Saturday, March 31, 2012

5 Cantankerous Thoughts on Baseball

5. Hey, MLB, I don't care if the Mariners and A's have played 2 official games in Japan; the season hasn't started yet.

4. Dear ESPN: Quit showing Spring Training scores as if they are official.

3. For pete's sake, Roy Oswalt, sign somewhere!

2. I still hate the DH.

1. Baseball purists everywhere think the wild card is immoral, so your solution is...add more?
One of the interesting storylines coming out of MLB Spring Training is aging stars. Chipper Jones, third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, is entering his 19th and final season. Perhaps the greatest switch-hitter (a hitter who bats from both sides of the plate) of all time, Jones has a career batting mark of .304 and 454 home runs. Though he will turn 40 in April, he still bats third in the order (traditionally the position for the biggest run producer on the team) and is the undisputed leader of the Braves. He will begin the year on the disabled list, but should return in the second or third week of the season. There is no one on the Braves who was there when Chipper made his debut in 1993. The National League's Most Valuable Player in 1999, Jones last had a typical (for him) season in 2007. We'll see if the almost certain Hall of Famer can go out with a bang.
Mariano Rivera has been the closer for the New York Yankees since 1996. A closer is a relief pitcher tasked with the final innings of a game when the game hangs in the balance. Even at 42, Rivera is regarded as the best closer in baseball. The all-time saves leader, Rivera was in top form last season, with a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves. Whether Rivera returns next season has not been announced, but only his decision to retire will determine it, if his expected form holds.
Jamie Moyer is 49 years old. He debuted in 1986, the same year as pitching legend Greg Maddux (who retired following the 2008 season). Though his ERA has never been impressive, he is well-regarded around the league as dependable, able to pitch his team to victory. Because he has never thrown particularly hard, whatever signs of decline are in evidence are not betrayed by the radar gun. Moyer became the oldest pitcher in baseball ever to throw a shutout last season. He is the leader in wins among active pitchers with 267. Moyer will have the honor of pitching the second game of the season for the Colorado Rockies.
Chris Carpenter is the ace of the reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals. Last season, he pitched 273 1/3 innings, the most in baseball. Before he makes his debut after recovering from nerve damage in his pitching arm, he will turn 37. Carpenter went undefeated in postseason play, and he was the winning pitcher of the seventh and deciding game of the World Series. In fact, Carpenter only lost 2 games after June 23. If the Cardinals hope to repeat, Carpenter must be close to the form he showed in 2005, when he won the National League Cy Young Award.
Finally, Ichiro Suzuki is 38 years old. Perhaps the biggest star in the history of Japanese professional baseball, he was quite decorated when he arrived in MLB in 2001. His career batting mark of .326 is only surpassed by his .353 mark while in Japan. It is certain that his dominance in Japan will be considered, should he not reach 3000 US hits, an informal benchmark for Hall of Fame induction.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Easter is almost upon us. And because it is that celebration of his vicarious Passion, death, and especially his Resurrection, I wanted to magnify the great purity of his Name. I want nothing to be in the way of that celebration. May the peace of Christ be your peace, be our peace. May you forgive my many faults. I release any anger I may have toward any of you. If you should never ask my forgiveness, no matter; I forbear it. I will suffer it. If you find that you cannot speak the words of our friendship in the Lord to my ears (for I do not deny my errors), then please pray for me, and perhaps the Lord will console me that we are not enemies. I admit that I have suffered in the knowledge that I cannot fix what has been broken, that indeed, my words are not heard. You are in my heart, even if you cannot say that I am in yours. I learned from sufferings long past that when we leave the land of the living, we lose the chance to say what we desire to say. Please hear this now: Because nothing good we ever have shared or could share comes apart from Christ, this good, our good, is his. This plea is from Him, and through Him, and to Him. For Jesus's sake I recall the joys forgotten. For his sake, I renounce the harm I caused. I only hope this affection that overshadows me now is not common, but divine. I do not believe that time is short, but it is not for us to say. I needed you to know.

Faithfully Yours,

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I need to clarify something about my journey to the Catholic Church. Let no one say, "Well, he joined the Catholic because he became disenchanted with Sola Scriptura." It's true that I became disenchanted with it, as all of you should be or become. Because it's total crap. But that's an entirely other problem from the challenge/invitation/obligation/annoying, bearded monk in your head posed by the Catholic Church. The Church is like a Blackjack dealer. You're sitting there with two face cards, a rock-solid 20, and she says, "Peter, Apostolic Succession, Eucharist. That makes 21," and you swear, and hand over your money. Because you can see the cards. It is what it is.

But you really don't have to be a papist to recognize the Sola Scriptura problem. You let me know when you convince Mark Dever to baptize infants, or convince your grandfather/crazy neighbor/pretty girl who sadly attends a "Church of Christ" that you're not going to hell because you weren't immersed. "We're all united in the essentials" dies a quick death when they reply, "We most certainly are not!" Call up the "Synod" Lutherans and ask them why they won't immediately merge with the PCA. When the laughter dies down, you'll have your answer. So seriously spare me this. I can't believe people are still defending it. Are people earnest? Do they use the Bible? Do they believe it to be the word of God? You might say this or that separatist is "twisting the Scriptures," but they can say it, too. You might protest that you have brethren outside your community. How nice. I hope it goes both ways. Wait, I don't know.

The question before us all is whether the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. I could have made the best of it, Sola Scriptura notwithstanding, if I hadn't answered that in the affirmative. No way I would prefer Catholicism without it. Are you kidding? Trust me guys, the shine wears off quick. If you didn't enter for the right reason, you won't stay.

But the person of Jesus Christ that I clung to in the dark time, He is very real. And good. Does it put the gospel at risk to start at the beginning? Can those supposed "magisterial" reformers stand up to the questioning? I had to realize first that who Christ had revealed himself to be was Truth, and that every hero or mentor besides Him could fall, and I would be OK. But seriously, have you ever asked yourself if Luther or Calvin or Wesley was wrong? Not wrong in the metaphysical sense; I mean wrong ecclesiastically? Try this one: If every corrupt Catholic clergyman, king, friar, and nobody were miraculously made perfect, could you still imagine the Council of Trent coming down? When I had to answer that with a 'yes', then it really got fun. In other words, the question of whether councils could err is entirely separate from whether people can (and do). No amount of sin alters the truth of where and what the Church is, by nature. The question is, do we live with a notion of the Church that is individually determined by us (and those who happen to share it with us) or do we find the Church Christ founded, and submit to her unconditionally? You may say that I can't definitively prove I have found it, and that is true. I can't make any argument to silence every toungue. However, the truth of something is not dependent on the wisdom or articulation of those who hold it. Here are the questions that need answering: If every appeal to Scripture is an appeal to an interpretation of Scripture, how does one judge between them, by something greater than preference? Another question: How can we arrive at divine truth within a system where no element--neither the interpreters, nor the judges--is promised protection from error? It would appear that the testimonies of the Holy Spirit on matters of divine faith is as varied as our opinions. But this is impossible. Therefore, it cannot be the Holy Spirit to which they appeal. Obviously, a hermeneutical paradigm that finds its adjudication in the self cannot long survive even the appearance of something external to that self to which one submits. Is this not ultimately the truth shown here? One may find the Catholic answer at this point to be question-begging or hasty, and I understand that. But you may well find that the evidence for such claims is more than theoretical. The truth that at the very least unites some of us in some imperfect fashion had a real beginning. We ought not pretend that this truth consensus upon which this fruitful dialogue depends formed entirely outside human life and action, any more than Jesus could be born as Savior and Redeemer apart from His mother. If the "scandal of particularity" in regard to Christ we are constrained to affirm, if the truths of Scripture emerge from the human dirt of history, perhaps in spite of it, but never outside it, then what of the Church? To be more blunt, what makes Nicea true and Trent false? If dissent was so neccessary, so justified, are you at all surprised when "truths" far more odious spring forth on the same grounds?

Let me not belabor you with arguments. But I say one thing more: If I do not surrender, I do not know. It was indeed the Terror of Nothing that led here. Not that my version of history lacked a plausibility, but in fact, that it was mine, and ultimately mine alone. Add to this that my history had no more plausibility or authority than any other. If that truth is not subjectivism writ large, the word has no meaning.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good point.
So there I was, reading St. Augustine and listening to Lady Gaga, and I caught myself appreciating the oddly spiritual themes in the music. Are we absolutely sure I didn't write "Bad Romance"? The bridge is my favorite part; the third time she sings, "I don't wanna be friends!!!" I'm not kidding, I want just this line for my ringtone. If you will pardon the frankness, I'm too old for this crap. The twentysomething girls sometimes maintain this conceit that we want close platonic friendship with them. We don't. If it goes well enough, we can keep a close friendship even when someone's status changes, but in my experience, this closeness is something a man is drawn into, not a choice. Being a Christian that believes and practices doesn't change this at all; if you think you have a friend this doesn't apply to, he's either lying, or he's attracted to people of his own sex. (Or he intends to be celibate for the Kingdom.) Honestly, it's not a character flaw; it's just the truth. The sooner you accept this, the easier life will be. The best thing a Christian woman can do to help her "friends" she isn't attracted to is get married. If he's a good Christian man, he respects that sacred covenant, and it helps him to be disinterested in an agape sense. It's not that we're utterly incapable of selfless behavior before that, but in the absence of some pretty firm emotional walls, (which would prevent the closeness in the first place) he's gonna crack. I've seen it; I've done it.
We also need to face the reality of the trends in marriage today. People are delaying marriage a long time. That means a great challenge for those called to marriage. It's not an impossible one, nor does it absolve us of responsibility in the virtue of chastity, but I get the sense that the Church Fathers would dispense of all these economic considerations, and start pairing people off.
Secular people have figured all this out way before Christians, as usual. They usually fornicate (bad choice) or, women are now making friends with homosexual men. They know men are not capable generally of platonic friendship.
The other wise people in this whole enterprise are Pick-Up Artists. Aside from the crudity and fornication, I've never seen so much truth in my entire life. Sorry if that offends. If you don't agree, you've probably read too many "Christian" books.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It was a good day yesterday; Paulie called me at 1, and asked if I wanted to go to the evening Mass in Eureka. I said, "Sure, see you then." I texted another friend to see if she wanted to come along, but in the end, it didn't work out. So there I was, minding my own business, bleeding away the afternoon, when the doorbell rang. "It's 3 o'clock. What's going on here?" As it happened, it was not Paul, but Jeff Ryan and Adam Eubanks. Jeff you might recall as the "Farkle martyr" from my birthday party. Adam's story is complicated, but suffice it to say that the love of a woman draws him ever closer to the loving arms of Mother Church. Anyway, until the moment I opened the door I thought Paul was early--he likes to say he believes in "German hours" as his defense for showing up obscenely early--but faced with these others, in faux-outrage, I demanded an explanation. None was forthcoming from Jeff, who was busy murdering his cell phone with a philosophical conversation that might better have taken place in person, though he was consoling the friend who couldn't make it.
Adam and I began talking about his problems, since he wouldn't know why Jeff came early; his Dad just happens to live in my neighborhood, so he tagged along. As we left nearly an hour later, Jeff was negotiating whether we should go to the Mass in Eureka or to the Cathedral Basilica downtown. I prevailed upon Jeff that we should choose the former. So the 3 friends and a dead cell phone set out to celebrate the Lord's Passion and Resurrection in the prescribed manner. Being the filthy wretch that I am, I had need of Reconciliation before worthy celebration of the other mysteries. You really ought to try it some time.
As it unfolded though, I recalled that I'd rolled into the Slowest Confession Line Ever. Going to Confession with this priest is like an Oprah episode that's all about you. And no, he doesn't care how long the line is, or that we will soon celebrate Mass. You might think that would make him impertinent, but this is not the case. I asked Jeff to assure me again that this Saturday Vigil Mass meets our Sunday obligation. He asked, (in true rigorist fashion) "In my book, or the Church's?" As politely as I could, I answered his question and reminded him that I didn't care in this instance what his opinion was.
After the saving work of Christ was applied to me once more, we had a few moments before Mass to pray. My works of penance I completed, and I could not fail to notice the stained-glass window of Jesus holding out His Most Sacred Heart above the altar. It is fitting of course; Most Sacred Heart is the name of this parish. I looked at the altar, and I recalled the great sadness I now carry with me, the rupture that time has not even begun to heal. I have been angry, but this day, I only longed for that reconciliation that may never come. We recall the words of Jesus about reconciliation and the altar. The best I could do is say that if that one were here, I would offer the kindest words and tears that I was able. And you were there, rest assured.
I knew that all of it would be offered there, in a short time. Christ would make His love plain as he has done so many times in so many places. Not again, as though it never occurred, nor as if He had not fully satisfied the debt we owe, but so that work on a distant hill would be so much more than a hazy memory.
I was hungry afterward, and having kept the customs common for this time--and that for us, this was our Sunday--I indicated in my direct manner that I meant to acquire some "dead cow." My fellows were suitably amused. I must say that although the axiom that funny people don't try to be funny is patently false--everyone tries--I was genuinely surprised by the depth of their amusement. But I did envelop myself in my own laughter when I pictured the horror of living cows everywhere upon learning of my desire. "MOOOO!" indeed.
We stopped in a Denny's, and the server was kind and helpful. She was also pretty. I thought we were going to get thrown out when Adam turned to her and asked, "How far along are you?" I promise you, I could not tell. I was even more stunned when she said she was six and a half months along. She will apparently be the pregnant lady women hate.
As is Jeff's custom, we found ourselves in an epistemology discussion for two hours. Two out of three (Jeff and I) said that Bonaventure's account of knowledge (and whether we have senses spiritually apart from the body) was better than the Angelic Doctor's. I had my own more narrow concerns about the ethical implications of Aquinas' view, and Adam abstained.
We returned to my house to find--to my cautious delight--that Rick Santorum had crushed Mitt Romney in the Louisiana GOP primary, 49-26%. Gingrich continued to help Romney by taking 16% of the vote. And that was the day, though still it ended with tears.