Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yes, The Confederate Flag Is Racist. Take It Down.

It's pretty simple: nobody gets a free pass to try to "reclaim" a symbol that has baggage without carrying the baggage. The Confederate battle flag says:

1. I agree with the people who started their own country just to continue owning other people;

2. I agree with the constitution of that rebel country, which prevented its own states from abolishing slavery;

3. I believe that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution were just Northern "meddling";

4. I was happy when the state governments reclaimed their governments from those trying to secure those rights for the newly-liberated people;

5. I agree with those who resisted the racial integration of the southern states in the '50s and '60s;

6. I think all this talk of racism is overblown, even though nothing would have changed, had the whole nation not seen what was happening on their TVs at night.

Is it worth it, just to say you like Lynrd Skynyrd? I believe you, when you say you're not racist. Is the effort of bearing the message of this symbol worth it? Not to me.

And I'm sorry for supporting politicians in the past who failed to stand up and point this out. I don't like to be lectured by Northeastern liberals, either. I get that. But they're right on this. And if there is a culture of indifference at best behind the whole history of this symbol, do you want to perpetuate that? Why?

I'd rather live in the South, by the way. You won't see me moving to Boston. But the truth is the truth.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Believe In The Resurrection Of The Body, And The Life Everlasting. Amen.

I've just learned that my very first confessor in the Catholic Church, Monsignor Joseph Pins, has died. I really don't have the skill or the eloquence to write a fitting tribute, but I wanted to tell you why I love him.

I met him when I entered the RCIA program at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. He must have been warned about the likes of me. You think you can raise a good objection to the Catholic faith, until you meet him. But he never breathed apologetic fire; he had the serene confidence that comes by true holiness.

Some time later, the powers that be decided that a barbecue for the catechumens and candidates would be nice. I'm off to one side, still hoping none of my Presbyterian seminary professors will catch me there. He asks if I'd like to get anything. I say to the man who has never been mistaken for a fitness personality, "Well, I don't want to cut in front of you, Monsignor." "Do I look like I've missed a meal?" he answered.

It can get pretty scary for folks in RCIA, if you don't know. Especially if, like me, you've devoted most of your adult life to believing things about Christ that do not cohere with what the Catholic Church teaches. I was flat-out scared; I wanted to leave; I started to think maybe it had all been a mistake. So, I went to Monsignor Pins. We batted some stuff around, Marian stuff, Scripture and the like, for some time. He finally said, "Do you want to be Catholic?" "Yes," I answered. "Why?" he asked. "I think it's the Church Christ founded, based on Petrine primacy, apostolic succession, and the Eucharist."

"Well," he paused, for what seemed like forever, "where else are you gonna get that?"

Still later, it came time to hear a lecture on the Last Things. It remains one of the greatest nights of my life. Some people are brilliant, and some are relevant. He was both. I never felt more ready to die than that night. As I have said many times, I understood more about redemptive history from that night than I'd learned in the previous year.

Monsignor Pins could give a homily. I don't recall mistaking him for Billy Sunday, but I was always ready for the Eucharist when he finished. Or, to shuffle off to the corner after Mass to confess. That's what you need a priest to do.

I don't even feel I deserve to be sad today. I only gave him prayer-chores. But God knits your heart together with the priest, especially the first you see for help. It's just the way it is. Now, it only remains for me to believe the things he taught us. To be without God is the only death that endures. "Do you pray every day?" he'd always ask. "Yes," I'd answer. "Don't stop." Don't worry, I won't.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What Do You See?

You could spend all your days inside the Catholic Church, and not see what you are supposed to see. You could spend all your days outside it, and see it clear as a mountain sky: God loves you.

That's what it's all for, you know. Love, in both directions.

I was gently reminded by some fellows and an angry (for now) ex-Catholic that the Church teaches that you can "fall out of grace," as it were. Well and good. I didn't protest that phrasing because I am unaware of the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Trent (of happy memory). I protested because of the fear in the whole thing. Man, if I believe in the sacraments of holy mother Church and in their power, isn't this basically saying that God didn't love me when...

With love, you buffoon! You may find out that you're worse than you think you are. Welcome to the gospel. If you find yourself falling into the same sin over and over, the only possible explanation is that you and me don't fully understand, at the level of our souls, how deeply God loves us.

That's why at a certain level, talking about falling out of grace is absurd. What could you do, that his love cannot reach you? Leave the fairly arcane discussions of merit and the like to one side. Isn't it obvious we need to answer that question?

How much freedom would you find if you began to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation saying, "I know He loves me; that's why I'm here"? I could be nuts, but I don't think God, who gave us His only-begotten Son, has it out for us.

It's not Monday any more, is it?