This tweet showed up on my Twitter feed last night and pretty much sums up my thoughts as this year has progressed.
Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia summed up many people’s dismay at the choice of White House candidates by saying the choice is between “A vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, or a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.”
God help us all.
— 1 —
From The Maccabee Society:
When Jocko Willink (recipient of Silver Star and Bronze Star, and commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi) was asked by Tim Ferris what it means to be man, Jocko responded with three values:
- The experience of having fought in battle to the death. Most adult men throughout time had experienced battle, whether they be French, Chinese, or Peruvian. The act of fighting for a tribe, town, state, or nation is something historically essential to being a man.
- Martial arts. Every man should know how to fight and hold his own.
- Be married and have children. This is another experience of maturity makes a man.
I won’t go into great detail why I disagree to a certain extent with Mr. Willink. The comments following the article are quite good and worth a read. While I’m not sure that my fight with a knife-wielding thug on the shore of Lake Michigan during the summer of 1987 was life-and-death (though it certainly could have been), I was able to survive despite taking several blows to the head before I did the same and then got the hell out of there pronto. So maybe I’ve done #1. #2? No. That was my younger brother who owns a black belt in Tae Kwon Do from his teenage years. I’ve got #3 covered.
But I would have added something about self-sacrifice. And prayer. Fighting spiritual battles through prayer and a plan takes fortitude, endurance and courage. Most choose to ignore it and hope it goes away. I’m too old to walk away from that fight anymore. The battle is real.
For example, during the 54-day rosary novena I completed on October 7, I prayed for the following:
- The virtue of humility
- The virtue of charity
- The virtue of detachment from the world
- The virtue of purity
- The virtue of obedience to the will of God
- The virtue of resignation to the will of God
- The virtue of mortification
- The virtue of patience in adversity
- The virtue of love of my enemies
- The virtue of faith
- The virtue of hope
- The virtue of union with Christ
- The virtue of union with God
And that’s just for starters. But isn’t that enough? I don’t say this to blow my own horn (to do so would go against the first thing I prayed for on that list) but ask yourself: in the current climate of our culture, our nation and our world, do not these things require a storehouse of courage to model? These aren’t bad characteristics of a man, either.
To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm. On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us. For the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray. He guides us in prayer and he enables us to pray as sons and daughters. – from the homily of Pope Francis given at St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 16, 2016 during the canonization of seven new saints
— 2 —
Dappled Things has an article on the Sub Tuum Praesidium. This is an ancient Marian antiphon and written prayer to the Mother of God that still survives to this day. We have a Greek version of this prayer that was found written on a large fragment of Egyptian papyrus that dates from around 250 A.D.
Embedded in the article is a video of this prayer being chanted that runs a minute. The English rendering of the Latin reads:
Under your protection we take refuge,
Oh Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers,
Oh Always Virgin, Glorious and Blessed.
Now it may sound contradictory to what I said above about the traits of a man. Seeking refuge and protection from a woman? Asking her to deliver me from all dangers? What could be more wimpy?
Enter once more Archbishop Charles Chaput:
As I sat down to write my talk last week, a friend emailed me a copy of a manuscript illustration from the thirteenth century. It’s a picture of Mary punching the devil in the nose. She doesn’t rebuke him. She doesn’t enter into a dialogue with him. She punches the devil in the nose. So I think that’s the perfect place to start our discussion.
When most Catholics think about Mary, we have one of two images in our heads: the virginal Jewish teen from Galilee who says yes to God’s plan; or the mother of Jesus, the woman of mercy and tenderness, “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” We can too easily forget that Mary is also the woman clothed in the sun who crushes the head of the serpent. She embodies in her purity the greatness of humanity fully alive in God. She’s the mother who intercedes for us, comforts us and teaches us—but who also defends us.
And in doing that, she reminds us of the great line from C.S. Lewis that Christianity is a “fighting religion”—not in the sense of hatred or violence directed at other persons, but rather in the spiritual struggle against the evil in ourselves and in the world around us, where our weapons are love, justice, courage and self-giving.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem described our spiritual struggle this way: “There is a serpent [the devil] by the wayside watching those who pass by: beware lest he bite thee with unbelief. He sees so many receiving salvation and is seeking whom he may devour.” The great American writer Flannery O’Connor added that whatever form the serpent may take, “it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country,” not to turn away from God’s story or the storyteller.
I like that she’s smiling as she punches him. A Happy Warrior!
— 3 —
This cartoon has been tweeted to me and posted to my Facebook a lot the past week or so. There is a certain ring of melancholy truth to it, but that truth has also spurred me on in my prayer life.
From the Catholic World Report:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran, German pastor, and world-recognized theologian, who spoke out against Hitler when few others would, even before “Der Fürher” took power in 1933. Bonhoeffer’s witness to Christ is indisputable. His work to save Germany and our world from the tyranny of fascism is undeniable. Yet his life-long testimony remains largely unheeded in our present day.
In fact, we are reliving the nightmare that Bonhoeffer experienced in the years leading up to and which he lived through during the Second World War. Including his fight against euthanasia and genocide, which we re-experience today in governmental programs that finance abortion, promote infanticide, and enact laws in many states that legalize voluntary suicide and encourage euthanasia. All for the sake of a leftist agenda which coincides with everything the Nazi regime stood for and Dietrich Bonhoeffer fought against.
And we are losing this fight.
For around four years now I’ve been meaning to pick up and read Bonhoeffer’s biography. It’s probably time I did so.
Getting back to the article author George Galloway goes on:
When Christ suffered through the Agony in the Garden, I believe he foresaw all of this. That this was indeed a part of his agony: that people, many of them claiming to his followers, would seek to remake the model. That they would deny and thus redefine him because of their own stubborn pride and belief in their own intellectual superiority. That they would refuse to yield their own will to his words and commands. And would try to fashion their own sense of justice based upon a smug and unwilling attitude to submit to the almighty justice of God. That the Good News is somehow to be interpreted in a new way, without citation, or quotation, or any understanding of what our Lord really meant. Perhaps because it’s uncomfortable or doesn’t meet the modern day standards of acceptability. We now live in a world of convenience for convenience sake. There are no more eternal truths, nor moral paradigms. We have now the license to live as we please, but not the obligation to respect the God who made us or the laws He gave us.
We seem to be in such a hurry to destroy the very things that made us good and decent. Americans, as a whole, have succumbed to the dictates of the elite. We’ve become lazy, expecting government and entertainment to provide for our basic needs. Like the mob in Rome who expected bread, wine, and the bloody extravaganzas in the Colosseum to satisfy them. The god of sport has somehow displaced our duty to live a civilized, respectful life and to respect our flag and those who sacrificed their lives in order to defend it.
You cannot be aware of all of the evidence before you and not strive to become a person of prayer. That is where the heart of the true battle lies.
— 4 —
On to matters that are also of importance to us in the Heartland. My brother-in-law sent a link that contained something pretty cool. Like spiritual warfare, the growing season and cycle of life is something vastly misunderstood and overlooked by many in our country.
Watch an entire corn growing season in 1 minute! Pictures were taken daily at 1 p.m. from May 19 to Oct. 8 using a trail camera. The corn field shown is located in extreme southeast Nebraska (near Falls City) on the Kansas/Nebraska border.
— 5 —
Last week I signed off of Facebook from my phone and deleted the app. Just too much politics but also a ton of intrusive advertising. I limit myself to logging on once each day from work for a few minutes and for the first time in ages saw something that recalled what I used to enjoy about the platform.
A friend of ours requested that her friends take photos of sunsets and post them to her wall. She made this request to honor the memory of her brother who had passed away two years ago that week. People responded, and for the last 6-7 days Facebook has been filled with the most glorious autumn sunsets from Nebraska and many other destinations. It was a nice reminder of how social media can be used to edify us all.
One more before I go for the week. The other night a good friend of mine texted me a picture he had taken near his place of work.
I’m not sure that he knew that I’ve developed a real fondness for bench photos. I’ve sort of become a collector and there’s a folder on my hard drive full of them. One of my all time favorite spots to pray is at a bench on the grounds of the Broom-Tree Retreat Center in South Dakota. I find them to be excellent spots to pray, reflect, think, read, observe or converse. My wish is that everyone had recourse to such a bench in their lives.