Category Archives: Christianity
It’s been a month of horrifically overwhelming headlines. As such I’m taking a break in today’s Friday Five and am going to go “soft”. I awoke in a cold sweat this morning after a nightmare that involved the loss of one of my children. And then I was greeted with the news of the day and its cynicism coupled with an extensive prayer list that I receive each morning through our state Knights of Columbus organization. All of which finds me wanting to open the gate to a green open stretch of mental prairie and let my mind wander around aimlessly for a day.
I read a quote once by Marsha Norman that said
Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.
I must say that lately I’m not a fan of this book. Let’s instead journey to the open prairie…
— 1 —
A favorite book of fairy tales that I purchased a few years ago was The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. It is a masterpiece of nineteenth century storytelling and meant to be read by parents to children at night. The premise of the story is given in the introduction whereby the narrator comes across a clock in Father Time’s attic which strikes the hour with songs and puppet dances. Twenty-four stories follow, one for each hour of the day. Each story begins with a verse that corresponds to the hour of the day: lighting the fire, preparing breakfast, sending the children to school, making the noonday meal, milking, tea, bedtime. The small verses that begin each “hour” alone are fascinating, as they bring to life the household routines of a very different era, and the illustrations perfectly enhance the storytelling.
The Wonder Clock is also available to be read online here.
From the preface:
I PUT on my dream-cap one day and stepped into Wonderland.
Along the road I jogged and never dusted my shoes, and all the time the pleasant sun shone and never burned my back, and the little white clouds floated across the blue sky and never let fall a drop of rain to wet my jacket. And by and by I came to a steep hill.
I climbed the hill, though I had more than one tumble in doing it, and there, on the tip-top, I found a house as old as the world itself.
That was where Father Time lived; and who should sit in the sun at the door, spinning away for dear life, but Time’s Grandmother herself; and if you would like to know how old she is you will have to climb to the top of the church steeple and ask the wind as he sits upon the weather-cock, humming the tune of Over-yonder song to himself.
“Good-morning,” says Time’s Grandmother to me.
“Good-morning,” says I to her.
“And what do you seek here?” says she to me.
“I come to look for odds and ends,” says I to her.
“Very well,” says she; “just climb the stairs to the garret, and there you will find more than ten men can think about.”
“Thank you,” says I, and up the stairs I went. There I found all manner of queer forgotten things which had been laid away, nobody but Time and his Grandmother could tell where.
— 2 —
When younger during the lazy days of summer one of the things my friends and I would do to pass the time was sit in the shade of the front porch eating popsicles and debating lazy summer things like “what is the greatest album side?” While I can still list four or five I listened to one of my favorites driving to work yesterday: Side 3 from Eagles Live. Seven Bridges Road, Wasted Time, Take It To The Limit and Desperado. The only thing missing was an open and endless ribbon of highway and twilight skies.
Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn from here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road
— 3 —
A little encouragement for our walk along the prairie:
For a while, we are fully aware of God’s concern for us. But then, when God begins to use us in His work, we begin to take on a pitiful look and talk only of our trials and difficulties. And all the while God is trying to make us do our work as hidden people who are not in the spotlight. None of us would be hidden spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our work when it seems that God has sealed up heaven? Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with golden halos and with the continual glow of inspiration, and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God. He is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and completely unlike God. We are here, not as immature angels, but as men and women, to do the work of this world. And we are to do it with an infinitely greater power to withstand the struggle because we have been born from above.
From My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers (May 1st entry)
— 4 —
In an article titled “Music as a Character-Forming Force” I read the following quote by philosopher Roger Scruton:
Nobody who understands the experiences of melody, harmony, and rhythm will doubt their value. Not only are they the distillation of centuries of social life: they are also forms of knowledge, providing the competence to reach out of ourselves through music. Through melody, harmony, and rhythm, we enter a world where others exist besides the self, a world that is full of feeling but also ordered, disciplined but free. That is why music is a character-forming force, and the decline of musical taste a decline in morals. (The Aesthetics of Music, 502)
Behold the Agnus Dei from Berlioz’s Requiem, Op. 5. It’s as moving as any piece of music I’ve heard, and when used with the final scenes from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life pretty much renders me a puddle of goo.
And if you don’t have nine minutes to spare in order to watch or even listen to the music, then perhaps you can spare five to read and ruminate over this:
Ever heard about the three transcendentals? Christian philosophers claim that the ultimate desire of man, the ultimate direction towards which all things are ordered, is perfection. Perfection has three properties which cannot be divorced from one another: Veritas, Bonitas, Pulchritudo; Truth, Goodness and Beauty. As Christians we believe that God is the fulfilment of these transcendentals. In His being we find absolute Truth, absolute Goodness and absolute Beauty. Hence St. Augustine’s famous line: “Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in Thee.” We will never be satisfied until we are suffused with His being.
I’m afraid I’ve lost the source, so if you happen to know who or what that might be, please let me know.
— 5 —
I’ll end in an unconventional place. It’s true that among my favorite songwriters and performers are the members of ABBA. I was a fan when being a fan was very uncool. Maybe it still is. I don’t really care. All I know is the music is catchy, yet more layered and complex than given credit for, and that Benny and Bjorn’s collaboration with Tim Rice for the broadway musical Chess is on par with Les Miserables in my opinion. Again…my opinion. If you want to debate it or argue go elsewhere. I’m not in the mood for that today. I read where they opened an ABBA Museum in Stockholm earlier this week. I found myself listening to this and thinking of friends, both old and new.
You and I can share the silence
Finding comfort together
The way old friends do
And after fights and words of violence
We make up with each other
The way old friends do
Times of joy and times of sorrow
We will always see it through
Oh I don’t care what comes tomorrow
We can face it together
The way old friends do
From The Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien:
“Love is the soul of the world, though its body bleeds, and we must learn to bleed with it. Love is also the seed and milk and the fruit of the world, though we can partake of it in greed or reverence. We are born, we eat, and learn, and die. We leave a tracery of messages in the lives of others, a little shifting of the soil, a stone moved from here to there, a word uttered, a song, a poem left behind. I was here, each of these declare. I was here.”
The world can make one crazy if we have not love. We are not immature angels. We have been born from above in love.
We are here. Together.
Over the weekend I read this post by a terrific blogger whom I’ve enjoyed reading the past few months. Jessica wrote on a topic I’ve touched upon before and once more has bubbled to the surface of my mind as I considered the events of the past several weeks: Suffering and our seeming indifference towards it. Our being overwhelmed by it. Our strong desire to acknowledge it…change it…eradicate it…wrap the entire world and its hurting people in our arms and assure them that they are loved.
It’s an impossibly big job. And, it’s not our job.
Whoa Jeff, you heartless sonofabitch. What do you mean it’s not our job?
It’s not. Our job is not to take on the task of changing the entire world in a fell swoop. Our job is to grow where we’re planted. To have a positive impact one life at a time. The Ripple Effect. To be a light. To imitate Christ. We toss our small pebble into a little pond and watch the waves roll slowly outward before finally losing steam before they reach the pond’s shore. We can’t do it all ourselves. But, if we toss in our small pebble, and are able to inspire others to do the same one-by-one as they in turn “pay it forward”, soon there will be not just my pebble but multiple pebbles hitting the water’s surface; each pebble in turn sending out ripples in all directions. Ripples bouncing off of ripples, continuing to build momentum and not lose steam. Soon my ripple is lost in a tide of turbulent waves upon the water’s surface: affecting everyone while they affect me.
Christ did this. He didn’t come to soothe the calm waters. He came to shake things up. To awaken us from our malaise. To reveal the uncomfortable truths. To shake us from our apathy.
“Do not imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace.” (Matthew 10:34)
One of my favorite lines from Scripture is Luke 12:48: “Much will be asked of the man to whom much has been given; more will be expected of him, because he was entrusted with more.”
Paraphrased: To whom much is given, much is required.
The lines that follow further demonstrate the division Jesus says he will cause:
“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)
And what is truth? Jesus is “the way…the truth and life” (John 14:6). We are to respond. The way we respond divides us. We can either accept the truth or reject it. If we try to ignore it? Well, that in itself is a form of rejection. Jesus confronts us with God’s eternal truth. It is our reaction to this that divides us.
Last week I continued to read of the nation of sludge we have become. And we have. No amount of protesting or whining will change that fact. I have watched in continued amazement as people, including friends of mine, twist themselves with pretzel logic in order to somehow justify infanticide in order to defend their sacrament of abortion. This culture of death chills my bones. It is something I just cannot fathom. And so I pray. I do not condemn nor do I judge. I simply pray.
To ensure I understand a certain thought process that exists out there:
- Michael Vick is the personification of evil. He must never be forgiven for what he did to those poor dogs, is a pariah, and the worst person in the world. A cruel, heartless bastard.
- Kermit Gosnell is a misunderstood individual protecting the rights of women. By killing them if necessary. All for the greater good, don’tcha know?
Alicia Colon asks “How did we get to the point where so many people in the media accept the murder of full term babies born alive as a women’s right that must be protected? How do they turn their eyes from the truth; …”
I ask: “How did we get to the point where so many of my fellow citizens accept the same?”
The answer to both questions? Through lies.
At the end her April 30th column Colon documents what ex-abortionist Bernard Nathanson (one of the founders of NARAL) said when he revealed the tactics used by his side to help make abortion legal and socially acceptable in the United States:
How did we do this? It is important to understand the tactics involved because these tactics have been used throughout the western world with one permutation or another, in order to change abortion law.
“The First Key Tactic was to capture the media – with lies. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure constantly fed to the media was 10,000.
“The Second Key Tactic was to Play the Catholic Card – We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its ‘socially backward ideas’ and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion.
“The Third Key Tactic was the Denigration and Suppression of all Scientific Evidence that Life Begins at Conception – A favorite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one.”
We are up against lies (Nathanson called them “tactics”), consistently and endlessly having to swat them away. The Church is anti-science, we hear. Mark Shea shows just how stupid a statement this is. Yet it is a lie oft-repeated by those too intellectually lazy to look at the evidence to the contrary or who harbor their own prejudices against the Church. He cites Mike Flynn’s complete refutation of this absurd claim and “unreason” that is worth bookmarking for future reference.
Because the lies never stop.
The lies that tell us that it’s ok for a government to arbitrarily redefine words and that our fretting over such redefinition may result in our going places never before imagined.
No, the lies never stop.
Nor does the Church’s hate for homosexuals. Look at these pictures to see if you can stand seeing all the hate we have as Catholics.
Oh wait. Guess I was wrong about that one. This picture will tell you the full story.
Last week I watched as a Belgian priest prayed during an attack upon his person and I was without words. On an almost daily basis I say to myself and those closest to me that the world is upside down: right is wrong and wrong is right. The temptation at this point is to retreat deeper and deeper into my Catholic faith. Its beauty is eternal. It is also earthy and gritty. It offers me peace. I see images such as this and am able to better understand the outrages Christ suffered during His Passion.
Yes, the temptation grows to retreat. But if I do that before my time on earth as a member of the Church Militant is over there will be no ripples in my pond. The surface will be smooth as glass.
Stagnant and stale.
That’s just not my style, nor is it my calling.
And so amidst all the bad news and despair I find strength in five other things I read this week.
One: In his 1978 commencement address at Harvard Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned us about a lack of courage:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
It was a brilliant speech and you’ll want to read it all.
Two: A reaffirmation of the truth written by Cardinal Dolan with regards to what the Church is versus what it isn’t.
So, for example, the Church loves, welcomes, and respects the alcoholic . . . but would not condone his binge;
The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a prominent business leader…but would not condone his or her failure to pay a just wage to a migrant worker;
The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a young couple in love . . . but would challenge their decision to “live together” before marriage;
The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman who has had an abortion, and the man who fathered the child and encouraged the abortion . . . but would be united with them in mourning and regretting that deadly choice;
The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman or man with a same-sex attraction . . . while reminding him or her of our clear teaching that, while the condition of homosexuality is no sin at all, still, God’s teaching is clear that sexual acts are reserved for a man and woman united in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, loving bond of marriage.
The Church loves, welcomes, and respects wealthy people, while prophetically teaching the at-times-uncomfortable virtue of justice and charity towards the poor.
We are part of a Church where, yes, all are welcome, but, no, not a Church of anything goes.
Three: An article for Crisis magazine written by Bernadette O’Brien that reminded me that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Four: Three of the quotes I highlighted in my copy of Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis.
“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.”
“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.”
“I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred schoolchildren and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year old. And if one persons sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for.”
Five: Like Jessica (whom I noted at the beginning of this post) Brianna Heldt made note of the overwhelming suffering we see prevalent in our world today. After discussing all of the horrors we see broadcast on the news each day Heldt points out in her final paragraph that keeping one’s perspective is key:
So how does all of that tie in with the news? I suppose because with the overabundance of real-time information available to us today, it is possible to become so caught up in what is happening somewhere else that our own peace and joy become eclipsed by some “national conversation” that is “needing” to happen. When in reality, our own present situation is either fairly rosy or is difficult in its own way (fellow mothers of small children, I’m talking to you), and in either case the last thing we probably need is to own a far-off burden that doesn’t belong to us in the first place. I’m not saying it’s bad to be informed (I like to be), and I’m not saying we shouldn’t know what’s going on in the world we inhabit (I do, and sometimes I even blog about it.). But we occasionally also need to be reminded that we are merely responsible for stewarding what is right in front of us, today. In our own respective spheres of influence. And more often than not, that will probably be quite enough.
I read more than just those five things actually. Much more. Enough to convince me to continue developing the blog project I’ve been working on. I’ll still be found here, but my posting will slow down a bit as I experiment elsewhere. If after a few days/weeks of posting privately I think that I’m on to something I’ll share it with you.
Yesterday I read a short story written by Kaye Park Hinckley for the Candlemas 2013 edition of Dappled Things, “a quarterly periodical of ideas, art and faith.” At the end of the story, titled “Dragon”, the main character Liz is having a conversation with an “old, black waitress in a starched white uniform”. Liz has revealed to the waitress secrets she’d meant to hide, certain that she would be shunned. Instead
…she grasped my hand as if she had a God-sent message for me. “Listen Shugah, we all got to pass by the dragon. That fire-breathing sucker’s gonna be there, waiting with his jaws open, ‘cause he’s gotta be fed. Don’t give him nothing else to eat. Go on home and tell ‘em the truth.”
The waitress closes by saying “Bet they’ll love you, no matter what.”
I’m not so sure many love to hear any truth these days outside of their own. We’re becoming a nation of 300 million plus “truths”. We cower before the dragon and feed him lies while on our knees begging him to let us continue living our own truth, our own lies. The dragon’s lips curling into a smile as he hoards our tributes. In his eye our image is reflected back to us as we gaze in numb admiration of what we see.
Quid est veritas? (What is truth? – John 18:38)
To whom much is given much is required.
Veritas vos liberabit. (The truth shall set you free. – John 8:32)
©2013 Jeff A Walker.
— 1 —
The hardest role…the most difficult job…I will have, and have it for the rest of my life, is that of a father. I’ve been a dad for seventeen years. What I’ve learned is that whether for seventeen or seventy (should I live to be 98) I will never stop being a dad and all that role implies. I realize we live in a society that has marginalized fathers, is hostile to them, and finds them wholly unnecessary. Laws and societal norms have been changed and pushed them to the side to the point to where men themselves have thrown up their hands and surrendered in weakness, abdicating their role to the spiritus mundi.
Folly. Weakness. Madness.
I am a father. I am also a dad. My job is not to be my children’s best friend. I challenge them. I correct them. I discipline them. I help and guide, and I try to trust them enough to step out and make their own mistakes once in awhile. When they do I’m there for them. I make mistakes as I’m still learning, too.
And I love them.
I do not abandon them. I practice instead self-abandonment when necessary.
I do not come first. I sacrifice. But I still am a line in the sand. As they get older and more responsible that line becomes more pliable. But it will always be there in case they ask for guidance.
It’s a very hard and frustrating role. It is also the most fulfilling, awesome, amazing thing I will ever do in this lifetime. I will continue to do it for as long as I breathe no matter how much my government or the surrounding culture of experts attempts to fashionably redefine it or tell me I’m unnecessary and a relic of a quaint but distant and unenlightened era.
It’s a challenge to be a father. So I’m not surprised so many men fail or quit.
Along the same lines I saw this pop up on Facebook this week. Reinforcement.
At age 13, I went to my dad to complain about a situation where I didn’t think I was being treated fairly by a coach. My dad listened very closely to the whole story and then looked at me and told me something that stuck with me for the rest of my life… He simply said, “Work harder”, and walked away. Lesson learned. Stop whining and get to work. Instead of rescuing, excusing and enabling our kids by blaming others and fighting battles for them, or going immediately to the AD, principal and school board to demand the coach be fired… think about teaching our kids the simple wisdom of taking responsibility for your own situation. – Proactive Coaching status update on Facebook, April 22, 2013.
— 2 —
Last weekend my oldest and I watched Terrence Malick’s 1998 film The Thin Red Line. He and I have become Malick fans after 2011’s Tree of Life and decided to check out this film. We both agreed it was an excellent film, but at three hours it tended to drag in a few spots. This is not a movie review however. I wanted to highlight a series of questions we heard as the internal thoughts of one of the main characters, Private Witt played by Jim Caviezel. The movie takes place during 1942 at Guadalcanal during World War 2 and provides a glimpse of the brutality and inhumanity of warfare.
We were a family. How’d it break up and come apart, so that now we’re turned against each other? Each standing in the other’s light. How’d we lose that good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered it, careless. What’s keepin’ us from reaching out, touching the glory? ~ Private Witt, The Thin Red Line
I’ve asked myself these same questions a lot lately with regards to our nation…our world…right here in 2013. Two nights ago I found my answer during my nightly reading from Divine Intimacy (Baronius Press, 2010):
To be able to recognize and meet God in every creature, even in the ones that hurt us, offend us, or make us suffer, and in every happening, even the most disagreeable, painful, and disturbing ones—this is a great secret of the interior life. Then the world becomes an open book, on every page of which is written in large letters the one word: God. Before God, His will, His permission, His plans, everything else becomes secondary; we see how stupid it is to fix our gaze on creatures, which are, as it were, only a veil which hides the Creator. We need, however, assiduous practice before we can reach such deep faith.
In my contacts with my neighbor … I can form the habit of greeting Our Lord, present in every creature. … I can see the expression of God’s will in all circumstances—great, small, or even minute—which cause me boredom, uneasiness, suffering, increase of labor, or change of plans. I must learn to see them as the many means which God is using to make me practice virtue—patience, generosity, charity. My hours of prayer must serve to show me all the details of my life in this supernatural light, so that I may always be able to find Our Lord in them.
Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., #163 – The Spirit of Faith (p.473)
We were created in God’s image. But we stopped believing in God. Once we did that our fellow man was no longer an inherently beautiful and unique soul to whom we showed love, patience or understanding. He or she became nothing more than an accident of biology; a mass of cells, muscles and bone. YOLO!
We were created in God’s image. As God and the Son are one, we are made in Jesus’ image as well. Christ is in all of us. Jesus was clear about this in Matthew 25:35-45.
…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’
We are to do this. We fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and strangers. As some fathers have abdicated their roles to their families we as a nation are abdicating our roles to a faceless bureaucracy and what some such as Senator Harry Reid would have us believe is an “inherently good” government. The same government that turns a blind eye and even advocates the dismemberment and murder of the most helpless among us. The same government that went house-to-house in Watertown, MA, kicking families out into the street with armor-plated storm troopers without warrants (goodbye 4th amendment) or ordering them to stay inside, cowering without protection afforded them by the 2nd amendment because they had willingly given up those rights to be sheep.
Like it or not we are called to be sheep to a shepherd. Americans are choosing to be sheep all right. But not sheep following the Good Shepherd.
— 3 —
A respite from all of that to what remains my goal in the next few years:
Walk the Camino and you will never forget entering the forests at sunrise, when the full moon still hangs like an earring from pine branches. The air is cool and fresh, the silence as palpable as an empty cathedral. Many mornings you are the one who awakens the birds so they can begin chirping. How simple it is—walk, eat, sleep, pray—and how overwhelmingly variegated it becomes. Cross 20 rivers and streams, hike through a dozen picturesque villages—many that haven’t changed much since medieval times—trek over a mountain pass or two, and soon you cannot remember half the beauty of a morning, let alone a week. A month down the road and you no longer remember the person you were when you began.
— 4 —
Confession: Last Sunday after drinking some coffee much too late in the day and finding myself wide awake instead of in bed, I tried to watch the popular television series Mad Men. It wasn’t the first time I’ve tried. Of course I’ve read all about it and how it’s the bees knees and the coolest, bestest show in the history of television or something. I lasted just twelve minutes and one commercial break before I wanted to punch Don Draper (the main character we hear sooooooooo much about) in the face. Based upon everything I’ve read by critics and fans of the show he’s pretty much the ass they say he is. Why in the world would I invite that cretin into my home every week? To make myself feel better because I’m not him?
So I watched 2.5 hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until 2:00am instead. Comfort food.
(Please don’t write to tell me this is inconsistent with what I wrote above in Section 2. Mad Men is a television show (I’d argue it’s a cartoon, just as Buffy was) and the characters are not real. But the Mad Men cartoon pisses me off. I don’t watch cartoons to be pissed off.)
— 5 —
As for one of the truly greatest shows in the history of television, if you grew up during the 70s and early 80s you were spending a part of your Saturday nights in front of the tv watching The Carol Burnett Show. And while every week provided a highlight, on this day, Carol Burnett’s 80th birthday, I present what for me is the funniest moment from that show of shows.
Happy birthday Carol. And have a great week everyone!
Apparently I repeated myself. I noticed last night that I’ve written before along the same lines as I did yesterday. Back in August 2012 I wrote about honoring those people (family and saints) with places on the walls of our homes:
That is what we do with the saints. We honor them as family with a place on our “wall.” For the most part the stories are not sugarcoated and lessons are learned from their struggles. Their triumphs are chronicled, too, and especially from those martyred we gain strength in lessons of perseverance and in heavenly reward. It is a reminder that there is more to life than what we see before our eyes.
Maybe that’s where so many struggle today. The walls on their homes are empty. The digital age affords us the ability to take more pictures than ever, but our walls are now on Facebook. The images are not developed and hung in a prominent or more permanent place. It is also my opinion that we have substituted family photos for those of celebrity, whether from the entertainment world or the political. We choose to know every detail of the shallowest of humanity who offer nothing more than an often-repeated example of how not to live our lives.
I guess that after over 500 posts on this blog I need to make sure I haven’t covered a subject before I post.
Above is a photo of the Red Sox plaque on my wall that I mentioned yesterday. If I have this hanging in a prominent place, why not do the same for those whom I really consider role models? I’d start with the following eight persons. If you look closely, aside from their being Catholic, you’ll notice other traits that run as common threads between members of this family.
Eight Family Portraits
Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Who he was: A rich, partying playboy, Francis served a year in a dungeon as a prisoner of war. When finally released he went back to his partying lifestyle and retained his dreams of glory. Before leaving as a knight to join the Fourth Crusade and a chance to achieve his dream, he had a dream in which God told him his designs on glory were wrong and that he was to return home, which he did. In 1219 Francis decided to go to Syria to convert the Moslems while the Fifth Crusade was being fought. In the middle of a battle, Francis decided to do the simplest thing and go straight to the sultan to make peace. When he and his companion were captured, the real miracle was that they weren’t killed. Instead Francis was taken to the sultan who was charmed by Francis and his preaching. Francis’s visit to Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world had far-reaching consequences, long past his own death, since after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom it would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as “Custodians of the Holy Land” on behalf of the Catholic Church.
A story: One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon it as a test from God…that he had passed. (source)
A lesson learned: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance.
Personal story: I took Francis as my confirmation name when I entered the Church twenty Easters ago.
Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Who he was: Born in Poland Kolbe became a Franciscan friar, joining the order founded by Francis of Assisi. Before being ordained as a priest he founded the Immaculata Movement which is devoted to Mary. He was a pioneer in radio and publishing, and at one time his movement’s magazine “The Knight of the Immaculata” had the largest circulation of any periodical in Europe. He traveled to Japan and India before returning to Poland a few years prior to the Nazi invasion of 1939. He was arrested and imprisoned at Auschwitz where he exchanged his life for another condemned man and was put to death in 1941.
A story: Kolbe described the following childhood vision he had of the Virgin Mary: That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both. (source)
A lesson learned: Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.
Personal story: I joined the Knights of the Immaculata in 2001 and since then have worn the Miraculous Medal, much used and distributed by Kolbe, around my neck.
Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)
Who she was: One of thirteen children, at the age of eighteen she wanted to become a nun but was hindered by poor health. She helped her parents until their death and then worked on a farm with her siblings. She taught at a girls’ school for six years and founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals, and took her vows as a nun in 1877. She came to America with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants. She soon founded schools, hospitals and orphanages in the U.S. before her death in Chicago.
A story: In America she found disappointment and difficulties with every step. When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available. The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage. And she did. In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes. (source)
A lesson learned: The compassion and dedication of Mother Cabrini is still seen in hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens, not yet canonized, who care for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and state institutions. We complain of increased medical costs in an affluent society, but the daily news shows us millions who have little or no medical care, and who are calling for new Mother Cabrinis to become citizen-servants of their land.
Personal story: I first heard of Frances Cabrini around ten years ago during a story told by my priest upon the death of his mother. He said “My mom was a devoted woman of great faith. One of my childhood memories is of mom driving around the stores in downtown Lincoln seeking that elusive parking space. She would say ‘Mother Cabrini, don’t be a meanie. Find me a parking space.’ And each time she would find one!”
John Vianney (1786-1859)
Who he was: The fourth of six children, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815 and made a parish priest of Ars, a small remote French hamlet of 230 people, in 1818. It was there that his reputation as a confessor and spiritual advisor grew until he was known throughout the Christian world. A mystic who had great patience, he was loved by the crowds but retained his childlike simplicity. It was well known that he heard confessions from people who travelled from all over the world to see him, with the lines lasting often for 16-18 hours each day. By 1855 the number of pilgrims who came to see him reached 20,000 a year. He, too, was a Franciscan.
A story: By 1790, the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the government in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. In order to attend Mass, even though it was illegal, the Vianneys travelled to distant farms where they could pray in secret. Since the priests risked their lives day by day, Vianney began to look upon priests as heroes. His First Communion lessons were publicly carried out in a public home by three priests. He made his first communion at the age of 13. During the Mass, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from the outside. (source)
A lesson learned: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained.
Personal story: I own two books that contain sermons by Vianney. They pull no punches and are among the most challenging pages I’ve ever read. I can see why modern men and women would avoid reading Vianney. I can also see why so many do.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Who she was: As a teenager she cared only about boys and clothing and flirting and rebelling. When she was 16 her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she started to enjoy it – partly because of her growing love for God and partly because the convent wasn’t as strict as her father. She eventually chose religious life over married life and once installed at the Carmelite convent she began to learn and practice mental prayer. She is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites and in 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer, one of four women to be honored in this way.
A story: Her last words were “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.”
A lesson learned: The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer. As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman. (source)
Personal story: I am in awe of Teresa having read my way through half of her classic book The Interior Castle. She is a model of contemplative prayer. After her death a bookmark was found in which she had written:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.
It is one of my favorite prayers and a bookmark in my copy of The Liturgy of the Hours.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
Who he was: Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. During the Battle of Pamplona a cannon ball and series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. When recovering, Ignatius read a commentary on the life of Jesus Christ called De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony and was to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labor for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. He wrote on of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written, the famous Spiritual Exercises. He founded The Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. In September 1523, Loyola reached the Holy Land to settle there, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans. (source)
A story: Ignatius was dominated all his life by a desire to imitate Christ. His Spiritual Exercises, written over a number of years, are a series of reflections, examinations of conscience, and prayers, grouped according to a traditional set of four steps leading to mystical union with God. The spirituality identified with St. Ignatius is characterized by emphasis on human initiative. His little book is a classic of Christian mysticism and is much used by devout Catholics.
A lesson: Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.” It is probably true that the picture of Ignatius that most people have is that of a soldier: stern, iron-willed, practical, showing little emotion – not a very attractive or warm personality. Yet if this picture is exact, it is hard to see how he could have had such a strong influence on those who knew him. Luis Goncalves de Camara, one of his closest associates, wrote, “He (Ignatius) was always rather inclined toward love; moreover, he seemed all love, and because of that he was universally loved by all.
Personal story: I attended a weekend retreat in the spring of 2010 led by Fr. Timothy Gallagher who has authored several books on Ignatian spirituality. This peaked my interest in contemplative prayer and spirituality and I began to go deeper into both Carmelite and Ignatian spirituality. Last fall I attended a four-day silent Ignatian retreat. It was one of the most powerful few days of my life.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942)
Who she was: Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Poland, the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She was an outstanding student and excelled in philosophy with a particular interest in phenomenology. She fell away from her Jewish faith and became an atheist as a teenager. Eventually she became interested in the Catholic faith and was baptized a Catholic in 1922. In 1933 Edith entered the Carmelite convent in Cologne, Germany. However, the Nazis knew she had Jewish roots and as she wasn’t safe she was moved to the Carmelite convent in Echt, Holland. When the Nazis conquered Holland they arrested Edith and her sister Rosa and immediately sent them to Auschwitz by train, where she died in the gas chambers in 1942.
A story: On August 7th, 1942, the transport in which Sister Benedicta and her sister Rosa were traveling to her death at Auschwitz, stopped at the train station of Schifferstadt, not far from the town of Speyer where Stein had lived and taught for so many years at a Dominican school. Apparently the prisoners were allowed some access to the outside air as the train waited on a side rail. Stein identified herself to the station master, Valentine Fouquet; and she sent greetings to the Schwind family, who resided nearby, and to the sisters of St. Magdalena’s convent. She then added the comment, “We are heading east.” Later that same day, having been transferred to a cattle train, she reportedly stopped briefly in her old hometown of Breslau, and was reportedly sighted by the postal worker, Johannes Weiners, who was working in the railroad depot in Breslau (now in Poland). Weiners noticed the nun appearing at the entrance of the railway car as the door was slid open by a guard. After their initial conversation, Sister Benedicta looked around to see where she was; then she said: “This is my beloved hometown. I will never see it again.” She added: “We are riding to our death.” Johannes Weiners asked her: “Do your companion prisoners believe that also?” She answered: “It’s better that they do not know it.”
A lesson: The account continues with a description of the postal workers arguing among themselves whether or not they should do anything for those in the railway car. When some of them asked her if they could bring them any food or drink, she answered: “No, thank you, we accept nothing.” These gentle words of refusal, of gratitude, and of detachment are the final words recorded from her. If Sister Benedicta spoke these words as a way to protect the railroad workers from retribution, then the act of charity through self-denial, would have freed the postal workers from their difficult situation. Other accounts of people who observed Sister Benedicta during the transport to her death record that she gave special attention to the needs of the children and of their mothers during this traumatic time. (source, page 21)
Personal story: I don’t really have one with regards to Stein. But I’m fascinated by this brilliant woman who was born a devout Jew, became an atheist, a philosopher of high regard, and eventually a Catholic nun.
Thomas More (1478-1535)
Who he was: More studied law at Oxford before embarking on a legal career which took him to Parliament. Known for his wit and as a reformer, this learned man listed bishops and scholars among his friends, and in 1516 wrote his famous book Utopia. He was appointed by King Henry VIII to a succession of high posts and missions before being named Lord Chancellor in 1529. He resigned in 1532 when Henry persisted in pressuring More to approve of Henry’s desire to divorce Queen Katherine of Aragon and marry his lover. In 1534 More refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower of London as a prisoner. Fifteen months later he was convicted of treason. On the scaffold moments before he was to be beheaded More told the crowd that he was dying as “the King’s good servant—but God’s first.” (source)
A story: When the executioner offered to blindfold him, More said that he would do this himself. But after he had stretched his head over the low block—it was merely a log of wood—he made a signal to the man to wait a moment. Then he made his last joke: His beard was lying on the block and he would like to remove it. At least that had committed no treason. The heavy axe went slowly up, hung a moment in the air and fell.
A lesson learned: Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to our time. In fact, in 2000, Pope John Paul II named him patron of political leaders. The supreme diplomat and counselor, he did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. King Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king had to get rid of Thomas More.
Personal story: Utopia and The Sadness of Christ (a meditation on the Christ’s passion written while he was imprisoned in the Tower) are on my shelves and two of my favorite books. In an age where religious freedom is being removed from the public square, More is increasingly a role model for our era.
My next eight? I’m going with Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Katherine Drexel, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Edmond Campion and the apostles John and Peter.
I haven’t posted a Friday Five yet in 2013 but have had a few requests to do so. I’m a little rusty but here goes…
(Admin: obviously I’m rusty as I hit the “Publish” button two days early instead of the “Preview” button. Ugh.)
— 1 —
A quote from the Terrence Malick film The Thin Red Line that seemed especially appropriate this week:
“This great evil. Where does it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doin’ this? Who’s killin’ us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin’ us with the sight of what we might’ve known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?”
— 2 —
After their album Advent at Ephesus spent six weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Music chart in 2012, The Benedictines of Mary are recording once again and will be releasing Angels and Saints at Ephesus on May 7, 2013.
From an Editorial Review on Amazon.com:
Angels and Saints at Ephesus features 17 English and Latin pieces sung a cappella on the feasts of the holy Saints and angels throughout the year at their Priory in the heart of America. In the pure fusion of their now well established bell-like choir sound, the Sisters once again radiate peace with their hymns of Praise of God in the company of all of His angels and Saints.
Here’s a preview:
I own Advent at Ephesus and very much enjoyed it during Advent. And I enjoyed it during Christmas and into Easter.
H/T: The Chant Café
— 3 —
A little over a year ago I read the story of Grant Desme, a former second-round draft choice of the Oakland A’s. At the age of 23 and on the verge of realizing his dream to play in the major leagues the star center fielder and 2009 Arizona Fall League MVP announced his retirement from the game. He didn’t leave baseball due to injury. There was no drug abuse scandal or otherwise. So why did he give up baseball and all the worldly goods that accompany the status of a major leaguer?
For the answer to that you have to read the interview in the National Catholic Register with Brother Matthew Desme of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. I was struck by a number of things that Brother Desme spoke about in the interview, but this part in particular stood out to me:
I was living out every young man’s dream. I was playing well enough to be a Major League Baseball player. I had a big, shiny SUV and even bigger bank account. That’s what most people would think of as being at the pinnacle of manhood. You’ve got all these things that display how strong and capable you are: You become better known, people want to be around you, and everything looks great.
That’s a very superficial form of masculinity, though. It’s based on externals and trying to put yourself before others. I’ve since learned an authentic masculinity based on self-sacrificing love. Being a man is not about stepping on others, but lifting others up. It’s about using the God-given strength you have to protect others and guide them to eternal life.
Some people have the idea — which I shared at one time — that Christianity is kind of a soft religion, not worth giving much attention to. What I’ve come to know, however, is that if you truly attempt to live it out, Christianity is anything but soft. A sincere attempt to be a follower of Jesus requires nothing less than a complete dedication of your entire being.
You’ll want to read it all.
— 4 —
In early April I came across this story on The History Blog about Notre Dame de Paris receiving a set of new bells for her 850th birthday. The article contains an excellent history of the bells, much of which I didn’t know, and links to various articles and videos on YouTube of the dedication ceremony. One of the links to Turkish Weekly describes the reaction to those hearing all ten bells peal together on Palm Sunday for the first time in over two hundred years.
The heart of Paris went suddenly silent as, for the first time in more than two centuries, 10 bells pealed out from Notre Dame Cathedral to thousands gathered to hear them on a sunny afternoon.
Some, like San Francisco tourist Faith Fuller, were moved to tears.
“They made me cry…this is 850 years of history of a fantastic cathedral. And I’m here in an historic moment…hearing the bells ring for the first time. So it’s emotional for me, and beautiful.”
I grew up in small towns on the Great Plains of America where one would hear church bells ring not only on Sunday mornings, but also to mark certain points of each day. One of my early memories as a first and second grader was when me and the other small children of Fedora, South Dakota, would ask our minister to be the ones allowed to pull on the big rope just inside the doors of our small church to ring the bells before and after Sunday services.
It is not just a sense of childhood nostalgia that makes me feel that we have lost something by eradicating the neighborhood or community bells. It’s not as if the sound of the bells is causing people to lose sleep or disturb their quiet Sundays. From spring to fall my neighborhood Sunday mornings are instead disturbed by the buzzing of weed trimmers or the roaring of lawn mowers. As bell maker Paul Bergamo said “I think that people rediscover [their humanity] when you do a project of bells, it’s like evangelization. Because it’s a project where you federate people. It’s not only a project of bells, it’s a human project. And I think people, believers or not, need these kinds of projects just to go ahead, to progress.”
To read more about the nine new bells to go with one of the originals, Emmanuel, as well as seeing the fascinating process used in the manufacturing of large bells, go here. The nine new bells were christened as Marie, Gabriel, Anne-Genevieve, Denis, Marcel, Stephen, Benedict Joseph, Maurice and Jean-Marie.
This is the video of the bell ringing event held outside the cathedral after Palm Sunday mass. It’s very long, so if you’d like to cut to chase, 12:15 – 21:50 is the ten tower bells rung in groups from largest to smallest, 43:20 – 45:18 is all ten tower bells rung with three from the spire for additional flavor, and at 58:12 is the “Grand Solemnity,” kicked off by Emmanuel followed by Marie and then the eight smaller ones.
Fedora Church photo courtesy of Penny Postcards from South Dakota
— 5 —
It was twenty years ago this past Easter that I became a Catholic during the Easter Vigil Mass at what is today still my home parish. I was taking baby steps towards becoming Catholic for a few years prior to meeting my future wife, herself a Catholic, and having the process sped along. What Archbishop Sheen said below was along my same line of thought prior to my conversion. He just said it a heck of a lot more eloquently than I could.
“If I Were Not A Catholic…”
by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (web source)
“If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hated. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church that is accused of being behind the times, as our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men. Look for the Church which amid the confusions of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly it is other worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. But only that which is Divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved. Therefore the Church is Divine.”
(This is likely my final post for awhile. I am exploring the possibilities of creating another blog that will be dedicated to the work I have begun on a devotional based upon John’s gospel. It exists on the written page in my journals for now and is a work in progress. If I feel it is passing muster I may pursue that course. Or I’ll continue here, until such time that I am deemed too extreme.
One more thing. There are those who will attempt to write this off as a screed, or a rant. If they feel this way it is perhaps because something I say touches a very raw nerve with them. I was quite calm and matter-of-fact when I wrote this last night. Were I typing with righteous rage or even indignation I’m not sure I would have been able to stay focused.)
“The fact that a chaotic and ill-educated time cannot clearly grasp the truth does not alter the fact that it always will be the truth.” ~ G.K. Chesterton: ‘Illustrated London News,’ 3/23/29.
Truth is not determined by a majority vote. Nor is it determined through a redefining of said truth. I can stand in front of Mt. Everest all day long for the rest of my life shouting “This is not a mountain, it’s an elm tree!” But doing so would not make Mt. Everest an elm tree.
Being Catholic is being countercultural and going against the pop-culture’s flow. Because of this simple fact I suppose it should have come as no surprise to me to learn that my government is on the fast-track to labeling me and my fellow Catholics as extremists. Oh, wait…it’s already happening at the U.S. Department of Defense:
Wow. This is not good. The Department of Defense in a training brief for military reservists reportedly lists “Catholicism” alongside other examples of “religious extremism” such as Al Qaeda and Hamas.
That’s right, your taxpayer money is going towards training reservists to view Catholics as dangerous as terror groups intent on America’s destruction.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) issued a statement about this.
From the DoD presentation, here’s the slide in question:
As an FYI about the term “Christian Identity”, it is defined a few slides earlier in this document:
Christian Identity: These letters stand for Christian Identity, which holds that white Europeans—not Jews—are the real Biblical “Chosen People,” that the white race is inherently superior, that Blacks and other nonwhite races are soulless “mud peoples” on the same level as animals, and that Jews are descendants of Satan.
Yeah, I…and every Catholic I know…do not fall into that category. Are there sadly some that do? Probably. It’s a big world. I had not heard the term before and wanted to be sure I understood what terms the Southern Poverty Law Center, hardly a friend to persons of faith, was using.
And so I am an extremists, but this man and others like him who seek to squelch the free exchange of ideas is not. He is simply the latest cause célèbre:
The University of Waterloo’s “Vagina Man protest” made news all over North America. A headline from an American blog of considerable reach, “Giant Vagina Man shouts down pro-life speaker at University of Waterloo,” was the rough template for stories everywhere. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was the object of this eerie display, which succeeded in disrupting his talk.
How did the vagina man — and his accomplice, a woman whose own contribution to the seminar consisted of shouting “c–t” repeatedly and angrily barking slogans at the speaker — come to believe that raucous behaviour, vulgar shouting, disruption and insult amount to either discussion or meaningful protest? Especially within a university. Their behaviour was anti-intellectual, anti-dialogue, anti-exchange and debate.
It is not so much these two that concern me. It is the rash of similarly empty protests that now crowd the university calendars all over North America. How do these connect with any real university’s mission: The assertion of the primacy of intellect, the value of debate, the imperatives of challenging one’s biases, of dissent that does not exclude respect for a contending view.
The answer? There is no connection. But Vagina Man is to be celebrated. If you hold to a truth no longer recognized by the world and is in fact singled out for redefinition? You, sir/madam, are an extremist.
I won’t be posting a photo related to my second example. This man isn’t celebrated, though his profession is. Kermit Gosnell is being ignored because he is an inconvenient face to the realities of his chosen profession. The mask has been ripped once and for all off of this horror and there is no way that those who worship at this altar want the successes of this monster known to the world because of the damage it would do to their cause. While I type the word “successes” with bile in my mouth what else would those who are in favor of what he does define his body of work? It’s time to be honest with one another, shall we?
It doesn’t matter to any of you when the baby dies, or how the baby dies, or where the baby dies, just as long as the baby dies. That is what you’re really all about, and not another breath should be wasted trying to say otherwise. No more soft-peddling with euphemisms and tip-toeing around the truth.
You are all advocates for killing defenseless children. You are not advocates for women’s health care, or women’s equality, or women’s freedom. You are advocates of child murder. If you find that statement harsh, too bad. You have gotten this far only because too many people are too squeamish to call things what they really are. The evil you do has thrived only because people are unwilling to confront you honestly and tear the sympathetic masks off your faces.
Jennifer Hartline has written one of the best articles documenting the failure of America’s leaders and its media to discuss what history will judge to be a failure on their part to inform its citizens about the evils this man has done. (Warning: while I can’t recommend this article highly enough I do want to warn those with squeamish stomachs about a graphic photo of “Baby Boy B” on page one of this two page piece. I have seen the image before as it was part of the original grand jury report released in January 2011.)
But remember kids: Catholics are the extremists.
And so in the interests of clearing the air and ensuring everyone knows just what sort of extremist they are dealing with, I thought I’d list a few of my beliefs as an extreme Catholic. These are pretty radical and if you are still reading may finally be enough for you to walk away from me in disgust. I just figured I’d better get that out there ahead of time.
I hold that the Gospels are true. I believe in the three-legged stool of the Catholic faith: Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium.
I believe that the Apostles’ Creed, the same creed I recite at the beginning of each and every rosary, is the epitome of Christian doctrine. In twelve articles, it contains the truths taught by the Apostles. It has existed essentially since the second century and was first referred to in the fourth century. The earliest text dates from the eighth century.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
I believe in the seven Sacraments as outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace.
I believe that while that while the story of Jesus Christ was made known in the New Testament, I believe that it was foretold in the Old Testament.
I believe in the sanctity and dignity of all life.
I believe in faith and reason.
I believe in science and its advances. Many of history’s greatest scientists were Catholic monks or laypersons.
I believe my greatest failures come from pride, or putting myself above God. This usually happens when I say “So what if I did that? God made me this way.” It happens when the world says:
- “Your Honor, I know I raped 30 women. But God made me that way.”
- “No I’m not going to look for a job. God made me lazy.”
- “You may not like me sleeping with prostitutes and bringing VD into our marital bed, but your problem is with God because he made me this way.”
We wouldn’t accept these types of excuses from ourselves or from our children or loved ones, would we? And yet it’s obvious that we do, and now apply this same lack of standard to almost everything under the sun and use it as a means to force everyone to lower their standards through bullying, ridicule and even economic and legislative threats. As I said at the beginning my attempts to re-name something to fit my own personal desires or because that particular object is broken or suffering from the failings of humanity is not a tactic of reason. For example, at this very moment my Ford Explorer is sitting in my driveway immobile and in need of a $2000 repair. It’s still an automobile no matter how many times I want to call it something else.
I believe I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I recognize this and am constantly striving to imitate Christ and better myself as a human being. I, better than anyone else, know and recognize my faults and my sins. While I am far from perfect I do not suffer from interminable Catholic guilt, for I know the graces of forgiveness that comes from the Sacrament of Confession. Nor do I make attempts to legislate my sins into law, or force others to not just recognize them but celebrate them.
I believe in the Corporal Works of Mercy. I am not doing them to the extent that I know I am called to do. I am not perfect. I will continue to improve and to grow.
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit the imprisoned
- Bury the dead
I believe in and practice Spiritual Works of Mercy. I am not doing them to the extent that I know I am called to do. I am not perfect. I will continue to improve and to grow.
- Counsel the doubtful
- Instruct the ignorant
- Admonish the sinner
- Comfort the sorrowful
- Forgive injuries
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Pray for the living and the dead
No government has ever succeeded in performing the first seven. No government would ever allow any one or any thing to perform the second seven except to the extent where the state has become god and defines what doubt, ignorance, sin, sorrow and forgiveness means. The only wrongs we would need to bear are those inflicted upon us by the state for “our own good”. The only prayers prayed are towards our benevolent leaders or those of the past (See also 20th century Soviet Union, the current North Korea and Iran). That is why the Catholic Church has always been a threat to worldly governments and tyrants.
And why I am now considered an extremist by my own government.
My oldest son’s Catholic high school baseball team designed their own undershirts that have the stitches of a baseball in the shape of the cross on a sleeve. Below the image it says “Romans 5:3-5”.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
We rejoice in our suffering as it leads to hope. We are a nation that has a distorted view of suffering and seek to avoid any and all kinds through the soft drugs of distraction provided by our government and its media. We lack endurance. We have very little character. We despair due to having little hope.
Being a faithful Catholic is challenging and at times very hard. It is not a giant buffet whereby I pick and choose from among Christianity’s tenets and ignore those I do not like. It’s all or nothing. You have to go “all in.”
It is extremely difficult but just as rewarding.
Yep. I really am an extremist. I’m good with that.
Holy Saturday. Christ in the tomb, apparently dead to the world. Dead to those who swore they would never abandon him, yet did. Peter, inconsolable.
While sitting here just now the final words of Captain Miller in the movie Saving Private Ryan came into my mind. I was mediating upon the quote from St. Bonaventure below and suddenly there I was, on the bridge with Miller and Private James Francis Ryan. The words Miller spoke to his young charge are no less than the words spoken to me on this day of waiting and of prayer. I have the benefit of knowing what will come with the dawn on Easter Sunday. For those to whom the Resurrection had not yet occurred “Earn this” may have fallen on deaf and grief-stricken ears. He had not risen. They knew nothing of the Pentecost to come. All they knew is that all of their bluster and bravado had failed when it counted most and their Master was dead.
But not so for us. We are an Easter People. We know the Dawn.
His sacrifice. Our freedom.
“O good Jesus, how generously have You given us, on the Cross, all You had! To Your executioners, Your loving prayer; to the thief, Paradise; to Your Mother, a son, and to the son, a Mother; to the dead, You gave back life, and you placed Your soul in Your Father’s hands; You showed Your power to the entire world, and shed, through Your wide and numerous wounds, not a few drops, but all Your Blood, to redeem a slave! … O meek Lord and Savior of the world, how can we thank You worthily?” (St. Bonaventure*)
How can we thank Him worthily?
We can strive to earn what we did not deserve, yet was so freely given.
*Divine Intimacy, by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. (Baronius Press, 2010). p. 401.
How can we point our finger at Simon Peter
for something we ourselves have done
and will continue to do?
Source: Mark 14:66-72
This week I read the following letter that should frankly cause every Christian to pause and think of how they view and treat others, whether sitting in a pew with them at church or not. It is to everyone of all beliefs and faiths, but most especially to Christians, that I’m writing this post.
To the churches concerning those who are overweight:
Many of you believe that we do not exist within your walls, your schools, your neighborhoods. You believe that we are few and easily recognized. I tell you we are many. We are your teachers, doctors, accountants, high school athletes. We are all colors, shapes, sizes. We are single, married, mothers, fathers. We are your sons, your daughters, your nieces, your nephews, your grandchildren. We are in your Sunday School classes, pews, choirs, and pulpits. You choose not to see us out of ignorance or because it might upset your congregation. We ARE your congregation. We enter your doors weekly seeking guidance and some glimmer of hope that we can change. Like you, we have invited Jesus into our hearts. Like you, we want to be all that Christ wants us to be. Like you, we pray daily for guidance. Like you, we often fail.
When the word “gluttony” is mentioned in the church, we hold our breaths and sit in fear. Most often this word is followed with condemnation, laughter, hatred, or jokes. Rarely do we hear any words of hope. At least we recognize our sin. Does the church as a whole see theirs? Do you see the sin of pride, that you are better than or more acceptable to Jesus than we are? Have you been Christ-like in your relationships with us? Would you meet us at the well, or restaurant, for a cup of water, or coffee? Would you touch us even if we showed signs of leprosy, or aids? Would you call us down from our trees, as Christ did Zacchaeus, and invite yourself to be our guest? Would you allow us to sit at your table and break bread? Can you love us unconditionally and support us as Christ works in our lives, as He works in yours, to help us all to overcome?
To those of you who would change the church to accept the overweight community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum. “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” You are willing to compromise the word of God to be politically correct. We are not deceived. If we accept your willingness to compromise, then we must also compromise. We must therefore accept your lying, your adultery, your lust, your idolatry, your addictions, YOUR sins. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.
A Sister in Christ
Before you roll your eyes at what you perceive as someone being oversensitive I want to mention that I can relate to this letter. I’m 6’4” and tilt the scales at just under or over 300 pounds, depending upon the day. While my height (and XXXL sweatshirts) help me to vainfully hide some of the excess, and people are kind in their remarks, I know. I know more than anyone else the truth of my sin. Yes, gluttony is a sin. One of the seven deadlies in fact.
(My other stubborn sin is pride. Perhaps that’s why I consistently refuse to self-edit and wind up with 2000 word posts.)
Sin is sin. There is not a cosmic scale or rating system somewhere by which sin is measured. And since we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” it makes sense that the last thing one should do is point the finger at someone else and gossip/punish/revel in their sin. In that quoted passage in Romans 3:23 we learn that all without distinction (Jews, Gentiles, etc.) fall short and sin. The exception was Jesus Christ, and it is because of his redemptive sacrifice that we are “justified by his grace as a gift.” (Romans 3:24) He paid our ransom by expiating (wiping away) our sins with his blood. (Romans 3:25)
My sin of gluttony is therefore in the eyes of God equal to lust; overeating is the same as cheating on my wife. It is also equal to sins of pride, anger, envy, sloth, and covetousness. What I ask for and pray for from my fellow parishioners and Christian friends is the same as the woman who wrote the above letter. Support. Love. Guidance. Hope. Someone to work with me “to see that we all arrive safely home.” Because overeating can be unhealthy and shorten my time on earth. It holds a danger to me. And so I look to you, the Body of Christ, to assist me in this struggle.
On pages 850-851 of The Catholic Bible Dictionary sin is defined as “any thought, word, or deed that transgresses the law of God. In the famous words of Saint Augustine, sin is ‘something said, done, or desired that is contrary to the eternal law’.” It goes on to say
Sin is first and foremost an offense against God through a failure to love. It is also an action against reason, truth, and conscience; oftentimes it involves a failure to love one’s neighbor as well. In all cases, sin damages personal relationships, whether between man and man, or between man and God. The Old Testament describes sin as a breaking of the covenant that was meant to bind the Lord and his people together in family unity. The New Testament shows how Jesus Christ came to repair the damage of sin and to reconcile the human family with the heavenly Father.
As Christians we are to not just have a relationship with Jesus, but to have a friendship with all of our human brothers and sisters for they are created in the image and likeness of God. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Sin takes that outward love we show for our God and our neighbor and turns it inwards, unto ourselves. It becomes a self love and a vehicle for use through abuse. Some examples to illustrate this are
- I overeat because I lack discipline. I tell myself I love food and use it to justify my actions. I use food.
- I watch pornography because it gives me a connection to something that isn’t real at the detriment of real relationships and objectifies my fellow human beings. I use them.
It’s all about relationship. Relationship with Jesus and with those we come in contact with each day. We can’t have an open or meaningful relationship of any kind if we sit in judgment of others. How can I have any kind of foundation of trust with you if I know you are wagging your tongue behind my back at every parish fish fry or “coffee and rolls” event after Mass? And how can you do anything other than cast a wary eye at me if I am constantly railing against God and His unfair rules against my weight? I was born this way perhaps, but ultimately as a professing Christian I choose not to lobby for bigger pews, a changing of the BMI index, or the striking of the word gluttony from the list that was written by God. We all have our crosses to carry. Must I carry your cross of un-Christian charity as well? I’m trying, I really am. I struggle with my appetite. I know I need to cut back or to take action with exercise. I pray for the strength to bear this burden every day and at every Mass because with each passing year time is running out for me. I can no longer just put it off and hope for the best. I need your support.
Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” So what did He come to make new?
Our hearts. He came to renew our hearts.
As Christians we are all called to imitate Christ. We are to love our God and our neighbors. To let Him work on our cold, hard hearts and renew them in love, both phileo (friendship) and agape (committed and unconditional). Where we get off the rails is by substituting eros, or sexual love. This usage of love does not appear anywhere in the New Testament.
It can be painful, this warming of our hearts. Ice cracks when it thaws and no less so will our hearts. And yet if we are to truly treat others as we are called to do we will not sit in cold judgment of them. Nor will we try to force them to treat us better by advocating a changing of the rules or rubrics of our faith. We all need to welcome this thaw in our hearts and purge it of our sin and live the virtues to which we are called. How can we expect others to respect virtue if we ourselves do not?
Fellow Christians, it is time to live our faith. I’m tired of reading the same old condemnations coming from those who have been given the cold shoulder by a church or a church member. By purporting to be a Christian and then acting in this manner you are not helping. Likewise I am tired of reading the same old condemnations by those, often members of the faith, who demand the Church not just recognize their sin, but to endorse it as well. Both groups have to set aside their pride and tendencies towards judgment and do and/or accept what to them will probably be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the only way. Our current man-made self-centered model certainly isn’t working.
And now I have a confession to make. I altered the letter above by changing it in three places. The letter is in fact real but it is not about obesity (though gluttony is in fact a sin I struggle with). The letter is about homosexuality. I changed the following:
- To the churches concerning those who are overweight:
- Was originally “To the churches concerning those who are homosexuals and lesbians:”
- When the word “gluttony” is mentioned in the church, …
- Was originally “When the word “homosexual” is mentioned in the church, …”
- To those of you who would change the church to accept the overweight community and its lifestyle: …
- Was originally “To those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: …”
Are you mad? Do you feel like I set you up? I suppose I did. But whether the author of that letter was writing about those in the churches who are adulterers, drug addicts, porn addicts, food addicts, or homosexuals, she made a great point for both sides of the fence to consider. You can read the original letter here. Will you reject her premise because she is writing as a Christian lesbian? Do you only point to paragraph three as where she is speaking in truth, the truth you care about? Are you also equally convicted by paragraphs 1, 2 and 4?
In his new book Reflections on the Christian Life author Anthony Esolen wrote something that struck me as relevant to this post. He’s telling the true story of an unbaptized college student who while attending an class BBQ said out loud that in his opinion Saint Paul was a bigot because of things he’d written in the Bible. A young Roman Catholic in attendance heard the student, put down his plate and began to talk to him. Esolen goes on:
Then the young Catholic defended the honor of Saint Paul, in the midst of people who believed and those who did not believe. He said that Paul had turned the world upside down. For from now on it would mean nothing to have been born a Greek or a Jew, a freeman or a slave. Nothing, that is in comparison with Baptism. For that is the moment upon which everything in our lives depends. When we die, now, it is not the passing away of our bodily functions that we are talking about. We die to our old selves in Baptism. We drown those old selves in grace. We die with the crucified Christ and then live with the risen Christ. Then, members of one body, we look upon one another and say, “My brother in the Lord!” That is to look upon bigotry as from an infinite height and instead to love the gifts that God has bestowed upon one’s brother or sister. (emphasis mine)
We are members of one body. Isn’t it about time we acted like it?
©2013 Jeff A Walker
The other day I touched on the subject of men and of fatherhood. I’m going to expand in my own way (meaning this may get long again people…sorry) on this subject. As someone who reads (too many) headlines and stories each day one can’t help but begin to see a pattern in our modern world. It’s a disturbing one.
If I had a modicum of talent I’d write something as good as Heather King did on Tuesday. If I had even more humility I’d just stop writing now and tell you to just read her post. But I want to add some thoughts of my own at the moment. But first, an excerpt from Heather:
How can you tell people you have been saved from the abyss and thus live in state of insane bizarre grace and that you offer up your sexuality out of love? That to manage and control human creation, to the lover of Christ, seems monstrous? That when we say “I believe in God” we are really saying, “I view life as a gift, not as a possession”…
So it’s not a matter of being right on social justice and wrong on sex (nor of celibacy being a higher calling than marriage): it’s a matter of the ground of existence, whatever our station in life, being love. It’s a matter of worshiping an entirely different Master than the world, whose gods are security, comfort, efficiency, power, property, prestige and control. I wanted to say to my friend, Haven’t you ever wanted to bow your head in wonder? Haven’t you ever looked around for Someone to thank? In so many words I did say those things, and then I wrenched my hands, for I could feel her embarrassment for me and my “archaic” views, and stammered: “I actually believe it…I believe Christ is the Savior of the world”….
(Seriously, she’s fantastic in this piece and if you wish to save yourself ten minutes just click here.)
For those of you still with me Heather got me to thinking about something I talked about last night during the final class I taught on lectio divina. In her book Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell writes that “Catholic tradition honors freedom but teaches that freedom is ordered toward virtue and that its misuse will guarantee the loss of freedom.” She continues:
A lot of people have the belief that “habits” are dull and difficult, a hindrance to the freedom and spontaneity that they imagine must come with being truly “spiritual.” But in fact habits make us free, and spontaneity can often be a prison. Show me a music pupil who will not practice but insists on playing “how I feel,” and I will show you a music student who never learns to play anything very well. Show me a child who has not had parents who drilled “Please” and “Thank You” into him or her until they are habitual, and I will show you a child imprisoned in selfish rudeness whose prospects for friendship, creativity, and even a happy life are changed and even limited. The piano student who develops the habit of practice eventually reaches the point where he knows the keyboard so well that he is free to play what he pleases. Good habits free us. It is only bad habits that enslave us.
We speak of good habits as being “second nature” to us. In the case of the Christian life, this is not mere metaphor, for Scripture tells us that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4) when we are “born from on high” in baptism. And the purpose of the sacraments is to instill grace in us and strengthen us so that we can live out the life of the Blessed Trinity. The key to all this is incarnation: making the Word incarnate in our lives by actually obeying Jesus and imitating Him. And the point is in the doing, not merely in thinking or feeling.
People, especially we Americans, have a natural aversion to authority. We are proud of our fiercely independent streak. (Ironic considering so many now seem to favor a government that is more authoritarian nanny-state and confiscatory than ever.) We’re so proud that we’ve become blinded by this pride. Habits of virtue are seen as a prison. No…not seen. Scorned. Spurned. Mocked. To have any outward appearance of a virtue is ridiculed as backwards and out of touch.
In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape, a distinguished bureaucrat in the “lowerarchy” of hell, writes advice to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter out in the field who is trying to damn his first human soul. Within this dialogue we are treated to a view of the life of grace from the perspective of hell, where God is “the Enemy” and Satan is “Our Father Below.” In Screwtape’s upside-down universe, the hellish perspective on the moral life is revealed:
Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.
The very last thing the devil wants us to put into practice are any insights or guidance we might receive from God, His Word, or His Church. If we are kept merely thinking, or even fantasizing, about faith or virtue to the point of just having warm fuzzies about them he is content. Virtue that is not practiced, but merely approved of by us in our quiet moments, is worthless. History tells us that the Pharisees approved of virtue but did not practice it either.
We seem to have a genius for missing the truth that Jesus taught us to hear the Word of God and to do it, as he explained to Martha. We will hear the Word and we will speculate about it, but we won’t do it. We will hear the Word and feel good about it, but not do it. We can hear the Word and tell others about it, but not do it. We hear the Word and tell ourselves we’ll get right on it, and not do it. None of these things will build our habits of virtue…the same habits that will enable us to show love in our actions, not just in our words.
In today’s society we see the opposite championed. Not actions but feelings rule the day. Here are two pulled directly from the headlines I read this very hour. The first is this one:
A Massachusetts principal has been criticized for canceling his school’s Honors Night, saying it could be ‘devastating’ to the students who worked hard, but fell short of the grades.
MyFoxBoston.com reports that David Fabrizio, principal of Ipswich Middle School, notified parents last week of his plan to eliminate the event.
“The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average,” Fabrizio penned in his first letter to parents, the station reported.
“…can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard…but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average.” This line stood out and reminded me of a line from the movie “The Incredibles”:
And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super…no one will be.
So I’m guessing this also means no merit pay increases for teachers and administrators, right Principal Fabrizio? No “Educator of the Month/Year” awards? No more keeping score at your junior high athletic events? No more grades or report cards? Where does this stupidity end? Our schools, society, and yes, failing parents are teaching our kids the following anti-virtues:
- Irrational aversion to authority
- Refusal to use legitimately use the authority one has
- Titillation and irresponsibility regarding sexuality
- General irresponsibility and a lack of personal accountability
- Demanding all of one’s rights but avoiding most of one’s responsibilities
- Blaming others for one’s own personal failings
- Being dominated by one’s emotions and carried away easily by the passions
- Obsession with fairness evidenced by the frequent cry, “It’s not fair!”
- Expecting others and government agencies to do for me what I should do for myself
- Aversion to instruction
So in our schools today are administrators that do not want to hurt the feelings of those who try but fall short. That do not want to prepare their charges for the hard world that awaits them upon graduation. That wishes instead to coddle them and suffocate them beneath the blanket of feel-good wishy-washness. That doesn’t want to teach them that there is wrong and right in the world. That refuses to teach virtue…
…which leads to this ongoing horror story, largely ignored by the media and forgotten by the American populace who has moved on to feeling good about whatever the media tells them to feel good about.
Does 30 years of calling babies “blobs of tissue” have no effect on the culture?
For the answer, consider the testimony of “Nurse” Moton — and the clarification by AP writer Maryclaire Dale:
She once had to kill a baby delivered in a toilet, cutting its neck with scissors, she said. Asked if she knew that was wrong, she said, “At first I didn’t.”
We ask ourselves “How on earth didn’t she know this would be wrong?” In today’s age the world has us swallow the lie that the children being slain in abortion somehow don’t count, that their lives simply don’t matter and that they can and sometimes should be killed with no impact on our society. This case shows us what we are becoming as a society: human life has no value and the strong do what they please while the weak suffer what they must. All that matters is how we feel. And if this dead baby makes me feel better about myself, my choices, my politics…whatever…then so be it.
There is no virtue in this. None in either of these stories from today’s headlines. In the upside down world that C.S. Lewis wrote about in Screwtape virtue must be eliminated in order for humans to feel they are free. Therefore any institution, any group, that demonstrates, practices and preaches virtue must be wrong and therefore ostracized. People must be taught to hate that institution by a type of two minute hate that Orwell describes in 1984. It must be hated, and then dismissed as irrelevant to the feelings and needs of the people.
We kill our weak and infirm because we tell ourselves it is better this way. Why? Well…because we feel it just does. We believe the upside down lies and help to make these words from Orwell prophetic:
But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.
Uncle Screwtape couldn’t have said it any better.