31 March 2012

Growing older

This past Monday I celebrated my 34th birthday, which led me to wonder why we speak of "birthdays" and "wedding/ordination anniversaries."  Why don't we speak instead of "birth anniversaries" or "weddingdays" or "ordinationdays"?  I don't have an answer for this question.

At any rate, among the many greetings I received for my birthday - for which I am deeply grateful - came these words from a brother-priest that he borrowed from William Shakespeare:
Have you not a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly?  Is not your voice broken, your mind short, your chin double, your wit single, and every part about you blasted with antiquity?
Some days it certainly does feel that every part about me is indeed blasted with antiquity, but not today (probably because I slept for more than 10 hours last night, which was nice).  I'm not quite there yet, but it won't be long until I am..

30 March 2012

The vengeance of the Lord

The Christian singer and songwriter Rich Mullins once quipped,
I know, "'vengeance is mine,' says the Lord."  I just want to be about the Lord's business.
How many times in our own lives do we, too, just want to be about the Lord's business?  How often do we say with Jeremiah, in one way or another, "Let me witness the vengeance you take on them [my enemies], for to you [O Lord] I have entrusted my cause" (Jeremiah 20:12).

Today, as on every Friday and at every celebration of the Eucharist, and especially as we draw near to Holy Week, we can indeed witness the vengeance God takes upon his enemies.


As Jesus ascended Mount Calvary to perform the Father's work, the work of reconciliation, God's vengeance was made known (cf. John 10:37-38).  As he hung upon the Cross, Jesus could well say, "the cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me," though only for a moment (Psalm 18:6).

From the Cross, the Lord Jesus cried out in his distress to his Father and his "cry to him reached his ears" who then raised him from the dead on the third day (Psalm 18:7).  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus "has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked" (Jeremiah 20:13)!

What is more, the Lord calls each of us to participate in his vengeance as he says, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).  Whenever we unite ourselves to the Lord's Cross, we witness his vengeance, though it is very much not what we would expect it to be.

Let each of us, then, gather at the foot of the Cross, at the stronghold of the Savior, and there call upon the Lord who will indeed hear us (cf. Psalm 18:3).

25 March 2012

The mastering odor of the lilac holds me

The olfactory senses are rather intriguing and baffling sometimes.  Isn't it amazing how one simple smell can trigger so many memories?  Often enough such scents waft by our noses quite unexpectedly, sometimes to our delight and sometimes to our sadness.

In his poem, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," Walt Whitman movingly remembers a fallen comrade.  He begins, saying,
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
lilac blossoming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
After several stanzas wondering how he shall mourn his fallen friend, Whitman says, "Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me."  The mastering odor of the lilac holds me, too, though with much more pleasant memories.

Growing up in Quincy, we had three lilac bushes planted at three corners of our house.  Every spring when we opened the windows the mastering odor of the lilac wafted through the house.  For me, the scent of the lilac always recalls the beauty of spring and arrival of my favorite season.

The scent of the lilac reminds me of more peaceful and relaxing times, of simple soccer games outside, of video games and books and Legos.  It reminds me of hours spent in the fields building forts and playing to be knights and kings.  It reminds me of lemonade and lawn chairs, thunderstorms and family (we spent hours on the front porch watching the storms roll in across the Mississippi River).  (It also makes me think of the hilarious musical, Nunsense.)  In short, the scent of the lilac reminds of childhood and happiness and simple times.

This morning as I went for a walk, I thought twice I smelled the scent of lilacs, though I could not find the bushes.  I know it seems early yet for lilacs, but this has been a strange winter and spring.  The mastering odor of the lilac always lifts my spirit and fills me with gratitude.

What memories do lilacs bring to you?

Helping children pray

Some time ago reader Steve asked, "Would you be willing to maybe post sometime on how adults can encourage a real prayer life in children?"  I was very willing to do so at the time, but time then was tight.

This is not an easy question to answer and every situation will be different given the personalities involved.  Even so, it is possible to provide a few suggestions that can likely be utilized in many circumstances.

In his book-length interview My Brother, The Pope, the Reverend Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, after remembering the Christmas traditions of his family, said (with my emphases):
In our family, though, it was not only Christmas that was marked by the deep faith of our parents and the religious customs of our homeland.  From our parents we learned what it means to have a firm grasp of faith in God.  Every day we prayed together, and in fact before and after each meal (we ate our breakfast, dinner, and supper together).  The main prayer time was after the midday dinner, when the particular concerns of the family were expressed.  Part of it was the prayer to Saint Dismas, the "good theif", a former criminal who was crucified together with Jesus on Mount Calvary, repented on the cross, and begged the Lord for mercy.  We prayed to him, the patron of repentant thieves, to protect Father [a policeman] from professional troubles.

....When we were children, our parents also put us to bed and prayed our evening prayers with us.  They used a special form of blessing and repeated it three times....

This piety, which was lived and put into practice, defined our whole life...  [I]t was imparted to us children in the cradle, so to speak, and we remained faithful to it throughout our lives.

I am convinced that the lack of this traditional piety in many families is the reason why there are too few priestly vocations today.  Many people in our time practice a form of atheism rather than the Christian faith.  In some respects, they may maintain a vestigial religiosity; perhaps they still go to Mass on the major feast days, but this rudimentary faith long ago ceased to permeate their lives, and it has no bearing on their everyday routine.  It starts with sitting down at table and beginning a meal without even thinking about prayer, and it ends with no longer coming to church regularly on Sundays.  Thus, an almost pagan way of life has taken root.  If there are no religious practies even in family life, then this has an effect on all the rest of human life (45-47).
If we think Monsignor Ratzinger is a bit harsh in his assessment or old fashioned, we simply deceive ourselves.   Now, then, to Steve's excellent question.  I don't quite know the best way to go about it, so I'll simply make a list of suggestions, in no particular order:
  1. Children must see in their parents an authentic love of the faith and a desire to be faithful in every aspect of their lives, and in such a discipleship the children must sense the joy that comes from following Christ.
  2. Children should see their parents in prayer, both before the tabernacle and at home.  Children learn from imitation.  If they see their parents pray, they, too, will learn to pray.  This means that parents must pray; this has to come first.
  3. Set up a family altar, a special table covered with a cloth in a prominent place in the home.  On the table, place a Bible, a book of the saints, a book of prayers, a candle, a statue of a patron saint, a rosary, etc.  On the wall above the table hang a crucifix.  I always like the San Damiano crucifix because it also tells the story of the Lord's Passion and can be used throughout the year as a teaching device.  Use this family altar each day and try to do so at the same time of day.  Build it into the family schedule.  Everything else is secondary; God must come first.  Always.
  4. Never water down the faith or the teachings of the Church, especially if they are in high school.  Despite the temptation, never pander the faith to your children.  They can handle it and they can wrestle with it.  Young people today simply want to know the truth; speak it to them plainly.
  5. If you have to give a simplistic answer to a question when your child is young (for good reason) be certain to expound that answer as your child grows up.  Do not leave them with a second grade understanding of, say, Holy Communion or Confession when they're 16.
  6. If you do not know the answer to your child's question about the faith, do not say, "I don't know; it's a mystery" (unless it genuinely is a mystery, but even then say something about it.  Remember: the Holy Trinity is the only part of Christian faith that cannot be known by reason; in the end, it truly is a mystery.  Everything else can be explained reasonably, even if only in part).  If you don't know the answer, simply say, "That's a great question and I don't know the answer to it, but I'll be glad to find the answer for you."  Consult your catechism, your pastor, a knowledgable friend, and scour the Internet if you have to.  Just find the answer.  And do so as quickly as you can.
  7. Always to seek to show not only the beauty and simplicity of the faith, but also the reasonableness of the faith.
  8. Study the history of the Church - especially if your children are in high school - to be able to explain what really happened with the Crusades, the Inquisition, Galileo, etc.  Common myths should be debunked.
  9. Pray the rosary together at least once a week.
  10. Go to confession at least once a month (more often if you need it) and bring with your children with you (to the church, anyway).  Let them see you enter the confessional and return to the pew to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.  Encourage them to go to confession, too.
  11. Help your chilren examine their consciences from time to time, and provide them with age-appropriate guides.
  12. Give your children a religious book at Christmas, Easter and other major celebrations.
  13. Celebrate the day of your children's baptism with more festivity than their birthday.
  14. Have a special dinner each year on their "name day," the feast day of the patron saint.
  15. Name your children after saints and teach them their stories.
  16. Talk about the saint of the day and the daily Mass readings at supper.
  17. Talk about the Pope's travels or his Angelus addresses together.
  18. Pray the Stations of the Cross together each Friday.
  19. Go to Eucharistic adoration together as a family.
  20. We running your daily errands, purposefully drive by your church and stop in for a moment of prayer together.  You know, just to say "Hi" to Jesus.
  21. Share your faith struggles and questions with your children.  It's good for them to know that you wrestle with the same struggles and questions as they do, but be sure to reinforce your faith in the midst of doubts.  Teach the beauty of the words, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."
  22. Be sure to show your concern for your children's faith and eternal salvation.
  23. Never answer the question, "Why do we have to go to Mass today" saying, "Because I said so."
What additional advice would you, dear readers, like to add?

Wear black on Fridays to end abortions.

Abortion Blackout is calling upon the faithful in the United States of America to wear black every Friday as a public witness to the horror of abortion and as a call for it's end in this country:


It's an easy thing for me and my brother priests to do, but since we wear black every day such a witness from us is not likely to be noticeable, but from the laity it would certainly be noticeable.

Capello tip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

23 March 2012

It's just a walking cane

Earlier today the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI departed for his Apostolic Journey to Cuba and the Republic of Mexico.  Regrettably, I won't be able to watch much of the visits over the next several days due to other commitments.

The big news thus far of the Apostolic journey is that, for the first time in public, Pope Benedict XVI walked with a cane on his way to the airport.  The use of the cane undoubtedly lead to speculations about the Pope's health and what not, but if you look at this picture from the Associated Press you'll see such speculation will be rather unfounded:


In years past, I had used a cane many times because of my arthritis and often found it necessary not only in walking but also in rising and sitting.  Looking at the Holy Father, he clearly does not need the cane.

Look at his right hand.  He is simply carrying the cane.  It may touch the ground from time to time, but he certainly isn't dependent upon it.  An anonymous source in the Vatican told the Associated Press the Pope started using the cane in private a couple of months because it made him feel more secure.

I, for one, commend the Holy Father for using the cane.  I can testify from my own experience that they do may walking much easier.  Without even being aware of it, using a cane not only evens your pace, but also takes pressure of our joints, even without relying on the cane.

There was once a time when gentlemen routinely carried a walking cane with him.  I wouldn't mind seeing such a custom return.

I often made use of a walking cane when I was in Effingham simply to speed my walk from the rectory to the high school.  It quickly became a hit at the high school:


I also used this one from time to time:

A good walking cane can be both practical and fashionable.
Walking canes, after all, come in handy.  You can press the button for the elevator before reaching the doors.  You can give someone you want to speak with a gentle tap if he has just walked out of arm's length.  It becomes something to play with when waiting pointlessly at a crosswalk.

At any rate, if you hear someone speak of the Pope's waning strength evidenced by the use of the cane, don't pay much attention to them.

20 March 2012

More on the Grand Mufti's words

Over at his online Coffeehouse, Brian - a friend who is more knowledgeable in things of the Middles East than I - cautions against an over-reaction to the recent calls of Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to "destroy all the churches".

Among other things, Brian notes that the Grand Mufti's call would violate Article 2 of the Kuwaiti Constitution, as Yousef Al-Shayeji, Secretary General of Democratic Platform, said.  Even so, I don't think we such simply dismiss his words.

In an effort to correct the Grand Mufti's words, Dr. Bader Al-Dehani, Deputy Chairman of Kuwait Graduates Society, said:
It is inimical to democratic principles that revolve around values, tolerance, mutual respect and preservation of freedom to demolish any mosque, church or other places of worship.
If this is true, why are Christians not already to freely and publicly practice their faith in Kuwait and in other Muslim countries?  Why are they only allowed to practice their faith - in his own words - according to the permissions provided in the Constitution?

I am grateful for the many denouncements of the Grand Mufti's words, but where are the calls for the full, public, and authentic legal extension of the freedom of religion to Christians?

While it is true that in some places in the Muslim world Christians are granted some freedom.  The government of Qatar recently approved the building of a Maronite Catholic church in Abu Hammour.  Even so, this very permission demonstrates a lack of full and public freedom of religion for Christians in Muslim countries.

As another example, if we look at the Grand Mufti's Saudi Arabia, his words simply could not be followed because of one simple fact: there are no churches in Saudi Arabia, despite there being many Christians.  As Father Alexander Lucie-Smith writes in the Catholic Herald:
The Grand Mufti and all who think like him need to be challenged. Religious freedom is something we claim of right, not of privilege. The freedom of Christians to pray, to meet, to organise, to own buildings – these are non-negotiable.
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in speaking of common misunderstandings of Christians about Muslims and of Muslims about Christians, recently said of Christians in the Middle East, "You cannot deny that they are the target of a kind of opposition. I have been in the Middle East for many years and what I felt was that Christians feel they are second-class citizens in countries where Muslims are the majority."

The Prince of Jordan, Hassan Ibn Talal, recently spoke at a conference that focused on the theme, "Christianity in the East: To Where?" He said, in part, "The Arab Christians are Arabs, and are the pioneers of thought and Arab revival."

Summarizing the Prince's remarks, Father Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. said, "Prince Hassan asked for the meeting to stop this exodus [of Christians] and to ask Christians very clearly to remain."  But if this is to happen, if Christians are to remain, Father Samir said, "The conditions to remain is to be recognised by the constitutions as true citizens, having the same rights of citizenship and true equalities as everybody."

I hope and pray that these conditions are being recognized for Christians in Muslim countries, but at the moment I don't see it happening.

The Grand Mufti's words come several months after Salem Abu Al-Futouh, an Egyptian Muslim cleric said that Islam will conquer Rome:
The Prophet Muhammad told us that Islam would spread. He told us about the Islamic conquest of Constantinople - Turkey of today - and indeed, it was conquered. He also told us about the conquest of Rome, which is Italy. People find this strange. "How can we conquer Italy?" they say. "We are too weak." You should consider the number of Muslims in that great Christian center - another person converts to Islam every day. Check on the Internet how many people want to convert to Islam in the very heart of that papal center of Christianity, on their own turf.  
Brothers and sisters, Islam spread by means of the power of Allah, because it is the religion of Truth. When a Westerner whose heart is not filled with the hatred of Islam, someone who has not been raised on the hatred of Islam, begins to contemplate all the religions, he finds no other religion that respects human rights, and is in keeping with equality, justice, freedom, and democracy.
How he can claim that Islam respects human rights (despite the numerous restrictions placed on women in Muslim countries) and is in keeing with equality and justice (while treating Christians, at best, as second class citizens and refusing to allow them the free practice of their faith) is beyond me.

19 March 2012

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "Destroy all the churches"

You won't likely learn about this in the main stream media, but this past Thursday the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, called on Muslims in Kuwait to do whatever is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

Not only is the Grand Mufti the supreme Islamic leader in Saudi Arabia, he is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (an Islamic scholarly association) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.

The situation in Kuwait where only Islam can legally be practiced will soon likely grow much more serious, especially since a Kuwaiti Parliamentarian, Osama Al-Munawer, has already called " to ban the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state," according to Arabian Business.  Another member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, Mohammed Hayef, said his country "already has an excessive number of churches compared to the country’s Christian minority."

The Washington Times ran an editorial on Friday in which the editorial staff wrote:
If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.
Get Religionist Mollie asks the same question:
Can you imagine the coverage if, say, the Pope or some other major religious leader called for similar destruction? Even if it were a minor Christian or Jewish figure using such rhetoric, one imagines it would receive tremendous coverage.
Lest anyone think the Grand Mufti's words should not be troubling, it should be noted as The Washington Times goes on to say,
This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory. 

The anniversary of Damien's arrival

On this day in 1864 a young Brother Damien de Vuester arrived in Hawai'i to take the place of his brother, Pamphille, to labor in the missions of what were then called the Sandwhich Islands.

To commemorate the arrival of the one who would soon become the Hero of Moloka'i, Rorate Caeli has a good post with excerpts from the famous letter of Robert Louis Stevenson in defense of Father Damien.

On the proper order of initiation

His Excellency the Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo, has been a leading adovocate for the restoration of the proper order of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

Speaking at Mundelein Seminary last July, he spoke against treating the Sacrament of Confirmation as "a reward, or worse, as something earned or deserved for attendance and work in a parish catechetical program."  This Sacrament is often treated this way because are under the false impression that Confirmation is about the candidate's choosing on his/her own to follow Christ.  Bishop Aquila corrected this widespread misunderstanding, saying, "Confirmation is not marked by a choice to believe or not believe in the Catholic faith. Rather as disciples we are chosen by God to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit."

As one who received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation together on the day of my birth - as a Roman Catholic (I was not expected to survive) - I am in full agreement with Bishop Aquila on this matter.  And, it turns out, so is the Pope.

After meeting Pope Benedict XVI on March 8, 2012, Bishop Aquila said:
I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist.

Pope: Venerating Mary means learning from her how to pray

Last week the Holy Father Benedict XVI began a new catechetical series as the theme for his Wednesday General Audiences on the topic of prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters of Saint Paul.

He began this series reflecting on the "praying presence of the Virgin in the midst of the disciples who would become the first nascent Church."  Mary, he said, "quietly followed her Son’s entire journey during His public life, even to the foot of the Cross; and now she continues in silent prayer to follow along the Church’s path."

His Holiness sees this praying presence throughout Mary's life:
The stages in Mary’s journey -- from the home of Nazareth to that in Jerusalem, through the Cross where her Son entrusts to her the Apostle John -- are marked by her ability to maintain a persevering atmosphere of recollection, so that she might ponder each event in the silence of her heart before God (cf. Luke 2:19-51) and in meditation before God, also see the will of God therein and be able to accept it interiorly. 
The presence of the Mother of God with the Eleven following the Ascension is not, then, a simple historical annotation regarding a thing of the past; rather, it assumes a meaning of great value, for she shares with them what is most precious: the living memory of Jesus, in prayer; and she shares this mission of Jesus: to preserve the memory of Jesus and thereby to preserve His presence.
Noting that often times "prayer is dictated by difficult situations, by personal problems that lead us to turn to the Lord for light, comfort and help," Pope Benedict said venerating Mary within the Church "means learning from her to become a community that prays."

Concluding his reflections, the Supreme Pontiff invited the faithful to entrust themsleves to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary exercises her maternity until the end of history. Let us entrust every phase of our personal and ecclesial lives to her, not the least of which is our final passing. Mary teaches us the necessity of prayer, and she shows us that it is only through a constant, intimate, loving bond with her Son that we may courageously leave “our home,” ourselves, in order to reach the ends of the earth and everywhere announce the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world.

An atheistic unblessing?

There are many people today - mostly loud atheists - who tell us that atheists are more intelligent than people of faith.

I will not deny that there are some atheists who are more intellent than some theists, but the atheists associated with this bizarre event in Lakeland, Florida are not among them:
Armed with brooms, mops and "unholy water," the atheists gathered Saturday to symbolically clean up holy oil that Polk Under Prayer put down on Highway 98 near the Pasco-Polk county line last year, Bay News 9 reported. 
"We come in peace," Humanists of Florida director Mark Palmer announced before he and members of other atheist organizations launched their cleanup. "Now that's normally what aliens say when they visit a new planet, but we're not aliens, we're atheists" [more]!
Be sure to read the entire article and you are bound to feel more intelligent than before, simply from the illogical of these atheists words and actions.

Update:

Father Longenecker, commenting on the above story, rightly said: "If they really wanted to counter a Christian blessing they should have got some shaman or witch in to curse the place, and it is only a matter of time before they do so."  Be sure to read his post.

On religion and secularity, or why the middle ages were better

I'm presently reading through Professor Eamon Duffy's concise book, Ten Popes Who Shook the World.  This afternoon I found these words in his chapter on Pope Gregory VII particularly apt:
For a hundred years or more, most western countries have worked on the axiom that our common life together ought to be deliberately secular.  Religion in a free society may be acceptable as a private activity, like knitting or going to the gym, but it has no proper place in the spheres of politics, economics or citizenship.

The rise of militant Islam, like the influence of the Christian Right on American foreign policy and, perhaps more encouragingly, the role of the Catholic Church in the overthrow of Polish communism, might suggest that in the real world things are not necessarily quite so simple.

That much at any rate was understood in the Middle Ages, where everyone accepted that religion - the fundamental understanding of life, death, the Universe and everything - was liable to have an impact on the way that society was organized (60).
This is a helpful book that offers short synopses of the most important activities of a few of the Popes.  There is, though, one error in the book.  Duffy, in his chapter on Saint Peter, says: "...the long line of bishops of Rome, the popes - all 262 of them - are Peter's successors" (30).  Pope Benedict XVI is the 265th Successor of Peter, making him the 266th Pope.

17 March 2012

R.I.P.

His Most Blessed Beatitude Pope Shenouda III, Patriarch of Alexandria and the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians, died today at the age of 88.

May he rest in peace, and my the Lord guard his flock.

To know Saint Patrick

Today, as Catholics and non-Catholics alike enjoy this Memorial of the man who is perhaps the most celebrated man from the English isle, His Eminence Sean Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued a message inviting everyone to know the real Saint Patrick:
Copies have survived of two writings of St Patrick.  They tell us the kind of man Patrick was, of his faith and of his understanding of God.  They tell us that Patrick was a man who knew how to turn adversity into opportunity.  He successfully turned the adversity of six years of slavery on Slemish into an opportunity to grow in his knowledge and love of the God who, in Patrick’s words, “protected and comforted me as a father would his son.”  That knowledge and love of the Triune God are the basis of Patrick’s greatness.  
Adversity also taught him the folly of relying exclusively on himself and the necessity of relying on others and especially on the God who created him. 
My hope on this St Patrick’s day is that more and more Irish people will come to know the kind of person St Patrick really was, that they will come to know the faith that inspired him and carried him through the adversities of his life [more].
Let us not celebrate this day with drunken revelry, but with deep gratitude to Almighty God for the gift of so generous a man as Patrick, who dedicated his life to the spread of the Gospel in a foreign land.

On judging judgers

Yesterday, Father James Martin, S.J. - the author of several recent popular books, none of which I have read and whom I do not know - changed his Facebook status to read:
I'm tired of Catholics telling other Catholics they're bad Catholics. The only exceptions: (a) you possess the miraculous gift of being able to see within someone else's soul or (b) you're Jesus. If you don't satisfy (a) or (b) please stop the judging, especially on this page.
If one thinks this through logically, isn't Father Martin himself telling certain Catholics they are "bad Catholics"?  Isn't he doing the very thing he condemns?

I'm not writing these words to judge Father Martin, but only to out the illogic of such a statement, which no small number of people generally tend to agree.  It's nothing more than the silly notion of tolerance run rampant.

Consider this: in order to make such a statement, Father Martin is already claiming to be able see within someone else's soul and he has, by virtue of this statement, himself already judged other Catholics and determined them - because of their judgments or judgmental attitude - to be bad.

Certainly I will not disagree that there are many Catholics who simply look for trouble and stir it up whenever and wherever they can and always presume the worst intentions in other people, other Catholics in particular.  Certainly these Catholics need to take a deep breath and speak the truth with gentleness and love and not presume the worst in everyone.

It must be noted, however, that there is a great difference between judging another person and juding another person's actions.  If we are to help one another grow in holiness - because we are, after all, one another's keepers - then we must make a judgment about one another's actions.  Are these actions in keeping with the teachings of Christ and his Church?  If they are, we should encourage them.  If they are not, then our brothers and sisters need to be corrected and shown the truth of the Gospel.  Doing so requires that we make a judgment.

16 March 2012

A Sign of Spring

As seen in a sacristy in a local church:

Why exempt the Amish and not Catholics, too?

As Sister Mary Ann Walsh points out, the Amish are completely exempt from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) because of their religious beliefs, yet the Catholic Church is not even given an exemption for parts of the legislation because of her religious beliefs.  And we're told - and supposed to believe - this isn't an attack on the Catholic Church.  Right.

The good Sister asks a very good question:
What has the government got against the Catholic Church? Has it forgotten the contributions the church has made to the poor and needy for centuries?

Catholic elementary and secondary schools provide the only real alternative to public schools in many parts of the nation. Catholic colleges offer outstanding education, be it at the university or the community college. The contribution has a long history, back to 1789 when Georgetown University was founded by the Jesuits. Yet under the health care law, if these schools and colleges wish to remain faithful to their religious principles the government will fine them into submission. There’s a thank-you note.

Many Catholic hospitals were founded by religious orders of women, and today one out of six persons seeking hospital care in the United States goes to a Catholic hospital. Until now, religious background of the patient has not been an issue. “Where does it hurt?” is the first question, not “Where is your baptismal certificate?”
Be sure to read her entire post.

Attention Deacons and Priests: Prepare for the Exultet

Corpus Christi Watershed has a made a helpful video for deacons and priests preparing to chant the revised text of the Exultet (the embed code doesn't seem to be working, so you'll have to follow the jump).

Tolkien: Jews are a "gifted people"

Much has been written about the influence of his Catholic faith on J. R. R. Tolkien's great work, The Lord of the Rings and of its influence in his daily life, which is particularly seen through his many letters.

On 25 July 1938, he wrote a letter to the German publishing house Rütten & Loening in response to their inquiry as to his ancestry before consenting publish his great work.  Tolkien said in reply, "But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people."

After explaining, in brief, his family's origin, Tolkien went on to say, "I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride."

How right he was.

A repentant Camping

You might remember some months back when Harold Camping predicted by the end the of world.  Naturally, he was wrong.

The media then very happily mocked him but are currently largely ignoring his repentance of the false prediction which he now calls "incorrect and sinful."

What is more, Camping and his staff have now acknowledged what every person who looks at the Gospels already knew:
We humbly recognize that God may not tell his people the date when Christ will return, any more than he tells anyone the date they will die physically.

Procrastination and Penance

As technology makes life easier and enables to do things more quickly than before, a great many of us have become procrastinators.  Commenting on our tendency toward procrastination, Father Selvester wrote last week:
Even now if I have a presentation to prepare, or taxes to pay, or a memo to read or a meeting for which to prepare I seem to do it at the last possible minute. Well, that may be OK in the realm of temporalities but it shouldn't be that way with our spiritual lives.
These days of Lent are not given to us to simply sit idly by as we mindlessly abstain from meat on Fridays and from chocolate or coffee or whatnot through Easter.  These days are given to us, rather, to be strive for a deeper spirituality, to unite ourselves ever more closer with our Crucified Lord so that we might share more fully in the glorious joy of his Resurrection.

As Father Selvester rightly points out, " Lent is a time of many Penance Services with multiple priests visiting to hear Confessions. Lots of folks like these communal services because the visiting priests increase their chances of getting "Fr. Complete Stranger" for Confession."  Even so, he says, "despite all the opportunities to make a good Confession throughout the season of Lent I find each and every year that I am swamped with those wishing to confess at the last minute. Frequently, these people become indignant if they have to wait on a long line to go to Confession."

Please, don't procrastinate going to confession!  Imagine yourself to be something like a Chicago politician: Confess early, confess often.  But not so often as to say, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  My last confession was yesterday."  Unless, of course, you are in serious sin.

Father Valencheck a few days offered this reflection for our preparation for this Lenten penance:
You know, it’s Lent. Are you carrying around a load? You know – you don’t have to. Dump your load at confession. Too many people spend too much of their time carrying their stuff around – trying to find the best way to carry it – but no matter how much you may shield yourself from it, you’re still carrying around a bag of stuff. The confessionals are ready. You will enjoy the rest of your journey so much more if you get rid of your load now. Soon, the confessional lines will get longer and longer the closer we get to Easter. Relieve yourself now. Enjoy the freedom.

On Obama's faith, and it's similarity to the faith of many

Some days back Terry Mattingly had a good post on the Get Religion blog about an interview President Obama gave on March 27, 2004 to Cathleen Falsani in which she asked him questions about his faith.  Mattingly summarizes Obama's theology thus:
He is, of course, a Christian. He is a liberal, mainline Protestant Christian who is a perfect fit in the United Church of Christ, the freewheeling, free-church, highly congregational denomination that — in its elite leadership class — defines the candid left edge of church life in America. We’re talking out there a notch to the left of the Episcopal Church hierarchy.
The transcript of the interview have recently been upload to the web site of Sojourners.

My comments that will follow are not intended as an attempt to discredit the President's claim to be Christian.  What they are intended to do is point out the serious ways in which many people who claim to be Christian do not actually believe what Jesus clearly taught.

On the unicity of Jesus

At the beginning of the interview, Obama said, "So, I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."

This is not what Christians believe.  Jesus emphatically taught that he is the only way to the Father's house, to heaven.  He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Furthermore, he said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14).  And where is or, rather, who is the gate?  The gate is Jesus, who said, "I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9).

Saint Peter also said, "There is no salvation through anyone else [than Jesus], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Despite the trendiness today of falsely presuming every religion to be just as good as another, there is only truth, Jesus Christ.  Either what he says is true, or it is not; there can be no middle road.  There are not many ways to salvation, but only one.

When asked later in the interview, "Who's Jesus to you," Mr. Obama said: "Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher."

That's all well and good, but regardless of whether a person is a Christian or not, the fact remains that either Jesus is the bridge between God and man or he is not.

He also described Jesus as "a wonderful teacher."  That's all well and good - and many people agree with him on this - but wonderful teachers don't put an end to sin and death.

Jesus is far more than a wonderful teacher because, as those who heard him knew, "he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:29).

What is most curious about his brief comments about Jesus is the lack of mention of sin, redemption, the Cross, the Resurrection, his moral teachings, etc.  But, again, this isn't unique with Mr. Obama but is - most sadly - common with many people who claim to be Christian.

This is why the document Dominus Iesus is so very important, for it explains the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and shows him to be the sole Redeemer of man.  Faced with the growing dictatorship of relativism, Dominus Iesus clarifies who Jesus is.

On faith struggles

Mr. Obama went on to say, "part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe – I’m 42 now – and it’s not that I had it all completely worked out, but I’m spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values."

This is certainly good.  To know what we believe is one thing; to put our beliefs into practice is quite another.

This is why the Lord's first words in Saint Mark's Gospel are, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

Each of us is in continual need of conversion and reform as we strive to follow the Master faithfully in all things.

Mr. Obama is to be commended in his desire to apply what he believes to the way he lives.

On dogma

When asked if he had been "born again" at Trinity United Church of Christ, where Jeremiah Wright was pastor and where Mr. Obama went forward for an "altar call" in 1987 or 1988, he answered, " I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up, a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others."

Now, if someone is uncomfortable with claims to "a monopoly on the truth," then that person will very likely be very uncomfortable with Jesus of Nazareth, who not only claimed a monopoly on the truth and taught with a unique, but said, as we saw above, that he himself is the truth.

The authority of his teaching Jesus entrusted to his Apostles and poured out upon the Holy Spirit who, he said, "will guide you to all truth" (John 16:13).  Jesus also said to the Apostles, "Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me" (Luke 10:16).

The authority given by the Lord to the Apostles they entrusted to their successors, the Bishops.

For this reason, the Catholic Church can legitimately and authority make claims to the truth, because she has the promise of her Lord to be guided always to the truth because "the gates of the netherworld shall not previal against" the Church (Matthew 16:18).

On tolerance

In explaining his distrust of dogma, Mr. Obama said, "I’m a big believer in tolerance."  Many people today are and some even go so far as to say the only way to be civilized is to be "tolerant of others."

Jesus did not tolerate people, he loved them.  In the same way, a Christian is not called to tolerate people, but to love them.
Of the three definitions of the word "tolerate" given by Merriam-Webster, only one has to do with people: "to put up with."  Tolerance, then, which Mr. Obama called later in the interview an "important value," is hardly loving.

It should also be remembered that Jesus in no way tolerated sinful behavior, and neither should we.

On prayer

When asked if he prayed often, Mr. Obama said, "Uh, yeah, I guess I do. 
It’s not formal —me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why am I doing it."

I don't mean to be cynical, but I am.  When last I checked prayer is not about asking myself questions about what I'm doing, but asking questions of - and, more importantly, listening to - God.

On the Bible

When asked if he reads the Bible, he said, "Absolutely.
  I read it not as regularly as I would like."

Would that every Christian answered with those words!

On government interaction with religion

Speaking about the separation of Church and State, Mr. Obama said,
I’m very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics. 
Now, that’s different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it’s perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.
Judging from his recent decisions - and of those under him - it seems clear that he does not want the government operating for Catholics and that Catholic values aren't appropriate to talk about.
 
On Hell
 
Turning towards the topic of Hell, Mr. Obama said, "I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell."  This view - common as it is (the perceptange of people Hell-bound notwithstanding) - is simply unbiblical.
 
Jesus is quite clear on the existence of hell and of the possibility of going there.  Jesus said,
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your name?  Did we not do might deeds in your name?"  Then I will declare to them solemnly, "I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:21-23).
What is more, in his parable of the king who separates his sheep from his goats, Jesus said, " He will answer them [the goats], "Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me."  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matthew 25:45-46).

And don't forget his teaching above about the narrow way.
 
Mr. Obama went on to say, "
I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.
That’s just not part of my religious makeup."
 
And rightly so.  It isn't part of the Church's teaching, either.  We are only responsible for what we know (Saint Paul has a teaching about this, but I can't remember where at the moment).
 
On Sin
 
When asked if he believes in sin, Mr. Obama said sin is "being out of alignment with my values."
 
Again, a lot of people have this mistaken notion.  Sin is being out of alignment with God's values.  Ideally, his "values" are also ours, but in many cases they are not.  As one glaringly obvious example, God's love of every human life is not one of Mr. Obama's values.
 
Summing Up
 
To sum up, every Christian would do well to thoroughly read the Gospels to know what the Lord Jesus himself did and said.  Without this, one cannot claim to know Christianity.

15 March 2012

More anti-Catholicism from the New York Times

Last week the New York Times published an anti-Catholic advertisement from the Freedom From Religion Foundation calling Catholics to "quit the Catholic Church" because of the Church's oppossition to the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services that clearly violates the First Ammendment:
The Creative Minority Report has transcribed the text of the ad.  Be sure to read The Anchoress' thoughts on the "intellectual dishonesty of the hysterical and adolescent" claims in the ad.  The Curt Jester notes, among other things, "Funny though how these atheists are upset about the lack of women priests when they don’t even believe in God."

At the time, I wondered if the NYT would publish a similar ad inviting Muslims to quit Islam.  Naturally enough, I knew the answer to that question was a solid "No."  Now we have more evidence of the NYT's anti-Catholic stance.

The group Stop Islamization of Nations, American Defense League recently attempted to run an ad in the NYT - mimicking the above article - inviting Muslims to "quit Islam" before the growing violence over the military's "accidental" burning of Qur'ans:

The NYT says it refused to run the ad “the fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger.”

While I don't doubt that "fallout" from such an ad would be severe and violent, I'm not so certain this is the real reason the NYT refused the ad, especially given the paper's history in Catholic matters.

Either way, The Catholic League notes that regardless of the reason for the refusal (be it anti-Catholicism or fear of Muslim violence - the NYT has "painted themselves into that corner."

Why become a priest?


Capello tip to Father Valencheck at Adam's Ale.

How to love Jesus and religion

Patrick Coffin and Mother Miram of the Lamb of God, from Catholic Answers, have produced a good reply to the I Love Jesus But I Hate Religion video:

Somehow I missed this before.  Capello tip to Father Valencheck at Adam's Ale.

13 March 2012

When God is silent

Last week the Holy Father devoted his Wednesday General Audience address to silence within prayer.  He said, in part:
For in fact there exists not only our silence, which disposes us to listening to God’s Word; often in our prayer, we find ourselves before the silence of God; we experience a sense of abandonment; it seems to us that God is not listening and that He does not respond. But this silence of God - as Jesus also experienced - is not a sign of His absence. The Christian knows well that the Lord is present and that he is listening, even in the darkness of suffering, rejection and solitude. Jesus reassures the disciples and each one of us that God knows well our needs at every moment of life. He teaches the disciples: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8): an attentive, silent, open heart is more important than many words [more, via Zenit].
These are powerful words for these Lenten days as we prepare for that day when the Word himself was silent.

At some point in the future, the official English translation will be available at the web site of the Holy See.

12 March 2012

A good book for Lent

The antiphon for the Responsorial Psalm for today's Mass sings, "Athirst is my soul for the living God.  When shall I go and behold the face of God" (cf. Psalm 42:3)?  Is this not the driving question of each of our lives?

The Apostle Philip once said to Jesus, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us" (John 14:8).  In response, the Lord said to him, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).  This is all well and good for the Apostles and those first disciples, but what about us?  Where can we go to see the face of God?

The first place, of course, is the Eucharist.  A wise and prayerful parishioner once said to Saint John Vianney when he asked him what he did before the Blessed Sacrament each day, "He looks at me and I look at him."

Some people, though, want something more tangible, something more observable to the senses and so it seems that in the depths of his mercy the Lord has left us two cloths with the very image of his face: the Shourd of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello.

A few days ago I finished Paul Badde's excellent book, The True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello.  Concerning the Shroud in which the body of the Lord was wrapped for his burial, Badde observes:
Initial photos from the year 1898, moreover, made the shroud famous for the fact that in its photographic negative the positive image of a face looks at us.  Naturally, that is puzzling.  Nevertheless, any layman can see that the long linen cloth itself is neither a photo nor the film of a cosmic camera.  If we take a cigar box and prick a tiny hole in the lid and fasten a piece of film inside to the bottom - thus constructing a primitive camera obscura - it would produce a more exact photo of any human being.  Albrecht Dürer proved as early as 1516 that the cloth is not a painting either, when his attempt to produce a copy of it with brushstrokes failed.  What we see has no contours, no drawing, no pigments - absolutely none whatsoever - and it rests only on the upper parts of the fibers.  No one can say what it is exactly and how this image got onto the fabric.  Nevertheless, a huge battle rages over the delicate mysterious image.  Some kneel down before it.  Others are fiercely intent on debunking it as a forgery, over and over again.

Just as fanciful, therefore, is the history of debunkings that accompanies the shroud.  Obviously such exposés try to prove above all that it was supposed to deceive the faithful.  Once the BBC reported that a fourteenth-century French bishop had already found that it was "cunningly and deceitfully painted".  He himself had never seen the shroud.  The first likeness of the shroud is found in a manuscript from the year 1192 in Budapest.  Nevertheless, it is supposed to date to around 1320, as scientiests claim to have determine in 1988 by carbon dating techniques [which have since been proven false based solely on methodology].  Leonardo da Vinci too was "discovered" to have had a hand in producing the delicate image, and he was not born until 1452.  The latest contributor to this series of discoveries was Luigi Garlaschelli from Pavia, a chemist (and self-taught specialist in astrology, as well as poltergeists and similar phenomena) who, at the behest and the expense of a group of Italian atheists and agnostics, had applied various sorts of paint to a student model, whose imprint on a sheet was supposed to serve this time as proof of the forgery of the Shroud of Turin.  Yet genuine traces of blood (belonging to type AB+) can be found on the real shroud but not the slightest trace of pigments (11).
Throughout the book Badde seeks to answer "not the question of whether the shroud is genuine but rather the question: What if it is [emphasis original] (16)?  At the conclusion of such an inquiry, Badde suggests: "If we were in a court of law, the shroud would easily win any circumstantial case.  It would be confirmed officially that it is identical with the 'clean linen' cloth that Joseph of Arimathea bought for Jesus" (17).

At the end of his investigation, Badde concludes:
The mere fact that the cloths are not decomposed is already unbelievable.  Both of them have survived for two thousand  years.  They have withstood wars, sieges, conflagrations, thefts and pillaging - and also all the attempts to denounce them as forgeries.  They were not consumed by moths; they have not fallen to pieces...  The cloths are the work of man; the "images" on them, the work of God...

Only a radical faith in miracles, therefore, allows us to recognize - not understand - the nature of these pictorial miracles.  Much, very much can be understood.  But it would be demanding too much to try to understand everything.  To be able to contemplate these images is already an infinite gain - to see that the cloths that lay together then in the tomb are together again today, in the light of worldwide publicity and therefore now also in this book.  The true images are among us (158).
 I found this book a powerful read during these days of Lent and am confident you will, as well.

You might also consider reading the words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello.

I'd provide the respective links for you for the web site of the Holy See appears to be down again.  The intolerance of liberals never ceases to amaze me.

One hour gone!

I don't know about you, but for me the day after the time change is always the most difficult one to which I must adjust.  This morning I saw this poster on a friend's Facebook wall that sums up my morning fairly well:

In case you don't know the reference, it comes from the cult classic movie, The Princess Bride.
If you haven't yet seen it, shame on you.

Personally, I prefer Daylight Savings Time to whatever the previous time is called (Standard Time, is it?); I enjoy the extra daylight in the evening and really see no point at all in ever changing the clock in the Fall.  Who really likes darkness at 4:00 p.m. in the Winter months? 

Even so, the name of this new time setting is, frankly, baffling.  As a different friend said yesterday on Facebook: "only the government could steal something from you and call it 'savings.'"

There are many supposed reasons behind the changing of our clocks, none of which have ever made a great deal of sense to me.  As it turns out, most of the reasons are mostly a scam (this article offers a bit more information).

09 March 2012

A good book for children

As you likely know, on Saturday of next week, March 17, Holy Mother Church will observe the memorial of Saint Patrick.

As I made my way to back to Springfield from Tucson through the airport in San Franciscan, I stopped at what I think is the best airport book store I've ever found.  In it, on a table of various Irish-themed books, I found one by favorite children's author, Tomie dePaola: Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland.

When I saw it, I decided to pick one up for my nephew.  It is a typical work by dePaola and contains a couple of stories from Saint Patrick's life about which I was unaware.  Now I wish I'd picked up another copy for myself; dePaola's books are great for reading to grade school students.  And older students, too, and even adults, especially The Clown of God.

Time travelling troubles

This morning I was reminded that Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m. when are to "spring ahead" one hour.  I wish after we do so we would not change the clocks again; I like light in the evening.

As you know, this small time change will cause many people Sunday morning to feel rather groggy, being robbed of an hour of sleep.  It's something like jet lag, only not as bad.

Travelling through time is no easy feat, especially when going to places that don't change their clocks, like Hawaii.  It's especially difficult when planning a trip to Indiana, where some counties change their clocks and some counties do not:


Currently I'm reading my through Ian Mortimer's fascinating book, The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century.  It's a book I highly recommend.

If you think adjusting to a time change of one hour - whether it be forward or backward - how about adjusting to a change of years depending on your location?

In his chapter on "Basic Essentials," Mortimer notes that the reckoning of the new year was sometimes done on January 1, March 25, or September 29, depending on your location, and he considers the implications of such dating:
Medieval dating systems become even more complicated for international travellers.  The day on which New Year's Day gifts are exchanged in England for the historical year 1367 falls in 1366 in Florence and Venice, but in 1367 in the Italian port of Pisa, where the year begins on the previous March 25.  If you sail from England on January 1, 1366, and land at Pisa in mid-February, there it will be 1367 already.  Travel on to Venice, and arrive before the end of February, and you will be back in 1366.  Leave after March 1 and Anno Domini will be 1367.  Ride into Florence and you will be back in 1366 again.  Return to your boat at Pisa on or after March 25 and it will be 1368.  Sail on to Provence and you will find yourself back in 1367.  Stop in Portugal or Castile on the return journey - where the date is still reckoned from the advent of the Romans - and it will be 1405.  The Spanish Era (as the dating system beginning in 38 BC is called) is still in use in Portugal (until 1422) and Castile (until 1384) [emphasis original] (82-83).
Talk about jet lag (its Medieval equivalent)!

06 March 2012

A new political party?

I've often said, "Better a good King than a corrupt Republic."  It's a phrase I may have picked up from someone; I'm not certain.  I've never shied away from letting it be known that I've always preferred a monarchy to other forms of government, at least in theory.

The trouble with monarchy, though, comes with the death of the monarch.  Succession by heredity isn't generally a good idea because it too often leads to a murky gene pool and being the son or daughter of a monarch doesn't guarantee possession of the necessary attributes; neither is succession by election a good idea because too many people don't take the time to investigate the persons they elect.  "This person has a good smile and looks good on television," too many think; "he'll be a great leader!"  That doesn't usually work out very well.

For several years now I've pondered this dilemna, though - admittedly - not too seriously.  I've long been fond of Plato's notions of the Guardians, the Auxiliaries, and the Workers, but he doesn't account for the reality of sin.  Consequently, his political theories - though attractive - aren't terribly useful.

How then does one find a good King?  The answer appeared before me this morning on Facebook on the wall of one of my friends:


The caption accompanying the image read:
Supreme executive power derived from some farcical aquatic ceremony is far better than an anarcho-syndicalist commune in which everyone takes it in turns to act as sort of supreme executive officer for the week.
That's the answer to the dilemna (nevermind the fact that the sword given King Arthur by the Lady of the Lake - Excalibur - is not the sword that made him King; that sword - Caliburn - he drew from the stone and anvil and was thereby manifested "rightwise King born of all England").  We simply need a strange sword to appear in some churchyard somewhere or a bizarra lady to reach her arm through the water.  It can't be much worse than where we're headed now.

05 March 2012

The past week

This past week I snuck away to Tucson to spend a few days in - what I thought would be - a warmer climate.  As it turns out, Illinois was just as warm - if not warmer; even so, I didn't miss the humidity and very much enjoyed a few days without a single cloud in sight.

I spent my time reading a few good books (The Sadness of Christ, by Saint Thomas More; The True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello, by Paul Badde; Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church, by Russell Shaw; and I think I finished a fourth book that I cannot now recall (the books I sent back via the postal system).  I also began reading My Brother, the Pope, by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, and am already halfway through it.

In the airport and on the plane to Tucson I read through several issues of L'Osservatore Romano and added quite a few new quotes from Pope Benedict XVI to my blog A Beggar for Love.  It was quite noting the odd looks I received as people saw my highlighting my way through the papers with the pictures of the Pope scattered throughout them.

The real purpose of my little excursion, though, was to work on a few projects that have been sitting on the corner of my desk for several weeks - maybe even a couple of months.  They are of the nature that require a period of time to simply sit down with them without distraction.  I knew I would be able to do so out west and, thankfully, I did.

All in all, it was a rather productive time away.

Friday morning I drove out to Sabino Canyon - it isn't far from where I stayed - and went hiking through the desert, in no small part simply to say that I had done so.


The desert has a certain beauty to it, but after walking along for about an hour I found myself thinking, "Well, I think I've seen enough now" and wondered how Jesus spent forty days in the desert.



Because I went in the morning, the temperature was in the low 40s; even so, I found myself quickly becoming thirsty after only a few minutes into the hike.  I had brought a large bottle of water with me, but now know the terrain I didn't want to consume it too quickly and became very aware of the preciousness of water.



You can imagine in delight when, after about twenty minutes into the hike, I stumbled upon not only restrooms but a water fountain, as well, from which I happily refilled my bottle (as it turns out the canyon has several such facilities scattered through the terrain).  It wasn't quite an oasis, but it was close enough.


Most of the trails seemed to be named conveniently enough after their respective relation to the canyon, so when I saw a trail named "Rattlesnake Trail," I thought to myself (and maybe even aloud), "No, thank you," and continued along the main route.

When I returned to the visitor's lodge - which I hadn't visited before I began my little journey, I spied a creature through the back window:


Had I seen him before I began my hike, I probably wouldn't have set out in the first place.

I've returned to Springfield just in time for what may amount to a full inch of snow by the morning.  Sometimes I wonder if the Lord simply likes to play games with me.

How many birds can fit on the roof of the rectory?

A few minutes ago I returned to the Cathedral rectory after going for a swim and was surprised at what I saw on the roof of the rectory:


The picture, taken on my phone, isn't the greatest and shows a flock of crows (I think, from the sound of them) taking a break, perhaps, on our roof.  Many more birds were there, but flew to a nearby tree when I pulled into the parking lot:


I'm not sure I've ever seen so many crows in one place before.

04 March 2012

Paul VI was right on government interference

Back in 1968 (two years before the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America approved "the pill"), His Holiness Pope Paul VI published his prophetic - and so-called "controversial" - encyclical Humanae Vitae on the regulation of birth.

Why did he choose at that time to speak on such an issue?  Precisely because, as he said, the questions being raised about the regulation of human birth "concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings" (1) and because they concern marriage, the Church's teachings on which are "based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation" (4).  Because marriage is found in the natural moral law, it "declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation" (4).

None of these teachings, of course, that he expounded in Humanae Vitae were new and should have not have caused any surprise or anger in anyone.

What should have alarmed people, however, were the things Pope Paul VI foresaw as the natural and dire consequences of a worldview built upon the sandy foundation of contraception:
  1. infidelity within marriage and a weakening of moral values (17);
  2. men would lose respect for women and use them only as objects for pleasure (17);
  3. and government interference within the marital act (17);
Clearly and without doubt, his first two predictions took hold rather quickly.  And now, in recent days, we are seeing all too clearly the fulfillment of his third prediction, which he expressed in these words (with my emphases):
careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
If you have not yet read Humane Vitae, do so today.  It is neither long nor difficult.  If it has been some time since you read Humane Vitae, read it again today.

Forward, to the past!

Since the days of childhood I have loved the Middle Ages.  Often as a boy I pretended to be a knight or a king and made attempts at fort building in the fields behind our house.  Inside I was continually building a bigger and better castle out of Legos.

As I grew up, I found a special love for the early and medieval history of Britain, in particular anything dealing with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

As an adult, I developed a great love for travelling and from time to time suffer from a bout of wanderlust.

Yesterday, while browsing in a book store, I found the perfect book for someone like me.  It is a book by Dr. Ian Mortimer that combines travelling, the Middle Ages, and England:

Now I can't wait for my next travels!

03 March 2012

Jewish school forced to forfeit semi-final game

The New York Times recently carried a story concerning The Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Houston, Texas, whose basketball team recently had to forfeit their State semi-final game because it was scheduled for this past Friday evening, the Sabbath:
The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or Tapps, the group that organizes the tournament. On Monday morning, representatives of the school were notified that the association’s nine-member executive board had rejected the appeal.
In response to the unfortunate - and, to me, unreasonable - decision, Rabbi Harry Sinoff said, "The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world."

I commend Rabbi Sinoff for his words, backed up by his actions, as well as many of the school's oppossing teams, many of whom, we are told, "agreed to change the time of their games to avoid conflicts with the Sabbath."

The students, too, are to be commended who have the attitude of, as one of their fathers said, "when there are bad calls, you just move on."

The TAPPS should be ashamed.

Does contraception reduce "unwanted" pregnancies?

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto traces the history of "the pill," and notes that after the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1960 "the marriage rate declined and the illegitimacy rate skyrocketed," evidence to which Charles Murray pointed in the same publication.  Before 1960, the illegitimate birth rate was about 2% of white births; by 2008, it was 44%.  The rates, says Murray, are higher for black births.

Taranto counters the claim that contraception decreases unwanted pregnancy:
The usual criticism we've heard is that it is absurd to suggest a causal link between birth-control advances and illegitimacy because, after all, birth control prevents pregnancy, and giving birth out of wedlock entails pregnancy. By that logic, though, illegitimacy rates should have remained low, or even declined further, after the inception of the pill. The Santorum argument may be counterintuitive, but the counterargument flies in the face of the facts.
It is this reality that Taranto says is often thought of today as "downright unthinkable." Be sure to read his entire article.

What will the persecution look like?

Standing on his head provides Father Dwight Longenecker many good insights, especially his recent thoughts of what the increasing persecution of the Church in the United States of America will look like:
There will be no martial law or military in the streets. That would appear to be so un-American! The officers who enforce the mandate will be lawyers in suits bearing legal documents. The battles will be in the courtroom. The penalties will seem just to the majority of people because we are in a democracy and those who disobey the law need to be punished, for it is the law of the land, and after all, if they had not done anything wrong they would not need to worry about anything!

To disobey the Mandate will seem so obstinate and unreasonable, for the State will not seek to close down any churches. Instead it will support the churches. Clergy training will be paid by the state. The church buildings will be maintained by a church tax which will be called the "tithe". Clergy will remain in their posts. Their dignity will be respected. All they will need to do is sign certain documents which ensure their safety and their freedom of worship in return for acknowledging the authority of the State (in civil matters only of course) These documents will be worded in such a way that a conscience clause will be admitted. The State will control the church "insofar as the law of God allows."
Be sure to read his entire post.

Stupid laws

If I may say so, one of the greatest difficulties of our Republic is the proliferation of regulations of various sorts and the retaining of laws that are no longer pertinent.

Writing in the Quincy Herald-Whig, Steve Eighinger offers a sampling of ridiculous laws, State by State (Montana through Wyoming).

For example, a few of my favorites:
  • In North Dakota it is illegal to fall asleep with your shoes on (who knows why or what business that is of legislators), while in South Dakota it is illegal to fall asleep in a cheese factory.
  • Whistling underwater (I'm not quite sure how that's done) is against the law in Vermont.
  • Birds, in Utah, have the right-of-way on the highways.
Mr. Eighinger covered the first half of the Union is a piece I missed earlier and cannot now locate on the web.

One of my favorite stupid laws comes from California, where it is illegal to set a mouse trap without a hunting license.