Saturday, August 09, 2014

Wake Up To What?

I'm trying to be patient. Wake up to what? That Pope Francis isn't the Pope? That we should join the SSPX? What are you implying? Out with it, already! And the other thing about it is, you don't have to like Mark Shea. I'm definitely not his best bud or anything. He's already admitted more than once--gasp!--that he's a sinner who's been uncharitable with commenters and the like. I remember the big apology. I blogged about it. I said "thank you," and prayed for him. I had been sort of mad about what appeared to be a vendetta against Paul Ryan. That's exactly what it was, the issue. Which is not to say he hasn't gone soft, or that we're putting our faith in princes, as it were. Just that we need to try to hear people out, even if it's hard. Suffice it to say, I haven't had any more gripes with Mark Shea. Frankly, it speaks well for him that a friend of the blog really likes his stuff.

But you don't have to like Mark Shea. I don't care. But Rick Miller, I'm calling you out. Reading The Remnant will screw you up. Don't do it. Just don't. I love the Extraordinary Form, too. That's not the point. And Skojek, and Michael Voris, too. If they're not in schism, they encourage it. And we should have no part in it.

Anyway, someone else pointed out that Mark Shea has no training in theology. I hope we're not going there. The Church with buckets and buckets of unlearned saints is going to get credentialistic now?

The other thing I wanted to do was read the "About Us" page. Second paragraph:

Never before in the history of the Church has there been a Mass that featured women in the sanctuary, laymen giving out Holy Communion, Communion being given out in the hand, altar girls, polka and rock music, clowns, kissing and hugging, priests offering Mass facing the people, etc.

And I'm done. Some of these are abuses; some of these are legitimate expressions of preference. But if you don't accept the Mass of Paul VI as a valid expression of the Church's faith, as it was intended, mind you, you're not being a good Catholic. I just blogged about this yesterday. And what do I know? Well, I do have some training in theology. And I know the heart of the gospel, and when a spirit of bitterness has taken hold. Even Mark Shea doesn't deserve that.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Today's Gospel: Mt. 16:24-28

I can tell you that I'm not naturally inclined to carry crosses. If the whole enterprise has anything going for it, it's that the Lord Jesus carried the cross to end them all. "As a lamb before the shearers is silent, he opened not his mouth."

As for the bit about saving your life by losing it, permit me the plainest reading: Whatever God has planned is better than anything you might want to cling to. The battle for holiness and sanctity is not for later, and it's not theoretical; it's right here and now. I'd be more sensitive about alleged sacramental treadmills if I didn't know two things: this fight is a little more intense than a stern workout; and if Jesus says He gives the sacred signs, I believe Him, and I do not disdain them.

I find I tend toward vain curiosity regarding the rest, but I want to be able to say, quite apart from whatever I might be carrying, "'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus/Just to take Him at his word."

The Novus Ordo Is Not Responsible For Liberalism In The Church

In fact, if you attend a Mass in the Ordinary Form, it is very likely that it is rife with abuses--yes, abuses--that the Council fathers of Vatican II did not intend. There is no such thing as a "Communion hymn". A hymn after Communion is permitted, but not required. In most of the places where hymns are sung, we're supposed to have antiphons read or chanted. The "Sanctus" just prior to the preface dialogue for the Eucharist is supposed to be in Latin. In fact, most of the faithful's responses can and should be. This is the Novus Ordo. You wouldn't even recognize it, were it done properly.

The bishops had envisioned that what we know now as the Extraordinary Form would grow organically together with the Mass of Paul VI, to produce great spiritual fruit, not this concocted battle between traditionalists and alleged "neo-Catholics." (Many American bishops had already erred in making "TLM" exceedingly hard to celebrate, which again, was never intended by the Council.)

The Church does have wayward children (and theologians!) who used the occasion of the Council to introduce error, which brings about a false sense of "pastoral" sensitivity, and things like altar girls become an allowance, on account of the original error, which is a misunderstanding of what the Council meant by "active participation." It is not a hill I'm going to die on, but it does undermine theologically the sacrificial aspects of the Mass, and in consequence, the awareness of the necessity of the all-male priesthood. Same with lectors. Unless you have an instituted lector, anyone else can be temporarily deputed to fill that role, but they are not lectors. It seems that some use the pastoral provisions for emergencies to introduce an odd egalitarianism, more born of feminism than considered theological reflection.

All that said, many hotbeds of "traditionalist" sentiment are equally lacking in theological care, blaming the Council for what is in reality our own profound lack of conversion. We are foolish to believe that simply returning to "the old ways" either indicates that conversion, or can substitute for it. Yet good liturgy is the God-ordained response to what has been revealed, so we should all be ready to be shaken out of complacency if God asks it of us, even if what is sub-standard has become comfortable.

There Is No Divorce And Re-Marriage (To Someone Else)

This is why the disciples freak out on Jesus. Remember what they said? "If this is so, it is better not to be married." We've lost the radical nature of this teaching, because we're so used to divorce. We're children of divorce. It's normal now.

The tragedy of this comes when we realize that God meant what he said, and that He will punish adultery just like the standard adultery. Let us certainly plead for mercy in all cases, but a state of ongoing adultery is just that, and one should not expect Holy Communion in a state like that! This whole discussion or push to allow the divorced and "re-married" back to Holy Communion is completely backwards. I'm sorry if this offends.

I do not envy those pastors who must exercise "pastoral care" in such situations, and I do believe God's mercy can reach any person in any situation, but that's just it: all of us, in our own way, must accept what Christ has for us, no matter how difficult.

I think it prudent, in the case of any doubt, to seek to know one's marital status through a Declaration of Nullity proceeding. You either did, or did not, get validly married as a Catholic. That would determine your next steps.

Today's Gospel: Mt. 16:13-23

I successfully fought off the inclination to throw various apologetic hammers related to this passage, though I note with some mirth that having done so does not imply that they should never be thrown. In any case, I am amazed by what we read here, and the heart of it is this: we are not dealing with some guy from the neighborhood; simply the way he talks invites us to wonder who it is who speaks to us.

Jesus knows that what matters here is not the sort of thing you talk about at parties, or so they say. But he wants to know. And it boggles the mind that the beginning of everything he wants to give turns on a simple yet powerful question, a question about himself: "But who do you say that I am?" It's not the only thing that matters, and it's not a cure-all, but if you get this right, truly, you are not far from the Kingdom.

It seems important not to miss what he tells Peter: that what he has confessed is not human knowledge, but knowledge of divine things. One important application is this: when you speak the name of Jesus, or talk about Him, you do a most powerful thing. Don't trifle with Him.

He loves you and me so much that he compares his closest confidante to his greatest enemy and ours at the slightest hint of Peter getting in the way of the cross! Our redemption, our reconciliation, our best hope. "He who is not with me is against me." He is tender, but the fiercest of all warriors.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

There Is A Left Bias At Christ And Pop Culture

It's true, you know. For all I know, particular evangelical blind-spots need a dash of "Left" to make things coherent. But let's cut the mess: It's what would happen if Christianity Today and The Atlantic had a baby. [You were going to say, "love-child."--ed.] This is a Christian blog. I think they should own up to it. S.L. Whitesell is the only guy that gives off actual "Possible GOP Convention Delegate" vibes. Let's tell the truth.

The reality is, Dr. Noble and the others are paranoid about even the vaguest hint of an association with the "Religious Right." And fair enough: There's quite a drop-off between Francis Schaeffer (may he rest in peace) and Todd Starnes. Heck, who wouldn't take Dr. Kennedy back from the dead if we could?

But I didn't grow up in your subculture; it took me inside a year as a Christian to create the distance between politics and faith that CaPC seems so desirous to create. If the Democratic Party hadn't betrayed the pro-life movement, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. But the rise of the pro-life movement almost entirely within the Republican Party gives you the baggage; I just don't think you should make the rest of us carry it.

You're not being "apolitical"; you're not fooling anyone.

Have you ever seen a piece there criticizing major Democratic Party leaders, either elected or opinion-makers? Neither have I. Maybe I just missed it.

Today's Gospel: Mt. 17:1-9

As I read this, I couldn't get the opening verses of Hebrews out of my head. He has indeed spoken in these last days through His Son, and it is all to our benefit. Take a moment to reflect on the hope and faith of the Mother of God, as she spoke the words that we know as the Magnificat. She who personified faithful Israel in every respect is a model and helper to those who are but wild olive branches on the Lord's olive tree.

Isn't it interesting? We are commended as ones who believe though we have not seen, as Thomas did, and yet, what a gift here the Lord gives! To see Moses and Elijah! What relief and consolation! Our eyes illumined by faith see no less, though "he had no beauty or majesty to draw us to him."

The most amazing thing--and I don't want to get over it--is how plain Jesus might have looked to the natural eye. Yet fervent faith and hope saw the plan of God, the mighty Lord, coming on the clouds of heaven. What do you see? What do you want to see?

The Holy Mighty One reigned in a place fit for beasts of burden. He's not too good to come to you and me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Free Market, Reagan, and "'Murica" Are Not Slurs

Look, I get it. The right wing hasn't been at this level of froth since Brett Favre was the best player in football. That was a long time ago. Anyway, I understand that you need to seem cool, and distant from dangerous things like patriotism. But first of all, cynicism isn't the same as critical thinking. Secondly, if I ever, ever, see you or your friends use these three things in a joke again--especially to mock a fool like Ann Coulter--I will slap you. Read a book, you flippant troll.

Yes, I'm kind of mad about it.

I'm Donne Arguing With You

This, for the win!

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Interesting, but it largely misses the point. This is the fruit of Sola Scriptura: being forced into an uneasy acceptance of a myriad of opinions, because A) no one can tell anyone else what the Bible really says/what it means concerning anything; B) no one agrees about what constitutes the "church"; because C) there is no rule of faith.

4. Unless you make an ad hoc appeal to an ecumenical council or something. Feel free to borrow anything you like, but fair warning: borrowing from the Catholic Church is like being a long-term customer at a rent-to-own place. Sooner or later, you just want to buy the couch. [This is the worst analogy ever.--ed.] Yeah, but now we can make evangelistic t-shirts and stuff that say, "Buy the Couch!"

3. Is it me, or are the Cardinals getting That Look? [Calm yourself.--ed.] Just saying, they are doing that annoying thing they do every year. It's a five-step process:

A) Woefully under-perform both team and national media expectations;

B) Lose a Really Important Guy for a huge chunk of time; (Actually, Cardinals fans know this happens 6 times every season.)

C) Play average enough that they can play the "Nobody believed in us!" card; (hat-tip: Grantland's Bill Simmons)

D) Get inexplicably hot at the right time, winning the hearts of most of America, at least the part that doesn't realize we are actually the Yankees in a plucky, Midwestern disguise;

E) Whatever the outcome, leave the fans swapping, "I almost gave up" and "I always believed" stories for the entire winter, the kind that make Cubs fans want to shank them with a crowbar.

2. I can't remember losing and being more optimistic as we were after the World Series last year. For other teams, "wait 'til next year" is a vain wish; for the Cardinals, it's a threat.

1. Oh, for pete's sake! I could maybe fault the president for an overly-exuberant display of liberal piety, but I don't get outraged by kind words to American Muslims. I just don't. If I lose my membership card and decoder ring, so be it.

Today's Gospel: Mt. 15:1-2, 10-14

It doesn't surprise me that Peter would be the one to remind us that baptism is not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Peter must have providentially remembered this.

In being reminded not to miss the heart of the gospel, we do not want to fall into a mere symbolism, as though it is not Christ who baptizes, who forgives, who brings into communion. We are not believers in magic or superstition; we are believers in Christ.

Don't miss the story; Christ is the end of the Law. Christ is the Beginning and the End. What good is rule-keeping, without attaining communion with Him?

The obedience of faith only happens when kindled by the holy fire of charity. Those who attempt to attain it apart from Christ will be uprooted, as He will say later, "And all this will come upon you, because you did not recognize the moment of your visitation." But we are confident of this: that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You couldn't pay me to watch "Muhammad and Larry," the documentary about the lead-up and aftermath of the 1981 fight between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. That fight never should have taken place.

4. If we disregard everything from 1978 onward, Ali's record would be 55-2. That would be a loss to Joe Frazier in their first fight, and a decision loss to Ken Norton, who broke Ali's jaw in the middle of that fight. He finished the fight.

3. The character of "Rocky Balboa" is based on Chuck Wepner, who fought Ali courageously in 1975, even knocking him down.

2. That means "Apollo Creed" is a facsimile of The Greatest.

1. Aren't we glad Ali never tried to fight a scary Russian dude who looks like Dolf Lundgren?

Today's Gospel: Mt. 14:22-36

If you wanted to somehow convince people that Jesus was just a wise teacher or something, this is the wrong passage to use. Jesus is walking on water, healing people, and doing the exact opposite of preparing the people to receive someone else. He's their God and King; who else is there to receive?

Think of the anticipation building in the hearts of the well-disposed: perhaps the long humiliation of the broken covenant will be turned back! Perhaps the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah is coming to pass. Is this the year of the Lord's favor?

Peter is such a picture of us in our inconsistency: alternately bold and cowardly. Jesus' coming does express intimacy and love, but today, he wants us to see his power. If we are moved to a holy boldness, it's because we see that no earthly power can stand against Him. Grace makes us willing, not only not to oppose Him, but to join Him with our whole hearts. St. John Vianney, pray for us!

Monday, August 04, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I'm listening to The Fray. No, I'm not sad.

4. I saw them in 2005, opening for Weezer. That was an incredible show.

3. Hipsters own the cities now; they heard all about "loving the city" in their worshiping communities, and eventually left out the worship.

2. Doesn't The Fray sound like the records an agnostic who grew up on CCM would make?

1. Half the people you meet are pretending to be happy to hide some deep pain; the other half don't have much to complain about; they just watched "Garden State" too many times.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Today's Gospel: Mt. 14:13-21

The Gospel says in one place, "his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick." The first step to receiving Jesus is to recognize how sick we are. Indeed, he had said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

It seems also that Jesus knows what is in a man, because he invites the disciples to meet the problem with their own resources. That is folly, and he will say another time, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." Yet he doesn't refuse what they bring; did you see that? They still must bring it. What little we have, we bring, and we offer it in sacrifice. It is Jesus who makes it count for the Kingdom, as a teacher I had might say.

He always does more than we ask or imagine, and even if the story of our lives is littered with our betrayal, we must never tire of asking. Let us be the persistent widow at the door of His mercy.

Even in the harsh desert of this life, God's little ones can find the food which does not perish.