Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confessions Of An Emerging Liberal (Or Something Close)

I am a Medicaid customer. I say "customer," for reasons that will become clear. In some sense, I am not what I regarded as the target group for Medicaid: desperately poor people with no health insurance of any kind, and thus, no regular access to health care services. I am participating in Medicaid because Medicare does not pay for personal care assistance, and those costs can get prohibitive for persons with disabilities. That is, choosing between eating and personal care kind of prohibitive.

I have been successful in recent days in expanding my income beyond my Social Security Disability Income (Yay for me!) But did you know that we pay for Medicare out of Social Security? Part of every Social Security check has a withholding for Medicare. Medicare is not free. Anything in the way of rhetoric suggesting that Medicare is simply spending by the federal government is false. It amounts to a premium, like any other insurance.

Medicaid works in a similar way. There is something called a "spend-down," which is essentially a deductible. One must pay this amount every month, and then any cost above this incurred by the customer is paid by Medicaid.

Let me put it this way: If I'm paying $240 per month for Medicare and Medicaid, our elected officials owe me what I'm paying for. Even if the money I'm paying with came from the blood, sweat, and tears of my father or someone else's. We're all in this together, and into each other for some amount of money somehow.

Any Republican governor who refuses federal funds for Medicaid expansion as some heroic stand against government spending is either stupid, (possible) dishonest, (very possible) or cruel (I'd like not to think so).

We need to stop acting like "government program" means, "handing out free money for ne'er-do-wells to go to the casino, in between naps on the couch."

And while I'm here, maybe we should have the food stamp discussion *after* we are absolutely certain that everyone receiving them is morally at fault somehow, and not before. I digress.

I can see why "Uncle Bernie" advocates for Medicare for all. We always seem to have money to drop bombs on innocent children somewhere. Is that too direct? Sorry.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Faith Comes From What Is Heard, Feingold (III)

The second chapter in this section is called, "The Virtue of Divine Faith."

As we have already seen, the starting point of sacred theology is the fact of God's revelation of himself. If there is to be a relationship between God and man, then man needs a power by which he assents to what has been revealed. At the supernatural level, Feingold says, this power of assent is called divine faith. We are reminded that in Catholic theology, grace builds upon nature, so that the supernatural definition of faith is not wholly unlike that for human faith.

Feingold defines faith in general as a “firm assent of the mind to things unseen." He points out that a thing can be seen in two ways: by the senses, and by the mind. First principles are self-evident, says Feingold. These are immediately grasped by the mind as true. Things which can be empirically observed are “seen” by the senses. Thirdly, truths can be seen by the mind that are deduced from a sound process of reasoning. He concludes therefore, “Something is unseen, therefore, if it is neither empirically observed, nor self-evident, nor deduced from evident principles through a sound process of reasoning."

One important question we might ask is, “How much of a Protestant and Reformed epistemology is premised upon epistemic skepticism?” To the extent that it is, much of what a Catholic would classify as able to be seen by the senses, or by the mind, would be re-classified by the Protestant as belonging to faith in general, or to supernatural faith as such. Thus, the Protestant could reject much of the putative common ground--in an area the Catholic regards as preambles to faith--as an appeal to supernatural authority, that is, the Catholic Church, an authority they have rejected. If we suppose also than non-Christians of various sorts have adopted the same skepticism, we can see why so much contemporary discussion in terms of morality and ethics is dismissed as an appeal to religious authority, when it fact such an appeal is not being made.

Returning to Dr. Feingold then, he points out via St. Thomas that true things that are seen motivate the assent of the intellect by their nature. That which requires faith cannot motivate assent by its very nature, because the object is not seen. Feingold asks, "Why would the will choose that the intellect assent to something unseen?" He points out that the will never moves without some motive. In addition, because this firm impulse of the will moves the intellect toward an unseen object, it is entirely voluntary. Feingold says, "Faith therefore can be defined as assent not moved by the intrinsic evidence of truths, but rather by a firm impulse of the will based on a sufficiently credible witness." St. Thomas had been cited earlier to explain that a firm impulse of the will, moving an assent of the intellect to an unseen object is faith. If the motive for assent to these credible witnesses is uncertain, the resulting act is called opinion, he says. Faith--in its divine and supernatural dimension--is distinguished by its certitude, ultimately rooted in the character of God, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived. I will have some personal reflections on this point in my next Addendum.

We have a paragraph from Dr. Feingold in regard to human faith, and it provokes a personal story. When my mother left my apartment this morning, she said she'd be working at the home improvement store from 12:30 to 9 PM. My mother is a sufficiently credible witness. Excepting unforeseen happenings beyond her control, it would be irrational for me to believe my mother is anywhere other than the home improvement store. She is not at the dog track; she is not in Bali. I don't need to personally verify that she is there right now. Moreover, I do not need to be unreasonably skeptical of my sense data, were I to call the store, and ask to speak with her, that it would be her speaking to me on the phone. Feingold writes, "Withholding assent in such a case, without cogent reasons to the contrary, would be irrational and contrary to social communion and friendship." Larry certainly has that Thomistic penchant for humorous understatement!

The moral duty of divine faith emerges from the character of God, Feingold says. Therefore, giving credibility to the witnesses of the Apostles and the Hebrew prophets is reasonable, if it is reasonable first to agree that God has revealed himself, and if those people have been sent by God to communicate supernatural revelation. If divine faith is the proper response to this supernatural revelation, then the exercise of divine faith is reasonable. In fact, the biggest obstacle to agreement between Catholics and Protestants is the Church, which Feingold says, "preserves and passes on the deposit of faith." It is not necessary to answer the fullest expression of skepticism for our purposes, because it questions the existence of God and the supernatural as such. However, insofar as agreement between Catholics and the Reformed on the matters of supernatural revelation is premised on epistemic skepticism, it is vulnerable to skepticism in general. Suffice to say that consistency with skepticism and its premises is not at all conducive to adherence to any revealed religion in Christ.

Absent any prejudice to the effect that God cannot and has not revealed anything supernatural, I do not find any great difficulty in the assent of faith, as Ratzinger describes it, because my worldview has never depended upon faith as contrary to reason, even if I cannot give an exhaustive account of how reason functions. 

Feingold appeals to a definition of divine faith from the First Vatican Council as a, "supernatural virtue whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that what he has revealed is true, not because the intrinsic truth of things is recognized by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither err nor deceive."

Feingold says that supernatural faith consists in assent to all that God has revealed because he has revealed it. Because God cannot lie or be deceived, the motive for this assent is the character of God.  

Feingold says, "In summary, divine faith is the freely chosen, firm, stable, joyful, and self-abandoning adherence of the mind, moved by divine grace, to the truths revealed by God about himself and His plan of salvation, not on account of their own intrinsic evidence, but based on the veracity of God, who cannot err or deceive."

The reality of self-abandonment to God recognizes the all-encompassing nature of faith, and communion with God. It is,--as I have written previously--where the intellectual collides with the personal. As we will see, there is no inherent conflict between grace and nature, if "nature" is understood properly.

It is wise to recall that in the mind of the Church, other religions, especially those that do not possess supernatural revelation as such, still represent the human effort to ascend to God by way of reason. Dr. Feingold points out that the seventh paragraph of a document issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, makes the distinction between belief, and divine faith. This distinction must be firmly held, and represents the clearest difference between the Christian religion, and other belief systems.

It is also possible to see how epistemic skepticism threatens the foundation of reason, such that Catholic ecumenical dialogue aimed at establishing the preambles to faith rooted in reason, seems from a certain vantage point to be capitulation. If everything that is known must be supernaturally revealed in order to be known, then any dialogue with other religions implies an equivalence in matters of revealed truth. It is incumbent upon us to maintain the distinction between truths accessible to reason--and thus identified as beliefs--and revealed truth as such, all in a spirit of social communion and friendship, so that all people can come to the fullness of truth. If we can remove any stumbling blocks for our separated brethren in Protestant communities, we should do so. However, the prior judgment that right reason is unknown or inaccessible should be discarded as a premise. To even suggest this is to ignite a vigorous discussion, but if this premise can be seen as a philosophical assumption, and not as a truth of faith, it will be much easier to leave behind. 

The right of private judgment is intrinsic to Protestantism, Feingold says. The Reformers did not anticipate that their own authority would be denied, as surely as they denied the authority of the allegedly infallible Church and its Magisterium.

Feingold writes, "In consequence of the multiplication of Christian denominations, faith has increasingly become identified with mere religious sentiment or opinion." He goes on to say that such a notion was prevalent in liberal Protestantism in the 19th century, but is fairly common today. Feingold quotes Newman to this effect:

"That truth and falsehood in religion are but matter of opinion; that one doctrine is as good as another; that the Governor of the world does not intend that we should gain the truth; that there is no truth; that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this than by believing that; that no one is answerable for his opinions; that they are a matter of necessity or accident; that it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess; that our merit lies in seeking, not in possessing; that it is a duty to follow what seems to us true, without a fear lest it should not be true; that it may be a gain to succeed, and can be no harm to fail; that we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure; that belief belongs to the mere intellect, not to the heart also; that we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide,--this is the principle of philosophies and heresies, which is very weakness."

This is in contrast to what Newman calls the "dogmatic principle," which enables the assent of faith. Feingold says by contrast that private judgment destroys the submission of faith, because it does not allow the total submission of the mind to God.

Catholic teaching distinguishes two kinds of heresy: material, and formal. Formal heresy involves an obstinate denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. Material heresy is either not done obstinately, is in good faith, or is simply an error. Feingold says, "The sin of formal heresy has a very special gravity because it goes against the common good of a Christian society in a very weighty matter."

After pointing out that Protestants today are most likely in material heresy, rather than formal heresy, Dr. Feingold adds, "Nevertheless, it is reasonable to think that the founders of heretical sects were heretics in the formal sense because, while still within the bosom of the Church, they obstinately opposed the voice of her authentic Magisterium. Nevertheless, God alone knows the interior state of the heart."

Dr. Feingold points out that committing formal heresy on just one point makes other beliefs the realm of religious sentiment or opinion. Indeed, it must be so, because such beliefs are not being held with the aid of grace.

Faith is a gift, of course. But the dispositions proper to faith are also a gift of grace, and can be cultivated. Feingold quotes Newman to the effect that faith is easy for those who have the right dispositions, and difficult for those who do not. May we be like those praised in the Scriptures, expectant for God's Revelation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Personal Reflections On Perspicuity, Or The Lack Thereof, With Respect To Sacred Scripture

It's been insisted to me many times that I in particular, and those of us at Called To Communion, denigrate Sacred Scripture, or must make it seem opaque, in order to make a case for the Catholic Church and her Magisterium. This is false. The Church herself makes no such case, and as her loyal son, I have no interest in discouraging the reading of the Bible by anyone. How far back do you want to go? As many people have said before, critiquing Sola Scriptura is critiquing a methodology, not the source of the method. We Catholics understand that Sola Scriptura as a method and a rallying cry is an attempt (even unwittingly) to read the Scriptures against the Church, instead of within the Church.

It is beyond my purpose to explain exactly how clear (or not) the Scriptures are, not to mention beyond my ability. I want to reiterate and agree with what Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch have written, echoing also the contribution of my friend Fred Noltie. I have yet to successfully lobby for a change in that article's title (to, "The Noltie Conundrum," alas) but I do try. In any case, my appreciation in particular for Fred's insights stems from the fact that before I was a Catholic keyboard warrior "apologist"--which has some weird connotation of, "manipulative liar," if some are to be believed--I lived the uncertainty of what Fred describes. I absolutely agree with Keith Mathison that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to an interpretation of Scripture. "Whose interpretation of any text, or the whole of the Bible will be normative for Christians?" seems to be the real question. My understanding of the freedom granted to me by the faithful guardianship of the Magisterium is that a range of acceptable interpretations exists--in understanding Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture--and that my uses and applications ought to fall within this range. To this point I may return.

It seems to me that the entire point of saying, "The Catholic Church's doctrine X contradicts Scripture" or, "On the contrary; the Bible says..." is to say that what the Catholic Church teaches falls outside the acceptable range of meaning of the Biblical text. Irrespective of the merits of that argument, it should be noted for the sake of clarity that the statement, "The Bible says..." is an appeal to authority, which in light of Protestant views of Scripture (largely shared by us, as discussed above) is functionally equivalent to, "God says..." This is why Fred's insights are so important. Explore the dilemma as he lays it out there, in all its many aspects. For the sake of my argument, though, let's take the bad faith assumption out of the equation ("My interlocutor is wrong, because he is not led by the Holy Spirit."). Let's also take any assumptions about human depravity and weakness out, if only because we have a tendency to apply them to our interlocutors readily, but conveniently, not to our own interpretations. If we do this, we are left, it is claimed, with only the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit cannot say 2 mutually exclusive things about the same matter, at the same time. He neither lies, nor is mistaken, by definition, as God. I implore you to think about this, before you react in revulsion to any alternatives.

Here's the point, as forcefully as I can make it: If I say that the Bible teaches contrary to the Catholic faith, I appeal to one reading of one text. I cannot marshal every non-Catholic reading of every text, and behave as though it is one, because I know very well that I haven't triumphed with absolute clarity over Mark Dever's interpretation of the texts on baptism, for example, any more than I have silenced the Catholic on any other matter. Bare-minimum unity on dogmatics, and an invisible "Church" are the proof that perspicuity to the most necessary degree cannot be found. Not to mention the fact that such a "unity" is ad hoc. This reality alone begins to whisper to the pious heart that the Catholic Church is our home, even before the possibility is seriously explored and considered. Suppose the merest Mere Christianity is Catholic. Suppose my ad hoc thrashing about for the barest essentials from the first two Councils is in reality the grasping of a child for his mother? Dearest Lord Jesus, is it so? Is it, my brethren?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We Need A Bigger Black Elite

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the enrollment numbers of the most well-known historically black colleges and universities, because I was trying to explain to a friend what an HBCU was. Not that I really know. Truthfully, it was distressing. If there is any truth to the idea that any society is only as good as its elites, we all are in trouble. In a more general sense, we are imperiled by the fact that the American elite believes the wrong things about humanity and our purpose. More specific to this point, if the black experience is marred by a power imbalance with the wider white monoculture, then a contest between the elites--or at least a dialogue--needs to occur. If this black elite is too small, then it can't get enough power to make a difference in black life more generally.

I honestly thought these centers of black expertise were bigger than they are. Please remind me not to take any notions of "reverse racism" seriously for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, remaining extremely small insulates any college or university from the prevailing classical liberalism, which is neither metaphysically nor morally neutral. [You've been reading Bryan Cross again.--ed.] If you're going to read anyone's social media feed... [You sniveling sycophant.--ed.] On the contrary; I don't think Bryan is always right, but I generally get a sense of what I don't know, just by reading or hearing him. A public intellectual, in the best sense, is a person who is curious in public.

Food for much thought.

I Wasn't Going Back To Pop Music

But I mentioned to Johnny Irish the other week that I didn't think I'd actually heard Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys all the way through. Well, we know what's going to happen. I listened to it at least 4 times yesterday. [Bet I know which song is your favorite. Besides "God Only Knows". That doesn't count.--ed.] Alright, what's my favorite song? ["Caroline, No".--ed.] Dangit, right! [You're so utterly predictable.--ed.] Can't argue with that.

Maybe George Capps is right: You can't be a huge pop star and not be a ruin. I don't know how much responsibility we can take for the whole thing, but I'm sure we have some. This Cranberries album I have on is amazing. I hope everyone in the band is happy, healthy, and going to Mass regularly.

I am pretty sure I could listen to this woman sing for a year straight, and not tire of it. It's actually too bad I was 13 when this was big. It's hard to appreciate anything when you are 13. Even if you "like" it. [So now you extol the virtue of 25-year-old pop-rock that everyone else has moved on from.--ed.] You only know the value of pop music when it ages.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Great Desire

Following up on my post from the other day, it reminded me of something a very holy priest said about the virtue of chastity. If you find yourself enmeshed in the opposite vice, it means that your desire for God is great. This may mean we have committed a kind of idolatry, either of sexual pleasure, or even marriage, but it's encouraging in its own way. It means that our desires are disordered. If our desires are disordered, it means that with God's help and friendship, our desires can be properly ordered.

Truly, all we must do is open ourselves to God's love and power, and refuse to give up on ourselves.

When I mentioned prayer in the last post on this, I had a thought as a former Protestant that as Catholics we'd find a way to botch this up. Have you ever known or been the guy who prays the Rosary--maybe lots of them--but if you're honest, it doesn't make a big difference in your life? Maybe there is a metaphorical checklist, and the Rosary is on it. Maybe you've read too many oddball saint stories, about a guy who prayed the Hail Mary X times, and so God relented in some punishment, et cetera. I'm not trying to tell you how many Rosaries to pray or not, but I know this:

Until God and the saints become real to you, you're wasting your time.

The Church gives us formal prayer, so that we learn to believe and do all that will lead us to God. It's never an end in itself. That's why the saints stop praying vocally, at some point. If you're in contemplation and heading toward mystical union, you don't need the training wheels, so to speak. For the rest of us, we need them. But praying with your mouth and not your heart is like staring at the training wheels instead of riding the bike.

God bless you, my brethren.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Conversion In Two Distinct Stages

I had a theological and intellectual problem in 2008: What is true about God, and how do I know whatever I find is true? The thing I kept running into, the thing that cannot be overstated, is that there are too many good, holy, smart people to dismiss them all as heathen, or morons, when you happen upon an impasse or a disagreement. This is even harder to do when we share some fundamental agreements of deep conviction and methodology, such as the inerrancy of Scripture, and that Scripture alone is the only infallible rule for faith and practice. If you hand the Scriptures to someone like me, and say, "Learn these. Study these. Learn how to teach and preach the Scriptures to others" that's exactly what I'm going to do. By all means, give me commentaries. I want as much background information as I can get, so that when I begin to prayerfully prepare to exposit them, I can rightly handle the word of truth.

I don't really think it's shocking that we read books and training manuals from people who weren't necessarily Reformed and Presbyterian. In the spirit of "taking every thought captive," we'll take any truth we can find and affirm it. More than that, we'll use it. As small a world as conservative Reformed theology can be, we'd be using a clip or an illustration from your favorite movie or show faster than you can say, "Kuyperian sphere sovereignty." Every inch of creation has been claimed by Christ, and counterclaimed by the Enemy, and you get the idea.

It starts as a half-thought, in the middle of doing something else: "I wonder why that guy wasn't/isn't Reformed?" The thought-train continues. "Hasn't he read [prooftext] in the light of [topic]? Well, anyway, these insights are great, despite what he got really wrong." Reformed seminarian kid chuckles to himself, as he thinks about what arguments he'll use later to convince his friends in the half-serious discussion about C.S. Lewis, and how he was really Reformed. In the end, you brush the thoughts aside, because you've got a Greek exam, and a Bavinck response paper in two days.

"Evangelicals" is how we described ourselves. It serves a dual purpose, mind you: We can let people know we are Protestants, without conceding anything to the Catholic Church, and we can affirm the personal conversionism of the Great Awakening. But we're not those thoughtless "broad" evangelicals; goodness, no. We're "confessional."

It's a rite of passage to read Chesterton's Orthodoxy at some point. It's actually a selling point that he's Roman Catholic. If you're Reformed, and you don't actually wrestle with the claims of the Catholic Church, Catholics just seem like crypto-Reformed bohemians who made a mistake. Especially the writers. Also, anyone British gets a pass. Why? We didn't know.

I must have had, or heard, 300 conversations that start out, "The Church should..." "We as the Church aren't very good at..." Does anyone know to what we were referring when we said, "Church"? Frankly, I think we just assumed we knew what each other were talking about. Isn't that weird?

Now, I wasn't one to consign all non-Reformed to the fires of Hell, and I never knew anyone who did. We're united by the things that matter: Faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. Amen? The problem is, those are slogans, not points of dogma. It leaves me with no answer to dogmatic questions, as such, and as a member of a "Church" whose only common tenet is non-Catholicism.

The Roman Catholic Church isn't on the radar. Other than those writers we really liked, Catholics are those weird superstitious people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter, if that, and who haven't actually heard the saving gospel. Let me drop the guard a second here, and speak as a Catholic now: We'd have already converted most of you Reformed, if we didn't have two generations plus of dead "cultural Catholicism" and the prejudice it engenders, to overcome.

"What is the Church?" When you start to really ask this, you're probably past the point where any Reformed can help you. "What is the mechanism by which dogma is preserved and known?" Let me know if you find a Reformed answer.

I picked up "The Shape Of Sola Scriptura" in 2009, because I had a relativity problem. What's true, and how do I know? If you're going to promise to "save" Sola Scriptura from bad practice and misunderstanding, you'd better bring the goods. Well, he tried. Maybe the principles of Protestantism have no "goods." What if the methodology itself, applied consistently, destroys knowledge of supernatural things?

When I say, "There is no principled distinction between Sola Scriptura, and "Solo" Scriptura," I'm not actually speaking as a Catholic, or an apologist, as if that's some heinous crime. I'm still in fact speaking as the guy who had to sit and cry for hours in 2009, because Mathison destroyed his own argument. God bless his intellectual honesty; it's the best part of the book. If he's got mountains of anti-Catholic prejudice to surmount, that's sad, but it's not an argument. At that point, I did not accept the authority of the Catholic Church, or its Magisterium. That was 2 years away. If I ask for an argument against the claim that begins this paragraph, you'd better bring me something better than your antipathy for the Catholic Church. Because I didn't have prejudice then, and I certainly don't now.

You may readily accuse me of bias in my assessments of history, current papal statements, and all manner of things now, because I do accept the Church's authority. This changes theological methodology, by its very nature. But the question of whether a Reformational methodology is actually workable can be asked by any observer. It is not, strictly speaking, simply a point of Catholic apologetics.

I regard the motives of credibility for the Catholic Church as the Church Christ founded to be an entirely separate discussion from that of the dogmatic principle, and how it may be found. The fact that the two discussions arrive in the same place oftentimes is no excuse to be a lazy coward, if I may be so bold.

I still regarded three groups as distinct, as an enquirer: 1. the early Church; 2. the Catholic Church today; 3. the Christian communities birthed in the Reformation. It only makes sense to consider becoming Catholic, if and only if reason suggests that (1) and (2) refer to the same reality.

Most of the profitable Reformed and Catholic dialogue is going to turn on the organs of infallibility, and the conditions under which it is exercised. Even as an uncommitted enquirer, the gravest problem with Sola Scriptura seems to be an inability to distinguish in a principled way between private opinion, and divine revelation. To bring myself back to the beginning of this story, it seemed wholly unreasonable to prefer my judgment, and my subsequent adherence to a secondary doctrinal standard (and an ecclesial authority subject to Scripture and that secondary authority) to that of another person's. Our alleged reliance on the aid of the Holy Spirit did not appear to be dispositive. It seemed also to be the case that our differences on major issues would persist, even if the secondary authorities did not exist. Hence the claim that Sola collapses into Solo. If I decide how and when the authorities function as authorities, their number is not particularly significant. The true authority is me.

It is indeed a great mercy that Reformed and Catholics agree that the definitive revelation of God is in Jesus Christ. Ecumenism does not consist in merely celebrating and affirming what is held in common, but rather, inquiring as to the basis for that commonality, and building upon it. True ecumenism is dialogue concerning matters of revealed truth, in order to reach agreement in that truth.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken: The Paradoxical Joy Of The Cross

Suffering and joy are not the same. When I tell you that I felt great joy right after the car hit me, it's not in spite of the suffering; it's not after the suffering, either. "In the midst of" is about right, if you will pardon the cliche. The suffering is its own thing. You can hurt and sorrow in it while being joyful. Why? Well, we've always heard that joy is deeper than a feeling; it's true. Joy is a habit, a permanent disposition of confidence in Christ's victory over death and Hell. Joy is living faith, weaponized. I've got to hand it to the Lord for the timing: shortly after Holy Mass on an Easter Friday.

I had half a thought on the ground there that this wasn't what I was planning today. Imagine that.

I was mostly annoyed that I wouldn't be using the free slider coupon I'd just gotten for adding $1 to my order, to feed hungry kids.

A trusted guide said to me, "After all this, you don't hate!" I understood what he meant, but I understood instantly that the poor lady in the car is only a bit player in the bigger story. Whoever she is, she probably feels terribly about it. Even if I were so inclined, I'm not likely to shout angry obscenities as my life-blood pours into the street. I'm more perturbed by an Andrew McCutchen double in the gap in a key divisional game than I was at this poor woman.

I think maybe I got a gift of the joy of the Beatific Vision, Christ's own joy in saving us. "The joy set before him." "I am filling up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." Christ the Victor has this way of magnifying Himself. Think of it: Christ chose me to magnify Himself. Well, OK, then. "Lord, this sure seems like a poor choice of personnel!" I'd like to think he laughs at me, every time I say this.

If I could bottle this joy, and hand it to you, I would. If you ask for it, though, be prepared for the Cross. Maybe my heart was asking for this joy, in something beyond words. The Holy Spirit was interceding, beyond my ability to ask.

I went to Adoration the other day, and right after Confession, I was there before the tabernacle, and I told the Lord as the tears streamed down my face, "I'm so glad you let that car hit me!" It's one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. Because I know the love God has for all of us, at a level no dogmatic pronouncement could ever capture. The consolations, as always, recede. Normal life returns. But love like this leaves an imprint on your soul.

I wouldn't trade this whole experience for anything.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Adventures In Chastity: Practical Advice For Men

I'm inspired to write this post because the news is a steady drumbeat now of some powerful man who acted sinfully, inappropriately, or downright criminally toward a woman. Plenty of Christians right now are struggling with the virtue of chastity, or bearing the burden of their sins against that virtue. As a man who has been "that guy," (more than you have, I'm pretty sure) I have found a few things that helped practically. [Oh, crap, this is about to be a listicle.--ed.] Sorry, man.

1. Decide to stop hating yourself. God actually loves you more than you do, infinitely, and especially when you have failed spectacularly. Your destiny is not Hell, ultimately. God's "desire" for you is Heaven, seeing Him and sharing His friendship forever. So the first step is to want what God wants, and to reject any thoughts you might have that sound like, "I'm a failure and a freak, who will never be able to obey the commandments." That's a lie, straight from Hell.

2. For the love of God, go to Confession. Go every time you fall, especially in regard to self-abuse and pornography. I don't know your story, or how you got your habits, so I can't tell you the state of your soul. I do think you should refrain from the Eucharist, if you've committed one of these sins since your last confession, unless and until you get contrary advice from your confessor, or spiritual director. Also, many people go to different priests, because they are embarrassed. If you want to win, stop doing this. One confessor or two (ideally from your parish) know you, and they know how and why you struggle. If they love you for the sake of Christ, they're not going to beat you up too badly about it, or worse, tell you it's no big deal. If you can't find a priest to tell you the truth in love, go to another parish.

3. Pray to Mary. I won't tell you that you have to pray 8 Rosaries in a day, or even one. But Our Lady and Blessed Mother is the living epitome of chastity. Pray when you are tempted. Pray when you are not. Pray the Hail Mary. Pray the Memorare. ("Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary...") Just do it. Give thanks to God for every second, minute, or hour of purity.

4. Keep a schedule, and stick to it, as far as possible. Nothing good happens after midnight. If you're up past a certain time, it better be a good reason, and recognize the danger for what it is. Our guards come down when we are tired.

5. Recognize your feelings. Are you angry or sad? How about lonely? Have you ever talked to God or the saints about the things that bother you? Fantasy is the realm of a man who feels a lack of control. He feels powerless, weak, or unwanted. You're reaching out for some consolation, frankly, because everything sucks, or so it seems. You may have noticed that our society doesn't care about men and their feelings. They aren't going to say, "We appreciate you, we value everything you bring to the table." The opposite is true. Find some dudes that love you, no matter what. Talk to them. Ask them to remind you of the things they really love about you. The things you're good at, the things that enrich their lives. If you do this enough, it will begin to seem less weird and gay. Frankly, I use that word intentionally. There is so much homosexuality, I think, partially because sexuality is the only time (if at all) a man gets to say what he really feels deep in his heart. "I love you, and I couldn't imagine my life without you" literally sounds like a song lyric. But until a man can say this to another man in a non-sexual way, we're not getting anywhere. You don't have to say those words, but men can know without saying it. Stop joking about being close to other men, and just be close to other men.

6. Admit if you've been dealt a rough hand. Are you the child of divorced parents? Did one of them die when you were young? Did they abuse substances as you grew up? [Geez, you're 3-for-3 so far.--ed.] Is there an illness or infirmity that could make you more prone to these sins against chastity? These things don't excuse our sins, but they do make things harder. The great news is, every time you triumph over temptation in the face of these challenges, your merit is all the greater.

7. Recognize that the near occasion of sin is too late to start fighting. You won't win that fight. If there is a trigger for you, you have to get rid of it. Even if you feel like a total loser. If the PBS NewsHour is a trigger, get rid of it. Even if you're the only one. No one has to know.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken: The Time Of Darkness

I have written before about the accident that nearly claimed my life. Some parts of the struggle can't be seen or described up close. You need distance and time to see what's really taking place. Many months later, I can describe it.

Right after the accident, and for four days afterward, I felt almost unimaginable joy. I know it sounds crazy, but I won't lie to you. I could say I've never understood real love until then, and in some sense it would be true. I knew that God loved me, as the only reality that exists, as if it were air, or food. If you were there, I don't know what you saw, but that's what I knew. The physical suffering was there, but it was completely irrelevant. My most difficult moment, if that is the right thing to call it, was consoling my mother when she first saw me. No one can touch your heart like your mother.

I don't remember praying for myself at all. I remember praying for a man dying of cancer, who somehow got hurt physically. I couldn't see him, but I could hear the staff talking to him. Sometimes perspective is right in front of us. You don't need long memoirs or ruminations; life and death is the present reality.

There were two brothers who got into a knife fight, there at the same time I was. Maybe their father was telling the truth, and they were horsing around. But suppose not. Suppose these brothers hated each other, and here they were. I'd much rather be a disabled person struck by a car while walking home from Mass and Arby's.

It's a little easier to feel tremendous joy when you have two friends like Bryan Cross, and Bob Lozano. This wasn't a normal happening, but Bob and I did what we always do: laughed and joked. If they made a movie about us, it would be called, "Goofball Saints". In any case, Bob was the one to tell me Bryan was coming down from Iowa. I'll be happier I'm sure, when I see my bride walking toward the altar for our Nuptial Mass. Until then, I'll be thankful for the happiness I felt in that moment. You see, Bryan is what I call a "Memory Maker." We've experienced a lot of different things together, and by grace, he has a way of capturing the profound. Or at least being there for it. All the joy and goodness of the years since the spring of 2009 when we met was present to me when I heard he was coming. I was excited to know what mercy would show to him, and what he'd share with me. He's friend, family, and teacher, all rolled into one. I know he must have felt many different things upon hearing this news, but it was not a time for sorrow.

All this joy, where is the darkness? I underwent the major surgery to fix my face and jaw on May 4. All of the potentially dangerous things medically happened after this. All of that difficulty was merely an occasion for a temptation against faith, or hope. Probably the worst I will ever know, by the mercy of God. I heard a constant voice in my head saying, "This is your life now. You won't get better. Your faith is a lie. You are a liar and a fraud." Guess who?

Eight days it was like this. I didn't know what to do, and I couldn't speak. I'm not exactly sure what "giving up" would have looked like, but I can tell you this: The physical hardship is a drop in the bucket, compared to despair. Despair is the opposite of the supernatural virtue of hope. I'll take any suffering of a physical nature, over this despair. It lurked like a physical presence. Like many new Catholics, I was amazed and thankful for the saints, but truthfully, I thought they were crazy. I no longer think they are crazy. I know why they ask to suffer. God's love added to anything is just God's love.

I'm pretty emotional as you read this now. People said they were amazed that I could be so joyful in my recovery. If Hell is an endless, unending ocean of despair--set aside the physical torments for the moment--then some small joy in the face of suffering is easy. It's easy.

I'm just an ordinary sinner. But I got a taste of Hell, by some severe mercy, and it's enough. Enough to understand what this whole thing is about. The next time you pray, or do anything spiritual, remember what I've said. If you know that you are loved by God, you can endure anything.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Roy Halladay (1977-2017)

My heart was heavy all day, because we lost Roy. Now, of course, I don’t know him. But baseball is a brotherhood, and no less for fans. I can’t know what his wife must feel. I know something about what his sons must feel, because losing your Dad is one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through.

But Roy was my friend, because we both love baseball. He loved it so much that he literally played until his arm and shoulder fell apart. Some guys never lose the fire, they just lose the ability. Our beloved Chris Carpenter was his close friend. There’s another guy who loved baseball until it hurt. No wonder they were close.

As Providence would have it, Carpenter and Halladay opposed each other in the deciding game of a playoff series. Carpenter and his Cardinals prevailed over Halladay and his Phillies, 1-0. Both pitchers started and dominated all the way to the end. The deciding run came in the first inning. It remains the greatest baseball game I’ve ever seen.

I couldn’t have been angry or disappointed if the Phillies had won that day, because it was Roy. He showed us the savage beauty of pitching every time he threw. He made you wish his team were your team.

Roy Halladay is one of my five favorite pitchers of all time. I’d sit through a Blue Jays game—inferior American League baseball, at that—to watch him pitch. I lack the words to describe how much I loved him playing the game I loved. It’s no effort to pray for his soul in this month of the dead. I never thought I’d be doing it so soon. We never do.

May God’s mercy comfort all of us who mourn.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Casey Chalk, Call Your Office!

 In my indelicate way, I may have suggested that listening to “higher” music like opera and “classical” was “snobby.” Well, maybe it is, and please consider me a snob henceforth. I was wrong. And I think it was just a bad day that day.

There’s life before Beethoven’s 5th, and life after. (And Smetana. And Tchaikovsky. And loads else.)

You all know I have an addictive personality, and this addictive personality wants more snobby music. Not tomorrow. Not next week. As I like to say, “Like, yesterday.”

I still love Taylor Swift, at least between 2006-2010. The rest ranges between “Meh” and “Please stop”. And more generally, I don’t trust the taste of people who categorically hate “Country” music. That’s just silly. And Johnny Cash is not country; Johnny Cash is Johnny Cash. The people who say they hate country but love Cash are just hipsters who like Johnny Cash.

Yes, the “bro country” is terrible. And let us explore why. Suppose you’re one of those people who listen only for the lyrics, caring or knowing nothing about the music. You’d have to conclude that we’re a bunch of sex-crazed drunken perverts with no jobs. It actually reminds me of an interview with Katharine Hepburn in 1973. She said that we’d become so focused on personal sexual fulfillment that we can’t tell grand stories anymore. Amen.

[Besides, a sane person you actually know got a piece in The Federalist. Look at the positive.—ed.] Yeah. [Also, you watch PBS and hate Trump. Your connection to the common man is a fiction.—ed.] Can’t argue with that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Say That Again

“My chair is my throne from which I rule the world.”—Laura Cross, Halloween, 2017

“...and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:6, RSV)

“But God, who is rich in mercy...made us alive together with Christ...and made us sit with him in the heavenly places...” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

“Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:3)

Yes, my teacher, I am listening. In context, Laura was humorously dressed as Cleopatra for Halloween.

The word for true things in theology that also point to something else is called typology. The exodus from Egypt happened. It is also true that this liberation is a sign or type of the full liberation offered to everyone in Jesus. The Bible is littered with typology. Here’s the eleventy billion dollar question: What if our lives are littered with the same typology, signs of hope for a future with God, and we just miss it?

Do you see a wheelchair, struggle, difference, and defect when you look at me (or Laura)? Why don’t you see a throne? Might you be able to replace a “wheelchair” in your own life with a throne? We don’t have to pretend that our bondage is any less real than that of Israel in Egypt. Even so, don’t miss the signs. We’re all meant for something immeasurably greater, in God’s life, power, and kingdom.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Faith Comes From What Is Heard: Addendum To Chapter 1

In the first footnote of chapter one, Dr. Feingold quotes the Jesuit theologian, Rene Latourelle: “God’s word to humanity is the first Christian reality: the first fact, the first mystery, the first category...Revelation is the original mystery; it communicates every other mystery.” (Theology of Revelation, pp. 13-14)

The heart of theology is the Incarnation and the paschal mystery, because the heart of those mysteries is God’s love for humanity, and for each one of us.

Latourelle writes with great beauty and truth regarding the Incarnation in another work. He writes: “This radiance of power and wisdom and love, which is, properly speaking, the glory of Christ, attests that he really is God-with-us, come among men to deliver them from sin and raise them up to everlasting life. It is by his Incarnation that the Son manifests the Father and his saving design; it is also by means of the Incarnation that men identify Christ as the Father’s Son.” (Christ and the Church: Signs of Salvation, p. 12, 1966.)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Some Definitions For Clarity

The terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” refer, as we know, to the political issue of abortion. It has numerous moral and social implications, but we ought not forget that every political claim is a moral claim. This truth becomes obscured by the fact that some political positions or claims don’t seem like moral claims, or don’t move people as passionately as others do. When many people say, “Keep morality out of politics,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” what they really mean is, “I don’t like the particular moral claims that this person is attempting to enforce.” Just think about that for a minute.

Anyway, some definitions for the issue of abortion:

“Pro-life”—It is never morally acceptable to take the life of a baby in the womb.
“Pro-choice”—It is at least sometimes morally acceptable to take the life of a baby in the womb.

As you can see, there are a lot of surrounding discussions that are worth having, especially surrounding difficult circumstances faced by pregnant women that push people to take a “pro-choice” position. Also, many people think of the issues as involving a “spectrum” of some sort, and that whatever the issue, they are somewhere along it. I have attempted to rid us of these gradations, because they are not helpful. Some people may find themselves described as “pro-choice” when they do not self-identify as such, and I can only encourage you to be honest about what you really think, and why you think it. Others won’t like the moral starkness of this discussion, particularly with my use of the word, “baby.” I cannot imagine wording things differently, without cluttering up the issue. If you find yourself feeling guilty because of some position you take, or changing the terms, you may want to consider why. My definitions do imply a rejection of the idea that people have value because of their utility in some way, or that such value is conferred by others. Guilty.

There is also plenty of room within a “pro-choice” stance to say that abortion would be unacceptable in circumstance X, but not in circumstance Y. I didn’t want to mischaracterize a position, so I left the “pro-choice” position as broad as possible, while accurately framing the discussion. I fully intend and would expect people especially in the “pro-choice” category to argue about circumstances, because it is the circumstances that change the moral quality of an action, in some ways of thinking. The “pro-life” position I have outlined assumes that the intentions or the circumstances of the people involved do not change the character of the act.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Faith Comes From What Is Heard: An Introduction To Fundamental Theology, Feingold (II)

The first part of the book is called, “Revelation and Faith: God Speaks to Man and Our Response”. The first chapter of three in this part is titled, “Revelation and Salvation History”. Feingold writes, “The existence of sacred theology as a discipline distinct from philosophy is based on the fact that God speaks to man in history and man is capable of hearing, receiving, and discerning God’s revealed Word.” One point of departure for Catholics and Reformed is the nature of this capability, and man’s access to natural knowledge of God. This difference has been discussed at length elsewhere. I should note that it is unclear to me whether Reformed theology affirms a natural desire to see God that is frustrated by man’s inability to reach it, or whether man is flatly unable to desire seeing God, on account of his fall from original righteousness. In any case, Feingold says, “That the eternal God speaks to man, a little part of His creation, is logically unexpected, but is secretly longed for as a sign that we are loved by the source of our being.” What can be said by the Reformed with respect to this longing, this natural desire, will help decide how much agreement may be supposed between the Reformed and Catholics.

He says that the purpose of revelation is intimate communion with God. DV, 2 gives a summary of Sacred Scripture on this purpose, and in the Catholic parlance, the common theme of every motif or analogy is friendship. The concept of friendship includes the intimate communion of nuptial union, and that of adoption into a family, but we live in an impoverished culture, where friendship is the substandard version of some reckless eros. Feingold makes the thought-provoking choice to be theocentric when talking about man’s end; that is, rather than view the matter as primarily man’s ascent to God, he frames the “principal subject” of revelation in terms of God’s condescension and man’s elevation by God into intimate communion. Thus, he speaks of two movements or directions of revelation: God’s descent, and man’s ascent. As Dr. Feingold reminds us that the friendship takes place between drastically unequal partners, I am reminded of numerous instructions on the pitfalls of analogies in theology. We should expect, considered from our experience and vantage point, our analogies fail to express God’s love and perfection. On the other hand, the contemplation of God does indeed purify our understandings of those things upon which our analogies are based, whether fatherhood, adoption, or any number of things.

Noting that the first paragraph of the Catechism gives a summary of salvation history and of God’s purpose in salvation, Dr. Feingold notes that the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas is structured around this double movement. He says that St. Thomas reaffirms the classic (patristic) notion of exitus/reditus; that is, everything comes from God, and is returning to God in Christ. I note with appreciation the numerous Catholic theologians who remind us that the profoundest expression of this idea is the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the outworking of the teaching of Romans 11:36.

In the words of a subheading, Feingold says, “The principal content of the gospel is the Incarnation and our nuptial union with the Incarnate Word.” He continues, “All of Revelation either treats of the Incarnation and our union with God in Christ and the Church, or else prepares for it in a marvelous way by promise, prophecy, worship, the commandments, and formation of the People of God in whom He will become incarnate.” I don’t think the Christ-centered thrust of the Scripture is in serious dispute, though we will see that what we mean by that Christocentricity may vary, in application.

We do unhesitatingly rejoice that we in Christ are not invited as guests to the nuptial union, but as the Bride! Along with St. Paul, we confess that “this is a great mystery.” (Ephesians 5:32)

Indeed, the condescension of God in making use of sensible realities is not in dispute between the Reformed and Catholics, nor the progressive nature of revelation, or the existence of typology. Mediation in the abstract is also not controversial, but its application will be, owing to differences regarding epistemology and our acquisition of information from natural revelation, the sense of Scripture, and the nature of the Church. Especially in this last sphere concerning the Church, the differences undermine what is, in the Catholic understanding, the anchor for the proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture. There is an inseparable relationship between what we call “the literal sense” and the other senses. Its myriad valid applications rely on the liturgy as the prayerful response and offering to God, which assumes the facts of revelation and the divine condescension. If we do not understand the nature of the Church and our place in it, we cannot know what the proper faithful response is, in the present.

Dr. Feingold highlights the principal danger of Modernism, that is, a belief that dogma and its formulas are merely artifacts of human knowledge about God. If that were so, Christianity would not be a supernaturally revealed religion at all. There would be no knowledge theoretically inaccessible to human reason alone, because everything known would be a product of human reason.

For the sake of dialogue, it is surely appreciated that public revelation is agreed to have ceased with the death of the last apostle. However, if revelation is “inexhaustible” as Feingold says, and the understanding of the faith once-delivered deepens and develops, the Reformed may ask if this alleged cessation of public revelation has in fact occurred.

As we go along, we will find these answers, God willing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Note About Respect For Other Religions

I have yet to read a statement to the world’s Hindus from the Vatican, but upon seeing that it existed, and that it distinguishes between “tolerance”—regarded as necessary but insufficient—and “respect” that it commends, a few thoughts:

Every person, to the measure of their ability, has the natural desire and capacity to see God. That is, we’re made for fellowship with God. The natural religions of the world represent man’s search for God, in accord with that natural desire. The Catholic Church affirms and teaches that a great many things can be known about God through reason alone. Therefore, we are respecting precisely those things that are true about God, or about ourselves, that can be known by reason alone, in other religions. That’s potentially a lot of stuff, especially regarding the existence of God, and most of His attributes.

Christianity is a revealed religion. We call it “supernatural revelation,” when God reveals Himself and His attributes to man, especially beyond man’s capacity to know Him by reason. God is in fact so loving that things we could know have been repeated! The supreme act of God’s love is of course the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His victorious resurrection. But more basically, and prior, is the fact that God became a man. This is God searching for man! When you read the Bible, you are reading the story of God seeking man, to restore us to the friendship we had lost. He doesn’t need us, but we need Him.

One reason that the Catholic Church dialogues with non-Christians is because we believe that man’s search for God is a noble one. It is better still to realize, through heeding miracles, prophecy, and the Church, that God is seeking me!

If someone is coming from a Protestant tradition, where by definition, there is a skepticism regarding the utility of natural reason, this dialogue seems like capitulation. But it need not be. We needn’t fear, because the fullness of truth is Christ. We reach out in love, precisely because we want people to know Jesus Our Lord and Savior. Truth, literally personified.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Few Thoughts On “Me Too”

I cried some today. In fairness, I cry about a lot of things. And it wasn’t simply sexual assault today. But still, many of your stories break my heart, truly. I have nothing to add that seems helpful.

And it’s not enough to say that I am or have been part of the problem, though that’s true. I want to say more. I want to say that even if some on “the Left” want to take this movement places I can’t go, I still want to hear you. I don’t think “consent” is enough, and I’m not “sex-positive,” but I want to be here with you. I’ve said my peace to the counterculture; I don’t need to be defensive right now.

I don’t see a point in defending men, or defending women. If a large majority of us agree that all these actions are not acceptable, why not start there? I could condemn actors for their galling hypocrisy until I’m blue in the face, but it shuts the door to empathy. We all need more empathy.

There is an idea that empathy is for fools, for the weak. Maybe so. Maybe someone will take my outstretched hand, and (metaphorically) cut it off, for the sport of it. Maybe I’ll be sent to a re-education camp with all the deplorables. Empathy still seems worth a try.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Faith Comes From What Is Heard: An Introduction To Fundamental Theology, Feingold (I)

I intend for this initial post to cover some personal reflections, and the introduction. I mean for there to be at least 19 posts in the series, for the introduction and the book’s eighteen chapters. However, you may have noticed that I think of more things upon reflection, so addenda are not uncommon. I will add Roman numerals to each main body text post, but mark everything with the tag “Feingold.” You can decide therefore how much additional time you want to spend on my haphazard ramblings.

Dr. (Larry) and Mrs. (Marsha) Feingold are personal friends. I owe to them so much, if I have any maturity in the faith, any supernatural wisdom. I stayed at their house each weekend, when I myself was a student in Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. Larry was also one of my RCIA teachers. I have heard dozens of supplemental catechetical lectures by him for the Association of Hebrew Catholics, based here in St. Louis. Those efforts have blessed innumerable people in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the parish of the Cathedral Basilica. I also count his son Francis, and Francis’s wife Sophia among my friends. In addition, there was a large group of seminarians, clergy, and laypeople hosted by Larry and Marsha that read the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas weekly for the balance of four years, from at least 2009 to 2012, and I was among them. All that is to say, in this incarnation or in the subsequent ones which may appear elsewhere, this will not be an objective or critical review, and I could not even feign otherwise. Nor do I find a desire to try. I hope you will bear with this failing. Larry is the best theologian I personally know, and they both are among the best people I know. This exploration is that of a student learning from his teacher, and as grace assists me, it will always be so.

The book is divided into eighteen chapters, and six parts. Feingold notes that a full half of the book is devoted to the interpretation of Scripture. This is proper because Scripture is the soul of theology, Feingold says. Particular attention will be given later to the historicity of the four Gospels, because their heart is the Person and work of Our Lord.

Feingold tells us that the subject of this book is Fundamental Theology, or “theology’s reflection on itself as a discipline, its method, and its foundation in God’s Revelation transmitted to us through Scripture and Tradition.” The six parts are: (1) Revelation and faith as man’s response to God’s Word; (2) the nature of Theology and theological method; (3) the transmission of Revelation through Tradition and the Magisterium; (4) the inspiration and truth of Scripture and principles of biblical interpretation; (5) the historical character of the Gospels; and (6) biblical typology.

Because of the centrality of Scripture to the task at hand, Dr. Feingold tells us that the most important magisterial text is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, from the Second Vatican Council. As a result, I read Dei Verbum before beginning this post. It would be good to do likewise, if possible.

Larry says, “The work is inspired by the conviction that theology ought to inform both the mind and heart, bringing them together to foster growth in faith, hope, and charity.” Doubtless his many students agree that this conviction and the life it has engendered is not theoretical and abstract for Dr. Feingold. May I imitate this example.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Logical Argument

Here is an argument:

Murder is the intentional killing of an innocent human person;
Procured abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human person in the womb.
Murder is illegal;
Therefore, procured or elective abortion should be illegal.

I don't see any religiosity there.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Pragmatism, Again

If I were going to push back against the current gun control advocacy, this might be as good an argument as I can make.


It presumes that a law is only good or wise if it prevents a particular crime or tragedy. We could ask many questions, such as, "What sort of society do we want and need?" How might people be formed in virtue by a society where the possession of lethal weapons is an oddity, rather than commomplace?

We could also challenge the classical liberal contention that the state's putative authority may be revoked at any time, by force. The insurrectionist viewpoint that formed the basis for our Second Amendment is flatly contrary to Christian teaching on the source and end of political authority.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thanks, Colin

I knew there was humility and sensitivity in Kaepernick's initial actions, but I couldn't remember the details. Here they are, collected by a man named Roy Welsh:

"This is from my friend Roy Welsh's page. Apparently, the #takingaknee is a sign of respect

Courtesy of Dutch Harold Coleman

If you dont know why he was kneeling then now you will and you will know its not out of disrespect of anyone. #FORTHEOPENMINDED

Do you know how Kaepernick came to the decision to #takenaknee?
Aug 14, 2016- Colin Kaepernick sits for the national anthem. No one notices.
Aug 20th, 2016- Colin again sits, and again, no one noticed.
Aug 26th, 2016- Colin sits and this time he is met with a level of vitriol unseen against an athlete.
Even the future President of the United States took shots at him while on the campaign trail. Colin went on to explain his protest had NOTHING to with the military, but he felt it hard to stand for a flag that didn't treat people of color fairly.
Then on on Aug 30th, 2016 Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret turned NFL long snapper, penned an open letter to Colin in the Army Times.
In it he expressed how Colin's sitting affected him.
Then a strange thing happened. Colin was able to do what most Americans to date have not...
He listened.
In his letter Mr. Boyer writes:
"I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.
Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it."
Mr. Boyer goes on to write "There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything. So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind. I look forward to the day you're inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I'll be standing right there next to you."
Empathy and understanding was shown by Mr. Boyer.........and Mr. Kaepernick reciprocated.
Colin invited Nate to San Diego where the two had a 90 minute discussion and Nate proposed Colin kneel instead of sit.
But why kneel? In a military funeral, after the flag is taken off the casket of the fallen military member, it is smartly folded 13 times and then presented to the parents, spouse or child of the fallen member by a fellow service member while KNEELING.
The two decided that kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Colin to peacefully protest the injustices he saw.
Empathy, not zealotry under the guise of patriotism, is the only way meaningful discussion can be had."

Light, instead of heat. Please feel free to apologize any time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What I'm Missing About Being Black In America

Not long ago, I was a conservative firebrand. I argued against every left-tinted idea you could think of, no matter how reasonable it might be. The introduction to Thomas Sowell's "The Vision Of The Anointed" perfectly described how I felt: progressives think they're better than anyone else, and they'll demonize anyone and anything that stands in their way. They were the Anointed, and everyone else was not. There's plenty of that still around, and it can be true of many progressives. Harmony and progress are not on the agenda.

But in these latter days, I have begun to intentionally reflect on what it must be like to be black in America even now. In the first place, to a white Republican, the legacy of slavery sounds like a guilt trip from another entitled leftist, who wants power over me, my family, and my friends. Truthfully, my friends, this is our initial thought. And to be frank with you, even in this moment, I don't have a lot of warm feelings toward Democrats and progressives. I was silenced, shamed, called names, and forcibly indoctrinated in college. Whatever romantic notions you have about the university, they need to die. It's worse than you could imagine. Not in every place, and not in every moment, but this ideological echo-chamber does exist. I would add, to make a long story short, that I grew up as an abused child in a broken family, and by 22 or so, I wasn't going to take anything from anyone. Left, right, center, didn't matter. I was spoiling for a fight, and I started plenty of them concerning politics.

You know, you might run over some people, and make some bad arguments, in a rush to be heard, in a rush to be right. Politics is pretty polarized, if you hadn't noticed. And how many African-Americans do we know, truthfully? And if we're completely honest, we got pretty sick of being lectured by people whose moral philosophy was defective. Even to hear about police brutality or systemic racism from a black perspective seems like capitulation, surrender to the forces of evil. No, progressive neighbors, it's not an exaggeration of how Republicans feel about you. And more to the point, we'd start wondering why individuals aren't responsible for their own destiny. Self-reliance. Initiative. Discipline. Overcoming obstacles. You get the idea.

We might have been sensitive to the obstacles of African-Americans when we were children, but as we saw it, we've been made to feel bad about these and other things our whole lives. The answer for us was the blackjack of Abe Lincoln, and MLK. Slavery was bad, but...

Do we know how bad? Truthfully.

Do we recall that the state of South Carolina put up the Confederate flag in 1962, right in the middle of the civil rights era? Was their message ambiguous at that time? And if I were black, just wanting a shot at a life, what message would I hear? It's perfectly commendable that the flag was removed, but 9 people were murdered in a church before it was. You might pause to consider that, before you go on about "losing our history." Maybe ours. But it may not be the history we want to keep and celebrate.

I know a man named Luke Bobo. He's a professor of religion, let's call him. I met him in seminary. A black man. From our brief interactions over the years, I know him to be warm, open, and forthright. If you were going to take a trip into some difficult things, you'd want to do it with him. And Professor Bobo pretty much says similar things to that which others might say. Others we'd be much less inclined to listen to. I'd better listen. If I can't hear it from a fellow-worker in the vineyard of Jesus Christ, maybe I'm not willing to hear the truth at all.

I read how he described voting--or really anything--as an African-American. He said he thinks about all African-Americans whenever he votes, and many other things. We don't think that way. You and I have that luxury, that privilege.

You know, I'm not going to confuse Colin Kaepernick for Rosa Parks. He and many others might actually be rich, entitled, and whatever else, to some extent. But Philando Castle wasn't. Sandra Bland wasn't. There are many more. Given everything, neighbors, you can respectfully take a knee. The virtue of patriotism will not fade out of existence. Against the backdrop of slavery, the civil war, Jim Crow, and everything else, I owe you at least respectful silence. And frankly, I don't want to affirm any message that says, "Shut up, stop whining, you're lucky to be here!" It might even be true, that these rich football players and others are fortunate. But for whom do they also speak?

My compassion and empathy speaks louder to me than my fear of "the Left." I'm sure that's a risk I take. But it's a risk I take for solidarity.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Is God Trying To Reach Lady Gaga?

Yes, man! God is real, you know. "Jesus Loves You" isn't just a bumper sticker. I think a lot of people think God only loves people when they aren't sinners anymore. It's true that God loves a righteous person more, and it is also true that we may grow in both justification and sanctification. It is also true that God is the great unchanging force of love. "What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver." As we grow in obedience to God, we are better able to understand and reflect His love.

I have always sensed that her heart wasn't truly in this Sexual Revolution stuff. Oh, she's tried it, like many of us. But she carries the scars. I also think many people are "affirming," not because they don't know the truth about who we are, but because they think it's the only way to be people-affirming.

If you hang around people in bars, you figure out they have a lot of regrets, but above all, they don't want to be alone. They've got an image of judgy church people, and they don't want to be like them.

I can remember when the video for "Alejandro" came out. I have only seen it once or twice. (Music videos can be used for good or ill, and it's been mostly ill, to be honest.) The dude from the Catholic League was scandalized, and probably rightly so. But he said she was a talentless hack or some such, and all I heard was, "Get off my lawn!" I know Jesus doesn't think she is a talentless hack.

Pray for our sister Stephanie. She's close to the Answer, I feel. He doesn't call her Lady Gaga.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Faith, Again

Faith sees things that can't be ordinarily seen, because it pertains to things beyond rational demonstration. Not contrary to things known by reason, but beyond; that is, above. I'm going to leave the philosophy to the experts, at this point.

But we should not be afraid of a theology of personal encounter. I don't have doubts, as people tend to think of them, because Jesus has spoken to me personally. The same Jesus who gives the divine gift of holiness to His Church. It had only remained for me to re-orient myself to the means by which supernatural revelation is known, viz. the Catholic Church. There was a time when I knew things supernatural without understanding how I knew them. And before reconciling to the Church, what I knew, I knew imperfectly.

Sooner or later, it has to come down to the fact that Jesus has come, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. There is much more "of faith" than this, but if you start here, it's very possible to end in the right place. It's a lot easier to frankly question Luther's doctrine of justification, knowing Jesus will not leave me or forsake me, to take one example. I can abandon any error, any mistake in reasoning, if Jesus commands me to do it.

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."

If we fall in love, as it were, with a theological method of knowing Jesus--like Sola Scriptura--we could theoretically and actually abandon truths about God, in a false belief of being "biblical." The relentless and passionate biblicist who abandons faith in the Holy Trinity, because it's not found in the Scriptures (according to him) is a fine example. And as the Reformation rebellion goes longer, more and more things become "negotiable" that were not so a short time ago.

In the realm of sexual ethics, most of what we identify as traditional belongs to natural law. But it is telling that scads of "conservative" Protestants are using the Bible to uphold (perhaps unwittingly) a Catholic sexual ethic. As Sola Scriptura does its nasty work, it'll be harder and harder to hold the line. All the appeals to "history" will be dismissed as ad hoc, and rightly so. Because the theological meaning of history is the visible communion of the Catholic Church. An individualizing principle bites back hard, when faith and morality is falling apart.

Friday, September 08, 2017

On Pastoral Theology (Again)

Pastoral theology isn't just for pastors. Pastoral theology is the art and science of leading people to know, understand, and love God. It involves essentially "translating" the truths of the faith into language and experience that people understand. Sometimes, though, it involves sinners being sinners. We all know that correction and admonition can be part of that, but how do you actually speak the truth in love, in concrete situations?

If it is true that God has designed our sexuality in a particular way, such that any number of behaviors are contrary to His purpose by their very nature, I have to speak that truth at some point. Maybe not in 30 seconds. Maybe not upon meeting their loved ones for the first time. Maybe not. But if I never say it, if I don't hold out God's design and purpose as a goal, then I do not love them as God does, and for His sake.

But someone linked a story, obviously to provoke a reaction, of a "gay" couple bringing forward the gifts of bread and wine that would be used for the Eucharistic sacrifice. It will become the body and blood, soul and divinty, of Our Lord. Am I against that?

No. I want all wicked sinners to know and believe that they belong at Mass. You might not actually be worthy to receive Holy Communion. I've been there myself. But bringing the gifts is a great act of service to God and others. It's something praiseworthy that anyone should do, if they can.

I suppose another problem is that in most places, families bring the gifts. Well, true enough that we don't want to communicate that various arrangements are families when they aren't. But perhaps we should discourage the bringing of the gifts as principally a family activity. Just thinking out loud. I definitely want people to know that they are welcome, even if they are sinners. We all are, at one time or other.

But about Fr. James Martin, SJ: I find most things he says unclear, at best. At worst, from what I've seen, he distorts the teaching of the Church on human sexuality. I would never speak of "our LGBT brothers and sisters" and similar things, because I leave ordinary people with the impression that homosexuality is an acceptable part of a normal Christian life. Or that the Church will teach otherwise. She won't, because she can't. Father, you should know better, and I suspect you do.

If I encountered someone who was really emotionally harmed by Westboro Baptist Church or someone, I might be extra-gentle in presenting the topic. But it's not a time to be seeker-sensitive. Overall, I have not been in a place where Christian leaders were insensitive to good people who were struggling with sin. In fact, I see a much greater danger of Christians failing to speak the truth, or hold on to truths they know, because they are unpopular. Divorce, fornication, adultery, you name it. Someone somewhere is ready to excuse it, because it will cost them something to tell the truth.

It's absolutely true that God is Love. But actually, especially with God, it's OK to say, "Define your terms." It's the best thing I learned in school. You think at first you're being pedantic, but then you realize, "If we don't say what we mean, we won't know what we're doing."

If your child does drugs, it might feel good to say or do lots of things, but love wants, and wills, and goes toward what's best for another person. If you don't do that, it isn't love.

I don't find the Catechism hurtful or insensitive at all. Convicting, at times, perhaps. But I always return to the truth that God loves me, and He won't ever deceive me. "The Church teaches..." and "Jesus says..." are functionally equivalent. The Church's essential character is holiness, the perfect otherness that defines God's purity and perfection, not by nature, but by a divine gift.

So, you won't hear me whine about "the institutional Church," either. I digress.

Monday, July 24, 2017

I Am Not A Maniac

The truth is, before the accident, I was carefree. Getting hit by a car while "walking" was a running joke. It still is, it's just way darker now! Anyway, I get scared now. They tell me it will pass, and maybe it will, but frankly, I've had close calls since. I don't mean to scare you. People turn, and they don't look. Why would you not look? We have well-marked crosswalks here. I do check for turn signals on cars, but if you don't signal, you're going to kill someone. No, you can't sneak that quick turn in. Just don't.

And let's get something out in the open: when you see a person in a wheelchair on the street, you probably think, "How great to see a person with those challenges out and about!" I'm just walking. I have things to do; I don't have time to engage in pity parties, or your inspirational reverie. Point is, we're out here, there are a lot of us, and you need to look.

I live in a building with 80 other people, and maybe 60 of us are disabled. This is one building on one street, in a medium city. Pay attention. Your life can't be that busy. Killing someone in your car will slow it down.

Strangely enough, had I been a walking pedestrian, death might have been even more likely.

So, I'm not walking to Mass without an "AB" along (let the reader understand). I'd love to tell you that will be a temporary thing, but it's not the way I feel right now.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Playing The Hits

I went to Confession today, confessing things I've done before. The advice was the same, too. But God, as supreme Love, keeps no record of wrongs, either. I must give thanks for His priest, who embodies this spirit also. It was much like I had never gone there before.

Do we know the bounty of His love, or are we expecting to be endlessly whacked with a celestial clipboard, at best?

This is not to say we don't have doctrines and dogmas and so on. Too many think "love" cares nothing for these. But I invite you to consider this: if God indeed wills our salvation, as He says many times, then we ought never think God is against us. On the other hand, lest we think we have the power within us, we remember that every single movement toward God we have undertaken or will undertake is enabled by His grace. This is a great and holy mystery.

The encouragement we must draw is this: we acknowledge our sins without being sucked down by them. If we give up on ourselves, we paradoxically claim that our sins are greater than His grace! May it never be!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Don't Poke The Bear

I'm a bit testy today on social media. [Aren't you always testy?--ed.] Probably. I don't have hate-watch groups and "I got banned by Jason Kettinger!" clubs yet, though.

I just don't like traditionalists. I don't like them. I don't want to hear about the Latin Mass. I don't care. I've tried to care. I'm not a hippie; I just attend the Novus Ordo all the time, and I. Don't. Care.

I want the Holy Mass to be reverent, and according to the rubrics. But everything after that statement is the first step to dissent. I want no part of it. I understand that the pope is not routinely infallible; I also understand that many people feel the need to remind him of that. I'm sure his spiritual director has tons of work to do. Good. But you are not that guy. I digress.

I'm not always nice, or even charitable about it, if someone is talking about what I consider irrelevancies. I'd say I was sorry, but I am not. This is a rant. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

A Good Theologian

A good theologian repeats things others have said. I am definitely wary of anything that starts off, "You won't find this on Catholic Answers or EWTN..." You think you're too good for them? There's your problem. I'd love to have the impact they've had.

Cleverness is sometimes the enemy of the truth. You're not too good for the Catechism, either. Idiosyncratic theologians are generally bad theologians.

Don't reinvent the wheel, please.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Couple Different Things

There could certainly be some value in simply stating, "Abortion is murder," but to my mind, St. John Paul II had no reason to condemn consequentialism, if the most difficult cases brought forth no sympathy. In other words, real people we would identify as non-monsters are tempted to do evil that good may result every day. Do you actually help anyone by identifying the Democrats as the party of baby-murderers? Does that serve to create space to discuss anything, though it may be factually correct? In fact, I believe you call that "virtue signaling," don't you?

In other news, I will go to my grave believing that Bernie Sanders is not really a socialist, because words mean things, and Bernie of today dropped in 1985 is a standard-issue Democrat. Reagan might call you that for effect, but he'd crack a smile at a 52 percent tax rate being described as "socialist." "Madam," he'd say, "You haven't seen high tax rates."

But then, nobody has a sense of proportion or balance these days. And yeah, you might spare a thought to recognize that saying some redistributive plan is counterproductive, unnecessary, or even unfair will never carry the same weight morally as, "Don't kill the innocent." Which is to say, if Bernie Sanders didn't advocate abortion, euthanasia, and the re-definition of marriage, I'd consider voting for him. Are you kidding? Any sane person dreams of the day when our political spectrum and space on all sides is freed from inhuman errors. Or are you so partisan that any member of your tribe, no matter how odious, is preferable to the other?

And that doesn't even consider the fact that Republican economic plans don't adequately encapsulate the principles of our Catholic social doctrine. Most people simply check the boxes next to the obvious indignities, and figure Pope Leo was a good libertarian.

I'm not the most patient person I know, but I long for days ahead, when smart people argue specific things, according to principles. Right now, we even discuss verbally with memes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Street Catholicism

I have friends who used to use this phrase to describe the world of numerous private revelations and popular devotions, in contrast to the "comfortable" Catholicism of the Bishop's Church and the Catechism. In the end, it was a good-natured joke for us.

Unfortunately, many dissenting voices are not joking. They disdain the "institutional Church" to promote whatever "real" practices they prefer. Fr. James Martin, SJ, is such a voice. He apparently believes that being "gay affirming" is the way to freedom. He also mistakenly believes that those of us who uphold all the Church's teachings are chained, fearful, or bigoted.

Let me tell you something. I don't merely assent; I lovingly and joyously assent. If what the Church teaches is what Jesus gave us, not believing it is rejecting Jesus Our Lord! I hope the thought of it causes you grief, as it does me.

We all struggle and fail. But as always, it's what we do in response that defines us. I got into pastoral theology to lead people to the truth. That's literally what it means. "Pastoral" could never mean, "lead people where they want to go." We are fickle, and often wrong. But if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, it's to Him we must go.

Any father who doesn't tell his children the truth does not truly love them, no matter what he feels. And that's truth from the street.

The Greatest Band In The World

For sheer longevity, iconic songs and albums, social impact, and widespread appeal, it has to be U2. Here's a little cultural penetration experiment: take an LP that you don't own but is reputed notable. If you know all the words and can sing along, it's significant for music pop culture. [Didn't you do this with "Rumours," by Fleetwood Mac?--ed.] Yeah, truly creepy.

The reason I bring this up is that I know two people who have no idea who they are. I guess if you spend the '70s and '80s in Israel and Argentina training Catholic clergy, you might not know who they are. The rest of us, especially in the English-speaking world, well...

I'm actually looking forward to hearing entire releases I've never listened to.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

If People Speak The Truth, Believe Them (Even If It's Ugly)

I'm a proud Yankee, in the sense that I'd still be punishing the South for the Civil War, if it were my call. Lincoln wasn't perfect, but close enough. Especially for the time. I have sympathy for particular people, like General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson, who were not monsters, and had many fine qualities, despite fighting for an evil cause.

It's the revisionism about the causes of the war that's not only irritating, but dangerous. If we choose to ignore the plain words of the Confederates themselves, to the effect of black inferiority, or in challenge to the universal equality spoken of in the US Constitution, we delude ourselves.

It was about slavery, absolutely and unequivocally. Were other things also worthy of sympathy? Of course. I have no particular sympathy for self-interested Northern--nay, northeastern--factory owners, who didn't mind the European tariffs falling on the South. I think the utter destruction of the South was terrible and counterproductive. I think the courage of soldiers on every side of every conflict is worthy of honor in itself, provided they fought honorably.

But if Confederate sympathizers put up a monument to their alleged devotion to states' rights, and to remind blacks and Yankees they're still strong, I am calling it on the carpet. If South Carolina puts up the battle flag in the middle of the civil rights movement, only the willfully obtuse could miss the message, and it's not a good one. God bless Gov. Haley--the child of Indian immigrants--for having the brass to do the right thing, even if it was too late, and took a tragedy to make it happen.

I'm aware that people on the left like to erase anything that doesn't fit the narrative of "progress." Believe me, that's often ignorant as well. But in this case, I'd like to congratulate them for agreeing with me.

If this post grates on you, don't worry. I don't mind if you like Gone With The Wind. That's where the "Lost Cause" should stay.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

On The Other Hand

Setting aside the car accident, I want to return to an aspect of my daily experience. We're not the same. Most of you have no experience living with cerebral palsy. You don't think about moving an arm or leg; you just do it. If you had major orthopedic surgery in your youth, it'd be a story of an injury, not a rite of passage. So many things are different.

And yet.

The one thing we all want is to feel loved, understood, and valued as people. I believe we all share a common fear that we are alone, that no one understands, that no one really cares. If you really want to help me, don't fret the physical things; let me know that the lurking fear every human knows, at least for these moments, isn't true or real.

There are people who lay it on pretty thick, in terms of "demythologizing," in a sense, the life of disability. To paraphrase one speaker, I don't need an award for living.

And yet.

I must learn to live with the curious tension of desiring the ordinary, but living with something else. We all must negotiate together that appropriate level of sadness and awareness of defect, and the charge to live well. I think the disagreement I have with some disability advocacy is that, in fact, there is something wrong. Let's not beat up on ABs (let the reader understand) too much. Missing or non-functioning limbs (or whatever else) is not the way it's supposed to be.

Being a Christian clarifies much of this tension. While groaning in expectation for all to be revealed (Romans 8) we are simultaneously loved by God. It's God who has declared the facts of the resurrection of the body, and the new creation. I don't cry in my Coke at the unfairness of it all, true. But it would be absurd to look at His restoration on that day and say, "No thanks, I'm good."

The great American philosopher John Legend once said, "We're just ordinary people." Partly true. A cross is an opportunity to love extraordinarily inside an ordinary life. The saints are those who took the opportunity and ran with it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Will Not Become What I Hate

I think Dr. Haidt is really on to something. And that's with the evolution assumptions notwithstanding. I have not always been reasonable. I would like to be. Civility is not an end in itself, but it's a virtue that allows us the intellectual and relational space to hear each other.

I don't ever want to hate "The Left" as much as others hate "The Right". Let me know if you think the state of our political discourse is radically better than I think it is.

What can we do ourselves to make it better?

These considerations don't change fundamental moral values, and given the fact that politics eventually involves power, there are limits to the amity that can be achieved. But I would be willing to bet that most of us are exhausted, and hoping there's a better way.

If we Christians truly believe that all people are made in the image of God, they cannot in the end be "the other." How might that change our political engagement?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bless Us, O Lord

I have begun with the first four words of our most common Catholic meal prayer to let you know that I'm eating! Still liquids for a time, but I'm on my way to making this feeding tube superfluous!

Most of you who know me know that my tastes are simple. But Campbell's vegetable beef soup puréed is way better than you'd think. [Mom added some beef broth to thicken it, yeah?--ed.] Yep.

I'm drinking Gatorade right now. Technically, my eating status hasn't changed, but the speech therapist thinks it's safe, so I'm doing it. I have to pass what's called a "barium swallow test"--it's as radioactive and disgusting as it sounds--before the official change.

We give thanks, Almighty God, for these and all Thy gifts, Thou who lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever, Amen.