the Church is our mother, because they don't listen to their mothers, anyway. They react as though the Church said, "I don't want you hanging around with Tommy Pandolfo from down the street! He's always in trouble!"

"OK, Ma! I'll talk to ya later, aright?"

I try to remember the story of some former Pentecostal converts, who weren't much for complicated theological discussions, but if you said, "Jesus says..." whatever comes after that, they'd do or believe. You'll save yourself a lot of grief realizing that essentially, "The Church says..." and "Jesus says..." mean the same thing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Late Mass

Father was late. After we pray the Angelus, we have five minutes before Mass actually starts. The silence grew. I thought back to last year, when we had a priest who didn't come at all. We ended up having a Communion service that day. If you believe that they're the same, you are mistaken.

When we heard that it was an emergency call at the hospital, well, that's the life of a Catholic priest. Could have been Last Rites; could've been anything. No one seemed to mind.

When he said, "Francis, our Pope" during the prayers, I was overcome with a great affection for the Holy Father. It's not the first time. I doubt it'll be the last. It is an affection deeper than the news cycle; I have never felt such an affection for the President of the United States, for example. Unless and until you live within the household of the Catholic Church, you can't understand.

It's the feast day of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. She must pray for me a lot, because I feel inspired by her life every time I hear the story. Well, I am from St. Louis, and along with the King of France, she is our patroness. (And I'm also a bit French.)

St. Rose and St. Louis, pray for us!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Early Genesis, Continued

Why does the story of the creation of humanity happen twice? Well, I mentioned that one of the purposes in these early chapters is to distinguish God from His creation. The language of chapter 1 has been called, "elevated prose." It's not poetry, but it isn't historical narrative, either. Moses uses "elohim" as the word for God early on, a singular object with a plural ending. To add to the intrigue, 1:26 says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." You can bet the Church fathers didn't miss that one! They said it was our first hints of the Blessed Trinity. After we read about the creation of Adam and Eve in chapter 2, the word for God changes, from "elohim" to "YHWH". We'll just call this "the Name." When Moses asks God what His name is, God says the Name. Why the change? I think one excellent reason is that "elohim" emphasizes God as the Lord of all creation, while "YHWH" emphasizes Him as the God who keeps His promises. The Lord of all creation is also He who protects one family that will become a people.

Some scholars believe that different schools of scribes copied and collected the Scriptures, leading to some interesting debates when particular words or phrases are unclear. For our purposes, though, we concentrate on the Scriptures as we have them, trusting that the teaching office of the Church is able to handle any real problems. (CCC, 100)

To this day, Jewish people do not say the Name; they substitute "adoni" (lord) for it. It was believed that to speak the name of a god is to call forth its power.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Like Stephen Colbert

I've got a good friend who watches The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. You may recall that he took over for David Letterman as the host. Colbert (pronounced like 'cole-BEAR') got his way to fame as a "correspondent" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. All these people are liberals. Fair enough.

I still think Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show) is the best late-night host. Jimmy doesn't need famous people to make his show work. He's funny, he's got musical talent, and he has this gift for nurturing nostalgia without sacrificing "cool" that people my age and slightly older (he's 40) seem to want. Actually, I think he makes famous people feel normal, and normal people feel famous. I digress.

But I've watched a lot of Colbert lately, and I must admit that his monologue the night after the election was great. I understand how liberals feel this time. I don't share this disdain conservatives have right now for ordinary liberals who are just bummed. I don't necessarily sympathize with people burning things down in protest. But actually, I don't want to "get over it," because to consent to that is to tacitly say that I'm OK with how things were done. I'm not bothered by the insults, the lies, the vulgarity, the general coarsening of the entire process, is what I'd be saying. And I can't say that with a clear conscience.

We've entered a new place, and it will not do to pretend that the liberals/Democrats/progressives are just going on emotionally like always. Perhaps there is some intellectually and morally stifling political correctness that has been defeated, but at what cost? To me, the cost has been too high.

If we can't see the world through the eyes of your neighbors even a little bit--it was hard not to be inspired by a Bernie tribute video at the Democratic National Convention, as "America" by Simon and Garfunkel played--maybe it really is over, this grand experiment.

I still think that the slavish devotion of the firmest Trump supporters, followed by a claim that the rest of us should remember, "Put not your trust in princes" is richer than a fudge cake. Frankly, I'm going to laugh hysterically the next time "cult of personality" and "Obama" are mentioned together.

Anyway, I needed to laugh with my liberal friends. If we can laugh, we don't need to always cry. Mourn with those who mourn.

Happy Birthday, Mom

61 years ago today, Darla Dee Thompson was born. Because of this, you are reading this post, and this blog in general. I won't belabor things with details I don't remember, but I don't know a tougher, more sacrificial person, besides Our Lord. (And Our Lady)

That's pretty good company.

You become aware that nothing lasts forever on this side of Heaven, and tragedy will teach you even faster to say what needs saying, so here it is: I love you, Mom. Anything good in me is a gift that is partly yours. Thanks for teaching me that serving others and sharing life with them is how to truly live. Here's hoping we get a little break from tough times, so we can appreciate everything.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thoughts On The Early Chapters Of Genesis

As I read Genesis 1-3, there are 3 main things that stick out: Firstly, God alone is Creator, and He is distinct from that which he has created. It was a point of emphasis for Moses, (and the Lord God) because he knew that the surrounding cultures worshiped "gods" in such a way that creation and deity weren't so distinct. Secondly, that mankind and creation were both created good, and in some sense, both remain good. Thirdly, it is proper to worship God, and now, living with the reality of sin, both original and personal, we know that forgiveness must be part of the story, our journey back to life with God.

Let me talk about these in reverse order. Adam and Eve both worshiped God before the Fall. It will always be right to do so, and we know this because our pictures of Heaven from later in the Scriptures tell us this. After our first parents sinned, the Scriptures here say they heard the Lord walking in the garden and hid themselves! We have to be careful here, because God doesn't actually have feelings, but I feel a deep sadness when I hear the Lord's question in 3:9: "Where are you?"

They were friends. They walked and talked with Almighty God a lot. That's how they knew what it sounded like.

We give God what he's due, but we're being offered more, and that's friendship. In this context, grace is God's own presence and power indwelling us as a special gift. A finite being couldn't be friends with the infinite God Himself, even if we were innocent, unless God elevated mankind. So He did.

We have a qualified goodness now, because we know that we are sinners, but also that we naturally gravitate toward sin, and away from God. God didn't make us this way, though, and we're not intended to stay here. We call the tendency toward sin "concupiscence," and we call the gift that was lost "integrity," which means that our passions are subject to reason. They had an original righteousness or justice on account of grace, also. As well as infused knowledge and immortality. Thanks, Dr. Marshall!

We know that later, plagues befell the enemies of God's people in the book of Exodus. Many commentators suggest that the specific plagues corresponded to false gods worshiped by the Egyptians. It is also probable that Moses (and others) wrote Genesis and the other books of the Law while he led the Israelites out of Egypt, and into the wilderness.

You'll notice that God created everything in chapter 1, including the sun and moon, stars and planets. You can bet that other people worshipped those things, and that's why the people are told not to.

Did you notice that the account of the days always starts with evening? The descendants of Abraham and Moses still count days this way! We do it, too, in the Church. This is why you can fulfill your Mass obligation on a holy day, or on the evening of the previous day. And yes, eight human days of the Easter and Christmas octaves count as one day to the Church! God is reminding us always that He is Lord of time, and everything else.

Books and books could be written, but I need to go, and dear reader falls asleep when I go on and on!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Not So Usual

I want to move on from politics. I really do. We'll see if it happens. I still hold the same views about Trump, Trumpism, and the GOP. (I hold none in high esteem, in case you hadn't noticed.) Perhaps I should have joined the Democrats the night of the Ohio primary; I would love to hear how I'm actually responsible for the deaths of little children, simply because I want nothing to do with the president-elect.

The whole matter does prove one thing: A sizable chunk of the American people don't care what the Left thinks about anything. I'm in this weird place where I agree with pretty much every criticism of Trump from Clinton and the Democrats, but I don't want to live in the world that they imagine.

I don't want to live in the world that they imagine.

So we'll be living in it anyway, since Trump is pretty much them. He's a product of the culture the libertines created. You didn't actually believe anything he said, did you?

That's nice.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ain't No Shame In It

I have taken my title from Will Smith's remake of "Just The Two Of Us." This particular version has Will Smith encouraging his oldest son Tre, and giving him advice. This song gets me every time.

But that's not why we are here. The full quote is, "And you can cry/Ain't no shame in it."

Why are we mocking people upset about the election? I'm upset about the election. I had no overly fond preference for either one, yet even so...

Have you ever poured your heart into something, with everything you are, and it fails? It's tough. That doesn't even cover it. But that's what people are feeling, at least part of it. You could say that people shouldn't put so much of themselves into a finite thing, but for one, that's easy for some of you to say, and we forget in our cynicism that politics is actually important.

I will thank God if the new president is not an unmitigated disaster. I also won't be either surprised or sad if he resigns in disgrace. For my part, I was bound to be despondent either way.

We get it: sensitive, sheltered liberals can't handle reality. (I feel like a jerk, just typing that last thing.) Before you gloat too much, realize that you may have voted for a sociopath and a fascist. I hope I am exaggerating, but I don't assume I am. I'm glad you're confident in better things; when my Euro-Style Dictator Alarm goes off, I don't ignore it. Too bad so many this season did. If we get, "Oafish moron dependent on more capable staff" we'll be fortunate.

Cry it out, friends. I'm right there with you.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Waiting For A Star To Fall

I heard this 80's tune last night. I still like it, if you will forgive me, but it does go on about a minute too long. The eighties, when any lyrical absurdity is forgivable, as long as you have a synthesizer. Synth covers a multitude of sins.

But the thing I love about the '80s that no one gets anymore is, even the most ridiculous songs had a sheen, a chorus, something to say, "You'll tell everyone you hate this song, but you are lying."

So here you go. It's OK, you don't have to thank me. [We could get the Schmitz family to do an '80s album, and call it, "Schmitz Schmaltz"! Genius!--ed.] Oh, dear.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Post-Election Sadness

I'm sad today, because I was Never Trump, and I really believed in it. I still do. Things which never should have taken place are now normalized; winning makes for short memories. I want nothing to do with religious bigotry, ethnic stereotyping, draconian immigration policies, the mainstreaming of sexual violence, and so forth, and so on.

And the thing is, because the Left used the same words, told the same story--and on account of their arrogance and hypocrisy were utterly eviscerated--some people think we don't need to talk about these things, that they are fictions. Whether the people who hold this view are swept up in a populist fervor, or they are just sick of hearing it from what they regard as the usual suspects, I feel compelled to say that they are not fictions or lies.

I'm sad because this outrage of a campaign has been vindicated. I'm outraged that none of this scandal has been called to account, and won't be, by any human, as far as I can tell. It might be awhile before I settle down about it. I want to feel relief; I want to hope it won't be all bad. I want to think that contraceptive mandates and pro-abortion judges and religious persecution are now a dead letter. But come on, my friends: if I couldn't vote for the man in the face of all that, either I am completely irrational, or there is real doubt about what will happen. It's either true or false that Donald Trump is an erratic, lying, bigoted, incurious con-man. If true, 300-plus electoral votes doesn't make it false. If false...well, I do believe in miracles.

Don't expect me to be happy. Don't expect me to distrust everything I saw and heard. I'm wondering why no one feels the way I do. I'll readily grant the putative goodness of scads of Trump supporters, but I do not grant it to the man before me. Why would I? Why do you?

The Elephant In The Room

I would like to think I am an elitist in the best sense: I am highly educated, sensitive to the concerns of the marginalized, deeply suspicious of cheerleading for ideologies at the expense of individuals, families, communities, and nations. I value decorum, respect, and constructive debate. I'm a secret peacenik and believer in international institutions. I have never felt so alienated from the Republican Party as I do today.

I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton. If you can't get me, you can't win.

The reason is abortion. Democrats are extremists on abortion. It's not the only reason you lost, or maybe it is. But it's wrong, and now it's impractical to defend it for political reasons. This is free advice: give it up. Let your pro-life members out of the shadows to speak the truth. Maybe even nominate a defender of life, from conception to natural death! Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

You Can't Blame Me

I abstained from the presidential vote. Missouri leans Republican, mind you, for president. If indeed Mr. Trump wins here by some 15 points, it indicates to me that Missouri has lost its bellwether status, and frankly, that the voters here have lost their minds. Which is not to say that I welcome a Clinton victory here, or in the nation as a whole. It is absolutely to say that for all their faults real and imagined, we are unworthy of George W. Bush, his father George Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney,  Ronald Reagan,  Dwight Eisenhower, and all the rest up to this point. We have failed them. We have failed our children. We have failed our fellow citizens, and the world.

No, I don't think it's overstated.

One further thing: there are those who would dismiss these words as sentiment or virtue signaling, as some are calling it. My only reply is that it is in fact those who have deadened themselves to virtue who cannot recognize its opposite. I will not go on as though the game is the same, nor will I man the barricades for someone who is hardly fit to enter my home, much less be the president of my country.

With that, we turn to implore God's mercy. In any case, we'll need a lot of it.

Friday, November 04, 2016

I Bind Unto Myself Today

We Catholics pray to all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Frankly, besides that, we pray to a lot of people. But I never thought I would have to defend the licitness of praying to Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit. The argument went like this:

Should we pray to Jesus alone?

A: No. Prayers should be directed to God alone.

The unstated premise of this argument is that Jesus isn't God. Friends, Christians, if you ever get to, "Jesus is not God," start over. I beg you.

And people wonder why I sought full communion with the Catholic Church.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Waiting Their Whole Lives

Generations lived and died, waiting for the Cubs to win the championship of baseball. My Cardinals have won it 11 times since 1908. Think about that. And now, all the waiting is over.

I live and die with every pitch, so I get it. Then again, I never could. Winning is tradition in St. Louis. A season without a playoff appearance (like this last one) is a total loss, and it'll be going on 6 years since the last championship. The natives are getting restless, if you can believe that.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to all the beleaguered fanbases out there. Winning does nothing, if not breed the desire for more winning. The fans in Chicago will get arrogant. Fans always do.

On the other hand, if you're a die-hard, the other teams in the way always seem bigger and badder than they probably are. Your team is unlucky, behind the 8-ball, opposed by the umpires, et cetera. I have never seen a team in my life that didn't talk about "adversity." Even if they won 103 games.

Still, baseball is a hard game. A team isn't lying when it talks like this. Even if they go rampaging around the league. And that's a fitting way to end 108 years of futility. The raw emotion of the thing, that's because baseball is more than baseball; it's family.

And now, generations of families can add more than aspirations to their bonds of love. It's the stuff of reality. And no one can take it away.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

I Dropped The Bones

I was eating leftover chicken wings. I don't know if you know this, but I try not to throw any actual food in my trash can. Assume the worst in a scenario of bachelorhood, and you might be able to guess why.

So, I put the bones on a plate in order to take them downstairs, with the aim of throwing them in the glorious municipal trash can on the corner.

They rolled off my lap. On to the floor. Every. Single. One.

I would love to tell you that I handled this moment with trademark grace. I would love to tell you that the world is full of sunshine and rainbows, truly. I'd love to tell you lots of things.

I cursed with the ferocity I normally reserve for Robert Urich's acting, and untimely double plays. Even on the best of days, I have a long way to go. Maybe "someone dropped the bones" could be code for, "I completely overreacted to the smallest thing."

You wouldn't know anyone like that, would you?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Please Feel Free To Be Inspired

There was a TED talk once by a woman in Australia. She had a significant physical disability, and she talked a lot about how she wanted to be treated normally, and how she hated people being patronizing. "I'm just like you!" she said in many different ways. In the "community," as it were, we call it "inspire-a-porn." I get it. I really do.

But.

Who am I to decide when people are allowed to be inspired? Who am I to decide that I'm not carrying a cross? If other people see it, what reality am I trying to live in, pretending it's not there?

There's a guy in our parish who is mentally ill. I think it's schizophrenia. He shakes my hand after Communion every single day. He used to say I was his inspiration, when there was more time. All I have to say is, "Brother, I'll be your inspiration as long as you want."

I'm getting over the idolatry of "normal." The pride of it. If you met me, you might realize I've been given more than joy. You may not expect that, and that's fine. It's not mine, anyway. If it helps people to believe I am a smiling giggly moron, so be it. Because if that were all I could do, it would bring Him glory, nonetheless.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Bob Newhart Show

I stayed up late this morning to watch it. I laughed the entire half-hour! No wonder this guy had two sitcoms. Are you kidding? I wish I had that kind of timing.

This episode guest starred Rene Auberjonois as a sketchy French psychologist who brings his wife on an exchange trip to the United States. His wife is revealed to be his mistress. Yikes. But nor does he understand US currency, leading to two hilarious exchanges with a snarky cab driver.

I'm gonna have to watch this show again.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Called To Communion (Ratzinger) Chapter 1

Prior to the first world war, there had been a dominant liberal hermeneutic for Scriptural interpretation: this "Jesus" was anti-cultic, anti-institutional, and the goal was to embrace the Kingdom, which transcends these especially Old Testament notions of sacrifice, Temple, and people.

The war destroyed that consensus. Part of what Ratzinger calls the "moralism" of this view was upended by the savagery of the conflict. The second war deepened the disillusionment. Old ideas die hard, though, and its proponents reformulated this anti-cultic tendency with an eschatological twist.

A new angle was that this re-formulated concept meshed easily with ascendant neo-Marxism, and its morality play of oppressed versus oppressor. They could pit the "institutional" Church against the popular Church.

Ratzinger says that these views are bad candidates for reality as it is, precisely because they bear the marks of the times in which they were created. We can be respectful of new ways of thinking about the Church, says Ratzinger, but aware that the liturgy carries the living memory of the Church herself. Anything that doesn't tell that story cannot harmonize with the truth.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Is It With History, Anyway?

Among faithful Catholics, there is a confidence that Christian history bears out the conviction that the Church of the New Testament, the Church that Christ founded, is the Catholic Church. Consequently, all Christians should be members of the Catholic Church.

At the popular level, you might hear someone say, in response to a question about them seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, "I read the Church fathers." It's kind of a quick answer that may not tell one anything at all. And you might be well aware of Protestants who read and know the Church fathers.

I believe that one can say there is a theological significance to the passage of time, and to the gradual refinement of the articulation of dogma. The Incarnation and the totality of the paschal mystery means that the world as it was made, and all the people therein, belong again to God through Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. So, it would be reasonable to expect that the same faithfulness that characterized the unfolding of salvation history would characterize the age of the Church as well. Not, however, as an ultra-optimistic expectation of total victory with ease, but indeed, with at least an expectation that God Himself would make truth known, and provide ways for people to assent to it, and to live it out.

It is amusing to consider that, at the moment when some people realize the implications of God's free offer of salvation in Christ, and that it could entail full communion with the Catholic Church, they claim that knowing anything supernatural or infallible is impossible. That's a curious and alarming stance for any Christian to take. It's understandable, given the prejudices and fears about the Catholic Church many people have. Still, it ought to be beyond question at least that if God wants us to believe things he has revealed, they would be knowable in some manner, and not open to question in themselves, as having the quality of Him who can neither deceive, or be deceived.

The Protestant says that everything we need to know about God and ourselves is in the Bible. Leaving aside the somewhat awkward problem that he is not in agreement with the Catholic Church about the number of books in the Bible, it's at least a thought.

But what or who exactly is the Church? We can understand together that Jesus mentioned His Church, and that he would protect it from harm by the devil, at least to the extent that it would not be destroyed (cf. Matthew 16:18). St. Paul tells St. Timothy that the Church is the household of God, and the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). That sounds good; where is it?

Protestants claim today that the Church is invisible, that the "saved" are all those who profess the "true faith." In what does that true faith consist? I might entertain the argument that two people could be united invisibly in the "true faith" despite the fact that one is a Methodist, and one a Lutheran, if it were possible to know precisely what the content of the true faith was. I might also add that I can't see the help of a pillar and bulwark I can't find. And if it were true that believers are united despite their differences, then it follows that none of those differences constitutes an essential part of the true faith. At that point, it becomes clear that most people aren't consistent with their principles. Try out that argument; see how it goes. Actually, it goes bad either way: he either professes a body of truth he can't be certain is from God, or you win him over, to indifference.

But the witness of history produces an exciting but challenging possibility: Suppose that every Christian division is evidence of variation on a Catholic theme. Indeed, what if the Catholic Church is the baseline, the vital center? If indeed you find Catholic faith, sacraments, and governance in the history of Christianity, that is what you have found. You might also find people you thought were heroes, professing the wrong thing, dividing the Church, or both. But the reason a person can challenge you with the question, "Do the fathers seem more Catholic, Protestant, or something else to you?" is because God is faithful. If Christ's coming is the ultimate expression of God's love for us, then history since will be an extension of it, at least on God's part.

The pope, apostolic succession, Eucharist. If you find these things in the writings of the fathers, you'll understand why the Catholic Church claims to be the Church Christ founded, because these three things are exactly what the Catholic Church today rests its claim on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Continuing Ruminations

I'm actually shocked, shocked (!) that middle-aged (and older) white guys in trucker hats think Trump is obviously the better choice. Of course, this isn't an argument. But the funny thing is, the Democrats have always said we were trying to turn back the clock. Maybe they are right this time. I have to admit that there is a real generational aspect to this whole thing. I'm 36. I couldn't even finish Trump's introductory 3 minute commercial. I get nostalgic about Nintendo games, and Matlock, not about an America that never actually existed. Call it liberal if you want, but I think it's actually pretty patriotic to realize that not everyone got a real slice of the American pie in the "good old days." Tell the truth, make amends, (if possible) and go forward. But there's nothing forward-looking about Trump. There's nothing reflective or self-critical about him. Can you honestly say you feel proud of what he represents? Forget about the Democrats; can you picture a even a grudging respect for the man from his opponents in 20 years? C'mon, man. To use "Trump" and "statesman" together seems like a bit on The Daily Show. I have said it before: I don't want Trump to win. Secretary Clinton may well be worse, but the Democrats never really have represented me. I don't expect as much from them. If that seems silly or unfair, I'm sorry, I guess.

"Abortion! Judges!" they shout, and though I'm sympathetic, we in my generation have waited our whole adult lives for Roe v. Wade to fall. I think it will, maybe even soon. Not because we poured ourselves out for the Republican Party, but because we have modeled and lived lives of sacrifice and service. Donald Trump may have glimmers of that inside, but let's be real: his life to this point is the opposite of a Christian life. Why, Christian, have you sold out so easily? The truth may well be that for a few too many people, church is just a cover for the maintenance of stability and (white) power.

This resonates with me as an explanation, not because I have some great fondness for Marxism, but because it explains a ton of the data points. Did Barack Obama get any benefit of the doubt when he made promises about subsidized health care? Trump did. Did Obama even dare suggest that Bush lied us into war? Nope. But Trump did. I'm not aware of any open advocacy of war crimes by Obama, though of course, some actions taken under an admitted framework of situational ethics may actually be war crimes. But Trump did. Do not kid yourself that Obama would be defended by the public at large, had a tape surfaced of him bragging about sexual assault. Trump is still the GOP nominee for president--although he is mind-bogglingly ill-informed, and otherwise unfit--because he is old, (the right generation) rich, and white. You don't have to be consistent or conservative, if you make enough of the right people believe that you are one of them, and will protect their interests.

This isn't to say we're all bigots, we have never had anything good to offer, and we should become Democrats. It does call us to a frank acknowledgment of present reality when it's staring us in the face.

We need to face up to the truth about our decayed political culture, and the unhealthy patterns of our engagement, before we can change it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Still Don't Disagree With This

Welp. The GOP got itself stuck with Trump. This articulates pretty well my thoughts since last November. I don't agree that Never Trumpers have simply failed to put on their "big-boy" and "big-girl" pants, to just vote for him. Judicial myopia. With a hat-tip to Anderson for some help there. I have never responded to the battle-cry, "Judges!" before now, and I'm not starting now.

If I could disregard social issues, (abortion, gay unions/"rights", etc.) I'd vote for Hillary without hesitation. If you don't live in the thought-world where that might be an option, well, there are no locks on the metaphorical doors; I will leave you to whatever emotivist rage against me you are feeling.

The argument goes something like this: As her e-mails and Goldman Sachs speeches might show, she is a relentlessly triangulating careerist. She's no progressive ideologue. She's tough as nails; that's why we don't like her. She's smart, and she's at least as good a deal-maker as the Republican nominee, and probably better. She'll want her signature things, but she's all too happy to quietly help Paul Ryan re-build his brand, even if it's on the hush-hush, and she takes the credit. Most importantly, she's had half-thoughts before her morning coffee better than anything her opponent has said or written. We probably won't cease to exist if she wins.

I can't disregard abortion, and all those other attacks on human dignity that are actually a part of the Democratic platform. There is a non-negligible chance that Hillary Clinton believes in abortion et al, really believes in it, and is willing to persecute those who fight against it. The worst-case scenarios might be real; the practice of religion in the US may be irrevocably changed. This is all the reason I need not to vote for her.

We haven't even talked about her e-mails yet. I've heard of innocent mistakes by good officers being punished far worse. And Secretary Clinton's willingness to continue lying about it speaks volumes about her temperament and judgment. I wouldn't be overly stunned if someone decided to prosecute after the election. Poor Nixon thought he was in the clear 2 years when it all came crashing down.

And what Clinton did is far worse.

No need to belabor that point. If you want the truth, I'm ashamed and disappointed that so many solid Catholics are simply falling in line with Trump. This is not Mitt Romney. This is not George H. W. Bush. This is not John McCain. The fact that this man shares the title "Republican nominee" with these good and heroic men slanders them, and brings us deserved shame. I don't think it's too strong a point. Character matters, and it still matters, even if you are blinded with the galling hypocrisy of the Democrats. I'd feel the same way if Trump were winning. The fact that he is not makes it easier, to be sure. I hope, however, that these strong words are making some of you uncomfortable. I think a good number of you have been ignoring your gag reflex this entire election cycle. If we do that for too long, no one continues caring about what Christians in public have to say. Worse still, we will be like the rest.

As a side-point, there is a narrative in vogue with Republican interventionists (or "hawks", if you like) that Democrats are weak in foreign policy, that even their well-intentioned hesitations embolden our enemies, and make us less safe. We have believed it for decades, and used it to win countless elections. It's false, and it has no basis in fact. We should be far more concerned that a willingness to use force is not joined with prudent moral reflection concerning the conditions under which force will be employed, and that this malady affects both parties.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Pray Your Face Off

I don't know any other way to be holy. If you are serving others, let it be a physical prayer. There is no mystery or secret. Prayer is communion with God, and communion with God is detachment from "the world, the flesh, and the devil."

I suppose the post is misnamed a bit, because it doesn't have to be vocal prayer. Though of course your face isn't likely to come off, in any case.

We feel these existential moments of dread at times, and you have to wonder what would happen if we prayed, instead of distracting ourselves.

Let's find out.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

With These Our Hells And Our Heavens

We're not all that strong, you know. The merit in life is in the little cracks of life, the moments you don't notice, until they have passed. I do worry, though. I don't recall that many cups of cold water offered in the name of Jesus. In a sense, I want to laugh. To say this life of mine has been characterized by sacrifice is a stretch.

And yet, I know the way to the fount of mercy.

I know one thing for sure: He is more ready to forgive than we are to ask. As grace gives us the power, then, never let us tire in asking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Sound Of Silence

I was recently told, "You will come to appreciate the value of silence." Before God, that is. Everything in our culture wants to distract us, and that makes sense. God speaks in the silences. Our enemy wants to keep us from the joy of being in God's presence, if at all possible.

"In the silence of the heart, You speak."

Amen.

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 12 (Part Four, Chapter Two)

The seed-bed of the Church's Sacred Tradition is the prayerful reflection upon the Gospels, and the entirety of God's saving message in Christ. Liturgy is not therefore made; it is obeyed.

The Romans viewed kneeling as a sign of subservience and weakness, but the Christian message has always viewed it as an ennobling humility; that is, man is dignified and empowered when he acknowledges God's kingship.

But neither will the Church abandon the practice of standing, since it is the victorious slain Lamb of God who stands in Heaven, interceding for His brethren. It is through Him that we have access to the Father.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You

I heard a priest say that God is more solicitous for our salvation than we are. And yet, some people will continue to believe that a holy striving is somehow contrary to the gospel. On the contrary; if you get an inspiration to pray more, or to read the Scriptures, do it.

You may be one of those people who believes God is out to get you. If you fearfully say, "Look what good I did! Please don't hate me!" then you might be one of those legalists everyone is going on about.

I don't know many of those, but if you are, you have my sympathy.

For the rest of us, a plan that embodies "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" is in order. After a while, the fear of Hell is replaced by the disappointment of broken fellowship. Then we are beginning to love as He loves us.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I Will Arise And Go To My Father

If you're anything like me, you forget the main thing. We're weak, you see, and everybody has that One Thing. We all think that everyone would hate us if they knew. Or, fair enough, you have a whole string of reasons to hate yourself. But the One Thing is the sin that makes you think it's all pointless, and you may as well give up. Not everyone's is the same, but everyone has it.

Despair is the enemy's favorite trick, because it becomes a feedback loop of failure and shame. If the enemy can make you think you are worthless, you'll stop reaching out to God and others. Faith is a great gift, because it illumines the Way, even when we have gone astray.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It is fact; it is not conjecture, or sentiment. It has never meant that we have nothing left to reconcile. It does mean that God has taken an unyielding stance of favor toward every single one of us. As we get closer to God, the purity of His fiery love will test our feeble frame. But this time, what consumes does not destroy.

Within the mission logs of the USS Enterprise-D, under the command of gallant Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Time Squared" was a mission that involved the sudden appearance of a dense singularity that threatened to pull the Enterprise into its center. The crew had the benefit of seeing an alternate future where they were all destroyed. It seemed to all appearances that the wisest course was to continue trying to escape. At certain points, it seemed the only course. Yet the answer was to turn toward the vortex, to stop fighting its pull.

The love of God is like this vortex. We may be convinced by all manner of things that the best move is to run away. But if we do, we invite our own destruction.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Most Holy Rosary, With Vin Scully

I went ahead and bought it, and I'm glad I did. The greatest living baseball announcer just retired after 67 years, but I'm almost certain he would say that this is greater than all those games. I couldn't help but think of my father, whose favorite team was the Dodgers. If he needs my prayers, he has them.

Word is that Mr. Scully never misses a Mass at Dodger Stadium. I can believe that. Sometimes the icons are real. Baseball still has heroes, but as with anything else, they may not be the ones you expect.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Bible, Outlined: Genesis

I am going to make broad outlines of the books of the Bible, for my use, and to assist a project I am working on. I'm going to try to keep them really simple, but as I go, you may see more detailed outlines if it serves. It is good to get a broad picture, and thereby to become personally familiar with the Sacred Scriptures that God has given us. Note: This overall outline will include the seven books of the Old Testament, rejected by Protestants. With that said, here we go:

Genesis: "In The Beginning"

(Chapter) 1-11: The Primordial History
                12-36: The Patriarchs
                37-50: Joseph
Note: Tamar, Interrupted (38)


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

It Still Looks Like A Hillary Win To Me

Our friend Mitt Romney demonstrated the phenomenon of leading the national polling, but losing the race, because the state polls never shifted. Ironically, Trump partisans are citing national polls as evidence that Trump is winning, or will win. But the states that are toss-ups according to Real Clear Politics would have to break better than 3 out of 4 to Trump for him to win. Not likely. There is nothing real to indicate that Trump is broadly more liked than Romney was. For a bunch of close states to shift all in one direction, there would have to be a strong indicator that Trump is leading the national race. Not only is he not leading national polling in any discernible sense, he's lost ground. States don't shift first; the nation shifts, and then states realize they don't want to miss the party. Debates rarely change the fundamental tenor of a campaign, but they tend to reinforce earlier trends. He shouldn't have to fight for GA, and NC; these are GOP strongholds. The fact that Clinton may win there is indicative to me of a Democratic win in the manner of at least 2012. I don't see a great groundswell of support for a rebuke of the president, in favor of a nonsense-spewing neophyte. I'll acknowledge my bias here, in that stupidity is the most generous characterization I can give for what Trump says. And I was wrong about Romney winning. But Americans might still vote for someone they aren't overly fond of, if they believe he or she can do the job. Like Bush, '88, or Clinton, 1996. But if you're unlikeable and incompetent, you are doomed. It's over, and thank Heaven, at least until President Clinton starts doing the normal Clinton things.

I might be able to register mild disappointment when it occurs. Sorry, but not.

PA for the GOP is like a girl who flirts mercilessly with you, and then marries that guy you can't stand. Every 4 years. I'm not falling for it. I also believe that if Ohio votes for Trump, it indicates that it's losing its "bellwether" status, in the same way Missouri has. This is more likely than the idea that the solution to GOP presidential woes is to nominate a more crass, less intelligent, less humble version of Rudy Guiliani. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

I won't be shocked if Clinton flirts with 400 electoral votes. The only thing that would shock me is a Trump win.

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 11 (Part Four, Chapter 1)

Ratzinger says that liturgy and liturgical development retains a connection to the places where God revealed Himself in Christ. The worshipping community was created by the saving action of God; therefore, any attempt to respond "creatively," or with a view toward the community's self-actualization, will end in failure, at best.

We might say that Sacred Tradition is the living memory of the People of God, as they meditate on the Scriptures. Therefore, no person has the right to alter the liturgy as he sees fit. Ratzinger writes, "The greatness of the liturgy depends...on its unspontaneity."

Adding to his thoughts that Sola Scriptura could not serve a unifying function for the Church, he also writes, "Scripture is Scripture only if it lives within the living subject that is the Church."

Liturgical development would have to be the obvious consequence of the lived experience of a living subject. It will be interesting to hear his account of this, going forward.

Monday, October 03, 2016

There Is No Salvation Outside The Catholic Church

It is a great mercy that the possibility exists that those who are not presently in full communion with the Catholic Church may be friends with God, despite their ignorance concerning His Church and the gospel she preaches. Nevertheless, we have to be clear on that.

In practical terms, I know more than a few people who were baptized Catholic, and in their terms, "got saved" in some Protestant community, and mistakenly think everything is fine. Firstly, every person is called to the Catholic Church. It's the one that Christ himself established, and he did it for our salvation. Secondly, if you know that the Catholic Church was made necessary for salvation by Jesus Christ, and you leave anyway, you're in danger of Hell itself. DON'T DO THIS. Just don't.

For my part, I found my way here, and though it was largely a joyful experience, I can tell you that the Church's exclusive claims made a difference. I should say it more strongly: There is no reason to become Catholic besides acknowledging this truth, and in so doing, we save our eternal souls.

I can and do appreciate many things done and taught (to a certain extent) by our separated brethren. But, in a certain way, the mercy flows one way. That is, toward one end. You surely could find a nominal Catholic to tell you whatever you wanted to hear. I am not that guy. Because the Church does not teach that all religions and professions are the same. They are not.

Someone will say, "But what about dialogue, ecumenical dialogue?" I'm all for it. Do you know why? I'm trying to convert that person. (Or, better said, I'm attempting to be an agent used by God for their conversion.) It's true. Ecumenical dialogue is a discussion concerning the matters of revealed truth, for the purpose of reaching agreement in that truth. That's my definition of the term, and I think it's a good one.

We don't coerce. We don't force people to believe or do anything. But if I am a friend, I owe you the truth, in all things, when possible and prudent.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Programming

Do you ever just stop and think, "Maybe I have no idea what's going on here"? During Holy Mass, we heard the reading where God kindly tells Job to button his face, and I couldn't help but think that even venturing a guess as to how my life will go is rank presumption.

As long as we have breath, we should keep going. Keep looking for God, keep trying to go deeper. We are the reason it hasn't happened to the degree we want.

There are people who don't like striving in the spiritual life; they think it's some self-help heresy. But holy striving is fully in the light of who Christ is. It's not from terror, or human weakness. Agree with God about yourself. We cannot change ourselves, but we can allow him to change us.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 10 (Part Three, Chapter 2)

There has always been an intimate relation between the saving acts of God, and liturgical music; namely, the former gives impetus to the latter. The recognition by Israel that their deliverance from the Egyptians, and the song that resulted was temporary produced the hope that pushed their ecclesial life forward. Although Christian faith possesses more in the form of realized hope, especially in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, hope is still quite vital on this side of the veil.

The Holy Spirit produces in the redeemed the songs of Heaven. The ancient Greeks had been aware of the power of music, to either elevate, or to denigrate man. Without going into an extended discussion of sacred music itself, the Christian community had been aware from the earliest days of the potential danger in the art form. Indeed, heresies were transmitted through Greek hymn forms.

So, one of the regulating influences for the Church is the biblical story, centered on Christ, the Word, (Logos) the summation of all reason. There is a sobriety in our liturgical music, or there ought to be, owing to Him we worship, and the purpose for which we come together.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 9 (Part Three, Chapter 1)

The main focus of this chapter is on how the Incarnation alters the Judeo-Christian reluctance to display God. (In fairness, it is an abhorrence to the Jewish mind, whose Scriptures from the earliest draw a sharp distinction between the Creator and the created.) But Ratzinger says that synagogue art took a softer line than might be supposed, owing to the theological inclination to make past events present through art.

And a large difference going forward lies in what the Incarnation means: it represents God's will to reveal Himself. In Christ, something of the mystery of God is made visible. An icon or image of Christ has three essential elements or reference points: His suffering, death, and resurrection. Any one image may emphasize one element over the others, but none may be denied.

The chapter seems to be a return to the earlier insight that everything comes from God and is returning to God. (Exitus-reditus) Paradoxically, we use our senses to transcend them, to be folded into the story of God redeeming mankind. History and eternity meet in the icons of the gospel of the Incarnate Word. For this reason, Ratzinger says that iconoclasm is inconsistent with Christianity.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 8 (Part Two, Chapter 5)

Everything that lives especially has a time; it lives and dies, according to its purpose. There is a sense in which certain kinds of time pass beyond the control of people. The purpose of the Incarnation, (and thus, the Cross and resurrection) is to re-orient human history and cosmic history around the saving acts of God.

Man overcomes the futility of his short life by enfolding it into the "forever" that the victorious risen Christ ushers in. There is no warrant for changing the liturgical calendar based on the seasons in certain parts of the world, for example. It would make the liturgy subject to creation, and not the other way around.

Jesus sees no contradiction in coming in the flesh to a particular place and time, but by His work, being the summation of everything. That is a worthy thing to ponder.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Black People, Muslims, Illegal Mexicans? Sounds Like A Good Time

I took the Pew survey on political identification. I'm right in the middle. I didn't know fear of outsiders and people of color was a conservative value. (Actually, it's not.) So there's that.

I mean, I guess I did join the Catholic Church. You can't get any more "ethnic" than that.

Forgive me, I may be inclined to think the lot of you are unhinged.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reading Psalm 22

I had the privilege of reading it for the members of our Bible study last night. Verses 27-31 will take your breath away:

"All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

Yea, to him shall all the proud of the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and he who cannot keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
men shall tell of the LORD to the coming generation,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
that he has wrought it."

About 1000 years later, St. Paul wrote something.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Friday, September 16, 2016

This Isn't Middle School

There are people rejoicing that somehow Donald Trump has broken the monotony and stability of our political system. Put down your Rand, and your supply of illegal drugs, and come to your senses. You should never rejoice that an intellectual amoeba is within a breath of the presidency, even if the alternative is Hillary Clinton. She may well be uniquely corrupt, but Democrats haven't changed that much. If indeed the judiciary is so far gone that only Trump can save us from doom, it's been a nice country. Not my problem.

Even though the executive has accrued much more than symbolic power, the president is a symbol. And he's not a symbol I want representing me. Politics has always been imperfect, but its drama and its theater demonstrate even now that we aspire to things in politics, and through politics.

It's one thing to remember that politics is only earthly; it's quite another to go to the gutter, and congratulate yourself for your alleged detachment.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 7 (Part Two, Chapter Four)

Ratzinger is concerned here to defend eucharistic piety from charges that it is superstitious. Such a charge proceeds from the premises articulated by things said previously: if the focal point is the community, then anything which distracts from the community and its self-awareness is to be abandoned.

On the contrary; the community and its purpose is made by the self-gift of the Lord, one which is extended to the unique eucharistic mode. Ratzinger argues that to distinguish the gift from the Person diminishes the magnitude of Him, and what He offers. Though we also recall that reception of Holy Communion is not obligatory on every occasion, he makes a bold argument to the claim that adoration and Communion are opposed: he says that to eat is to adore; it is to accept the covenant it signifies.

He argues that the same liturgical primitivism (and an uncritical one, at that) that views the medieval liturgies with suspicion also cannot abide deepening eucharistic piety and architecture.

If he is correct, then we realize a profound truth: through our deepening theological reflection and piety, we understand that God has given us a new Holy of Holies with the tabernacle.

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 6 (Part Two, Chapter Three)

Ratzinger begins this chapter reminding the reader that everything Christians did architecturally served a liturgical purpose; that is, all such decisions are driven by the understanding of what God has revealed, and therefore, the proper response of the faithful is thus determined.

God's ubiquity surprisingly affects liturgical posture, in that it doesn't eliminate a kind of spatial awareness, but causes it to be even more centered on the central saving event: the resurrection of Christ. He thus strongly advises the priest face ad orientem, that is, turned with his back to the people, facing east.

It has been his opponents, who, while claiming he suffers from an irrational nostalgia, disallow any liturgical development, and chase a kind of liturgical primitivism.

He gives one example of the negative impact of the partial truth of the Eucharist as meal: the focal point becomes the community, rather than God, whose saving action called the community into existence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 5 (Part Two, Chapter 2)

Even in the Old Testament, the synagogue in the time of the Temple was never simply a place of instruction that was intellectual only; everything that took place evoked the Temple and its worship. Facing toward the east meant toward the Temple in Jerusalem.

As they came together to worship, to sacrifice, they were always the people redeemed and set apart by God. Because of God's determination to be present with His people, their place of worship could never be merely functional; the liturgy bore witness to God's saving acts. Therefore, the church building of the New Testament doesn't serve the people meeting, as such. Rather, it serves the liturgy, which is the proper response to what God has done and said.

Facing east in the New Testament indicates an expectation of the return of the risen Lord. The "seat of Moses" becomes the bishop's throne, and all draw near to the Holy of Holies, the Eucharist upon the altar.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 4 (Part Two, Chapter One)

There is an inherent tension between the completed work of Jesus Christ, the action of the liturgy, and the hidden spiritual realities to which the sacramental signs point. Ratzinger reminds us that the liturgy utterly depends upon the death and resurrection of Christ as a past event. But what is still to come in us and in our world depends on him making his priestly work present to us, and us making an offering of ourselves to the Father through Him.

The liturgy is not a play-act, but neither is it--as Dr. David Anders might say--a time-travel adventure of a crude sort. Ratzinger asks, "After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening up of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols?" Yes, he says. Answering his own question prior to asking it, Ratzinger says, "The theology of the liturgy is in a special way "symbolic theology," a theology of symbols, which connects us to what is present but hidden."

One reason why this is fitting for us to commune with God through symbols is our frailty, but also the recognition that we are not what we shall be. The truth of presently journeying to the City of God is not altered by the confidence of reaching it, in the mercy of God.

It's only prudent to say that this is a great mystery, especially in light of Christ's substantial presence in the Eucharist.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 3

The biggest challenge to the Temple worship according to Jesus, says Ratzinger, is that the people had lost the awareness that Israel's worship was always marked by insufficiency and impermanence; that is, they knew they were sojourners, both literally and figuratively.

The leaders of that time conceived of their worship cyclically, and that it would remain static. Ratzinger points to Leviticus 26, and to the Passover in Exodus 12, as obvious instances when the sacrificial system pointed to something beyond itself, by contrast. It had always been a true insight of all religions that the only proper gift that man could give to God was his own life. The pagan religions had conceived of this literally as human sacrifice.

Instead, Jesus cleansed the Temple to prepare for a new age of universality and fulfillment. He would be the Temple, and the priest, and the sacrifice. This new anticipation is joyful, waiting for the victory of the New Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 2

Ratzinger begins by saying that a false opposition between history and cosmos has often been supposed, and an implicit critique of Christianity is that it is too linear. Acknowledging that the relation between Creator and creation is closer than some people might suppose, he nevertheless points out that God is absolutely distinct from what he has created. Recalling that primitive notions had man at the center of a kind of circle of need between man and the gods, Ratzinger affirms an aspect of such a view: that humanity is meant for union with God.

Ratzinger says that a cyclical notion of exitus-reditus ("Everything came from God, and is returning to God") is common in all religions, but Christianity is distinct, in that creation is regarded as an unqualified good. Humanity benefits from the journey back to God in the chance to obtain redemption from sin. Indeed, creation is the theater for the covenant of love between God and man. In fact, creation exists for this purpose. So, just as God created in full freedom and love, man is meant for a restored relationship in that same freedom and love. Freedom is what maintains the distinction between the creation and the Creator, though it is all destined to be divinized; that is, brought under God's control.

We can see the beauty of the Incarnation here, only lightly referred to here by Ratzinger, because the Word Himself comes to restore wayward humanity, and lead them back to God. He had previously wondered how sacrifice would function, if the goodness of creation would not seem to abide apparent destruction. Thus, we begin to see the free self-offering of love as a ready solution to that dilemma.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 1

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger asks the question, "What is liturgy?" and having asked it, he considers one possibility: the liturgy as play. There is a great freedom in children's play, he says, and this does capture something about how we properly relate to God. Owing largely to the gravity of the subject matter, he says this is insufficient as an explanation.

We should note, however, that when children take on play as a kind of anticipation of future life without its burdens and concerns, it comes the closest to what true liturgy is, and should be.

In order to answer the challenge, Ratzinger takes us back to the biblical texts surrounding the Exodus. Freedom of worship is insufficient, because God has commanded that the Israelites go out to serve him in the wilderness. He notes also that the idolatry which broke the covenant was a sort of well-intentioned impatience with the speed at which God was revealing Himself. All true liturgy is a response to what God has revealed. We cannot make up liturgy; any attempt to do it results in a kind of therapeutic self-worship.

There is of course a unique combination of worship, morality, and ethics in the Old Testament, and Ratzinger says that severing the links between any of them leads to tyranny, because the truth of who God is rightly orders every field of human endeavor.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Just Do It

I had a friend last night ask me last night about going to Confession more often. Just do it. There's no mystery there. There are things in life that just need to get started. Once they do, we can take on whatever task it is that seems too big.

Of course, I'm giving myself this advice. It's hard, man. Just the thought of some things seems dispiriting. But things not started become regrets when we are old.

May we be granted the grace to be bold today. We trust in Your merciful love, O God. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold: One Convert's View

Fr. Benson wrote a popular novel about the end of time. In the course of it, a character mentions Protestantism, and says, "It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead. Men do recognize at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration. And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left." (Lord of the World, p. 8)

Now, one of the features of the aforementioned Noltie Conundrum is that piety eliminates one possibility out of hand: the Holy Spirit cannot speak mutually exclusive truths about the same matter which is not adiaphora. This is so because the Holy Spirit is God, and God cannot lie.

So the alternatives remaining are: God protects me infallibly at all times when interpreting the Scriptures, (which one's opponents may also claim) or my opponent does not possess the gift of the Holy Spirit. The other option is to conclude that this methodology is itself wrong.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold: Further Thoughts

Practically, Sola Scriptura goes by another name: ecclesial fallibility. We saw before that a person who has no obligation to believe some ecclesiastical court is correct isn't going to defer in the future, simply because the new authority isn't Catholic. There is no principled position between "me and my Bible" and Catholicism. The purpose of Protestantism is to affirm the individual interpretation of Scripture. The resulting chaos is not an aberration or fluke. The honest Christian begins to question the Protestant methodology precisely when he cannot determine in a principled way the difference between divine revelation, and his own opinion.

What we affectionately dub "The Noltie Conundrum" illustrates another aspect of the problem, that is, ascertaining the content of what God has revealed, given mutually exclusive claims about that content, in light of a mutual invocation of the Holy Spirit.

It is a Protestant dilemma, on Protestant terms. It will not make you Catholic by itself, but it may well open the door.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Center Will Not Hold

It was actually a political discussion, but as with so much in conservative Protestantism, those lines are dotted, at best. Anyway, Rachel Held Evans came up, and she's the perfect boogeywoman, of course, with her predictable left-of-center political views, and denigration of conservative theological positions. The key point is this: you may not think she's much of a Christian, but she's the perfect Protestant. The alternative to "Scripture Alone" surely is the Church. To turn it around, having rejected the Catholic Church, one cannot be surprised that Rachel calls your bluff in the same way, and on the same terms, as the Reformers did 5 centuries prior.

Your makeshift magisteriums--whether alternative structures, or shared interpretations--are even easier to desert than Rome had been. Bad news, kid: the center will not hold. "Conservative" Protestantism is "liberal" Protestantism waiting to happen. It's just a matter of time. Because ultimately, the arbiter of what Scripture says in the Protestant system is the individual, though many people get good at mental gymnastics attempting to deny it.

"If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me." Submission could only be provisional, unless the alleged errors of Rome and its tyranny are to be repeated in every community, they reason. The only problem is that dogma--supernaturally revealed truth--cannot change, because God cannot change. Infallibility has to be a part of any religious system involving vital divine communication.

So either we live with each person as their own Pope, intentionally disregarding Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17--among other things, that we be one--or, having noticed that we share much in common which cannot be explained on Protestant terms or with Protestant methods, and we reconsider our previous rejection of the Catholic Church.

Some people assert instead that knowing infallible divine Truth is impossible, and that to desire it is a fool's errand. But if this were actually true, it would be downright wicked of God to hand out divine justice for failing to profess something that man has no way of knowing. In other words, if judgment and reward from God is real, then the Truth upon which that judgment rests is knowable.

In fact, the reason Catholic apologists emphasize history, especially in the Christian era, is because that history provides ample evidence of the preservation and communication of divine truth over time. The community whose job it is to communicate, defend, and explain that truth is the Church. A reasonable person at least considers becoming Catholic when he or she realizes that the parish down the street is an outpost of the Church he or she finds in history.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trump Doesn't Represent Me

I got pretty emotional in thinking through writing this post. I flat-out don't like Donald Trump; I don't live in the thought world where he is a viable option. This man mocks women, the disabled, and ethnic minorities. He doesn't make sense when he talks, and time reveals that he has no idea what he's actually talking about. He revels in his own ignorance. I actually suffered through the primary debates, and I wondered how someone so manifestly unfit could have made it this far. I guess people have learned to reflexively defend anyone on their side, no matter how absurd the notion. That makes me saddest of all.

I'm supposed to say that of course Clinton is worse. Perhaps she is, at that. But I find I don't care. What good has it done, supporting these Republicans, anyway? Abortion goes on, along with the destruction of the family, gay "marriage," rampant gun violence, religious bigotry, and a host of other problems. If my social media feed is any guide, so-called "conservatives" have nothing but selfish rage underlying whatever opinions they hold. Even if some progressives really are using the power of government to make certain views unpopular, what if there is no philosophy to which we return?

It's not that there is no harm in Clinton winning, but ask yourself: "Is this an election I want to win?" I say, "No!" Donald Trump is evil; he deserves to be repudiated in no uncertain terms. How did we get to the point where we have accepted all of this as the price of doing business? No, I will not.

We at least used to be able to say--despite whatever moral flaws in the philosophy of government there were--that we had intellectual rigor, respect, and good faith in the offering of an alternative. What'll we say now? What can you say?

Jeb Bush recently said you can't insult your way to the presidency. Reluctantly, and with much trepidation, I hope he is right. I doubt I could convince most people to follow my way of thinking. But however you would describe my vision, it isn't this. I still think this is right, and to accept Trump is to give tacit support to all of it. Not me. Not today, or any day.

Monday, August 29, 2016

To Kill A Mockingbird

I watched it again last night, and though I had some gnawing sense that the version I had was missing some scenes--Doesn't Cal take the kids to her church?--it still shakes with great moral clarity as a film.

Atticus is still the center of the story for me, though of course the innocence of children confronted with ugly human compromise with evil is a major theme. I have half-jokingly said before that I may be the only person whose hero is a fictional character. It remains true, in this case.

Though he becomes a victim of the violence against him and his own despair, Tom Robinson is a hero, also. It was absolutely right to feel sorry for Mayella Ewell, even if it became dangerous for Tom to act upon it. Recognizing the danger only accentuates the virtue.

Calpurnia showed solidarity as well, teaching the Finch children virtue, and showing them love, even if they will be the beneficiaries of a society that surely hasn't dealt fairly with her.

And I never before noticed the depth of Helen Robinson's grief, when Atticus comes to tell her that Tom had been killed. I was deeply moved; I felt it, perhaps as I never had before. How many real-life Helens do we have today? Too many. Far too many.

I would certainly recommend the film if you haven't seen it, and better yet, the book. There was a documentary attached, and a black lawyer commenting on Atticus said, "When you are peerless--when you really are--everyone is your peer." May that holy paradox be true of all of us, my friends.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Not That We Loved God

I read this in St. John's first letter. You might know someone that wants to be holy, but the vast majority of the shame they feel is when they fail themselves. The fact of God's loving primacy tells them that the gift of their faith is real. The whole matter then becomes a conversation about what they are afraid of, and that's what needs to happen.

The appeal of Calvinism for some people is a cover for mediocrity and self-hatred.

If God loves us, we haven't the right to deny it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I Can Do Simple Math

A small town in Ohio had a steel mill that once employed twelve thousand people. Now the company employs 900. Meanwhile, the makers of epi-pens jacked up the price from about 5 bucks to over 600, because they can. Don't talk to me about socialism; if you don't have an ethics that says these things aren't right, your opinions about the excesses of totalitarianism don't matter much to me.

People wonder why Bernie Sanders is so popular.

We can argue about the prudence or not of particular actions after we recognize and establish the dignity of every human person. I can recall a young Senator who spoke eloquently of two Americas, one for the rich, and one for the poor, lamenting this reality. He also warned of the dangers of state socialism. His ethics may have been faulty in other areas, but he was right on both counts.

If there is anything good in a new nationalism, it must begin with the dignity of the person, and the dignity of work. Though peaceful global relations are a high priority, the only people for whom American politicians are directly responsible are Americans. The lot of them would do well to think about what makes for a healthy community, and then do that, instead of chasing an economic indicator.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Grace Builds On Nature

Not all of us get to be heroes of a certain sort. We could probably easily find a story of a soldier who sacrificed his life for his brothers-in-arms. That's real virtue and heroism, but absent any other information, it would be natural virtue. To say that it does not merit salvation before God is not to say it is worthless. That is one error. Another error is to say that a person by his or her natural power can please God. That is called "Pelagianism." The Church has always taught rather that salvation consists in friendship with God, and that friendship happens by grace. We can say that grace is the presence and power of God that elevates man above his natural powers, into friendship and likeness with God. The wise people of old say that friends have to share something to be friends. Grace allows us to traverse an infinite distance to be friends with God.

This is no small thing, actually. It could be a mercy of God that we Catholics, even of the faithful sort, are as ignorant as children about this. Most days, the sacraments seem rather ordinary. It's a bit like the day I met Stan Musial. I was 12, but still a bit too young to understand. This was perhaps one of the 10 best baseball players on Earth ever at any time, and I had no idea. Stan didn't care that I had no idea; his magnanimity was greater than my ignorance, as many others surely can attest.

To an infinitely greater degree, Christ's magnanimity is greater than our ignorance. This is why we are always "giving thanks that You have held us worthy to be in Your presence, and minister to You." Christ lovingly brings us to the Father, so that each day, we understand better the greatness of Him who calls us.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Know Your Place

I was conversing with a friend in a religious order last night, and I suppose it's all very well to talk about mystical union with Christ, but in fact, if we find ourselves grappling with basic obedience for the balance of our lives, we are like most people.

The truth is that I am small. I'm double-minded, and I'm weak. There are moments when the evil looks like the good, and the good like the evil. I do not have a knowledge problem, I have a desire problem. If I had a knowledge problem, I'd be considerably less guilty. Maybe you know someone like that.

This is today's great consolation: that in the moments where he makes our sins as though they had never occurred, he pours His love into our hearts, by which our desire for Him also increases. May this love increase more than we ask or imagine. Amen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

There You Go Again

We were invaded by nuns today. Old ones. God love one nun in a wheelchair; she moved over so I could sit in my normal spot. Not that she knew that. This other nun told me her birthday was Sunday, and that she'd be 99. She was so happy to tell me that, as if she'd won the lottery.

I found the perfect love. It was right there all the time.

Father Details clearly knew the nuns, so he glad-handed the high-rollers for a few minutes. And then the caretakers asked if anyone had to use the bathroom, which of course, everyone did. I did, too. But this train wasn't moving very fast. It was hilarious. If you don't have the patience to be inconvenienced by an army of old nuns, start over.

I hope they come back.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I'm Just Here

I don't feel up, I don't feel down, I'm just here. On the one hand, I feel this great desire to get closer to God. I heard this tour guide at the Cathedral asking for quiet, because we wouldn't to interrupt people while they were talking with their best friend, Jesus. Is Jesus my best friend? It's probably more right to say that he's done the most for me. I've had moments. Anything else I say is a half-truth.

And yet, I could not hold back the desire for what the celebrant called, "joy without end." And the desire not to be left without a wedding garment. Indeed, it seems my life is marked by failure, or at least the fear of it. Yes, I know fear.

Where is the perfect love that drives out fear?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Guess I Believe Nonsense

Someone on my social media feed said that the alleged evidence for the Catholic Church being the Church Christ founded was "nonsense." I guess I can say in reply that if one refuses to admit the possibility, it's hardly news that one denies it.

It got me thinking, though: What were the highlights of considering that possibility? I think the moment I realized that an invisible Church could only exist as a mental abstraction. And further that one wouldn't be able to hold any kind of center, if any person could define the universal Church and its dogmas any way they liked. Realizing that the New Covenant is supposed to be bigger and greater than the Old, so you're not going to get rid of sacrifice without calling the God of Abraham crazy. Realizing it's safer to be in the same Church with Augustine, instead of calling him a papist toadie.

In the end, realizing that Jesus won't leave me, or lead me astray. Realizing this is still true, even if I or my brothers and sisters become a stumbling block to others. Realizing that people who refuse to enter may be afraid of things they don't understand. Realizing that I was afraid. Realizing I should do it anyway, because God loves me.

Realizing that the God of the Bible is the God of hesed, faithfulness, steadfast love, and has been so to His Church, though variously, we are not so to Him.




Once

It's a movie I just saw, about an aspiring singer in Dublin who befriends a girl, and they make a record together. [You were going to say, "make music together," beautiful music, but then people would think you meant sex.--ed.] They don't actually have sex, which is part of the intrigue.

On the other hand, I don't want to laud this as some wonderful example of friendship, because he sure wanted to. [Then you've never have been a friend to any woman.--ed.] You know, you're a real pal. [I learn from the best.--ed.] On the one hand, I was glad she didn't betray her marriage vows to do what they both wanted to do. On the other, I could understand the guy's tension, and what he thinks is pure luck of the bad variety. The writer messes with you a little, because he puts in the woman's mouth some fairly unflattering statements about the husband, and whether her family would survive.

It seems like what we might call an "emotional affair," though I find that phrase evangelical and weird, but I repeat myself. It stars Glen Hansard, and Marketa Irglova as the main characters, who are oddly not given names.

It's oddly compelling, as I might say, and I really like the music. I wonder what Greydanus thinks? [You know if you like it, he'll vomit all over it.--ed.] True. He doesn't know me, though. I can't take it personally. Maybe when he conceded that Interstellar had "genuinely affective character development" or whatever he said, that's Dutch heritage-speak for, "I adore this movie, but I cannot say that, as a Dutch person." I want him to admit that he was on the edge of sobbing in the movie theater, but he wouldn't say that, even if it were true. I digress.

Good film, good music.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Few Brief Common Core Thoughts

I am most sensitive that some of the recommendations in the liberal arts, if you will, go against the moral law. I am not overly upset by the mathematics, which is trying to teach inductive and deductive reasoning, among other things. We are obsessed with "practicality" and utility, and that is pathetic, on either side of the political spectrum. True knowledge is a good in itself, and should be sought. If a thing is also materially beneficial, so much the better. Yet our society has too many people who don't know what they don't know, and aren't too interested in finding out.

Let the teachers teach. And if there is some moral or religious objection to something in the curriculum, let parents and teachers modify the curriculum as they see fit, together. We're not saying that word enough. Or we say it, and we don't mean it. We mean "together" as "the people who already think like I do."

Anyway, I think I understand the purpose of Common Core is to give students a baseline knowledge in the various subjects, no matter where they are. Surely we recognize that much of our inability to improve student performance relative to others is the highly variable quality of the learning experience itself, largely because of socioeconomic factors. Anything that can be done to positively address that problem should be encouraged.

We cannot abandon the public school system, as Christians. Every child has a right to knowledge, and we all have a stake in that process, even if we ourselves are not served by the public schools.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Not A Trump Toadie

I'll be brief: Everything in National Review's "Against Trump" issue is undeniably true. It hasn't changed. The specter of Hillary Clinton doesn't somehow make it go away. He is not, as some would have it, a good candidate (or man) with flaws; he is a bad man, who adds willful ignorance to his witches' brew of racism, xenophobia, and resentment. Quite simply, he has no earthly idea what he's talking about, and he countenances, supports, or outright endorses the worst elements of the "alt-right." The man's biggest advocate in the conservative media is Ann Coulter. That tells me all I need to know. Namely, that maybe racism and paranoia were a bigger part of the "conservative movement" than passionate contrarians of good will were ready to face.

"Judges" is the main argument that good people use to justify their vote for Trump. You know, I have been chasing the phantasm of overturning Roe my whole adult life. It won't happen in 4 years, or 8, or 40. This is a man who was pro-abortion 18 months ago, before running for president. I'm not selling my soul for a "maybe." If Clinton is otherwise qualified, perhaps I can't vote for her, but I won't shed a tear when she wins. The Clintons may be as corrupt as advertised, but lacking basic knowledge and governing competence they are not.

Bottom lines: Don't vote for people less competent than yourself, and don't vote for someone who reminds you of Mussolini. The fact that so many Catholics are ready to wave away his toxicity so easily is appalling to me. Call it virtue signaling if you like, but I don't trust people who don't get queasy at the thought of supporting such a man. If he resonates with you, and you feel judged, good. We have too easily become acclimated to evil.

Clinton will win, make no mistake. I find it more important to re-build a party and its philosophy than to cast my lot with someone I don't respect. Pretty simple.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

If They Won't Tell You

Longtime ESPN journalist and personality John Saunders is dead at the age of 61. He was good. Really good. He always seemed to be having a good time, and to be legitimately joyful. Appearances can always deceive, I suppose.

In fact, I have to assume it was a suicide. If it were anything else, they'd say it, even if they had to say "apparent" first, pending an investigation. It may not have been. But when it is, we need to stop saying "passed away." A person who commits suicide doesn't "pass away". They violently took their own life. Whatever else we say about mental illness, and mitigating factors (especially as Catholics), we need to not surrender to a cultural tendency not to face the ugliness of this, and other things. 

To take another example, an artist who dies from a drug addiction is not "gone too soon." In one sense, yes. Middle age or younger is not the ordinary time to die. But we should expect to die, if we are doing things that cause death. It's not a misfortune; it's a choice. And we really should stop behaving as though a self-destructive person has contracted a rare disease out of the blue.

Which is not to say we shouldn't be sad, or that we can't appreciate the life they led, and be thankful. It is to say that the truth is the truth, and better to face it than to run from it. And we can certainly pray for the repose of John's soul, as we often do as Catholics.