Friday, January 29, 2016

One Day Closer

There is a well-regarded old man in the parish--really, that doesn't seem to cover it--who was reported to have said the other day, "One more day. One more day closer!" This is my last day being 35. I can't say I think about dying routinely. I'd also be lying if I said I had as much hope as he does.

I pray for graces I can't possibly understand. What will it mean to enjoy the fullness of God's glory? I only know that the love in the eyes of Christ is greater than whatever is holding us back. Doesn't it say, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

I want to say I have enough hope to let Christ look at me. We both know that I'm not like him. But there is no disgust, no revulsion. It's that love that makes me let go of everything that is not like him. Stay with me, Lord.

A Better Sacramental Theology?

Do Protestants need a better sacramental theology? You hear various Protestants saying this, but it strikes me oddly. The point of being Protestant is to deny the absolute necessity of sacraments for salvation. It's not at all to say that no one in that world has any sacred signs, or finds them important. It means that the essence of being Christian in that way is not sacramental, as such. A Catholic sacrament brings about what it signifies; the Protestant celebrates similar signs to testify to what has already occurred.

I will say that the Holy Spirit seems to be leading many Christians to appreciate sacred art and architecture, and I hope it leads people to re-think many things.

But realize that Catholic art and architecture is functional; it expresses and facilitates our faith and liturgical action. One cannot become "more sacramental" without exploring what it means liturgically, and thus, we're back to the Protestant-Catholic dispute itself. A Catholic confesses that God may work outside His sacraments as an expression of hope in a far-flung mercy. The Protestant says it as a statement of fact.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Novak And Roger, Again

Roger Federer is the greatest male tennis player ever. Even approaching 35, there is only one person who can make a credible claim to be better right now: Novak Djokovic. The Serbian won 3 of the 4 major tournaments last year, beating Federer in the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open. In fact,    the one Djokovic lost, the French Open, he lost in the final.

Djokovic had to be favored in this their 45th head-to-head meeting, in the Australian Open semifinal. Adding to the drama, each man had won 22 matches. Novak played the part of the alpha dog well, punishing his legendary opponent with ground strokes. When 54 minutes had passed, Djokovic had won the first two sets in the best-of-five, 6-1, and 6-2. The greatest player ever looked old.

But one does not become the greatest ever by acclamation, and the 17-time major champion raised his level of play. He can still reach absurd heights, and Federer won the third set, 6-3.

It was a tense fourth set, with neither man losing serve through 7 games. Federer had a few chances to break Djokovic's serve, but failed. And then, serving at 3-4 and 30-all, Federer waited at the net to hit a ball from Novak that hit the tape atop the net. You could expect balls that hit the tape to fall harmlessly on the same side. Some guys are lucky, and the ball crawls just over the net on the other side, while the helpless opponent watches from the backcourt. This ball hit the tape and jumped past Federer before he could react. Sometimes, when you're lucky and good, the greatest ever can only lament his misfortune.

What we know for sure is that Novak Djokovic is the best in the world right now, on his way to winning 11 major titles of his own. We also know that the great Federer is in no mood for farewell tours, or rocking chairs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Read It Like This: Basic Principles Of The Social Doctrine

The basis of the social doctrine, its very heart, is the dignity of the human person made in the image of God. The basis of that dignity is man's intended end, which is communion with God. So, there are a few concepts within the social doctrine we will need to bear in mind, if we are to understand Laudato Si, since Pope Francis has added it to the social doctrine of the Church. Other theologians remind us that the principles of the social doctrine are not articulated in a vacuum; we must apply them contextually.

Justice: To give to another person what he or she is due.

Common good: The sum of all the conditions necessary for each person to reach their end.

Solidarity: A firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. (Not simply a vague feeling of compassion)

Social Justice: That which tends to the preservation of social groups dedicated to the common good, and to the good of all the members within that/those groups.

Subsidiarity: A firm determination to assist people at lower levels of social organization by those at a higher level, without depriving those people of the right to handle matters within their competence. In  practical terms, we handle problems at the lowest level possible.

If we keep these basic definitions in mind, we won't read Laudato Si through other lenses, and hopefully therefore avoid becoming angry that the pope is supporting a political ideology we dislike. The application of the social doctrine is necessarily political in some secondary sense, because politics concerns the social organization of people. Anything in human life that hinders people from finding communion with God is of potential concern to the Church.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our Daily Bread

My mind was all over the place today. Trump, Cruz, and Marco, my simmering disdain for certain ecclesiological errors, and what I'd eat today.

Have mercy on us all, we pray...

The cry of my heart in words.

Just let me linger here, forgetting the clamor.

And much more than the hem of His garment. How great will be the vindication to come?

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Like Rod Dreher...

But he's really out to lunch on this one. Politics-by-passions gets us war and death. Trump is not reasonable; therefore, people who aspire to be reasonable should reject him. Those who ever and only  see "us" and "them" should not vote. They might be otherwise great people, but please, don't vote.

If it sounds elitist and snobby, good, I say. It's time someone did. I don't think complete sentences are too much to ask. If they are, well, I will live on Egghead Island, with the rest of the abstract thinkers.

I'm almost hoping Bernie wins, so I don't have to read this nonsense ever again.

In Praise Of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist in a country where Ronald Reagan became an icon warning against creeping socialism. He doesn't want to tax it if it moves, he wants to nationalize it.

He rails against big money in speech after speech. He says the common people have no chance against giant profit machines and their relentless pursuit of the bottom line.

He's right, you know. Actually, I'm gratified that someone on the Left still gets outraged about something. Something real, that is.

He's honest in a business where it doesn't pay to be honest. You've got to admire that, and I do.

I don't believe in socialism, abortion, and "gay rights." Those are the 3 reasons not to consider voting for Bernie Sanders. But I'll tell you this: the worst part of the Republican postwar "fusionism," as they call it, is the conflation of justice and mercy in economics, and the contention that the former either does not exist, or is no legitimate concern of government at any level. There could be no peace, no d├ętente, between two factions with diametrically opposed views on the good of government as such. But such was the force of personality of Ronald Reagan: he delayed a much-needed philosophy debate on the Right for a quarter-century.

If it's "liberal" to say that government is not a necessary evil, but a positive good, so be it. Our Founders limited it precisely to facilitate the general welfare, not to deny that it exists.

Senator Sanders has, at the least, reminded us that systemic economic injustice is a scandal, not an unfortunate outcome in an otherwise functioning system. For that, I am thankful.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Do Over

Every time you go to Confession, it's a do-over. The promises of the New Covenant, articulated in the prophecy of Jeremiah, come true here. Christ in the sacrament says, "I am faithful; I will do it." Some people are afraid of this system. Won't it make people complacent or arrogant?

It seems to me that denying the efficacy of the sacred sign is more arrogant. The man begins to believe that his faith possesses a unique quality that others do not possess. This is foolish, since faith itself is a gift of grace. The sacraments are efficacious, precisely to show that man is only a man.