Sunday, October 31, 2010

Possible Books to Check Out

Plus useful commentary on the value of fantasy literature:

Much of contemporary culture rests on assumptions that would make Christianity, and Christ's death on the cross, not so much false as irrelevant. If suffering is only a nuisance to be avoided, if love is a negotiation between two egoistic sets of wants, if honor and chivalry are nothing but cloaks for misogyny and violence, if duty is Puritanism and the natural world is an accidental effusion of molecules, then what is Christ?
All unwittingly, non-Christian and even anti-Christian authors may provide their readers with an antidote to these cultural poisons. This fact may become clearer by contrast with those authors whose Christianity clearly informs their work. I've noticed three different approaches.

...the most effective way to help your child draw out the best in reading and reject the worst elements is to be a model of Christian faith. And it's a cliché, but it's true that talking about what your children are reading will help them make sense of it. They're probably not finding the same things in the book that adults would find. What they notice and remember won't necessarily be what parents notice. And there's so much richness in children's fantasy -- in both storytelling ability and moral lessons -- that it would be a shame to keep children from that treasure trove.

On Halloween

Oh, that infamous Christian holiday...

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe...

On Good Citizenship

Election Day approaches. Let us, in the fine tradition of our forebears, hie ourselves to the polls. But first--the campaigns! In the finest traditions of the Founding Fathers, let us speak of the qualities of our opponents:

In the wake of a significant shift in Catholic voters, let us recall the Founding generation's opinion of the Catholic presence in the colonies:
...Alexander Hamilton decried the Quebec Act as a diabolical threat. "Does not your blood run cold to think that an English Parliament should pass an Act for the establishment of arbitrary power and Popery in such an extensive country?…Your loves, your property, your religion are all at stake." He warned that the Canadian tolerance in Quebec would draw, like a magnet, Catholics from throughout Europe who would eventually destroy America.

Sam Adams told a group of Mohawk Indians that the law "to establish the religion of the Pope in Canada" would mean that "some of your children may be induced instead of worshipping the only true God, to pay his dues to images made with their own hands." The silversmith and engraver Paul Revere created a cartoon for the Royal American Magazine called "The Mitred Minuet." It depicted four contented-looking mitred Anglican Bishops, dancing a minuet around a copy of the Quebec Act to show their "approbation and countenance of the Roman religion." Standing nearby are the authors of the Quebec Act, while a Devil with bat ears and spiky wings hovers behind them, whispering instructions.

The Continental Congress took a stand against the Catholic menace. On October 21, 1774 it issued an address "to the People of Great Britain", written by John Jay, Richard Henry Lee and William Livingston, which expressed shock that Parliament would promote a religion that "disbursed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellions through every part of the world." It predicted that the measure would encourage Canadians to "act with hostility against the free Protestant colonies, whenever a wicked Ministry shall choose to direct them." Once Americans were converted to Catholicism, they would be enlisted in a vast Popish army to enslave English Protestants.
We've come a long way since then. Get out and vote!

On the Full Scope of Evil

and Good:
...The vast panoply of scary creatures the human imagination has concocted to express our fears reflects this awareness that there is some deeper and more ancient evil behind mere human evil.  Always at the shadowy edge of human evil is the awareness that it trails off into a darkness where something is breathing: something that hates us and wills our destruction.  We call such things “monsters” in our art, and the interesting thing is that “monster” is a word related to both “monstrance” and “demonstrate”.  That is, a “monster” is a thing that shows forth in visible form something Horrible for all to behold, just as the Monstrance shows forth in visible form something Beautiful for all to behold.

We make monsters because it is our nature as sub-creators in the image and likeness of God to do so.  We create, as He does, in our image and likeness and dredge up out of ourselves different faces to show us who we are.  When God made us, he made us innocent and without sin, pure as He is.  But when we fell and chose to trust the word of the Ancient Dragon, who is called the Devil and Satan, we allowed into our souls things that are the stuff of nightmares.  In our art, we give these things body in order to face our fears, not only of what we are, but of what lies behind our fall.  Through those stories we discover again our capacity for evil—and the possibility of resisting it by grace.

The Faith presents this to us in stark form in the form of what the Didache calls the Two Ways: the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness.  It’s what Jesus calls the broad and the narrow way and it boils down to this: the Monster or the Monstrance.

On the Future of Education

The video's cool on its own, let alone the ideas in the speech:

For the Eve of All Hallows

here's a great source of miracle stories of the works of those Hallows (that is, the Holy Ones of God):
While God reveals Himself in all the marvels of creation, His has chosen to manifest Himself and His love for humanity in very special manner in the lives of His Saints. For in the Gospel of John, Jesus said to His disciples: "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son"

So given Jesus' promise, it is not at all surprising then that the servants of God have wrought the most remarkable miracles in the name of Jesus, such as Saints who raised the dead, miraculous cures and healings, prophecy, bilocation, stigmata, the crown of thorns, mystical knowledge, levitation and ecstatic flights, miraculous voices from heaven, gift of understanding and also speaking foriegn and ancient biblical languages, miracles with animals , miraculous mail deliveries, and complete fasting from food for years, to name just a few. The purpose then of this website is to reveal some of these marvelous works of God in the lives of His Saints, that those who visit here may love Him all the more. -All for the greater glory of God!...

A Dispatch

from the land of Awesome:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Not Being an Obnoxious Christian

Following in the footsteps of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus:
...Some of us today may feel a particular affinity with these two disciples. Many of us move largely (maybe even exclusively) in secular circles, among people who consider Christianity a pre-modern phenomenon and Catholicism a widespread aberration connected with medieval folk mores, superstitions, and outdated sexual norms (and, being so obviously "organized," Catholicism certainly could not be very "spiritual").

For how many of us have churchgoing habits, prayers, spiritual reading, charitable practices, etc., that are for the most part secret -- not just unostentatious, but carried out deliberately in such a way as not to attract attention, so that we might as well be classified as "secret disciples"? How many of us take special precautions to make sure that our regular Christian practices and even beliefs are not noticed among our numerous friends and associates who hold only "politically correct" secular habits (e.g., about observance of Sundays or holy days) and, in the best scenario, would react to our opinions (about contraception, abortion, etc.), if they were known, with polite silence, or simply change the subject?

Like Nicodemus or Joseph, we might argue, probably justifiably, that we can "do most good" by remaining in our present position or occupation, doing what we can to keep the real evil stuff at bay and to promote the good, true, and beautiful in all its various forms. We visualize Nicodemus speaking up respectfully at the meetings of the Pharisees, reminding them that they need to exercise "due process" in applying the laws. He no doubt reminded his colleagues about Jesus' frequent references concerning respect for the Mosaic law and the prophets, and he certainly would have emphasized that Jesus was no threat to their jurisdiction or their authority.

We also think of Joseph of Arimathea, "not consenting to their plan of action," probably using his influential position consistently to mollify the anger and resentment that he saw emerging among his compatriots; and, with his wealth, probably contributing substantially but anonymously to the purse that Judas carried, helping toward the sustenance of the growing band of believers.

Needless to say, we "Nicomadenians" who feel relatively more similarities with these two disciples than with some others may appear to lack the mettle of the fervent evangelists and martyrs who are celebrated in the New Testament, and about whom we hear throughout history and even in our contemporary world. But we can remind ourselves (with some justification) that the Spirit has an inexhaustible supply of gifts to mete out; and no doubt a gift like Nicodemianism is valid and commendable -- nothing to be ashamed of.
Now this is not to deny the fundamental importance of being willing to take a stand, be bold, and so on. That's just not the only way to live the faith. Many notes go to make up the song of the Christian life, each being played at the right moment at the right level of volume. Oftentimes, we are not called to stand on a street corner crying out against the sins of the age. Usually, we are called to quietly live our lives well, love our neighbor, love God above all, and die quietly, beloved and missed. We are called to live well, not necessarily loudly.

On Living Life

instead of waiting for the weekends:
The trouble is, we run the risk of trudging through our work weeks, wishing them away, and waiting for weekends.Then, we figure, we can shut out the world, hunker down with our families, and really breathe.

And yet Christ's presence challenges us to understand every breath is a gift and every moment an opportunity to encounter Him in our neighbors' faces. The Church knows this. It celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day of the week - not just Sundays. The Liturgy of the Hours, ancient and powerful prayers, can guide us through each day.

St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, put it this way: "Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ."

When Monday comes, I 'm going to pray to seek the face of Christ, all week, in every encounter.

On Benedict's Actions Regarding Sex Abuse

John Allen explains:
Since the beginning of the most recent round of the crisis, which erupted in Ireland and then spread across Europe, critics have wondered why Pope Benedict XVI has not imposed a uniform global policy of cooperation with the police. In the United States and Europe, where one can generally assume a level playing field and the integrity of police and prosecutors, such a policy seems a no-brainer, and the pope’s failure to impose it across the board has often been touted as evidence of foot-dragging and denial.

Yet there are parts of the world where the wisdom of such a policy is by no means so clear. The state of Karnataka, in South West India, offers the most recent example.

There, in the Bangalore suburb of Whitefield, a Holy Cross brother was beaten on Oct. 23 by a mob of some 300 people, with local TV stations filming the assault and police standing by and allowing it to happen. Many in the mob were reportedly wearing the saffron scarf indicative of Hindu nationalist sentiment.

Brother Philip Noronha, the victim, was hospitalized with severe facial injuries. Although the attack was captured on film, police apparently investigated only reluctantly, and no arrests have been made.

The excuse for the attack was a rumor that Noronha had used “bad language” in class, but most observers say the real motive was a land dispute. A Hindu temple is going up near the Holy Cross school where Noronha serves as vice-rector, and he had spurned demands to give up some of the school’s property in order to accommodate an access road for the temple.

Yesterday, local police detained Noronha for more than two hours and released him only on bail, this time on charges that he had sexually harassed female students. The Holy Cross superior in the area has called those charges “unfounded infamy,” and said that police harassment amounts to “a serious violation of human rights.”

A local Jesuit, Fr. Ambrose Pinto, has posted a lengthy report on the campaign against Noronha, asserting that “we are witnessing a total disregard to the process of law.”

“It was a horrible sight to watch that in the presence of the police a person is assaulted, slapped and insulted, and the police remain mere spectators or even join the attackers,” Pinto wrote. “When the protectors of the state law turn into violators of individual rights to please vested interests in society, what are the avenues left to individuals for justice?”

From a distance, it’s impossible to assess the merit of the charges of sexual harassment. Given the context, however, it’s easy to understand why local Catholics have precious little confidence in the impartiality of the police, and why they’re not exactly eager to cooperate.

It’s also easy to understand why a papal mandate of full compliance with every request from the police and civil prosecutors would probably strike the Catholics of Karnataka as a death sentence...

Buffy vs. Doctor Who--Go!

Or, in news a little closer to reality (though not much):
There has been plenty of partisan rancor across Colorado as Election Day approaches. Here in the capital, it's out of this world.

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to "ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents" when it comes to future contact "with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles."

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. "Low overhead," he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it's harder to dismiss him as biased.

Mr. Peckman has recruited about 20 volunteers for his campaign.

They face an impassioned opposition led by Bryan Bonner, who dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds.

One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.

And he has rallied his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society to fight Initiative 300 as an embarrassment to science—and to Denver.

"This is about the reputation of the city," Mr. Bonner says.

Replies Clifford Clift, a Colorado UFO researcher: "The paranormal group is saying we're outlandish?"...

On Cardinal O'Connor, AIDs, and Act-UP

One of the episcopal heroes of the pro-life movement was also one of the favorite villains of the gay rights/anti-AIDs/pro-sexual revolution groups. Here, one man pays tribute to Cardinal O'Connor:
...Cardinal O’Connor’s mantra at that time was, “Good morality is good medicine.” The key to prevention was, and remains, abstinence. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came around to this realization. The following quote is from the CDC’s own document, “Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel”.

“The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”

Cardinal O’Connor was maligned for such common sense thinking, and for not advocating condom usage. But how effective were condoms at the time? Perhaps if Act Up bothered to read the New York Times they would have noted the stories in 1987 and 1988 citing that 20 percent of condoms fail, that 33 million condoms had been recalled...

Act Up’s mantra of “safe sex” has quietly given way to the less absolute, “safer sex”, as their disastrous advocacy has doomed countless people to horrendous deaths and early graves. Against their hellish onslaught, Cardinal O’Connor stood like granite. He effectively converted St. Calre’s hospital into an AIDS hospice and volunteered in simple clerical garb, insisting he only be introduced as “Father John”. He emptied bedpans, bathed patients, ministered to souls, while Act Up maligned him without mercy.

Act Up’s exhibit is their last shriek as they pass into irrelevance and oblivion. History has spoken, and Cardinal John O’Connor has been vindicated...
Further evidence and links in the original. The whole thing is well worth a read.

On Resurgent Distributism in British Politics

Methinks this portends good things.  And imagine--this is happening in Britain!  Someobody in the communion of saints has been working overtime.  The papal visit, the beatification of Cardinal Newman, the Anglican ordinariate--grace is on the move.
Most people would never think that an economic theory based in large part on G.K. Chesterton and his contemporaries would become the talk of British political circles. Yet, one man is helping to make that a reality.

That man, Phillip Blond, has become one of the most effective proponents of Catholic social teaching in politics and yet, surprisingly, is an Anglican.

Blond, is a former philosopher and theologian from the University of Cumbria and leader of new British think tank inspired by the economic thought of Catholics such as Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton (former Anglicans); Now, he is also one of the most influential advisors to Conservative Party leader and current British Prime Minister David Cameron...
Blond has gained much attention for a new way of thinking not simply on social issues, but the broader economic and macro-level issues as well.

The new ways of thinking Blond represents will probably find acceptance neither from conservatives nor liberals (in the American sense). Blond argues that the separation of morality from economic and civic improvement is a fiction, and we must consider both together. He argues that big government statism and capitalism are both founded on amoral individualism and the same faulty “monopoly logic.”

This leads him to a view that can best be described as a communitarian or more specifically, distributist, with a heavy emphasis on restoring the vitality of the civil society, voluntary organizations, and broadly distributed ownership (in other words, expanding the ranks of the small business, entrepreneur class by using the power of the state if necessary).

In many ways, this is an old way of thinking, which is why Blond laments that Britons have “killed our history” by losing touch with this rich foundation of Catholic social thought. He admires and draws heavily on Catholic giants such as Belloc and Chesterton. Many of these same themes are present papal encyclicals such as Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum...Between unbridled capitalism and crushing statism is “society itself,” or as Blond quotes from Burke, “little platoons of family and civic association.”

Blond advocates breaking monopolistic government and corporate controls over sectors of the economy to allow all socio-economic levels to fairly compete. “The Tories must take on the unrecognised private sector monopolies that hide on every British high street,” he argues. In essence, he argues that free market liberalism, in its insistence on individualism, has eviscerated morality and the bonds of community, as well as created monopolies. Monopolies, whether in banking, grocery stores, or mobile phones, force the lower income levels into choosing wage-earner status instead of being active participants in an ownership economy, i.e, starting their own business. The economic barriers to entry for competitors have become too high, he argues.

Blond’s original attention-grabbing article  from 2009 spells out his argument at length, which is complex and worth reading in full. It has since been developed into a book.

His thought is based on “the distributism of Chesterton, Belloc and Skelton—all of who knew that, without something to trade, one cannot enter a market. Making markets truly free prevents corporate domination, but also extends ownership, prosperity and innovation across the whole of society. The task of recapitalising the poor is, therefore, the task of making the market work for the many, not the few...”
Much more in the article, including criticism from Thomaas Woods, Jr. All well worth a read. Fascinating stuff.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On Silly Modern Superstitions

Lewis would be pleased, I think, by this piece from First Things:
...Autumn is the most beautiful and most mysterious of the seasons, at least to me, just as twilight is the most beautiful and mysterious part of the day. There is something so hypnotically uncanny about these liminal times—between summer and winter, between day and night—partly because of the obliging softness of the light, which lends such depth and subtlety to the world’s colors, and partly because of the strange feeling of suspense that pervades them...

This, at any rate, was what I said to my son—in very different terms—as we stood there looking down over the lake, and he agreed with me heartily. Then he observed that a forest is always a mysterious place, no matter what the season, and I had to concede the point, with a discreet thrill of paternal pride. But then he remarked that this must be why people used to believe there were spirits of the trees and streams, before science discovered that there are no such beings.

I was stunned; his words pierced me to the core. Where on earth, I wondered, had he acquired this dreadful superstition? Who had corrupted his eleven-year-old mind with the abominable nonsense that science had somehow “discovered” the nonexistence of nature spirits, or that modern empirical method could ever possibly be competent to do such a thing? Suppressing my alarm as best I could, I quickly interrogated him, and within a few moments had learned the title of the offending school text.

Then, as we resumed our stroll, I assured him patiently but emphatically that it was all so much sordid twaddle, and that we have absolutely no warrant for assuming that we know any better than our distant ancestors on this score: indeed, they may have been far better attuned to the deeper truths of nature than we now are. He was pleased to be corrected. (Roland merely heaved a longanimous sigh.)

As far as Patrick was concerned, the matter had been settled; but I have to admit that the episode continues to trouble me. It is not that I expect my son never to be exposed to any of the conceptual confusion or magical claptrap of his age; and I trust to his native intelligence to disabuse him of the worst of it. But it is still depressing to think how much conceited gibberish has become simply part of the received wisdom of our time...

For All Your Celtic Christmas Carol Needs

A trio from the Midwest gets some good reviews.  Support young talent!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Different Calls to Holiness

Benedict speaks:
St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), whom John Paul II proclaimed as co-patroness of Europe, was the subject of Benedict XVI's catechesis during his general audience held this morning in St. Peter's Square.

 The life of the saint, born in at Finister in Sweden, may be divided into two periods. During the first period she lived as a happily married woman and mother of eight children. She also began to study Sacred Scripture and, together with her husband, adopted the lifestyle of the Third Order of St. Francis. She also gave generously to the poor and founded a hospital.

 This first period of Bridget's life, said the Pope, "helps us to appreciate what we could define today as authentic 'conjugal spirituality'. Christian couples can follow the path of sanctity together, upheld by the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage. ... May the Holy Spirit arouse the sanctity of Christian couples, so as to show the world the beauty of marriage lived according to the Gospel values of love, tenderness, mutual support, fruitfulness in the generation and education of children, openness and solidarity towards the world, and participation in the life of the Church".

 With Bridget's widowhood began the second period of her life. She rejected a second marriage in order to concentrate on "union with the Lord through prayer, penitence and works of charity. ... Having distributed all her goods to the poor, and although she never underwent religious consecration, she moved to the Cistercian convent of Alvastra".
For everyone, no matter their vocation:
“If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.” -Blessed Mother Teresa

Are you trusting in your own power or in God’s? Take courage–if you put the Lord in charge of your life, in all its struggles, joys, confusion, pain, and peace, you will find that you have the fortitude to endure all things, because He gives you strength. (See Phil 4:13)...

An Anthem for Purported Conspirators

All right, all you scallywags and scallywomen, fellow graduates of Jesuit Universities and perpetrators of the dire schemes of the Romish beast upon a frequently-all-too-suspicious populace--grab your beverages of choice, open your mouths, and sing!
Ah, the joys of membership in the organization which apparently holds Pennsylvania--Pennsylvania, of all states!--in a merciless grip of iron mercilessness. All, of course, under that terrible tyrant (and remarkably congenial man, according to sources), Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Anyway--your moment of daily hilarity.

On Time Travelers in Chaplin Films

In unreleased footage from the 1928 Chaplin film The Circus, someone seems to be on the phone...while walking along the pavement.
Of course, it's obvious what's going on (see minute 7:36):

On What to Do When the World Seems to Suck

Do something.

“After a while, you learn that it’s better to write an unexpected letter than to sit around waiting for the postman to deliver one. Sooner of later, you discover that it is better to help someone plant a garden than to wait for someone to bring you flowers.” – Matthew Kelly...

Don’t get absorbed in self-pity. It is one of the greatest traps of our day. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that not only enables such self-pity and self-victimization, but often encourages it. Don’t get stuck waiting on the postman. Don’t dwell on the lack of flowers. Just go out and plant some.
The rest will take care of itself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Adulthood

as opposed to the current cultural endorsement of immaturity (hey--I'm definitely a product of that culture in many ways, so this is self-examination as much as it is critique.)
 In the midst of all this is the expectation of the God through his Scriptures that we grow up, that we come to maturity, to the fullness of faith, to an adult faith. Further, the Church is expected, as an essential part of her ministry, to bring this about in us through God’s grace. Notice that the Ephesians text says that Christ has given Apostles, prophets,  evangelists, pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones unto this. The Church is thus expected in a certain sense to be “the adult in the room.” She is to summon us to live responsible, mature lives. She summons us to be accountable before others, to be sober, serious, and deeply respectful of God’s authority over us by living lives that are obedient to the faith. She teaches us, by God’s grace, to master our emotions and gain authority over our passions. She holds forth for us the wisdom of tradition and teachings of the Scriptures and insists on reverence for these. She insists on correct doctrine and (as the text from Ephesians says) that we no longer be infants, tossed by the waves of the latest fads and stinking thinking, and that we not be swept along by every wind of false teaching arising from human illusions. We are to be stable and mature in our faith and judge the world by it.
Yes, the Church has the rather unpleasant but necessary task of being the adult in the room when the world is mired in things teenage and will often exhibit aversion to authority, rules, and cry out that orthodox teaching is “unfair”  or “old fashioned.”
But here we encounter something of an internal problem. For the Church has faced the grave temptation to “put on jeans” and adopt the teenage fixations. Sadly, not all leaders in the Church have taken seriously their obligation to “equip the holy ones for the work of ministry….until we all attain to the unity of faith and….to mature manhood and the…..full stature of Christ.” Preferring popularity to the negative cries of how one or more Biblical teaching is “unfair!,” many teachers and pastors of the faith have succumbed to the temptation to water down the faith and to tolerate grave immaturity on the part of fellow Catholics. It would seem that things are improving but we have a long way to go in terms of vigorously reasserting the call to maturity within the Church. Corruptio optimi pessima- the corruption of the best, is the worst. Clergy and other Church leaders, catechists and teachers, must insist on their own personal maturity and hold each other accountable in attaining to it. We must fulfill our role of equipping the faithful unto mature faith by first journeying to an adult faith ourselves.
The Church does not simply include clergy and religious. Lay people must also take up their proper role as mature, adult Christians active in renewing the temporal order. Many already have done this magnificently. More must follow and be formed in this regard. Our culture is in need of well-formed Christians to restore a greater maturity, sobriety and responsibility to our culture.
By God’s grace we are called to be the adult in the room...

On Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If half the Catholic couples in the US emulated this man to the tune of, say, 5 kids apiece--what would happen to the abortion rate?
As has been pointed out before, this would be a magnificent way for the Church in America and abroad to respond to the abortion issue. For help with adoptions, Catholic families can look here.

On Deification

Every so often, I am humbled by the realization of how much I have still to learn. The discovery of the Christian concept of deification caused my most recent attack of humility, and promises to occupy my curiosity and attention for some time to come.

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about deification in the article on "Supernatural Gift":
The Fathers have not hesitated to call supernatural union of the creature with God the deification of the creature. This is a favorite expression of St. Irenæus ("Adv. Haer.", III, xvii, xix; IV, xx, etc.), and is frequently used by St. Athanasius (see Newman, "St. Athanasius", II, 88). See also St. Augustine (? Serm. cxci, "In Nat. Dom."), quoted by St. Thomas (III:1:3).
A discussion of grace follows.

The concept has popped up more recently in a Wednesday General Audience by John Paul II:
Wherever “the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4) is poured out, whatever is opposed to holiness, i.e., sin, is destroyed...The Spirit of the Lord not only destroys sin, but also accomplishes the sanctification and divinization of man. “God chose” us, St Paul says, “from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13).

Let us look more closely at what this “sanctification-divinization” consists of.

The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love; he is Person-Gift” (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10). This love given by the Father, received and reciprocated by the Son, is communicated to the one redeemed, who thus becomes a “new man” (Eph 4:24), a “new creation” (Gal 6:15). We Christians are not only purified from sin, but are also reborn and sanctified. We receive a new life, since we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4); we are “called children of God; and so we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). It is the life of grace: the free gift by which God makes us partakers of his Trinitarian life...

In reflecting on grace it is important not to think of it as a “thing”. It is “first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us” (CCC, n. 2003). It is the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes us like the Son and puts us in a filial relationship with the Father: in the one Spirit through Christ we have access to the Father (cf. Eph 2:18).

The Holy Spirit’s presence truly and inwardly transforms man: it is sanctifying or deifying grace, which elevates our being and our acting, enabling us to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity...The sanctification of the individual believer always takes place through incorporation into the Church. “The life of the individual child of God is joined in Christ and through Christ by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brethren. Together they form the supernatural unity of Christ’s Mystical Body so that, as it were, a single mystical person is formed” (Paul VI, Apostolic Constituion Indulgentiarum doctrina, n. 5).

This is the mystery of the communion of saints...
Read the whole thing. This is really cool to me. We are joined through the sacraments with the divine life of God. The presence of grace in the soul is, in actuality, the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. So "Mary, full of grace" is really "Mary, full of the Holy Spirit." So then she who was already a home for God, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, becomes "overshadowed" by the Holy Spirit and conceives a Son by the Spirit's power.

And so she is rightly identified as "Our Lady of the Indwelling Trinity":
In the evening of August 5, the feast of Our Lady of the Snow, as I knelt in my room, Our Lady spoke to me about the Divine Indwelling. It was her life and she lived it perfectly, always conscious of His presence, never forgetting that all her greatness came from within, from Him Who dwelt there, working, loving, and doing good through her. This is what Our Lady means when she speaks of reformation, renewal. It is this about which she is so concerned, namely, sanctification from within.

As Our Lady spoke this, she seemed at the time to be deeply occupied. Though the serenity of her countenance never left her, she spoke with a gravity that made her words all the more solemn. She seemed anxious to impress me with some idea of the greatness of this gift of God to us, namely, His Divine Presence within our souls through sanctifying grace...

Our dear Mother showed herself to me in a special way around 11:30 on the morning of November 22. The next day, a Saturday, the experience was more detailed as more was shown me, or perhaps I had not noticed details the day before. This vision of herself is very important, as it reveals Our Lady as she really and truly was, the Immaculate Tabernacle of the Indwelling God.

Our Lady was standing on a globe, her right foot resting on a crescent or quarter moon, the left on the snout of a rather small and very ugly looking dragon. I saw fire come out of his huge jaws, but not very much, as he could not open them wide enough because of Our Lady's foot. At times he seemed to be somewhat black, again of a shade of green. Our Lady was all in white. Her veil was so long that it seemed to envelop the globe halfway. Sometimes the veil appeared so transparent that Our Lady's hair could be seen through it, and the hair seemed to be sparkling with the light of many glittering stars. At times the edges of the veil, sleeves, and garments seemed to be outlined in light. The veil was held about her head by a wreath of white roses. Her feet were bare. The previous day Our Lady had appeared with her hands outstretched. At this second visit she slowly raised them, then crossed them on her breast rather close to her waist. While doing so, she bent her head slightly forward, and it seemed that her eyes were closed, not just lowered. On her breast, as though through a veil, the Triangle and the Eye, which is often depicted as the symbol of the Divine Indwelling, could be visibly seen. I said that Our Lady's feet were bare, that is, devoid of any kind of footwear, but on each foot was a large white rose. The roses, both on the feet and on the crown, were of such dazzling whiteness that the outlines of the petals could barely be seen, sometimes not at all. It seemed that a strong beam of light streamed from the Divine Presence within Our Lady onto the globe at her feet. Then halfway around the figure of Our Lady above her head appeared a scroll on which were written in letters of gold the words: "All the glory of the King's daughter is within."

Though it did not appear that her lips moved, yet I heard these words quite plainly:
I am Our Lady of the Divine Indwelling, handmaid of Him Who dwells within.
She seemed suffused in a soft glow of light that appeared to come from within her. It seemed to permeate and, as it were, saturate her whole being, even her apparel and the roses...
For more on the stance of the Church towards the Our Lady of America apparitions, Archbishop Raymond Burke has spoken.

How ought this to change our perception of the sacraments, especially of Confession and the Mass? The Church is the avenue through which we participate in the divine life of the Trinity, through which we become little heavens on earth, little homes for God, tabernacles, temples, walking around and being present to other people while bearing the Indwelling God within. What does this mean for the communion of saints? What about the power of Christians to serve as a light in dark places, when all other lights go out? We bear within us, not just the image and likeness of God, but God himself under these circumstances--where does this lead us?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Dirty Tricks

Well, this sorta frosts me.
...Nevada is one of several states, including Florida, where “Tea Party” political committees have appeared on ballot lines without the knowledge or support of leading Tea Party activists, who have generally chosen not to support third-party candidacies. In most of those cases, local bloggers, reporters and lawyers have traced connections to local Democrats, drawing lawsuits, complaints and, in a couple of cases, admissions of involvement.

“It is one of the dirtiest moves,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It’s not as though the Democrats are playing to compete against the third party — they’re helping to build the third party up to make those votes not count.”

Calling it “a concerted effort,” Mr. McCarthy added, “In Congressional races, it could steer the tide for the majority.”

In response to questions about whether the efforts were being coordinated on a national level, the Democratic National Committee said in a statement, “Republicans have no one to blame but their own ideological intolerance for the bloody civil war on their side.”

Stealth support for third-party candidates who have the potential to cut into the other side’s votes is a time-tested political tradition for both parties.

But this year’s efforts are striking for the potency of the grass-roots movement that Democrats are trying to use to their advantage — that is, the Tea Party — and for the sometimes brazen nature of the attempts...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On A Woman's Right to Choose

who she's going to room with:
A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her church last July seeking a Christian roommate.

The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that." ...

Haynes said the person who filed the initial complaint saw the ad on the church bulletin board and contacted the local fair housing organization.

The ad included the words, "Christian roommate wanted," along with the woman's contact information. Had the ad not included the word "Christian," Haynes said, it would not have been illegal.
I must ask the tired but ever relevant question: what would have happened if the story said the following?
A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her temple last July seeking a Buddhist roommate.

The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Buddhist roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that." ...

Haynes said the person who filed the initial complaint saw the ad on the temple bulletin board and contacted the local fair housing organization.

The ad included the words, "Buddhist roommate wanted," along with the woman's contact information. Had the ad not included the word "Buddhist," Haynes said, it would not have been illegal.
Would this have even been a story? Would someone have been inspired to file a complaint? And if the answer is yes--folk of all other faiths (especially ones with dietary laws or other rules which are facilitated by a household sharing the same faith), what do you think?

Friday, October 22, 2010

On the Secret to Joy

Sometimes you find a post that's just too good not to rip off in its entirety:
This is why Mother Teresa had the kind of peace in life that transcended all trial and suffering.
“We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, ‘I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.” – Mother Teresa
And that…is the sweet and simple secret to a truly joyful life.
Now if I could only remember this--because of course it extends in some interesting directions. If he wants you to be happy, for instance, or he wants you to never go hungry, or be wealthy, or enjoy a remarkably successful career, or live in starkest poverty, or die miserably, or suffer intensely...if you are where he wants you, no matter how high, no matter how low--rejoice and be glad, for all things work to the good of those who serve him. Whatever you are given, give thanks--for all is gift.

On Teaching the History of the Rebels

This is one of those pieces that makes me wonder:
I gave my students a history that was structured around the oldest issue in political philosophy but which professional historians often neglect - the conflict between the individual and community, or what Freud called the eternal struggle between civilization and its discontents. College students are normally taught a history that is the story of struggles between capitalists and workers, whites and blacks, men and women. But history is also driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires -- the "respectable" versus the "degenerate," the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad." I wanted to show that the more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was what I called "the margin of freedom" for all of us.

My students were most troubled by the evidence that the "good" enemies of "bad" freedoms were not just traditional icons like presidents and business leaders, but that many of the most revered abolitionists, progressives, and leaders of the feminist, labor, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the cultures of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the flamboyant gays who brought homosexuality out of the closet.

I had developed these ideas largely on my own, in my study and in classrooms, knowing all the while that I was engaged in an Oedipal struggle to overthrow the generation of historians who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, controlled academic history, and had trained me. They were so eager to make the masses into heroes that they did not see that it was precisely the non-heroic and unseemly characteristics of ordinary folks that changed American culture for the better...
I grant the importance and necessity of the full range of humanity, of the full range of the world. And in the Christian understanding of the world, Christ came specifically for those outside of polite society, for the uncivilized, for those on the margins. Of course, the reason he came was for the salvation of their souls--and also to save the souls of the society prigs who wouldn't be aware of their own sin without being made radically uncomfortable. It's so much easier to be in denial when the world seems to be fully under your control, after all.

So the worship of either anarchy or order seems misplaced. God is not identified in classical philosophy with mere or strict order, after all--he is Goodness, and Justice, and Love, and Beauty, and Being, all of them boundary breaking (or making?) things, all of them fierce and strong. He is not a tame lion, but neither is he a lion who breaks the Father's laws. Then again, we come to Chesterton's great maxim: Break the conventions. Keep the Commandments.

So insofar as the people on the outskirts live according to the Commandments, great. Wonderful. Very Franciscan of them. So long as the people within the mainstream of society remember that their conventions are not commandments and do not expect other people to make such a world-ending mistake, great. Wonderful. Very Ignatian of them.

But everybody must remember--fallen human nature commits acts such that the Son of God died miserably on a cross. So all must repent and return, over and over again, so that we might actually ever sit in family unity around the wedding supper of the Lamb.

In short--yay for rebels, and yay for conformists, and hosanna in the highest in gratitude for the gift of Christ and the saints.

On the Problem of a Two Party System

when the supposed options of left/right just don't fit the bill:
Most of us when placed in a milieu will identify with it and accept it. Thus Catholics who are concerned more with issues our society deems left will usually come to support the entire left program; similarly for those Catholics who are more concerned with issues our society puts on the Right. We Catholics, then, are made to serve others’ agendas and to subordinate a complete vision of Catholic political topics to a set of priorities that is not of our making and is even based on unreality.

We must discover that real Catholic politics are outside the Lockean spectrum, and we must learn to see ourselves as neither right nor left-Lockeans, but as Catholics, who ought to differ from one another only within the clear bounds of permissible Catholic teaching. When once we begin correctly to see ourselves for what we are, it will become harder for various self-interested parties to co-opt us for their own purposes as simply adjuncts of the Right or Left. There are enough Catholics in the U.S. and the world that if we were educated to understand what we are and what we stand for, then political commentators, not to speak of practicing politicians, would have to accommodate themselves to us, and at the same time to the real nature of things, as they realize that not everyone exists and thinks within a Lockean framework.
Along these lines, see also Michael O'Brien:
As Cardinal Josef Ratzinger pointed out more than 25 years ago, the political terms “liberal” and “conservative” are grossly misleading when applied to the Kingdom of God. They are especially so when applied to the ongoing evangelical mission of the Church, which is to draw all men to Christ, to work while the light lasts, to be a “light to the Gentiles.”

The most destructive aberrations in social and political thought of the post-war era have arisen from the application of these artificial constructs to the human community: left versus right, liberal versus conservative, neo-liberal versus neo-conservative, love versus truth, justice versus mercy, etc, etc. These adversarial templates present to us as fact certain images that function in the mind much the same way as does myth, faith systems, and symbols. But myths, if they are not based in reality, can create artificial dichotomies that derive from damage done to man’s concept of himself and his societies. They alter consciousness, the psychology of perception at its very roots. And thus they alter conscience. This in turn largely determines the choices we make and the actions that come from them.

While the templates may have a strictly limited value in their particular sphere of reference, they become destructive to the degree that they displace or negate “the whole truth about Man...”

On the Oddity of Proper Form

out of the mouths of English journalists (and poets!): occurred to him that perhaps it was not Christianity that was misshapen, but rather its critics. Perhaps it was they who, from their various eccentric points of view, saw the rightly shaped Christianity as distorted: ‘Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark and some too fair. One explanation… would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.’ It could be the case, in short, that ‘it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad—in various ways.’ It is the sheer depth and breadth of the Church, the complexity and multifacetedness of it, which narrow-minded enemies cannot grasp. Christianity, Chesterton surmised, was perhaps, too capacious to be easily comprehended.

On the Role of Police

in modern Western democracies:
...In Britain a street-preacher was arrested and held in a cell overnight after being challenged by a part-time police community officer who was gay and insisted on knowing what the Christian speaker believed about homosexuality. The preacher had not been discussing this issue but when pressed stated that he thought homosexual activity to be sinful. For this belief he was taken into custody and only released when, obviously, someone at the police station realized just how illegally and dangerously the officer had behaved.

In Canada earlier this year hundreds of peaceful protestors at the massive G20 conference in Toronto were arrested after the police had initially failed to stop some of their cars from being torched and public property destroyed. A massive over-reaction after an enormous display of passive incompetence. Also in Canada in early October five young pro-life students were arrested in Ottawa after displaying graphic pictures of aborted babies on the university campus. It was certainly a controversial exhibit but similar events have been held by feminist, Palestinian and leftist groups at the university for some years.

Whether political, religious or criminal, what appears to be happening in many parts of Europe and North America is that rather than being guardians of the people the police are taking on the role of agents of the state. Instead of protecting citizens against crime they are enforcing state policy against citizens. That’s deeply worrying in theory and even more troubling in practise.

The Western, democratic notion of an apolitical police force is beginning to evaporate as the police concern themselves with “hate crimes”, “bias” and even plain political correctness. What David Chen did was not obviously political but it did question the authority and competence of authority and the police and did show an ordinary person applying the law and common sense. That, it seems, is now the worst crime of all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Cool, Quiet Moments in History

when the great gather together--and the rest of the world is heedless:

In our modern world of overhyped events with video coverage of seemingly every event, the newsworthy and the forgettable, there was no film footage or even still photo shots of the two future saints meeting on that sunny, 1935 summer day in Detroit.  We can only visualize the brief meeting at the Saint Bonaventure Monastery, which was probably done with such little fanfare, that passersby would have failed to grasp the significance of the event.

Father Solanus Casey was 65, while Brother Andre was 90. Brother Andre had heard of Father Solanus Casey and while he was visiting the monastery inquired about Father Casey’s whereabouts. The two men met but were unable to engage in conversation as Father Casey knew no French and Brother Andre know no English. However, they did the only thing they could do in one language; they blessed each other in Latin, the language of the Church.

Their brief meeting over both returned to his work, though for Brother Andre his work would continue for less than two years. He died in Montreal in January of 1937. Father Casey would continue his work for some 20 years. Both men had funerals that would today be called epic. Not only were they remembered by the thousands who attributed the healing to their prayer, but the many thousands and in  Brother Andre’s case the nearly one million who became quite familiar with the stories. Not only were extra trains added by the Canadian rail authorities, but even in the US, especially the Northeast extra cars were added to accommodate the mourners headed to Montreal for Brother Andre’s funeral.

On People Saying the Darndest Things

OhdearGod. Really? I mean...really?
Pamela Lambert, a 46-year-old practicing Catholic from Dartmouth, Mass., said she makes a pilgrimage to Stathopoulos’ [witchcraft] shop every October.

“I’m a Christian, but I still have that spiritual side, too,” Lambert said. “I believe in God, but I also believe in spirits. I’m fascinated by the whole season of witches, the October season. ... People always look for answers.”

Salem’s witches tout their lifestyle as a peaceful one that honors humanity, animals and Earth alike. Lori Bruno, a local witch in her 70s, says witchcraft is the only religion whose practitioners never killed in the name of God.

“We hope more people will embrace the craft,” Bruno said, “because it is for peace. It’s not a religion that espouses war. We want mankind to shine—like they were meant to. If you sat down with Jesus Christ, I’m sure he would say the same thing."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On a Hole So Deep

We've never been here before:
The current total value of all debt and unfunded promises made by the U.S. government is $61.9 trillion over the next 75 years. $45.8 trillion of that belongs solely to promised Social Security and Medicare benefits. The rest is comprised of publicly-held debt, military and civilian employee pension payments and retiree health benefits, and government guarantees of private pension plans. Each American's piece of that lovely cake is more than $200,000.

Yeah, that's bad. And it's not getting any better. The current national debt $13 trillion, nearly half of which is owned by foreign creditors. In 2008 50% of the federal budget was spent on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and net interest. Under current conditions, by 2050 the federal debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product will be 350%...

"We should avoid ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden we ourselves ought to bear" is a George Washington quote Walker utters frequently. The wisdom of a generation that knew too well the dangers of Leviathan government is lost on most people today.

Richard A. Posner, in a recent Foreign Policy article, made a rather unsettling observation:

The adjustments that will be needed -- if the economy does not outgrow an increasing burden of debt -- to maintain the U.S. economic position in the world may be especially painful and difficult because of features of the American political scene that suggest that the country might be becoming in important respects ungovernable. The perfection of interest-group politics has brought about a situation in which, to exaggerate just a bit, taxes can't be increased, spending programs can't be cut, and new spending is irresistible.

It was the word "ungovernable" that struck me most. It reminded me of an equally disturbing headline I saw floating around the news world a few months ago: "Is California the First Failed State?" (linked here to NPR but seen many places elsewhere).

"Ungovernable"? "Failed state"? These are terms we hear associated with countries in Latin America, Africa, or the sub-equatorial Far East. It can't happen here in America. Or can it? We get all the government we pay for, and more. We are saddled with all the government we can borrow. But at some point the lending will stop, or will come at a price we cannot afford to pay, and the consequences in our lives will be severe. Until David Walker et al. strive to make this notion real in people's lives, their warnings will continue to fall on deaf ears...

"Is it conceivable," Russell Kirk asked, "that American civilization, and in general what we call 'Western Civilization,' may recover from the Time of Troubles ... and in the twenty-first century enter upon an Augustan age of peace and restored order?" The question was weighty enough to give him pause when he posed it in 1992. How much farther have we slipped into darkness 20 years later? Yet we cannot believe that anything is inevitable, least of all our downfall. But even as he raises the question, Kirk joins Edmund Burke in reminding us that history is replete with turning points, many of which came under the least likely of circumstances.

And so, as grim as the course of events may seem, there is hope. There is always hope.

On Catholic Deacons and Chilean Miners

Okay, so the guy doesn't get ordained a deacon till next year--but still.  The video interview is well worth your time (at the original site.)
Hall...says his faith was only strengthened in Chile when his years of experience only took him so far as he worked on that rescue shaft to reach the miners.

"There was a few times I was technically stuck. There was one time I specifically remember I didn't know what else to do. So I actually started praying and the prayer worked. A good friend of mine, he came up to me. He goes there's no way you could have drilled that hole. You know it's impossible. He goes God drilled that hole.

This was one of the most technically difficult jobs that anybody has ever heard of. It would be considered to be impossible to do. People come up to me in church and say where are the miracles now. We don't see the miracles. I've always told them miracles happen everyday, you just don't see it. This is a time when we see it. This is a miracle."

On Faith vs. Ideology

from Mark Shea:
The Faith is a mystery that has room for human traditions but is never to be identified with them.  It says, “We don’t know much, but we *do* know that we believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, etc.”  ideology, in contrast, imagines it knows everything and has the universe mapped out to a niceity.

Step out of line just a little bit (by, say, suggesting that saluting the SS or speaking of “second amendment remedies” to the “Harry Reid problem” is irresponsible), and it’s far more important to excise the heretic than to ask whether or not there might indeed be something wrong with our tribe and its human traditions...

Catholic social teaching is what is right. And the great majority of alleged Catholic conservatives I run into on the web regard it with suspicion and contempt, preferring to get their gospel of democratic capitalism, laissez faire, and disregard for the weak from Talk Radio and not bother with learning the true gospel teaching from the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching. As long as this remains the case, the Church on the Right will continue to be as much a cafeteria as on the Left.  Indeed, it will be more immune to correction because it will have sealed itself off from any sense of a bad conscience by saying that, so long as it opposes abortion, all other forms of contempt for Church teaching are okay. At least the Left doesn’t kid itself that it is faithful. It openly and cheerfully treats Church teaching with scorn, without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

Americanism, democratic capitalism, militarism: these things can no more save us than the preferred Lefty heresies of hedonism and Pelvic Adventurism. The devil always sends lies into the world in pairs so that, fleeing one, we might embrace the other.

It’s all in Chesterton, all in Chesterton. Dear me, what *do* they teach in schools these days?

On New Fangled Schemes for Policing

which somehow seem to either be inspired by enormous faith in something or based on a fundamental misreading of human nature:
Some headlines are hailing her as the bravest woman in Mexico. Marisol Valles Garcia, all of 20 years old, says she's just tired of everyone being afraid.

Valles Garcia, a criminology student, became the police chief this week of Praxedis G. Guerrero, one of the most violent municipalities in the border state of Chihuahua. She was the only person who accepted the top job in a police force whose officers have been abducted and even killed...

Valles Garcia sees a non-violent role for her 13-member force, which will be mostly female and unarmed.

"The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention," she told CNN en Español. "Our work will be pure prevention. We are not going to be doing anything else other than prevention."

Valles Garcia said she aims to establish programs in neighborhoods and schools, to win back security in public spaces and to foster greater cooperation among neighbors so they can form watch committees.

She has recruited three other women to join the force in the small municipality of 8,500 people, the government-run Notimex news agency said this week...
Now, on the one hand, there's no inherent problem with an all-female police force. Women in a pinch can be as tough (or more so) than men. I give you, for instance, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Catherine of Siena, the women of the US military and police forces, etc. Mothers.

Also, since this is the first set of police in the town in a while (everyone else got killed or run off), perhaps something is better than nothing, and teaching people to get along might help alleviate non-organized crime.

On the other hand, the drug wars are straight out of the wild west days, with bigger guns and more money. The sheriff who walks into town, weaponless and female, and expects to be in charge of anything for very long, doesn't seem to stand a chance. But perhaps there's more to the story than appears in CNN's coverage.

On Papal Humor

Life around John Paul II must have always been an adventure:
The distinguished Polish actor Jerzy Stuhr was in Rome at one point during John Paul’s pontificate, and the pope invited him to dinner in the papal apartment. When they were seated at the table, the pope asked Stuhr what had brought him to Rome, and Stuhr replied that he was playing in a production of Adam Mickiewicz’s “Forefather’s Eve.” The pope spoke about the importance of this drama in Polish history—“Forefather’s Eve” was considered such an emotionally inflammatory evocation of Polish nationalism that its performance was banned in the Russian- and Prussian-occupied parts of partitioned Poland during the 19th century—and then asked Stuhr what role he was taking in the Roman production of Mickiewicz’s classic. Stuhr replied, “Your Holiness, I regret to report that I am Satan.” To which the pope, on reflection, said, “Well, none of us gets to choose our roles, do we?”
On another occasion, John Paul II turned his own humor against that unhappy attempt at humor known as the Polish joke: in this case, the habit that Germans had, in the 1970s, of calling shabby goods, shoddy work, or any kind of foul-up “polnische Wirtschaft”—“Polish business.”
In the wake of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal of the early 1980s, in which the Vatican bank was embroiled, the pope summoned several cardinals known to be knowledgeable about finance to the Vatican to sort through the wreckage. After spending the morning listening to a tale of corruption, incompetence, bureaucratic self-preservation, and general stupidity, John Paul decided it was time for lunch. As he was walking with the cardinals toward the meal, he spotted the German Joachim Meisner, cardinal archbishop of Cologne, and walked up beside him: “Tell me, Eminence,” John Paul said, with that signature twinkle in his eye, “do you think we have some polnische Wirtschaft in the Vatican finances?” As Cardinal Meisner told me years later, his jaw dropped and he was “speechless.” Later, after lunch, several of his brother cardinals asked Meisner what the pope had said. “It can’t be translated,” was the German’s discreet reply.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the Nature of the Church

While still prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger signed off on this letter.  The following bit is quite cool:
Moreover, one's belonging to a particular Church never conflicts with the reality that in the Church no-one is a stranger: each member of the faithful, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, is in his or her Church, in the Church of Christ, regardless of whether or not he or she belongs, according to canon law, to the diocese, parish or other particular community where the celebration takes place. In this sense, without impinging on the necessary regulations regarding juridical dependence, whoever belongs to one particular Church belongs to all the Churches; since belonging to the Communion, like belonging to the Church, is never simply particular, but by its very nature is always universal.
The rest of the letter is also well worth a read, especially for anyone who wants to know what the Catholic Church's understanding of Christ's Church is (for more, see also Lumen Gentium.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the New Evangelization, Seminarians

Benedict speaks.  The first is from the letter creating the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization:
The Church has the duty to proclaim always and everywhere the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He, the first and supreme evangelizer, on the day of his Ascension to the Father sent the Apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). Faithful to this mandate the Church, people that God acquired to proclaim his wonderful deeds (cf. 1 Peter 2:9), since the day of Pentecost, in which it received as gift the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:14), has never tired of making known to the whole world the beauty of the Gospel, proclaiming Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the same "yesterday, today and for ever" (Acts 13:8), who with his Death and Resurrection brought about salvation, bringing to fulfillment the ancient promise. Hence, the evangelizing mission, continuation of the work desired by the Lord Jesus, is for the Church necessary and irreplaceable, expression of her very nature...

In our time, one of its singular features has been to be confronted with the phenomenon of estrangement from the faith, which has manifested itself progressively in societies and cultures that for centuries seemed permeated by the Gospel. The social transformations we have witnessed in the last decades have complex causes, which sink their roots far in time and that have modified profoundly the perception of our world. Think of the gigantic progress of science and technology, of the expansion of the possibilities of life and the areas of individual liberty, of the profound changes in the economic field, of the process of ethnic and cultural mixes caused by massive migratory phenomena, of the growing interdependence among peoples. All this has not happened without consequences also for the religious dimension of man's life. And if on one hand humanity has known the undeniable benefits of these transformations and the Church has received further stimulation to give reason for the hope that is in her (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), verified on the other hand is a worrying loss of the sense of the sacred, even calling into question those foundations that seem indisputable, such as faith in a creator and provident God, the revelation of Jesus Christ only Savior, and the common understanding of the fundamental experiences of man, such as birth, death, living in a family, and reference to a natural moral law.

Although all this has been greeted by some as a liberation, perceived very quickly is the interior desert that is born where man, wishing to be the only architect of his nature and of his destiny, finds himself deprived of what constitutes the foundation of all things...
And for the seminarians:
...You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough. People then seek escape in euphoria and violence; these are the very things that increasingly threaten young people. God is alive. He has created every one of us and he knows us all. He is so great that he has time for the little things in our lives: “Every hair of your head is numbered”. God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does makes sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Exorcists and Denominations

This is one of the oddest pieces I have seen on the subject in a while.  What unspoken assumptions are operating beneath these statements?

He is co-founder and president of the Bible-based American Association of Exorcists, based in Choctaw.

Jordan, 58, said he and a friend, now deceased, formed the Christian association in 2003 when they realized that the number of Roman Catholic priests who perform exorcisms was dwindling in America.

Contacted by The Oklahoman, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on the matter. Loutitia Eason, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said some Catholic dioceses have exorcists, but the Oklahoma City archdiocese does not.

Jordan said he estimates that the number of American priests who perform the Catholic rite of exorcism has decreased from about 23 to six in the past 10 years or so.

That, he said, is not enough these days...

Like Benefiel, both Jordan and Cox said the Bible includes references to exorcism, and skeptics must take up the issue with that holy text since it is what their respective organizations are founded upon...

...Meanwhile, Jordan said he considers himself Southern Baptist although he doesn't have a church home. He said he has been ordained through two ministerial associations: Victory New Testament Fellowship in Mesquite, Texas, and St. Luke's Christian Ministerial Association in Georgia. He said he attended two different theological seminaries and was never taught anything about fighting evil forces such as demons.

On the Spiritual Life

According to St. Teresa of Avila.

Some insights:

  1. “Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”
  2. “It is love alone that gives worth to all things”
  3. “Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”
  4. “Pain is never permanent.”
  5. “To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that.”
  6. “What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people!”
  7. “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”
  8. “It is true that we cannot be free from sin, but at least let our sins not be always the same.”
  9. (said of God): "If this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few!”
  10. “Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee; all things are passing; God never changeth.”
Rules for choosing a spiritual director here.

On Saints of British Catholicism

Two of her noblest sons:

Sir Thomas More
and Cardinal John Fisher, the only English bishop to remain Catholic at the time of Henry's English Reformation (and one who seems to have met death more bravely than portrayed below)

On Reading Scripture

As it is meant to be read:
...Now some one may ask you, “Do you read the Bible literally?.” Fr. Barron points out, that’s like someone asking you, “Do you interpret the library literally?” Of course you would say, it depends on what section I’m in. If I’m in the science or history section I may read the book there literally. But if I am in the poetry or novel section, or in the children’s storybook section, I would not likely read the books there literally. I would understand that they are using stories and images to make a point, but not like science or history does.

So we know how to exercise some sophistication when it comes to the library. But many loose this sophistication when it comes to the Bible. Often we can fail to distinguish literary forms and thus force a book or passage to be what it is not.

The Book of Genesis, especially the early chapters suffer a lot of this sort of failure to appreciate the literary forms...


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