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Fun With Romans

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to read and analyze the book of Romans. Verse-by-verse. Right here. Just to show that we still read the Bible over here. And that the Magisterium is not Big Brother. [Yes it is.--ed.] We'll have our Catechisms open, just so I don't accidentally start another "Reformation". [Why the scare-quotes?--ed.] You want me to say that I don't think the Reformation reformed anything? [Ahem.--ed.] Well, you've had too many people spraying rainbows and sunshine in your face instead of telling the truth. [Back at you.--ed.] Right. Like I need or want to join a church of one. I'm done. "Faith like a child" means at least this: My faith is one I received, as a gift. It was taught to me. "The Quest" was nothing but asking if those who taught me had themselves received it, and been sent. It must be historical, by the nature of the case. So there we are. We'll see if Uncle JK still knows how to dance. The truth is, I

In Fact, Devin Rose Is Awesome

Save yourself some time . I wish I had this man's clarity of thought. But I can think back to when the problem of fallibility became acute. It's when and why I looked into the Catholic Church. As I recall, I wrote of an "Abyss Of Relativism." This is that. I will readily grant that Protestants and Catholics would be in a similar epistemic position, in the absence of evidence for the claim of infallibility. But it seems to me that this other man needs to investigate that claim, and the evidence offered, rather than merely assert that it is false. By the way, it's still arbitrary and ad hoc to accept the first two Councils while rejecting the others, especially using a principle and a method the Fathers knew nothing about. To even use Sola Scriptura, wouldn't one be asserting that one's own interpretation is the measure by which all others are judged? And that applies to history itself. Some ecclesial body ("the Church") can't really be a c

Catholic As Not Protesting

You need to understand. Or at least I want you to understand. I'm not Catholic as a pin on my lapel, or as a sports team for whom I root. I am Catholic. I do not prefer Catholicism; it is quite simply, the only choice that makes sense. When you're on the journey from Reformed/Protestant to Catholic, you don't really know that's what you're doing. I was just asking questions. It's not right to say the answers didn't satisfy me; they ought not satisfy anyone. I've talked with other people stuck in groupthink, and that's what happens: slogans are said to make the inquisitor shut up, and keep the others from wondering. I guess it works on some people. Not me. And it never has. It's not anti-Reformed to ask where the ecumenical councils came from; neither is it to ask where the end-point of a(n) hermeneutical process (or at least what it looks like) terminates. You can blather on about authorial intent 'til you are 172, but unless you know what

Define Your Terms

I live in two worlds. One is the spiritual or theological, and the other is political. I've always been political as far back as I remember. As you know, I'm pretty opinionated. I also think "extreme" and "extremist" are words people use when they don't like someone, and want to shut them up. Or you could use an adjective like 'far' with a spectrum descriptor like 'Right' or 'Left'. We all do it at times, and depending on the situation, it can be accurate or even welcome. But no one likes to be shamed and silenced. My pet peeve is when people use 'Right,' 'Left,' and 'Center' in theology, as though there is a spectrum, and as though the science of theology is bargained, or even worse, a matter of perspective. Political power often is wielded by majoritarian consensus, or at least acceptance. But things of God don't work this way, and they shouldn't. We may find that we have different truths as a

A Birthday

Today would be my father's 60th birthday. It's hard to picture him as an old guy. He was 36 when I lost him. I'm sad, of course. As I said in the post called, "Funeral," it's a hard thing. But sadness isn't the only feeling. The other very strong feeling is hope. It's a funny thing when you follow Jesus: (Note well, NYT/clueless media) some of us actually believe this stuff. I really do believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. I have no idea how the Lord will judge my father, but I have great hope. I suppose I should say "has judged," but there is still the end to come. I have lesser hopes, too. I hope he is proud of me, and all his children. Perhaps it's fitting that the only enduring memory I have of him is seeing him look down and smile at me. My brother and I, his oldest children, we think a lot about how we carry our name--his name--and whether we do it well. There's a spiritual metaphor i

Death Of A Paradigm

"Derivative authority is a sham." (This is the idea that the creeds have a secondary authority derived from Scripture.) That's what I realized. When I read Mathison's The Shape Of Sola Scriptura, it confirmed that impression for me. Not that I had any warmer feelings for Catholicism (he brought up a ton of potential problems and objections that deserved exploring later), but I saw that he was making a distinction without a difference in his basic thesis. (Sola Scriptura vs. Solo Scriptura) If there was one thing where I rose in defense of the Catholic Church, it was in his taxonomy of tradition: Tradition I, (Church fathers) Tradition II, (medieval Catholicism) and Tradition III (Pope makes up whatever he wants). Because there was no difference between St. Thomas's theology and Trent, and no substantive difference between Origen and Trent, especially on the crucial issue of free will. The basic Reformed/Protestant storyline of the Middle Ages--the burdensome, se

Christmas, Day 2

It was a fine Christmas. Before we took our places at the front for the concert and Mass at the Cathedral, we stopped at the creche. It was a little hard to focus, but I think I was able to bring to mind all the broken relationships I am aware of. Honestly, we live on different planets, me and many of the people I know. It seems hopeless. But that was how it surely seemed when Jesus came in the flesh to the world he made. That stirs hope in me. I felt like I was demanding things I had no right to ask. But I'm sure it only feels that way because I do not understand the meaning of my sonship in the household of God. I got 2 little things as gifts. I don't need stuff; I need people who name the name of Christ to be friends, and I need people who don't know Him to meet him. Pretty simple, but I am a simple man. Peace.

Heresy

I looked up "heresy" in the CCC. It's paragraph 2089, if you're scoring at home. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same." So Luther may well be a sympathetic figure, as may be Calvin or any others. But they were definitely heretics. By the way, one is perfectly free to dissent from the dogmatic definitions of an ecumenical council, but if you do, you're not a Catholic in good standing of any sort, by definition. So let's cut the nonsense about how the Church acted hastily with regard to Luther, or in error. They did no such thing. The faith of the first millenium was as much defined by fidelity to the visible Church as by its propositional content. Indeed, that's why heretics so often claimed that the Church was corrupted, and thus separated from it. I don't have to use strawmen arguments against the Reform

Catholic Actually Means Something

It came to me as I received the Lord today. Both experientially and theologically, Catholic life is less about remembering the past, and is more about living in grace in the present. The old man doesn't finally die long ago; he dies here and now as we take the gifts of our sonship and use them for that purpose. But it shows me more and more how stupid sin is. Sin is acting against our sonship, and with all the gifts of the Church, it's even more pointless. Added to the blessings of sonship, there is the pursuit of further holiness, and the glories of intercession and mysticism. Even the heights of Protestantism can't touch this. It's the sacraments, mainly. You'd think I'd be talking less about the present. After all, if you say "Catholic Church," you might get "tradition" and "history" back in answer. But let's not mistake her evidences, her reasons for credibly telling us what to do, for the essence of the thing. I have

Suffering

Probably one of the most perplexing things about the Christian life is suffering. Everyone has their own measure to bear. For my own part, I can imagine the things I would be unable to bear. But as I look back on what I have suffered, I realize that I've vastly underestimated what I can take. That's to be expected. Mother Church has a pretty well-developed theology of suffering, through the testimony of her saints. Suffering is not only to endured, it can be offered to God. More than that, it can be offered for others. I'd like to think I haven't wasted mine, but I have. St. Paul says in his letter to the Colossians, "...and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, the church." If that isn't the oddest verse in the Bible, well, then, I don't know. What could be lacking in the sacrifice of Christ? And what do any of us poor sinners think we can offer of spiritual value? But there it is, right in t
5 Thoughts For Today 5. Since the Church is made up of fallible human beings, I guess Arius was right. I mean, "councils may err," right? I happen to think his interpretation adheres most closely to Scripture. (I'm not serious; I'm making a point.) 4. I guess when you "tell it to the church," we'll have to have an endless exegetical debate, because of course an ecumenical council can't settle it. Obviously, the Church wanted the freedom of idiosyncratic hacks preserved for all time. 3. Didn't you hear? The apostles replaced Judas because they got a great deal on a hotel for vacation. Group rate, and all that. 2. I'm so glad God doesn't protect the Church through her actual institutions. Instead, he sends a scrupulous, angry monk and a lawyer when no one is looking. 1. Of course, Nicea and Chalcedon were correct, and all the others were false. Haven't you ever played Calvinball?

A Basic Argument Against An Invisible Church

I'm sure Newman or someone has already made this argument, but here it goes: It is asserted that the Church of Jesus Christ is fundamentally invisible. But this cannot be. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that a thing cannot be and not be in the same way at the same time. But this "Church" proposes as de fide doctrines which are contradictory, such as in the doctrine of the Eucharist. As it is written, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." But the Church is the "pillar and foundation of the truth." It is also called the "household of God." God cannot be divided, as it is written, "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one." Therefore, this concept called by the same name cannot be the Church Christ founded. Corollary: Now it is clear that a man may dissent from the true faith. But it does not follow that merely asserting a different set of propositions makes those propositions true. Based upon what we have al

List Me, I'm Irish

5 Thoughts For Today 5. One little act done in the love of God is greater than all the noble natural acts put together. 4. I still hate Macs. 3. No, I have not seen The Sound Of Music. I'm sorry. But a beautiful woman told me to watch it over my Christmas break, so naturally, that will happen forthwith. Just sayin.' 2. Nor have I read The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings, or The Chronicles Of Narnia. Obviously, I am reprobate. 1. Nothing like hamming it up with the Vicar-General and starting Holy Mass late. I'd like to think Jesus thought that was funny.

Another Tragedy

It was 3:30 when I saw it. If my jovial post on Facebook struck you wrong, all I can say is, "I didn't see it." This guy came into a school full of little ones with a rifle and started killing people. He killed 26 others, including his parents, and then himself. I hear people saying, "I hope he burns in Hell," and while I understand the anger people are feeling, (and I certainly want some justice) I can't hope for this. Hell is Hell. It makes the most horrible scene you can fathom seem like a minor inconvenience. I can't think of a person that I've known I'd consign to such a fate. Please don't say such stupid things. The Lord will judge, and it is just. But I tremble at the thought of it. O God, our Father, have mercy. Have mercy on us for our evil words and actions, which stir up violence in the hearts of people. Be near to these little ones, and to those who had charge of them who were also lost. Please comfort those in sorrow, beyond

JK: The Music

Yesterday, I was obsessed with James Morrison. Today, I felt like Michael Bolton . Yes, that Michael Bolton. Irving Berlin or whoever was talking mess because the vocals are expressive/passionate/soulful or dare we say it, loud, he's free to be excused. Look, I get it: He's easy to make fun of, what, with his long hair, pretty voice, and sensitive manner. Maybe dudes were just jealous because they knew that if Michael lived in their town, their wives would be tempted with adultery. Anyway, I know what I like. I can remember that I was 9 years old when I heard Bolton for the first time. "What was that? I want to hear more of that." Was I supposed to care that he sang "sissy" music or whatever people said? Oops. Pretty much any notable song of his makes me say, "He sang the mess out of that song." Isn't that what you want? Music is supposed to be memorable. I think it's fair to say that our pop music is vocally-driven. Anywhere Michael B

Is the Church Flawed?

It seems to me that this is the real question behind Protestant-Catholic disputes. The fact of human sin constitutes the open and shut proof against the Catholic notion of holiness, which is really indefectibility. We are the members of the Body of Christ; we are flawed; therefore, the Church is flawed, or so it goes. But hold on a minute. Setting aside the difference in ascertaining the content of divine truth--Sacred Scripture* vs. Sacred Scripture and Tradition--it seems like we're owed an answer as to where unsullied dogma comes from. If we can't trust the visible institutional church made up of sinners, somehow we are supposed to trust one person who himself is a sinner? The Holy Spirit protects a man, but not a whole group of them? Even if we were to ignore the "Church" part of this question, upon what basis would we hold any one of our opinions as a result of the hermeneutical process, given rival claims flowing from the same process? Adding "Church&qu

12/12/12

5 Thoughts For Today 5. Is God playing dominoes? 4. There was a hurricane relief show I was too busy to watch. 3. The other numbers feel discriminated against. I blame Obama. 2. I wonder if Mittens did anything weird today. 1. 07/07/07 was the last time this happened.

We Wish You A Merry List-Mas

5 Thoughts For Today 5. There are a ton of issues the Bible doesn't directly address for which Christians need answers. 4. It's not my fault your ecclesiology is collapsing faster than the Houston Texans. 3. Primacy of Peter, apostolic succession, Eucharist. If I were going to shout, wave my arms, and pointlessly pound the table in a futile attempt to bring the Christian world Home, this is what I would say. [So, pretty much a normal day.--ed.] 2. "What did the Fathers know, and when did they know it?" Bishop-gate? Schism-gate? Luther-gate? Hmmmmm. 1. I'll see your two ecumenical councils, and raise you 19 more. I'd fold, if it were my hand.

List

5 Thoughts On The New England Patriots 5. 10-3, after a sluggish start. Yes, you read that right. 4. Wes Welker had a bad game. 3. It was 42-14, and yet I think the Patriots feel their offense was sluggish. 2. Darth Hoodie will not be pleased with the four consecutive punts. 1. Brady has help from the defense. Look out.

Party!

I enjoyed the party. Thanks to George Capps for inviting me. Our first game was Taboo, and believe me, I was thrilled to find out that the buzzer was broken. It makes a more obnoxious noise than evangelical leaders talking about economics. I digress. The boys won, 21-18. Our next game was called Encore. You get a card with a word on it, and the goal is to sing a phrase from a song with the word (or the idea) in it. 6 little words is all you need. DO NOT play this game competitively in a large group; there will never be a winner. You'd be surprised how well everyone does. I was called, "a country music legend" by one person I didn't know, and Jacob Torbeck said that there'd be no way any team with me on it would lose the game. That was before we started. I guess I helped make it a stalemate. I'm pretty sure Randy Jackson of American Idol fame knows more songs than me. And I'll bet "The Deb" does, as well. But I do know a ton of songs. It's i

Reconciliation and Regret

I like talking. Talking and words are how I come to understand. If there's a problem, I value the opportunity to talk it out. Words are the means by which I communicate my deepest desires and thoughts. Silence is good for many things. Peace. Reflection. Reverence. We need it sometimes, in order not to be bombarded by a Cacophony Of Words, even in our minds. Silence is not so good for being angry. Angry silence is the worst kind. I hate it more than shouting. I try to remember that people need time to cool off, to think about things. I was once told not to push so hard to reconcile, that it was too soon. Honestly, I don't get that. But like I said, we have different temperaments and all that. So you do what you do. You pray. You fight through the pain and the anger, even if it was your fault. And wait, I guess. Father Coffey told me it happens. It happened to him. He said he said the wrong thing, and that was it. To this day, I don't understand. I'm not built that

CRPD

I have now read the entirety of the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of People With Disabilities. Though precious little jumps out at one as offensive on its face, the people of the United States, who both understand the nature and genius of our Constitution, should oppose the treaty vigorously. The genius of our Constitution is that it limits specifically the government of the United States. It is not an exaustive treatment of the aspirations of the American people as a part of the human family; it entrusts those aspirations to the people themselves. Without prejudice to the citizens of other nations, who have the right to define their relation to their governments however they wish, this is rare. International treaties, as per the US Constitution itself, "trump" that document itself. We can hope, therefore, that our leaders would only enter in to such agreements in the gravest of circumstances, where the common good of all humanity was in view, and the basic liber

Church

I have been accused of many things in my short time on this rock, but undue deference to a man is never going to stick. [You could say that one again, jerk.--ed.] Anyway, I was talking it over with God just now, and if the bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, want to wade in and short-circuit a political discussion by sanctifying one particular policy over another...well, I'll just say, "Thy will be done," and we can be foolish together. The rest of you, there's at least a 32.4% chance that I don't care what you think. (This still means you, Bob Costas.) In any case, if any of my previous statements seemed to indicate a possible unwillingness to submit to the authority of the bishops, it was not intentional. I'm usually a very affable contrarian, but I am a contrarian. As much as I love consensus and agreement and harmony, a false, comfortable version of those things irritates me. We all have to be on guard that we don't make character judgments about p

Church-State

"The basic point I want to make is, quite frankly, the bishops have no expertise and no grounds to come down on one side or the other. This is the epitome of a prudential judgment sort of issue, and brandishing a few Bible verses doesn't make it less debatable or contentious." The reason I say this so strongly is that, the biblical commands do not tell us whether or not to build a border fence, whether to impose tax penalties, etc. I might believe we need a fence and other measures, but if faced with a person in need, those concerns are less pressing, obviously. Perhaps my annoyance at certain simplistic formulations obscured my strong affirmation of human dignity with respect to immigrants. I have no idea why the bishop of northern GA has deemed it necessary to opine, when none of the proposals on any side will have anything to do with the way legal immigration is conducted, nor prevent Christian people from acting in accord with mercy and the gospel in the case of

Sports, Politics, Rick Santorum

5 Thoughts For Today 5. That awkward moment when listening to Jay-Z when you realize, "I haven't prayed today." 4. 117 days until MLB Spring Training. Let's cut the crap: In comparison, I don't care about football. 3. Bob Costas, you are one of the greatest sports announcers the world has ever known. I'd rather listen to you than almost anyone. You are a credit to your profession. Loved "Fair Ball." That said, I don't give a rip about your view of the Second Amendment. Shut your pie-hole. This is a football game, not Donnybrook. 2. I enjoyed "Red Dawn." As the problem unfolded, and the bad guys did their thing, I enjoyed saying, "Those commie &^#*@%$" a bunch of times. 1. I still love Rick Santorum, just so you know.

Immigration

If I were al-Qaida, I would start a terror cell in a Mexican border town. Let me preface the rest of this rant with the statement that I'm fairly flexible--even undecided--on what to do about illegal immigration. Right off the top, mass deportation is not an option. It is both unworkable, and un-Christian. I do not, however, believe that the Christian teaching to be hospitable to the alien and sojourner obligates me as a matter of faith to support the specific policy of granting amnesty and citizenship to those who come to the United States illegally. Doing this makes poor schmucks out of those who follow the rules. I wouldn't. Why? Not when US politicians are lined up to dole out the goodies. On the other hand, we can dramatically simplify the process for becoming a United States citizen, and increase the numbers of people we accept as visitors to the United States. Citizenship confers privileges and obligations, and should never be granted lightly. The DREAM Act has a gr

Faith and Works

“I have no problem with religious acts, as long as they are a result of being saved and forgiven, not as a way to be saved and forgiven. ” Why does anyone accept this reasoning as anything close to what the Bible plainly teaches? “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Did not Ananias and Sapphira die when they lied? “True religion that the Father accepts is this: to look after orphans and widows…” Do you recall the sheep and the goats? What’s this nonsense about having to be already forgiven in order to do anything? King Saul lost the kingdom because he did a “religious act.”   Let’s tell the truth: This is crazy. This is a theological conclusion so derived from party spirit that the text doesn’t even make sense anymore. If you can be damned by an act, surely you can be saved by one.   How did words and deeds working together become, “We save ourselves”? I keep looking for that in the Catechism. It must be in there. Afte

Dr. King

You know, there are people who frustrate me. The way they say things. The way they approach people who may be less intelligent, or at least less credentialed than them. Or maybe they don't see the moral implications of a thing the way I do. It happens. I'm a very intelligent dude. That's not a boast. It's just the way things are. 97.4% of the time, I'm the smartest person in any room. But I'm the son and grandson of average folks. I like ordinary people. I really do watch NASCAR. I listen to country music. If I ever run for office, my opponent is already doomed, because I connect with people pretty well. Provided, of course, that I can stay calm. I do have a bit of a temper. My trigger for anger is usually incurious stupidity or rank unfairness or injustice. People who have seen me argue politics and think I make Rush Limbaugh look like a moderate are very wrong. On the other hand, I will argue an extreme position or defend a marginalized person in a discuss

Advent

Advent. I'm neither Catholic nor attentive enough to have noticed that the Gloria was missing, although, when the priest mentioned it in the homily, I'd swear I felt it right then. I didn't feel terribly spiritual going to Mass this evening, though I didn't feel weighted down by sin, either. BUT, when I entered the sanctuary, it was but a few seconds when I sensed that it was Advent. It had slipped my mind intellectually. Still, I could not brush away this anticipation. If I didn't know better, I'd call it agitation. I can't call it joyous, at least not yet. What I felt was need. I need Jesus to be here. Even as I felt shame for losing patience earlier this week, and for being timid in sharing my faith. Yet there is something else: I have something to live for. Or rather, someone. And it really does make all the difference. We all want to seem normal and well-adjusted. But the truth is, none of us are. You can maybe dance it away, or drink it away, or s

Trade Policy

No, I will not buy American. That's stupid protectionist nonsense. I'll buy whatever I happen to need at an agreeable price, regardless of the origin. If there are ethical concerns about it, well OK then. But I won't fail to notice that everyone is better off when nations trade freely. Free-flowing international commerce creates economic interdependence, and that is one protection against war. Trade wars create actual wars, and war is never desirable. It's amazing how stupid people can be.

"List"-less

5 Thoughts For Today 5. I love college basketball, despite it being a big corporate blight on our system of higher education. 4. The Civil War was about slavery for the South. Whatever lessons we may draw in terms of limited government from that episode, the CSA will not be our teachers. Despite the plethora of undoubtedly virtuous and interesting men from that side of the conflict, I am glad EVERY SINGLE DAY that they lost. 3. I want a tax credit for my sugary, fizzy beverages. 2. Replacing Susan Rice with John Kerry is like replacing low batteries with dead ones. 1. Duke.

Friends

OK, it bothers me, I admit it. I know exactly how many Facebook friends I have at any one time. I've lost 6 in the last 2 weeks. Could be people closing their accounts. Fair enough. But it bugs me to think someone is mad at me or something, and unfriended me. Even with 864 friends, you must know that I don't take such things lightly. I have never seriously contemplated unfriending someone. There are people I met once, and maybe will never talk to again, but you never know. I feel bad when I can't remember someone's name, but I know that no encounter with another human being is a light matter. It stings a little when you see a profile of someone you were friends with, and it gives you the option to add them. Since I know I wasn't the one to drop them, I'm not going to add them again. On the other hand, it might make the person tell you why they dropped you in the first place. Remarkably, I've had people drop me and add me again, twice, without explanation

Invisible Church?

Thank you, Pope Pius XII: "Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely 'pneumatological' as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond." Those of you with a more mathematical, precise bent may benefit from a longer exposition here on the "Catholics are divided, too" objection. For my part, I had a few comments. First, the mere fact of disagreement between people tells us nothing about the nature of the disagreement, or the potential basis for reunion, because we don't have a baseline to measure it against. But in Catholicism, there is a baseline, so that whether the error is heresy or schism, those terms have objective meaning. This is the basic flaw in an old, "The Council cannot be authoritative, because it did not include x group" argument. It would allow dissenter

Wants

It's kinda cold here. Not bitter, but it's cold enough that I don't want to go outside. [You never want to go outside.--ed.] OK. There's much work ahead. I don't want to do it. But most of the time, like the weather, the clouds are not as dark as they appear. I've been lax in my prayers recently, but I was literally inspired to pray a whole bunch. It was finding out about people's trials and reading the Catechism. My favorite passage from the past couple of weeks is paragraph 278. It's in the context of whether God is omnipotent. Now, the answer to this is an easy 'yes,' if one is thinking clearly about the definitions of the words, but people's spiritual problems are rarely intellectual. Doesn't that paragraph just sound like a priest or Jesus admonishing you with rhetorical questions? At least it inspires me to make my "I'm sorry I asked" Face. Isn't it odd that although most people can't think their way out of

Christ The King

It was a "set your hair on fire" kind of homily. Or more appropriately, your heart. Father spoke about Calles and his persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s. He said that the world, the flesh, and the devil were really behind the whole thing, and ultimately, Satan is in a battle with Heaven for your heart and mine. In the little things, in the big things, in all things. He asked us to whom our hearts belonged, reminding us that they cannot belong to both. And he concluded with "Viva Cristo Rey!" or, "Long live Christ the King!," the words the martyrs shouted as they gave their lives. Might I add that you need to see the film, "For Greater Glory" if you haven't. It tells this story, and does it well. It was easily the movie of the year. I couldn't help but think yesterday--as I had my very own Thanksgiving, Part II (Mexican Style)--that my worlds are merging. Any good Christian you read will say that we must learn to

A Good World, Still

When I was a teenager, one popular TV character would see advertisements for a show called, "Sick, Sad World." The protagonist wanted you to see everything with as much irony and cynicism as she did. And it's not far off the mark. We could give each other a million examples. The good we're supposed to have, juxtaposed with what humanity seems to settle for could shatter the heart of any reasonable person. To be frank about it, in just this last year, I've had enough suffering and mourning for a lifetime, if it was my call. It isn't, but in case you were curious, now you know. And maybe I'm the wrong sort of person to write what I'm about to write. I'm not exactly known for melancholy. Still, it comes to this: I think the Christian mission behind the mission will be to convince the world that this cosmos we live in is good. The whole world is screaming, "Who cares? Life sucks and then you die!" even while their souls vibrate with the t

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Catholics pray too fast. I want to shake them in public prayer. The leadership wants to know why many don't interiorize their faith; it's because you permit them to say our devotionals a thousand miles an hour. The vocal part is only the exterior; mental prayer is what matters. Converts will tell you if you're praying too fast; in general, you're praying too fast. And before some uppity cradle Catholics get all bent out of shape about the converts thinking they know everything, chill. I didn't propose a change to the Mass; I'm just telling you, if this is about our hearts, you're not even letting them in. See, one great thing about the separated brethren is that, whether they're doing exactly what they should do, or taking a hacksaw to the faith once delivered, in any case, it's ALL FOR JESUS. I can't say I've never lost my focus in prayer. And if you have a plan to do something, do it, even if you don't feel lik

What's My Life For?

Writers write. That's what they say. And fighters fight. You can't chase someone else's imagination of what you're supposed to be. You've gotta be what you are. And if you stay beyond the place where your skills win the day, hopefully you've got that pride, the pride that still earns respect when you come up short. The sun shines a different color when you are bound only to yourself and God. The lines on your face are from laughter, because you seek out joy, instead of thinking it's owed to you. But think how much energy people waste trying to convince other people everything is fine. If there's a weight on your soul, a drinking buddy who doesn't know you from a hole in the ground isn't going to help. Have you hung around a place like that, when only the most obtuse person would easily conclude that these people have nothing to live for? We're not talking about some friends celebrating a promotion; we're talking about blotting the rea

Plan of Life

It's time to restart my Plan of Life. It's not a great existential thing; it's a phrase that describes a generally set way to pray and live each day in order to reach maximum holiness. On the other hand, what's more existential than that? A little piece of advice from the spiritual hinterlands: If you get an idea to change the plan, and it didn't come from your spiritual director, there is an 84.2 percent chance that it came from Satan. That was a terrible month! And we know the reason now, don't we? Even though immaterial beings are not composed of matter by definition, there should be no doubt that Satan is a piece of crap. He will do anything to pull us away from God, leave us lonely, confused, and chained to our sins. You thought you had me, didn't you? Yeah, well, I don't think so. I may go to Confession soon, just to spite the monster. But that is what the old priest had said: God speaks quieter. I should have remembered Elisha. It's true

Funeral

I willingly went to a funeral today for the first time in 23 years. I lost my father in 1989. Three years later, I ended up at the funeral for my grandfather's sister. I fell apart completely. I had to leave. I had a firm determination never to do that again. But earlier this week, I found out that my dear friend Carol (Confirmation Sponsor Lady) had lost her mother. She and her husband know that I'd do anything for them. Of course I have to go. Just tell me when to show up. If I can get a little sentimental here, I don't think either of them realizes how special they are to me. And I'm not the only one. Dad understands my reticence all this time, but I know he'd tell me to go, too. If I can take a moment and try to describe what it's like to lose a parent, I'll do my best, and I hope you're still with me. It's like falling down in a well or a hole. The darkness is your anguish, but there is no floor. Somehow, time pulls you out, and you go on

Death Is Wrong

Death is all around us. In neither takes imagination or great vision to notice. And it's fundamentally wrong, though it is commonplace. At this point, it'd be easy to say, "How horrible! Come, Lord Jesus!" and move on. But we can't. We've got to think through some things. You know, we weren't supposed to die at all. Death came through sin. On the other hand, that gift of immortality was just that, a gift, and one above our nature, at that. (Contra Crazy Uncle Marty and others) God somehow saw fit to pair an immortal soul with a mortal body, and to keep them together in redemption. Thus ends the theology lesson for the day. Except to say that the mortal will become elevated, and not the other way around. Wasn't it always one of those baffling Bible mysteries that Jesus waited for Lazarus to die, knew he was going to raise him, and cried anyway ? If the God-man who is the perfect man wept, maybe the hope of Heaven isn't meant to be the only answe

The Whole Truth

I have to confess openly that I do not understand redemption. I could not possibly know the depth of God's love for me and all of us. But to be moving in the right direction is to say that you want to know. You want to grow. I came to realize today that it's easy for the cares of this life and desires to get in the way of loving God. [That's not news, dummy.--ed.] Well, it was to me. How was RCIA, by the way? [Horrible. These people are way too happy. And this woman was certainly trying to bribe us with cookies.--ed.] I hate it when she does that. I mean, I love it. I mean, I don't want to get fat, but in the moment, I can't seem to care. [So they are sinful, then.--ed.] Simmer down, Calvinist. [I'd like an answer to the question.--ed.] No, the cookies are not sinful, you world-hating dualist. [You should talk.--ed.] You're doomed, you know. If you keep going, you're Catholic. It's probably already over. [Shut up. I'm not weak and emotional l

Relativism

I can't shake this feeling--or this snarky opinion--that everything is infected with relativism, like a disease. I mean, honestly. And you can't even say, "even among evangelicals," because that word is the epitome of the problem. And don't even get me started on politics. This is the relativist's favorite playground. The only thing you have to do is say, "Well, we don't live for this world" or "Jesus didn't have a political program" or "Pox on both your houses!" or "I'm a moderate" or "I'm a Christian first" and you're done thinking. That may not be fair, but it's kind of true. And anyone else who even dares suggest that it's more complicated than that, or Heaven forbid, that you might want details, oh, well, you're obviously taking a human, feeble thing way too seriously. OK, sorry I asked. You know what, Christian Leader Guy? I want definitions of words; not everything
5 Thoughts For Today 5. A tie? In American football? Really? 4. Ah-HA, Cutler sucks. 3. Skyfall. 2. I mean, Cutler is bad. He's worse at playing quarterback than Obama is at being president. 1. If the principals in the NHL labor dispute can't reach an agreement, they can always console themselves that even while not working, they still suck less than Jay Cutler.
5 Thoughts For Today 5. Grace is like a reset button for the sojourning Christian who stumbles. 4. Arguably, Daniel Craig may be known as the best James Bond of all time. 3. I am surrounded by great friends, many more than I could hope for. 2. I like my politicians honest, actually conservative, and physically fit. (Let the reader understand.) 1. It's obvious that she was beaten senseless with the Beautiful Stick.