Friday, December 18, 2015

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. And yeah, I'd vote for Romney/Ryan again, given the same choice. Because politics is still the art of the possible, even for a Catholic.

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."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

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 should not be this hard!"

And then you laugh at yourself.

People get some combination of impatient and concerned when they see a person struggling with a small thing. I don't mind help now and again, but then again, I do. It's probably pride. I have to win at everything. That blasted button or zipper or whatever it is is not going to win if I have anything to do with it. And when I win one of these things, I act like I'm Roger Federer, and I just won Wimbledon. Oh, you may not see it, but it's there.

If Purgatory were not a sensibly painful cleansing that we have been told it is, I know what mine would be: I'd be assigned to button shirts, hopefully learning not to swear.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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 of the aspirants claim to be followers of Christ. I'll be direct: A Christian, given the choice of death or slavery, or winning a war by gravely immoral means, should always choose the former. As much as I love this country, that  needs to be said. In fact, America has been greatest when she remembers this. If the sole moral criterion of any action is that our enemy is more evil than we are, we will find that our pretended superiority is just that.

In terms of refugees, all manner of healthy debate as to exactly how best to assist people in trouble while maintaining a reasonable level of safety can be expected, and even encouraged. One thing the fundamental dignity of the human person requires, however, is that we do not remain neutral. No persons, regardless of religion or nation of origin, become non-persons by those very facts. So, even if large numbers of immigrants and refugees cannot be safely accommodated here, we can assist diplomatically, economically, and even militarily if necessary, so that human beings may simply live. This is not ethical rocket science.

We seem also rather hung up on exactly how many practitioners of Islam are radically violent or anti-Western, and the sensible notion that most Muslims are peaceful, as if merely stating that plain fact renders one naive and politically correct. I rebut such foolishness by simply pointing out that we are not being invaded by armies, (though you may well be correct to say we are at war) so, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. What the West has endured are highly visible attacks on innocents by small groups of people, surely calculated for attention, and terrorizing non-combatants, hence the term. Indeed, these jihadists have shown a willingness to attack other Muslims with nearly as much ferocity. That's all the proof we need as to the question of whether we are at war with Islam. Of course not. This is a form of Islam. I have neither the knowledge, nor authority to tell you what "true" Islam should be, but its own lack of authority strongly suggests that perhaps there is no good answer. In any case, peace-loving free people everywhere do have the moral authority to decide, in a pluralistic society, which forms of Islam with which they can co-exist. We are surely joined in that effort by countless Muslims themselves. If it is naive and "liberal" to say all this, so be it. I would personally note that professed Christians cowering in fear before a religion they believe to be man-made, and incomplete at the very best, is unbecoming. Nor is it Christian in any sense to believe that the solution to this inhuman specter is mainly in human power. It is possible I have misread the Scriptures, but I think not.

I'm not going to vote for the one who talks the toughest. You don't need to promise to keep me safe, because you can't do that. I don't need you to tell me who I should be afraid of, because man cannot take the peace that comes from God. I want to know that you respect me enough not to pander to me as some selfish, paranoid xenophobe. Though the second world war didn't morally vindicate every aspect of American conduct, I do know that Americans gave their lives for those they did not know, most of whom they would never meet, because they believed that hatred, death, and slavery should never be the lot for any person. Liberty claimed but not shared is no liberty at all.

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 lost respect for Chuck Hagel. It was not because he and the media styled him a moderate. It was not because I thought he was wrong. It was when he would not own his own words on a subject, because he believed stating them, and even daring to defend his own views, would be unpopular. May I never be afraid to take the heat, if I believe I'm right.

It is true that we must recover an all-embracing ethics in many respects. Almost equally important will be the willingness to make an argument. Those who irrationally despise me won't respond to a logical argument anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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 a life.

I want to be able to say that I didn't bury the talent in the ground. Without denying the fullness of faith in Christ Jesus in the Church--really stop and ponder this--what if the face of Christ in the least of these belongs to a Muslim?

Monday, December 14, 2015

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.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

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.