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Showing posts from 2015

Star Wars Is Better Than I Thought

I'm a Trekkie, always have been, always will be. But in light of the new Star Wars movie out, I have had a chance to watch the original trilogy, and most of the prequels, excluding Episode I. The thing that strikes me the most is the tragedy of the fall of Anakin Skywalker. We're supposed to like him, and we do. When the great Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us Luke's father was "a great Jedi, and a good friend," that needs to have weight behind it, and I have to say, the prequels accomplish that well. What that brings about is clarity regarding the end of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. This is not a wholly evil, static character; this is a man in slavery to sin, and to the emperor. His gradual loss was subtle. It's realistic. It's easier to think evil people just are; it's more unsettling to realize becoming evil involves a series of little capitulations. Just think: an entire civil war begins, because one powerful Jedi knight turns to

A Momentous Birthday

It's my brother's 35th birthday. 3 years ago yesterday, we lost Jenny O'Reilly to leukemia. I didn't know her well, but I wanted to. She was the kind of person who inspires the fiercest loyalty, and it's entirely legitimate. Maybe only the good really do die young. We should make a fuss about birthdays, as much as possible. Death is so capricious, you know. We may not get the chance. It's Jenny's birthday, too. Someone said she wanted to celebrate that one with Jesus. I wouldn't put it past her. Heaven is the birthday party that never ends. End of discussion. Atheism sucks, for the mere fact that the pale shadow of things here is supposed to suffice. We know it won't. Sports leagues don't take years off, precisely because they are the closest thing to perpetual joy the human heart knows, outside of God. Worth a thought.

We Used To Be The Smart Ones

Remember when "race-baiting demagogue" used to be Al Sharpton? Remember when we could credibly claim liberals were guided by emotion, instead of reason? Those were the days. How ridiculous and unserious does someone have to be, before we stop listening? Somewhere, someone confused contrarianism with conservatism. As long as somebody appears to hate the "right" people, it's kosher. What? There is always a market in the age of new media for a dissenting view. The trouble is, we've got to know the difference between going against the grain of the conventional wisdom, and going against reality. There will always be someone who disagrees with what "respectable" people say. The problem today is, we didn't assume that person was right, just because they exist, and now it seems we do. I hear this chatter that we're going to "make America great again." America has been great this whole time. The people who made America great came to

Sunshine On My Shoulders

I went to Mass this afternoon. It's cold today, but I was glad to go back. Between being sick, and the rain, I was only able to go when required. I saw some people, I prayed, and then as I stayed near the Lord for a few moments, a woman wished me a Merry Christmas. After that, she put her hand on my head as if to bless me--a completely Catholic thing to do--and said, "Thank you, Jesus." Later, I walked over to the office, where I am creating the post you are now reading. The receptionist said to me, "You're always a ray of sunshine when you come over. I love it!" "Aww, thanks," I said, "you are, too!" Lord Jesus, I give you the peace and joy of this day. Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Happy Birthday, Dad

I wish you were here. I think you'd like my friends. I can hear you and John saying that a man with true friends can make it through anything. I try to be like you to this day. There isn't much I remember, but I know you're the kind of man who gets mourned by people you fired. You're the kind of man who makes mistakes, but gets second, third, and fourth chances, because people know a good heart when they see one. I pray for you often. Funny thing is, in the Church, I feel closer to you each day. I think you might reconsider a few things, knowing what you know now. John said you thought church people were hypocrites and liars. I knew I'd find a place to fit in! The pain is less now, because I've done everything you would have hoped. I hope I'm like you: a man people are glad to know. I don't wonder what you'd think, because I know. A son rests easy, knowing his father is proud. You'll have to forgive me, though: I still can't root for th

Chains Shall He Break

"O Holy Night" owns me. By far, it's my favorite Christmas song. Not bad for an apostate and a Jew, eh? (If the stories of its provenance are true.) It's so powerful, it need not even be performed with distinction to move the spirit. If you have followed the blog at all, you may have noticed that I choose a phrase from this song every year at this time. If faith, hope, and love we have in any measure, we confess that He alone is Lord, and there is no other. No state of affairs, no injustice stands, when and where He is king. The next time you are invited to open your heart to Jesus, realize what it means: it's a coup d'etat. The cross is the shape of His love, and being found in the likeness of human flesh--as a baby, no less--is the shape of His empathy. I doubt a conquered people have ever been so dignified, in the history of mankind. This is what Jesus wants to do. The question comes to us, "Will you surrender?" Yet in this surrender is victo

The Chair Lives!

There just happened to be a guy, working with another mobility company, who just happened to have the cable I needed. At this point, I'm not even surprised. The worse it looks, the more certain it will be an expression of the Lord's faithfulness. You can take it to the bank. How many times would I worry, trying to control things out of my control? We can get in a bad way spiritually really fast, when we are anxious. That's why God says not to be anxious about 500 times. Learning to trust Him is the hardest lesson.

Broken Wheelchair

My power wheelchair broke last night. The joystick. That seems important. I guess I lose track of how many little things God providentially holds together. I'm not much, humanly speaking, without my wheelchair. Well, make the best of it, and give thanks for those friends that hold me up.


You can hear and read "Do not be anxious about anything..." any number of times, and still not possess what you are looking for. It's not about knowing St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, or any number of other texts. Instead, the question is whether I believe God is bigger than whatever troubles me. So, when I pray, I should ask God to increase my trust in His goodness and wisdom. I may or may not be relieved of any burden, but I will see its lightness, in comparison with God. I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Side-Bar: Yes, Muslims and Christians worship the same God. As I understand the explanations of the philosophers, if Christians and Muslims agree that the Creator is the God who revealed Himself to Abraham, then the referent is the same. The two groups do not agree on what He revealed subsequently, nor on the import of that content, but there were not two separate gods who spoke to Abraham. At the least, we have a basis for discussion, since the

He Blows Where He Wills

The Holy Spirit. I'm continually surprised by what he does, and to whom he bestows his gifts. Well, at least the measure of the gifts. Sometimes we forget He is a Person of the Blessed Trinity. We forget he loves us, as does the Father, and the Lord Jesus. There is a lot of stuff in the theology of the Church, in our myriad devotions, and countless other things. Let us never forget, however, that this is a love story between God and his people. God and us. I realize the great gift of the practice of pastoral theology: I get to tell the story as many different ways as possible.

Catholic, Republican, And Enjoying It

Certain joyless scolds feel compelled to remind us that the 240-odd members of the Republican House caucus are not all orthodox Catholics. Really? Hold on, I have to sit down. Even the Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping Protestants aren't going to ordinarily fuss about Planned Parenthood regarding contraception. Even if 80 members were willing to die on that hill, it would go nowhere. You need 218 votes to pass anything. How many good things would you be willing to sacrifice in an omnibus bill to prove your Catholic fidelity? I fully understand that the Republican Party is out of step with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. So are the Democrats. I could sit on the sidelines, morally preening about that, or I can fight for the best articulation of those principles as I can. If you don't think participation in the political process is fruitful, you should just say that, and talk about something else. I don't have a burning urge to tell other people they are failures. A

Jesus, Take The Wheel

Really, I just wanted the more impressionable among you to listen to Carrie Underwood for an hour. Ha! But seriously, the whole thing hints at an important truth: it's not about believing things God revealed with a special intensity--though that's good, too--it's about surrendering to God. I'm hoping that as my life goes on, my faith is not something I hold on to in spite of trials, but I see them all as vindications of His wisdom and goodness. I guess that's easy for me to say. My life hasn't been hard, comparatively speaking. If getting to Heaven were like playing The Oregon Trail, God made me the banker. I truly don't want to get to the end of my life and say, "Oh, yeah. I was a Christian, too." I want to say, "I did Your will, I carried the cross, and I had fun, too."

Really Quick

This is a phrase I use a lot. Most people do, when there are multiple things to do, and maybe you are meeting someone in the midst of it. "I'll just do [such and such] really quick, and I'll see you over there at 5:30, cool?" I don't do anything really quickly. I should just stop saying it. Better yet, I should stop believing that I will be able, or it is wise to move faster doing anything today than it was yesterday. That's not the way it works with a disability. And I'm sure being old, or having health problems works the same way. Some say it teaches me patience. I would like to think so. But the battle to see everything through the eyes of Christ takes place on the strangest fields. I don't feel very patient, when I drop something I can't pick up. Or when I can't grab something I want to hold. I become very conscious that in fact I am disabled. I ask stupid questions like, "Why is this so hard?" or petulantly assert, "This

Republican Debate Last Night: We Can (And Should) Do Better

I won't recap it for you; you can watch or read at your convenience. What deeply concerns me is the lack of a coherent ethical framework through which we examine problems. In that sense, though many or all of the people on the stage could be people of good will, they will find themselves reacting, instead of deliberating. The most overriding Christian principle, the one that animates every facet of human knowledge, both natural and supernatural, is the dignity of the human person. We start and end here, precisely because humankind's destiny lies with God, whose very image man is. In light of that reality, this foreign policy debate was a shambles. Certain actions would be out of bounds by their very nature. Indiscriminate bombing of whole cities, with a near-certainty of large civilian casualties, cannot be done. And the mere suggestion that the deliberate killing of non-combatants might be acceptable is abhorrent. I take the time to put it in Christian terms, because so many

The Courage Of Their Convictions

I still have a great abiding love for our American political process, and for affairs of state in general. It's very easy to be cynical, or even downcast, because so little seems to be trending toward statesmanship, foresight, and courage. I have always said that if I ever sought office, I am committed to plainly stating what I really believe, by God's help, unconcerned with what honesty would cost. Nuance is often required, in order to fully appreciate all the costs and benefits of one thing or another. Also, when one tries to meaningfully interact with those who disagree, or who might, it shows respect for them, and for legitimate questions they have. Still, I believe that the greatest aid to clarity, to principle, and to learning is to answer a direct question with a direct answer. Let qualifications and the like be appended like notes to the frank reply to a "yes/no" question. How much disappointment would this alleviate? I think a lot. I realized the day I

Still Not Afraid Of Muslims

I was sort of lurking on Confirmation Sponsor Guy's Facebook post today, and he shared his thoughts and feelings about hearing a Muslim colleague talk about anti-Muslim bigotry since the attack in California. I was moved second-hand, so I can only imagine how stirring that was for him. The main reason I have no reason to fear Muslims is that God is God. Whenever we have a somewhat    scary moment in the car, or whatever you like, I have a funny saying: "It's been a good run." It sounds  a bit flippant in mother's ears at times, but beyond the humor of it, there is real truth: we are not in control of our lives. I could die before I finish this post. We don't know. All that we can do is be near to God in the present moment. I lost my father in a moment. I lost another man who stood in for him in a moment. My high school friend, James. Death can't be the worst thing. I know. Never to have loved, and therefore, never to have lived, is the worst outcome of

Love Is The Answer, Volume 7000

I was deeply moved by this . I know the truth, and I'm not ashamed of it. If straight-up Catholicism arouses actual opposition from those who should defend it, like the saints, I should rather suffer for my piety than make others suffer in my display of it. All the clergy can know they are in my prayers, in any case. Father, give us holy priests! Moreover, give us teachable hearts. If it pleases You, may we have filial affection for those in authority over us, as it accords with holiness. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.


There are days when the spiritual practices you've been doing just don't appeal. I didn't want to go to Mass. I don't have to go. But seen from another angle, maybe I do. Spiritual progress doesn't just happen. If I think that it has anything to do with me, and not the Lord, uniquely present in the Eucharist, I am mistaken. If my friend wasn't sick, we'd have walked there like we always do. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Once you know what a war you are in, you don't say, "Oh, that'd be nice" in reference to daily Mass. You start counting the hours until the next Eucharist.

Some Things Don't Go Together

Bitterness and love are opposed. The former destroys the latter. If any of us think we have a right to hold resentment in our hearts, as if against me, and me only have they sinned, we will never find peace. When real injustice has been done, though, it leaves a wound. You can definitely forgive, by the mercy of God. But that wound needs a special grace of the Holy Spirit, and it doesn't usually come right away. We can start really living as children of God once we know deeply that the sins against us often lie, and that those lies have never been true, whatever they say about us.


I have heard it said, "I am glad I'm not Catholic, because the leaders say x," or failed to say whatever else. That will not do. What is true, and how do you know? Dogmatically, that is. It doesn't matter that you think John Piper is as rock-ribbed and courageous as anyone you have heard. We're not voting for president, we're trying to determine what God said, and what to do about it. The funny thing about being open to learning from the early Church is that there is a Church. I'm not really in union with them, if I pick and choose when they were right, and when they were wrong. I'm simply refining my own judgments, so I can get in on that cultural influence, and have large bookshelves. I could even write for First Things. Those Fathers, man. They'll mess you up. In a good way.


God doesn't force people to do things. If one wants to hold on to a vice, or a sinful attitude, freedom is freedom. "It's a big one," I said, but not for God. I could see that I'm being called to intercede in a believing way, not simply because there is nothing else to do. I can certainly say that I have prayed out of habit or duty. But what if I actually believed God could change a heart? What if I did the works of mercy because I believed in the mission of Christ, and not for the merit?


What is peace? I think practically, it's when you no longer feel beholden to forces beyond your control. You know that you belong to God, and nothing in the world can change that. There's a part of my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams, where Ray realizes he's being called to Boston, but they are broke. His wife Annie lays it all out there, and sighs, "We could lose this farm." It always sounded half-hearted to me, as if we're supposed to know that he should go to Boston. Obedience is going to Boston, when it seems like a really bad idea. Holiness is knowing that the farm counts for nothing. Whatever it symbolizes in our lives, we surrender in loving trust to God. What if the saints are simply those who trusted in God's sovereign love despite all apparent reasons not to? It's not beyond us, if we simply believe that God is God, and there is no other.

Read It Like This: Laudato Si, And Pacem In Terris

If you see a pope referencing an encyclical from a predecessor, you should read that document. Right away, (article 4) Pope Francis mentions Pacem In Terris, the 1963 encyclical from Pope St. John XXIII. This is the part of the saint's encyclical that really caught my attention: "From this it is clear that no State can fittingly pursue its own interests in isolation from the rest, nor, under such circumstances, can it develop itself as it should. The prosperity and progress of any State is in part consequence, and in part cause, of the prosperity and progress of all other States." (Pacem In Terris, 131) I think this is the interpretive key for Laudato Si. Earlier, Pope St. John wrote, quoting a predecessor himself, "The wealthier States, therefore, while providing various forms of assistance to the poorer, must have the highest possible respect for the latter's national characteristics and time-honored civil institutions. They must also repudiate any pol

Evolution Notes

As far as I know, a Catholic may hold to a theory of evolution provided that he : 1. Profess God as Creator and sustainer of all things; 2. That Adam and Eve really existed as our first parents; 3. That the soul is infused directly by God. Some folks want to be so "with it" that they forget that some conceptions move from scientific theory to unjustified philosophical speculation. (I'm happy to be uncommitted on the question of creation versus evolution.)

Immaculate Conception

Today, we honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, the Temple where the Lord dwells within. Uzziah died when he touched the old Ark, foolish to believe that the Lord needed his help. As it was then, the Lord does not need us, but by a singular gift of grace, invited Mary to participate in the plan of salvation. As we do so, we echo her "yes" to God, and to ponder more deeply the mysteries of His mercy. Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Rise And Walk

Did you catch the Gospel today, from Luke 5:17-26? The paralytic's friends lower him through the roof to meet Jesus. The Lord was deeply moved at that sight. I think of all the people who lowered me through the roof, so to speak, so I could meet Jesus. How many times was the Lord moved with love? The best way to repay them is a holy life. I don't want their prayers, works, and sufferings to be wasted. I heard in the first reading that I will leap for joy. I don't understand. I couldn't possibly. Yet perhaps Heaven is the place where we will revel in things we didn't know we missed.

Not With Swords Loud Clashing

The extremist militants cannot defeat us, if we are firmly committed to deeds of love and mercy. Compassion and sacrifice have no meaning to this ideology, but human hearts are made to recognize it. We have been playing a deadly game since we were attacked, believing that we could kill them all. That with superior force, we could defeat all who would threaten us. It's a trap, a snare of the evil one. Certainly, all who keep watch in our defense are engaged in a noble task. But in the end, only Christ will be victorious. And if they see Him in us, they cannot help but bow the knee. We say it rightly, that such evil is almost unfathomable. That is right. It's deeper than these people, and their designs.


Some people keep their brains in a lockbox. They never use it. Too many people, especially those in positions where intelligence and wisdom are critical, just don't have it. I've decided Robert Reich is one of those people. There were a million things wrong with the war in Iraq, from whether it was morally justified, to whether particular actions in its conduct were moral. Fair enough; we could discuss that for weeks, and I'd likely agree with much of it. What I will not abide is the claim that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. He most certainly did. There are people disarming his vicious designs as we speak, and making sure that no one steals raw materials used in their construction. Bush absolutely told the truth on this point. Whether that constitutes a sufficient cause for an invasion and occupation is certainly debatable. I'm just tired of political arguments that are, "We should do x, because so-and-so is a bad person, and he oppos

If People Need Help

I have heard some chatter that the attacks in California and France prove that accepting Muslim refugees is dangerous, and that those who oppose it are being prudent. Well, a hearty congratulations for desiring peace and safety. In other startling news, human beings need food and water to live. I have never actually met anyone who thought being a victim of terrorism was a good thing. So, charity at least demands that we not accuse the welcomers, let's call them, of being unaware or unconcerned about the risks of extremist violence. If it were actually to come to pass that a few million people had nowhere to go, and they needed to come here, you just do it. This is America, and some of us actually believe the talk: this America idea is pretty awesome. This is a place where dreams really do grow wild, to borrow a phrase. After all precautions have been taken, there isn't much else that could be done. But I know that this freedom isn't a thing you clutch tightly, jealously g


Any way you look at the events in California today, the truth is plain to see: we have an existential crisis as a society. All the killings in general, they mean that people see no value in just going on. It's one thing to waste one's life in pleasure; it's quite another to see the vanity in that, but to go toward evil. Whether radical Islamic terrorism or just revenge, these outbreaks of violence all over our society manifest a deep spiritual sickness that cannot be hidden. When great purposes do not find their fulfillment in God, sinful people with the means unleash Hell on Earth. This is bigger than we realize. In fact, prayer is not only effective, it's the best thing to do. A policy or program can't tell us who we are, and ought to be. Talking with God can. For all of us.

Your Pledge To Me

I realized as I surveyed the Catechism the other day that I'm still wounded from sins I committed in the past. It seems as though our enemy wanted to say I was unworthy to commune with our Eucharistic Lord on account of it. But I had examined myself; indeed, I had communed a couple or three dozen times on other occasions, with no cause for fear. I finally resolved to renew my repentance the next time I celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation That way, the enemy will have more coals on his head, as I use his provocations to praise God's mercy even more! The priest at Mass today said that the Eucharist was Christ's own pledge that he wants us with him in Heaven. Unless I've decided I've got something better to do, (which I haven't) I'm going to rest in that promise. If your guilt doesn't even make sense, you don't have to pretend that it does. That's scrupulosity, another one of Satan's lies.

It's Not A Fight

If you've spent any time following politics, you know that the organized parties decide what Good People are supposed to believe, and then they tell us who the Other is, and that the Other hates everything good and right, or at least wants to take it from you. And on it goes. It should not be so with us, for we are the Body of Christ. As the days move along, as I endeavor to make my impersonation of a theologian all the more convincing, I have only 2 categories for theological reflection: "True/False," and "Clear/Unclear." It's not like a sports team; there is no reward for particularly intense subjective feelings about one thing or another. I might know the snarky nickname for that other Catholic periodical I don't read, but I don't have to use it. I heard Jesus loves those people, too. What are we doing, fretting about others? I'm not a saint yet; are you? At best, we're getting wound up about things that will perish, and at worst, we

Find A Friend

You can't possibly replace a person who loves you more than you do. Whatever it was that brought you to that person, nourish and cherish it as much as you can. Give thanks. Pray for that person. It's obviously grace which allows this friend to give more than seems possible. I am blessed with many such friends, it seems. Whatever I could say or do would not be enough. In this way, our friends are Christ to us. Would you, or could you, run out of thanks to give Him? And so it goes. Let the earthly joy between friends multiply, and serve as a sign of the eternal friendship to come. Amen.


I needed this Advent. I could feel Love waiting to burst forth, and I could not contain my hope that it would swallow up everything and everyone. But then the homily was about searching for God, and I knew that the longing would persist. You can't replicate a Catholic Advent. You just can't. It's like winning the World Series 10 times, when we get to the Nativity. If the saints longed for God, I think I understand. And the Church makes it so easy for us. Just show up. Paying attention is even better. The world without God is like Garden State: you find a few people you don't mind lying and dying with, until your time on this sick, sad, rock is finished. But with Immanuel...? It's no wonder why we sing.

Things That Don't Matter

I don't care what shape Reese's Peanut Butter Cups come in. I don't care about Starbucks. The biggest War On Christmas is in our souls, yours and mine. Which is not to say that rampant secularism is good. It is to say, rather, that the front lines are closer than we think. Ghandi and President Obama are right about one thing: be the change you want to see in the world. We Christians know you can't just do that; you need help. Lord, help us to be your peace in the world. Amen. Pretty sure I don't even know how the Spurs did last night. I'm absolutely certain that I won't also say, "Man, I didn't play enough video games while I was here!" Will I die if I fail to get current on Grey's Anatomy? Tell me seriously if you actually think St. Peter will check your Netflix queue. Which is not to say, "Let's all live in a cave, and forsake the world!" No. It means that as I watch Timmy dunk a basketball, or I behold the beauty of a


For what am I most thankful? I am completely surrounded by people who love more than they expect to be loved. It truly puts me to shame. Communion with God is always before me as the highest goal, and all I need to do is decide whether to go along. And that this quest for holiness takes place in relative ease is no small gift. I will spare you the schoolmarmish tributes to soldiers who can't go home, but suffice to say, I have no excuse for failing to praise God. Not that anyone does. I guess today is like every day: learn what matters, and how not to waste your life. I'll keep trying.

Don't Give Me What I Want

Have you ever been watching a show, or heard a song where someone said, "God Bless America" or something similar? It should make the pious heart uncomfortable, but not because there is anything wrong with a certain patriotism. Instead, we are made uncomfortable because we know that God is bigger than whatever we imagine to be truly majestic, noble, or otherwise worth preserving. God is Being as such. If you perfectly understand that which you worship, it is not God you worship. If God perfectly agrees with you on every matter, you're not talking with God. I get the sense from some people that God is more like a powerful, benevolent pet dog, instead of the Almighty. As for us, we don't make sense to ourselves. You might be hung up some way, and lamenting that you'll never get out of some situation, or stop doing x,  but it's not really about that thing, is it? We need to open up to God, tell him what we fear, because that's what's really holding us

What Is "The Gospel"?

I see it all the time: "Now that's the gospel!" Or the reverse. It seems like people know what they are talking about, but I noticed earlier in my Christian life that "the gospel" happened to correspond to whatever moral sense of self a person wanted to project. We should say that the gospel is that which pertains to the revelation of Jesus Christ. That seems reasonable. It however becomes important for us to know the difference between revelation and human opinion, and to know the means by which we receive revelation. So long as Christians--Catholic and non-Catholic alike--disagree on the content of revelation, and on the means of receiving it, it is profitable and urgent to engage in ecumenical dialogue concerning those matters where we differ. Ecumenism is dialogue for the purpose of reaching agreement in matters of revealed truth, whether faith or morals. It is not merely a celebration of those areas where we already agree, nor is it the act of pretendin

Now Hear This!

Under the heading, "Separated Or Divorced Persons Who Have Not Remarried," I give you Familiaris Consortio, 83 in its entirety: "Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain. Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life. The situation is similar for p

Christ The King

There are hundreds of would-be claimants to the throne of Jesus Christ the King. Maybe even in our own hearts. I used to worry more than a Christian should. I would never appear to be a worrier; I'm much too practiced at piety for that. And I realized that the besetting sin of my life had (and has) its root in control. That is, pride. If we want to be saints, we must surrender. The Lamb will make us kings and queens to our God, if we will stop trying to do it ourselves. Think of all the kings of the earth, who have no use for Jesus, and the humble handmaiden who birthed Him. And people are looking around at these mighty men, crying, "Save us!" and they can't. Or they won't. Enter Jesus. More power than we possibly imagine, but he still has no beauty or majesty that we should regard him. But something underneath the anxiety, almost like a whisper, calls out to us. This is peace. We hear His voice, and follow, as we were destined to do. The world is full of no


The Lord Jesus cleansed the Temple, and John quoted the prophet: "Zeal for your house will consume me." He cleanses us in the Eucharist every time we receive Him worthily. As I go along, I have become more thankful for this. We should be able to say with a moral certainty that we are free of mortal sin, and we have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to recover the grace of our baptism, if not. Even so, we are constantly reliant on the cleansing blood of Jesus. I was attempting to recollect after Mass today, when I was informed that there was smoke in the Cathedral Basilica, and I needed to leave. It's a big place. I didn't see anything obviously wrong, so I kept going, and tried not to worry. I made a joke to myself: "Are we sure it's not the shekinah? [The glory of the Lord, which filled the Temple after Solomon dedicated it] A person in Christ who is keeping the covenant is like the Temple, when the Lord's glory filled it. I might not even

This Is What I Remember

I don't remember much from the day they buried my father. I remember skipping the funeral Mass, but going to the burial. I was 9 years old. This is what I do remember: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." I know now that it is an expression of Christian hope that I did not yet possess. There is a difference, mind you, between hope, and presumption. Presumption is grounded in self-regard; hope is grounded in the promises of God. What a beginning! Let's above all give thanks that God's promises grow ever clearer, and that all else fades.

Rising Like Incense

Here's a text from the book of Revelation, namely, chapter 8, verses 3 and 4: "And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God." I must admit, I haven't routinely thought of prayer as being this powerful. But what if it is? Suppose we are the agents of mercy before the final judgment. If you knew it only took one prayer between life or death, you'd offer it, wouldn't you? When that seventh seal is broken, Heaven will fall silent for half an hour. The place of eternal singing and joy. That is The Day The Music Died. I don't really know what judgment will be like, but I don't want to be on the wrong end of it. The Christian life isn't complicated; it's learning to praise God and give him thanks now, becaus

Rain Down

I love the rain. Now that I'm Catholic, I can think of it as God's holy water. Isn't that the real meaning of the fact that he sends rain on the righteous and the wicked alike? Holy water is a sacramental, and sacramentals dispose us favorably to receive greater graces. It is for us to believe that God is mercy, and we will see greater things than these. Don't miss a chance to thank the Lord. There may be a greater thing after the rain.

We Need Real Change

The pope speaks rather forcefully in Laudato Si about our technocratic paradigm of economic and social organization. It doesn't take much awareness of the social doctrine to understand the numerous problems with that paradigm. When your favorite presidential candidate doubles down on the paradigm, it causes chagrin. Apparently, we need fewer philosophers, because they don't produce anything, says Marco Rubio. On the contrary; philosophers remind us of first principles, and to make arguments, instead of having them. Back to the point, you wish to lead a party whose greatest achievements led human beings out of soul-crushing slavery, but you seem to want to trade one slavery for another. It doesn't do any good   to rescue a man from the socialist state in order to sell him to the corporate one. The great genius of limited government is in allowing people to find the best solution to a problem themselves. The true conservative does not question the legitimacy of government

Words, Words, Words

Blogging from a phone. This is an exciting experience, one with which I am unfamiliar. I wonder how this is going to go, since it is hard to think and talk, while editing whatever mistakes this thing will make. Forgive me for any transcription errors, although I have now switched to composing by hand, because Siri turns off the Hall and Oates. Not cool, Siri. Not cool at all.

Certain Of What We Do Not See

I do not sense that the way of the gospel is the better way, but I know it. I will never tell you that I enjoy this road more than the other. If I told you that the harder path is more pleasing, I'd be lying. The problem is that people have been told they will be happier if they take the harder road. It depends on what you mean. Ultimately happier? Of course. Happier the way people tend to think? No. We've all been doing an evangelistic bait-and-switch, and then we wonder why people think we are fake. The narrow way is brutal, long, steep, and lonely. But the only one who can fill that gnawing existential loneliness in our souls has also taken the narrow way. In fact, He is the Way. It has always seemed like something is wrong with the world. Something wrong with us. We can either pretend it isn't there, or take the red pill, as it were.

A Guy Walks Into A Bar

I don't know why the car honked; I had the right of way. The dude yelled at the driver, and asked me to have a drink. Sure, I said. If I'm being completely honest, I think I talked about myself too much. He didn't seem to mind. And I never met a Parisian with no trace of a French accent. I want to ask him about this. I had a good time. I also thought after some reflection that God had a purpose in this meeting, that I should pray for my new friends, this man and wife. Most people don't know what they want, and what they think they want is not what they really want. We have loads of crap underneath what we show to the world, or even what we show to ourselves. The other interesting thing is that people think religion involves the suppression of desires. On the contrary; true religion trades surface desires in for deeper and better ones. Let's not be afraid to dream, to tell God the deepest things in our hearts. If they are true, nothing will hold them back, in t

I Must Be Powerful

A priest said to me and some assembled friends last night that St. Josemaria Escriva was tempted with the basest, most vile things as he advanced in the spiritual life. I'm in good company, I thought. I truly don't know what is around the corner, but I am fully aware of the difference between the suggestion of evil, and being conflicted in the will. That's not to say I can afford to be complacent, but it is to say that grace offers a clarity, a purity of desire, that the pursuit of virtue in the absence of grace cannot offer, however noble. I was reflecting after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation last night. If the revelation of Jesus Christ represents reality, then most of the world and most of the people in it wander in darkness. I was sad at this, almost inconsolably, and then a great affection for the Holy Father took over my heart. Certainly, he loves the children of God, but he intensely loves the wandering, and the lost. If we pray for him, and we lift hi

Nothing Is What It Seems

I've been reading The End Of The Present World, And The Mysteries Of The Future Life, by Fr. Arminjon. It's not for the faint of heart, or maybe it is, if you know what I mean. I suppose the theme of my life lately is that things which seem important aren't, and things which seem small are the most significant. I came back from Mass thinking, "I'm going to eat that Campbell's vegetable beef soup to the glory of God!" I had the same thought when I turned my key to unlock the door, and on and on. I suppose it could be a bit dramatic, but truly, when is the last time you ate a Skittle thinking of God's glory? What if that moment defines your destiny? I'm not surprised, anyway, that this is the book beloved by St. Therese, and that she was the one to remind us to do little things with great love. There isn't anything else. The way this world appears lies to us, saying, "Life will go on, much as it has. You have time. Even if you don't,


We're all carrying the scars, the battle wounds from this life as a disciple of Jesus. Whether they are self-inflicted or not, they don't heal over in a day. Some, not even in a lifetime. Even if words of forgiveness have been spoken, even if we're actively seeking to be a blessing through prayer or otherwise, that which caused the pain can still come to our minds. I can taste the bitterness. I can imagine the opportunities to settle the score, to voice my hurt. And I know that is the old man that has been crucified with Christ trying to reassert himself. Yet you and I don't have to surrender. Just because I feel a certain way at a certain time does not mean that my firm resolution to love is false. It means that I must overcome my feelings to continue doing what grace has prompted me to do. One other thing: I think I better understand what it means to forgive in Christ. We can forgive unilaterally in a certain way, not allowing the sins of others to define our part

What Will Your Verse Be?

No one plans to die when they die. A few lucky people end up suffering some kind of prolonged illness, and friends and family have the opportunity to keep vigil and wait. What would you do if these are the last moments of your life? Is your activity at this moment consonant with what you want your story to say? I have tended to think of sin as bumps in the road, mere blips on the radar of life, and perhaps in the grand scheme, against the backdrop of God's mercy, that's what they are. But never forget: Sin is choosing death instead of life. When death itself knocks at the door, do you want to be acting against yourself, and against the God who made you, and will raise you to life on the last day?

Politics, Shmolitics

I saw a thing the other day that a Catholic political group "blasted" Paul Ryan for his alleged departures from Catholic social doctrine. And for all we know, he is out of harmony with the teaching. That's neither here nor there, at the moment. My concern is that discussion about anything is being replaced by the ostentatious display of moral disdain for people. This is not the same as an argument. An argument goes like this: A minimum wage insulates people from unforeseen difficulties, and rewards honest work, keeping people out of abject poverty. The current minimum wage in the US does not suffice to provide for basic needs, for individuals or families. Therefore, the minimum wage should be increased. That's an argument. It may be a good one or a bad one, but if you wish to dispute it, dispute the premises or the conclusion. We don't do that; we dispute each other. We sort of decide in our own tribes what Good People are supposed to believe, and then w

Return From Exile

I have returned! My one reader is surely thrilled. I'm sure you missed my penetrating insights into Hall & Oates, a band who hasn't released a studio album since at least we liked Dick Cheney. [Some people have never liked him.--ed.] But those are the people who dislike Top Gun and Applebee's, and they are not my kind of people. [Did you seriously combine those things?--ed.] Yes. Unabashedly. I guess we missed talking about a few things. The pope was here. That's seriously exciting stuff. I love that guy. Is it crass to say that? People I greatly respect think there are perfectly valid reasons to critique him that don't involve YOUAREACOMMUNISTSTOPTALKING, and I'm sure that's so. Like episcopal appointments. Whatever. Against the long view of history, criticizing episcopal appointments feels like being a huge fan of Family Feud, and nonetheless hating Richard Dawson's ties. No one will care. They will say you have an unhealthy fascination with triv

I'm Like Ed Sheeran, Just Thinking Out Loud

I had a friend who posted something about Eucharistic Adoration. This is by far the weirdest (Western) Catholic thing. Because the consecrated Host is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Father's dearly beloved Son, we worship Him. The whole matter is a yes/no question: it's either the most salutary thing you can do, other than perhaps Mass, or it is idolatry. There is no middle ground. The unique challenge of being confronted with the Catholic Church's claim to be the Church Christ founded, the one to which we are bound as children to their mother, is that you actually have to consider whether it's true. The dice are  loaded, in the sense that to challenge the claim with some prior hermeneutic, which by the Church's own admission it would and could never satisfy, is begging the question. If a man is convinced by Scripture and by reason that the claim cannot be true, he has not actually considered it, if it be a prior decision. In a certain sense, intellect

I Won't Vote For Carly Fiorina

She's not pro-life, and by that, I mean she believes in exceptions. In a certain sense, there is no point in being anti-abortion at all, if you fundamentally don't understand why it's morally unacceptable. The center of the question is whether the fetus is a person. If she is, you can't kill her at any stage. If she isn't, there's nothing regrettable and tragic about it at all. All this Serious Talk about limiting abortion is just noise, if we do not contend with the central question. You have the power to do what you will with your own body and life, but you do not have the right to destroy someone else's. That's pretty simple. People are fond of cluttering it up with emotional appeals to other ideals, etc. but it's not hard, ethically. I'll work with anyone to limit abortion, but understand that I do so with the ultimate goal of removing this stain from the conscience of America, by never again permitting the death of these innocents at our

Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up.

That's the theme for today. We all fail, and often worse than we'd imagine on better days, in better times. But we know that the love of Christ is stretching out toward us, His pierced hand meeting ours at just the time when we have nearly given up. Right now, you may think you are the worst person who has ever lived. Suppose you are. And now realize that Christ died for you, and He would do it again. May I never speak to anyone without knowing this, that deep heart-knowing that makes us children.

Man-Made Tradition

It can be argued that what belongs to what Catholics call "Sacred Tradition" are traditions of men. In fact, people argue this all the time. The polemics are not new. However, an important step in the process of accepting divine revelation is the ability to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation, and human opinion. When a Catholic apologist says, "Sola Scriptura collapses into Solo Scriptura," what he's saying is, "There is no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation, and human opinion." Revelation is received. It is intrinsic to the purpose of the human person to receive revelation as the beginning of communion with God, his or her ultimate end. If he cannot distinguish between revelation and human opinion in his own hermeneutical process, by what means will he judge that the Catholic Church has adopted traditions of men, against God's word? It's no doubt appealing to say, "We're all sinners,&quo

Here It Is

I may be a little bit excited for the Federer-Djokovic match this afternoon. Roger Federer has no real pressure, beyond what he puts on himself. If he loses, there is no shame. He's still the greatest of all time. Were he to win, his legend would grow even beyond its bounds now. I have never seen anything like this in sports. This would be like if a 44-year-old Muhammad Ali knocked out Mike Tyson in 1986. Actually, no, that doesn't quite get it; no one would think a Federer victory is a shocking upset. But if an old Ali kept legitimately fighting for the world title, if he inspired fear and respect from his younger opponents, and not simply respect, you'd get an idea of what we're seeing with Federer. This will be the 27th time Federer plays in the championship match of a 128-person, single-elimination major tournament. He's won 17; he's lost 9. If Djokovic wins, he'll have the same number of wins as Federer has losses. You have to beat 6 other men just to

This Isn't Actually Hard

I read one of those stupid millennial dating articles from a woman. Of course it didn't work out. I don't even know where to start. I could be just too old for this stuff, but I can solve your problems in 2 easy steps. Ready? 1. Don't have sex with him. It's not entirely true that all we want is sex, but the worst parts of us do, at the wrong times, and for the wrong reasons. If you want to know what a man is made of, tell him the pot of gold is at the end of the marriage rainbow, and not before. If he gets mean about this, run. If he moves heaven and earth just to watch you fail a pottery class, actually enjoys watching your shows no matter how stupid, and generally forgets other women exist, it could be good. 2. Don't live together. I know everybody says the opposite; everybody is wrong. Ask old married people what the secret is. I'll bet this is one. There is no incentive for a man to pledge his whole self if he's playing house already. When you'

US Open Update

A wise person leads with this . Hilarious and charming. In the other women's semifinal, Simona Halep of Romania, the number 2 seed, was upset by another unseeded Italian, Flavia Pennetta. What are we doing here, making wine? Over on the men's side, the world number 1 and top seed, Novak Djokovic, rolled into the final in straight sets over the defending US Open champion, Marin Cilic. Seriously, though, this dude is scary. If he wins, that will be his third major this year, and 10th for his career. In the other semifinal, the great Roger Federer rolled over 2015 French Open champion and fellow countryman, Stan Wawrinka, in a mere 92 minutes. Wawrinka is the guy who upset Djokovic in the French Open final to prevent him from being in position to win all four majors in a calendar year (the "Grand Slam"). Wawrinka is the 5th ranked player in the world; Federer made him look like a qualifier. If Roger Federer wins, it would add an all-time leading 18th major to his t

Hurrying Slowly

I've been packed to move for weeks now, but it's being held up. My crucifixes are packed, also. You don't realize how weird this is until it happens. A Catholic home with no crucifix is not a home. Surely only a church without the Blessed Sacrament is worse. I don't want to write about 9/11. Most of what needs saying has been said. I think I learned the wrong things from it. We might complain that some "liberals" lionized and infantilized Muslims after the attack; it's just as likely we lionized and infantilized ourselves. The purest and best lesson is that life is fragile, and not guaranteed. We always need reminding. Red said, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin.'" He might have said, "Get busy lovin', or get busy hatin.'" It's all the same thing. Peace be with you!

When I Was Done Being Astonished

Then I started to think about what was said here . The title certainly grabs one, and the title uses decidedly Catholic words like, "teaching authority," and "Church." Does this suggest that some segment of Protestants, as represented by Swain and Rishmawy, are moving toward us in the Catholic Church? Perhaps it is rather for those men to argue that the real distance between themselves and the Catholic Church is not as great as some suppose. The reader must decide, upon reflection, if a real change in the Protestant position has taken place. Rishmawy correctly notes some measure of evangelical and Protestant suspicion of "churchly teaching authority", owing to the Protestant affirmation of Sola Scriptura and the Scripture as the "Word of God." He affirms the traditional Protestant formulations, but insists that still more could be said about the teaching authority without recognizing the magisterium, viz.,the authoritative teaching office, of t

Bad Religion?

They tell you that faith shouldn't be a cloak for intolerance, and I agree. Yet what does that mean? I don't think faith obligates you or me to send money to Creflo Dollar, either, and I'm sure you agree. It seems to me, though, people like when faith provides the sentimental padding to whatever they already agree with; they are decidedly less tolerant when it obligates people to say, "No." The Bible says faith is a certainty in things unseen. Another thing I'm certain of, based on the reality of those things, is that I couldn't sell you a Playboy, or bake you a gay wedding cake. It hasn't come up. I also couldn't attend your wedding if you've been divorced, and are now being re-married, if your first spouse is still alive. "Re-marriage" is adultery, after divorce from a living spouse. Separation from someone you're married to is acceptable; there could be a thousand good reasons for this. It could take the form of a civil div

Revenge Of Roger?

John Isner, the 13th player in the world, and an American with a massive serve, is perfectly capable of beating Roger Federer tonight. Supposing however that Roger is much better, and will play like it, is no great reach. He'd get Thomas Berdych in the quarterfinals if the seeds hold, which could be a tight match, but he should win. Andy Murray has to play French Open champion Stanislaus Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. World number 1 Novak Djokovic would play either 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, either of which would be a dangerous quarterfinal match for him. Federer could lose any of these matches, of course, but he has dominated both of his potential semifinal opponents in Wawrinka or Murray. Even if Djokovic were to prevail in another final--having beaten Federer in the previous 2 Wimbledon finals--it would be an enduring testament to Federer's longevity and greatness. If Djokovic were to win his 10th Grand Slam title and 3rd this year, he would

I Don't Have "Straight Pride"

I don't consider myself straight, as we understand the term. I confess that marriage was made for one man and one woman, alone. If I call myself "straight," all I'm telling you is that my tendency, for good and bad, would be to have sexual relations with women. If I have another category "gay," I'm validating homosexual relations on equal terms, without meaning to. Then the issue becomes like sports teams, like the Red Sox and the Yankees. You have your team and culture, and I have mine. We do this all the time in politics; we get really tense and passionate when we think the others want to take the little parcel we've carved out for ourselves. We're just animals, after all. We fight the hardest when cornered. This reality about marriage is not supernatural as such, but it fits with a worldview that accepts, and even suggests, that such things which would not and could not be known by reason alone have been revealed. I won't hide that from

Rafael Nadal

The 14-time major champion was defeated in 5 sets at the US Open. His world ranking has dropped to 8, despite being considered one of the informal "Big Four" (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Nadal). Before you get all misty about what he once was, consider that he owns a 33-10 head-to-head match record against Roger Federer, widely considered the greatest of all time. Nadal has won the French Open 9 times. 9. Nobody ever has won more than 7 at any major tournament. Stew on that for a moment. Indeed, the 33rd-ranked male player in the world had to play the match of his life in order to prevail. That  is greatness. At times, losing makes it easier to see than winning. The time may be drawing to a close for he and other greats who came on the scene at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Yet I'm sure the victor would echo what another man said upon upsetting Federer some years ago, when asked about Federer's alleged decline: "I wish I could de

Go Rest High On That Mountain

I found out that a friend from high school succumbed to drugs and alcohol. I didn't know him well at that time, but a few years ago, he worked for me as a personal assistant. It was already starting to grab him then, but his fundamental goodness shined right through. I think he came to regret letting the drugs make him let me down. I just hope I did enough to encourage him in the love of God. Addiction is horrible, because once you are physically addicted to a thing, it's even stronger than what you want. People may have long ago decided that they couldn't fill that emotional hole with a substance, but they can't get out. It takes a ton of support, prayer, and a mighty effort. Maybe the hardest thing while watching it happen is not taking their failures as people too personally. They will have to account for those things once they get clear, but there is no amount of anger that will make it work. And if you're not careful, you'll poison your own soul with th

5 Thoughts For Today

5. It's like Goodell went, "I mean, nobody really likes Tom Brady, anyway, right?" 4. "Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!" 3. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike. Any bike. Anywhere. 2. Seriously, though, helmets. In other news, does anyone know why we don't spell it "helment"? 1. Nothing says "We take sin seriously" like a paltry opportunity to unburden yourself of it once a week for 45 minutes on a Saturday. Yes, it's changing in many places, as well it should.

I Walk The Line

If you're in the business of telling the truth, it can be a funny thing. Most truth-tellers are the sorts of people that have the obvious staring at them, and at least it appears no one else has noticed. He takes no special note of those who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are; he has a higher obligation. If you didn't know, I believe I am one of those people. The unique challenge is that an even higher obligation exists: to love as God loves. These things are closely related, of course. You can't love anyone by telling them lies, even comforting ones. Jesus is Truth Himself, so when you speak the truth, you are leading someone to Jesus. Still, we can be so fond of "telling it like it is" that we believe our own hype, that somehow the world needs us, and our special brand of frankness. Dear friends, we could be dead in the next few moments. Every time I see a sad post on social media about a sudden death, I am reminded. It is simply foolish