January 08, 2018

GUTD Parody

I'm a subscriber to the daily devotional Give Us This Day despite its association with the controversial Fr. James Martin of liberal Catholic persuasion.

Oft times the "saint of the day" is of a non-canonized non-Catholic, such that I thought I'd parody it for your amuse-ification:
Blessed Among Us

Che Guevara 
Marytr 20th Century

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was an Argentine hero and major figure of the Cuban Revolution, a revolution that resulted in the finest health care system in the world (source: Michael Moore).

Guevara was instrumental in setting up assisted living facilities throughout Cuba (less generously called “forced-labor camps”).  Dissidents, gays and devout Catholics could be found in these accommodations, a wonderful early example of multiculturalism.

He was additionally headmaster of an educational facility for five months, also known as the La CabaƱa Fortress prison.

While there are varying accounts of how many people were executed under his command during that time, and how many deaths could be attributed directly to Che as opposed to the regime overall, the many journalists and businessmen that faced death were treated humanely prior to execution and freed from all capitalistic debts.  Any assets they may have had were distributed fairly and equitably among the revolutionists.

Che was a such an effective advocate for the poor that generations of Cubans have been able to enjoy the poverty he fostered.

December 30, 2017

Ruffled by Want of a Beach

Did the obligatory dog walk at the local park in Doctor Zhivago conditions and under the cloud of incipient babysitting; afterwards I smoked a yearned-for cigar despite the 18 degree weather. I dreamed of beach and conjured images from Hilton Head and Mexico: Sun and warmth pouring down as if by the hand of God, gold ingot-rays streaming beside umbrella drinks. The deep tissue massage of sand on sole and light on eye, the grace of time and silence in good measure, shaken, and running over...

Made me pine for that rosary I got on the deserted side of Cozumel - El Mirador on the rocky, unprotected east coast - that had the Our Father in Spanish on the back of the crucifix. I looked for a rosary online like that one (which I had gifted to a friend) but didn’t find any, which, of course is the whole point. To have found the rosary online would’ve decreased its value in some way since then it would feel mercenary and common. 

*

The tale of the Ali Baba and the Arabian nights from the Islamic Middle Ages gave us “three wishes”. This transfixed me back when - what would I choose? Wealth, health, or NBA stardom?

But it’s interesting that a couple thousand years previous, Solomon was given only one wish and he asked for wisdom in order to properly discern court cases among his people. That’s sobering. It’s sort of like how in the Three Amigos film the three were all dreaming about how they’d spend the money they were coming into and Ned Nederlander was bent on charity. 

That, in a nutshell, seems the difference between the Bible and dream-like fantasy: the Bible offers us unselfishness while dreams offer self-satisfaction. 

December 22, 2017

Crap Science

Pseudo-science can be hilarious. WaPo 4-question “test” to see if you’re likely to sexually harass someone comes down to four questions asking, “Would you sexually harass someone?” Also high-laire: “men are more socialized to seek sex”. Socialized, right...

Glad my WaPo subscription runs out soon so I don’t waste my time. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/12/20/what-makes-some-men-sexual-harassers-science-tries-to-explain-the-harvey-weinsteins-of-the-world/?__twitter_impression=true

Seven Quick Takes

Grandson Will was a wise man in purple robe and scarlet hat and looked quite dapper. You can't go wrong with kids in costumes. It was crack-cocaine for grandparents. Extremely good photos taken with off-the-chart cute factor. They sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and a couple songs I wasn’t familiar with.

Will looking to his left, perhaps at an angel
Cardinal Ratzinger on Christmas:
Many people—indeed, in some sense, all of us—find this too good to be true.
Our invariable response is a doubt: Can this be true? Is it really possible for God to be a child? We are reluctant to believe that the truth is beautiful, for in our experience, the truth usually turns out to be cruel and dirty; and where this initially seems not to be the case, we dig and dig until our assumption turns out to be correct.
He came as a child, in order to break down our pride. Perhaps we would have capitulated before power or wisdom … but he does not want our capitulation: he wants our love. He wants to free us from our pride and, thus, to make us truly free.
Interesting that Benedict doesn’t say merely power but power “and wisdom”. How could God have used wisdom to break down our pride? Perhaps to tell us all the answers we so desperately seek concerning why there is suffering and death and Hell? God’s wisdom is so great that it would presumably cow us just the way a display of physical power would.

*

You know you're at an orthodox parish when you see these books in a car in a parking lot:


*

So Trump has a year behind him and it's been a pretty decent one. I may have to eat my anti-Trumpian words said pre-presidency and rue my non-vote for him. Especially since the thing that bothers most people I don’t care a fig about -- his tweets.  Just as in the stock market future good news is already "built in" to the price of a stock, so too his tweets are what they are and ought be ignored. Of course still three years left, an eon in governing. But perhaps he’s proving anyone can do the job of potus.

*

Read some of Victor David Hansen’s Second World Wars, which was rather grim. Wars plural in the title because there seemed little connection in some of the war being fought (i.e. in terms of types of battle and geography of). 60 million were killed, 80% by Axis and 20% by the Allies and yet the latter won. This was because the Axis killed mainly civilians while the Allies mostly killed soldiers. The notable exceptions include the American firebombing of Tokyo in March of ‘45 where 100,000 were killed in a single day, which was worse than Nagasaki and equal of Hiroshima. And yet we hear so little of it! The mind-blowing thing about it was that despite doing that kind of damage to Japan’s capital, the Emperor was uninterested in surrender.

This feels unfathomable to me and I googled for the unanswerable: “why didn’t Japan surrender before the atomic bombs”. But maybe not so unanswerable: the Emperor was not much interested in the welfare of Japanese as the continuation of the institution of Emperor; it wasn’t until the Russians invaded combined with the two a-bombs that Japan surrendered. It makes me wonder if the Russian invasion did it alone, without the atomic weapons - I think the Emperor was more worried about the future of his office with the Russians than the Americans?

*

Interesting to muse on the parallels between John the Baptist and Mary as proposed in a book on the Baptist. Both have their birthdays and death days celebrated in the church, which outside of Christ is unique to them. Both have one mission and one mission only, that of being the forerunner to Christ or the mother to Him, and thus neither were have known to have worked a miracle (in John’s gospel this is explicitly asserted regarding the Baptist). Both express a deep humility, Mary’s fiat and John’s “You must increase and I decrease”.

*

We're trying to clean the basement which is the Job of all jobs. There’s a tsunami of junk down there, as if all the world’s material goods were vacuum-suctioned into our basement. Affluenza 101. There were $90 purses that Steph didn’t know she had - it felt like a shopping trip for her.

First up we emptied the crawl space and threw away the above-ground swimming pool, a kid’s buggy, and high-chair among other things. I hauled stuff up and down the stairs for a good twenty minutes. A decent workout when dragging weighty things up. Gravity is not your friend in those situations.

*

I find it routinely shocking - if shock can be called routine - by the disparity between the beauty of spiritual writings versus the oft rather grim reality of sin and shadow in the author. I think this first hit me when I read the quasi-scriptural Thomas Merton books and then read, ugh, his journals.  Pope Francis as well, who is capable of the most uplifting and lofty thoughts while, at other times, be snarky, harsh, and unjust. I guess this is the way it’s always been (St. Jerome anybody?). I don’t think we can listen only to saints and just close off the way God can use flawed instruments.

Lino Rulli recently complained about how he knows many of the famous public Catholics who give lectures and write books and he says many of them don’t really have their act together in private so he doesn’t read their books. That’s an example of what I mean, and what I routinely fall into (including with Pope Francis).

It’s a sore temptation to wall off those we perceive rightly or wrongly as “hypocrites”, but we are all hypocrites to one extent or another and that attitude seems to focus on the messenger more than the message.

*

Read some of the Roy Moore fail.

Politics has gotten so bewildering so fast. Looking back, the initial shock for me was that the country would hand over the reigns to a no-name Democrat senatorial lackey (Obama). ‘08 was the first sign that something was seriously wrong. Sure, Bill Clinton’s rise despite his sins was very surprising, but he had a resume and a decent record.

Obama’s victory was just bonkers, seemingly a hopeless white play to atone for slavery. But as it turned out, it wasn’t atonement at all, it wasn’t racial - it was pure, sweaty desperation, a blind groping for a savior. This would show itself again in the election of Trump, the ultimate outsider and high-risk’r.

Something happened between ‘04 (Bush election) and ‘08. Someone must’ve messed with the nation’s water supply - maybe it was the rise of the New Atheism popularized by Hitchens, or the economic decline of the middle class, or the advent of social media, or the shredding of the credibility of any institution. Regardless, it seems around 2006 or 2007-ish. Right around when Facebook and the iPhone took off.

And on that happy note, Merry Christmas!  Keep hope alive for Hope is alive.

December 13, 2017

Amazon Catholic Bestsellers


Pope Francis boasts number 1 and number 2, although doubtless he doesn't appreciate number 1.  It’s probably not the healthiest spiritual activity, reading negative things about the Pope.  (See my blog title.)

Particularly intriguing is how much conflict he had with his parents and surrogate parent.  And his reforming of corruption in the church has gone nowhere. I wait for buyer's remorse from folks like John Allen and Austen Ivereigh.

Later reading more of the papal bio I experienced an “ah-ha” moment in reading that choosing a pope is different than choosing a CEO and that the cardinals aren’t doing a lot of research and investigations into the backgrounds of individuals. In fact, they are cut off from the world obviously.  Seems like the system ought be revamped to help prevent eschewing reason (grace builds on nature, not replacing it) by allowing them to do research. It’s a pious thing to want the decision to be wholly guided by the Holy Spirit but we fly on two wings not one, faith and reason. But I allow I could well be misguided.

Surely the lesson is that great leaders are few and far between and that no nation or church is “entitled” to a string of them. It takes divine providence combined with human wisdom.

R. Reno in First Things really surprised me recently by saying that even the status of migrants and refugees is contingent: "I predict that this papacy will be a great defender of migrants and refugees—until political pressures on the European ruling class become so great that it shifts and becomes more 'realistic,' at which point the Vatican will shift as well. What is presently denounced will be permitted; what is presently permitted will be denounced."

December 06, 2017

Solzhenitsyn’s Nearly 40-year old Address

I read Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 address to Harvard to see how prescient the great Russian sage was.  Some excerpts:
Truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary.
He goes on to see a lack of courage in us, calling it the first sign of a nation’s end, primarily reflected in our lack of robust self-defense of Western values during the Carter years, i.e. not cringing and constantly in apology-mode.

The Trump win in some way would seem to negate this tendency and George W. Bush as well, who was unapologetic and courageous in his confidence as far as rebuffing opinion.  (Too confident on Iraq, alas.)

And on materialism...
So who should now renounce all this, why and for the sake of what should one risk one's precious life in defense of the common good and particularly in the nebulous case when the security of one's nation must be defended in an as yet distant land?
Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism.
It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
He goes on about our lack of depth, which is oh-so-much-more true now than even then:
“Everyone is entitled to know everything." (But this is a false slogan of a false era; far greater in value is the forfeited right of people not to know, not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life has no need for this excessive and burdening flow of information.) Hastiness and superficiality — these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
More on our apology-itis:
It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world the way to successful economic development... However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of no longer being up to the level of maturity by mankind. And this causes many to sway toward socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.
The mathematician Igor Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliantly argued book entitled Socialism; this is a penetrating historical analysis demonstrating that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. 
And good spiritual stuff:
If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.
Most of the speech stands up well and serves as a present day diagnosis, but it’s hard to see his words about Russia as true (perhaps Poland though):
A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. 
Russia’s soul has waned mightily and is committing suicide with vodka and low birth rates while enthusiastically supporting a pernicious leader for decades (Putin). They seem as about as morally comprised as a nation can be, so their rot post-Cold War has been alarmingly fast. As has been said of the pre-Vatican II culture - how good could it have been if it collapsed so quickly? - so too of Soviet.

November 30, 2017

Say Not the Struggle Not Availeth

This morning watched a little Morning Joe. Propaganda or not, it’s enjoyable to watch TV in the morning though I do feel sheepish watching after seeing a local priest I respect fire off this tweet:
This is the first time I have ever seen @Morning_Joe. It's so terrible. How do people watch this stuff? Pure cynical manipulation.
True, but to avoid cynical manipulation seems like you can't watch TV.

Speaking of, will the last TV personality to leave please close the toilet seat lid? The latest to go down are Matt Laurer and Garrison Keillor.

There’s a surreal quality to hearing a US Senator (Al Franken) being asked repeatedly and point blank if he he had cupped or grabbed a woman’s butt cheek. High-laire to hear him say he didn't recall ever doing so, and the interviewer exclaimed shock that someone could grab a woman's full buttock and not remember it.

Keillor found his hand straying down the bare back of a woman.

I think it speaks to the tremendous power of the male sex drive, especially when combined with a sense of entitlement that power and money bring. And it could also be simply that 99% of these guys are old, between 60 and 90, and they grew up in the “Mad Men” '60s where things were bad for women in the workplace.

It’s also an unwitting tale of how sins have a staying power far beyond what we think they might have. They have a long shelf-life for they have a long effect on the victims.

*

It’s amazing that a 1969 film, Something Beautiful for God, the documentary on Mother Teresa is unavailable anywhere (not YouTube, amazon, eBay, etc...) . It’s almost mystical, as if the movie were a supernatural event and thus somehow unable to be contained or preserved (Malcom Muggeridge, who was involved with the filming, reported that he felt it was supernaturally aided in that mysteriously they could film in almost no light).

I was going through books to sell and came across Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire and figured that was a good one to get rid of since her Come Be My Light was so depressing. And yet...I came across a quote from Peggy Noonan who said she’d read like crazy in 2008 and that it was the most important book she read in 2008. I thought I’d give it another chance and it feels providential. One blurb on the back says, “Secret Fire sets the record straight on her ‘dark night’”. Which would be helpful; seems like the necessary complement to the dark-suffer that was Come Be My Light.

A couple quotes; her darkness was not intended to depress us:
Her darkness was intended as a light for the rest of us. Her night was a metaphor for the blackness of our ‘vale of tears,’ a map etched on her soul to lead us through our own spiritual darkness into divine light. 
The author describes how Mother Teresa saw a different sort of poverty in the First World, that of a great hunger to be loved. And how she’s a mystic for non-mystics, given her vision but also her subsequent darkness.

Curious too the reaction to people viewing the film Something Beautiful for God:
“[Teresa] caused perplexity as people struggled with the newfound surge of generosity welling up inside. Curiously, most of the audience seemed unable to find any deeper, more enduring response beyond tears and a hurried check.” 
Teresa's message was elusive (beyond "Help the poor!") and the author who worked with Mother Teresa for over a decade to have found it.

*

From Peggy Noonan in WSJ on the spate of sex harassment cases:
An aging Catholic priest suggested to a friend that all this was inevitable. “Contraception degenerates men,” he said, as does abortion. Once you separate sex from its seriousness, once you separate it from its life-changing, life-giving potential, men will come to see it as just another want, a desire like any other. Once they think that, then they’ll see sexual violations as less serious, less charged, less full of weight. They’ll be more able to rationalize. It’s only petty theft, a pack of chewing gum on the counter, and I took it.
*

Saw a reference to the favorite poem of Chief Justice Rehnquist, a true Stoic, which he passed along to Clarence Thomas who had it laminated and put on his desk:
Say not the Struggle nought Availeth   
BY ARTHUR HUGH CLOUGH
Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.

November 29, 2017

A Retraction

I'd like to issue a formal retraction for the implication made on this blog* that Donald J. Trump's obsession with birtherism was just a ruse to get him traction before a presidential run.

If a recent article in the NY Times can be believed, it's said he brought it up recently in a meeting with a senator.

* - "His first task as president / to find Obama's birthplace".

November 21, 2017

Seven Long Takes


Read an article on why physical beats digital despite higher cost and less portability - it’s about control and ownership.  On the one hand, we're material beings and God made us that way.  On the other, I wonder if it's part of the reason faith in God has such a headwind these days.  People do seem okay with not having physical money but just a number in a computer bank account or a share of stock without the physical paper...:
”There's this cache attached to physical goods that is perplexing from an economic standpoint," says Carey Morewedge, professor of marketing at the Boston University. "The very feature that imbues digital goods with their unique abilities—their immateriality—is also what impairs our ability to develop a sense of ownership for them."
The ability to touch physical goods enables us to establish more of an identity-bond, creating ownership and value. That vinyl collection, in short, becomes a part of who we are in a way that a phone full of files does not.
Sales trends across a variety of media reinforce this idea. Though streaming is the fastest growing market in music, digital sales dropped again in 2016, while vinyl sales increased again for the 11th straight year... Meanwhile, the number of Americans who reported reading a physical book last year was at 65 percent, compared to only 28 percent for an e-book.
"People have a desire to control their environment," says Morewedge. "That greater control over physical reduces risk and reduces uncertainty, which imbues it with greater value."
*

I thought yesterday about how God rendered Zechariah mute and St. Paul blind after their encounters and how instead of seeing it as “punishment” for their past unbelief, as I traditionally have, one could rather see it as preparation for their mission ahead by carving out for them a time of silence, metaphorically speaking.

As the Cardinal Sarah book on silence says:
All activity must be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God’s will...Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of ‘doing for the sake of doing’. We must resist this temptation by trying ‘to be’ before trying ‘to do’.” 
So for Zechariah and Paul, they were given the gift of just “being” for awhile, which eventually led to Zechariah’s beautiful prayer as featured daily in the Liturgy of the Hours as well as the raising of John the Baptist, and for Paul of course the most frenetic activity for a would-be contemplative ever contemplated...

*

Tribalism is the new black, but I wonder if once we became a kritarchy about five decades ago, political tribalism became inevitable. Now that the Court chooses who lives or dies, you can justify people like Roy Moore and Donald Trump far more easily.

*

My lack of desire for travel - not including beach “travel” since that's simply a way to read without interruption - has waned significantly over the past decade or two. Can I pinpoint it? Perhaps after 2012, after we went to New Mexico, although the thrill had been declining soon after getting married. So an initial decline around age 36 and another at 49.

Is it the result of a jadedness? Or maybe a realization that other places/people were not so different, and I didn’t need to put others on a pedestal given that we’re all one human family?

Certainly I looked at the old Mexican women at the market in Mexico City in 2001 as if they were from another planet. They were intrinsically fascinating since they looked like they could be in National Geographic, having exotic dresses and deep-brown wrinkled faces. For one obsessed with externals as me, they would be intriguing.

But isn’t “foreign” relative when you look at it from a more religious perspective? Wouldn’t the man from Mars be, in some way, familiar to us in the sense that he/she/it was created by the same Father?

Or perhaps it could be that my desire to travel was related to poor self-image, seeing others as having something I didn’t, be they the contented ancient Mexican women or the ambitious and literate twenty-somethings of New York.

Another possibility is that travel was intoxicating before I was middle-aged due to a lack of self-knowledge that has been alleviated over time. (It’s ironic that I’m now looking for self-knowledge concerning the reason for my lack of desire for self-knowledge, or at least lack of desire to travel.)

The proximate trigger today is that I came across an old Shirley MacLaine quote about how travel is often done out of a motive of self-discovery, something she sees as unnecessary given that in her words, “You are the universe. Explore you. The universe is in you. You are complete.”

And this day I also came across a quote from Kathleen Norris in “A Cloister Walk” that says “the communal recitation of the psalms works against [a] form of narcissism, the tendency in America to insist that everything be self-discovery.”

MacLaine and Norris come at it from different directions, MacLaine suggesting more self-discovery by going within, while Norris seeing too much of it to be a problem for Christians called to go outside of themselves. But they seem to agree Americans are really into self-discovery.

*

Today is a grey November day, an almost perfect specimen of that unlovely genre. The sky was a continual traffic jam of clouds, crowded as a gameday parking lot. It was “grey”, not “gray”, for the long “a” in gray connotes a more festive occasion, like the old definition of “gay”, or of pretty bays, quays or cays, no sun ray or lovely May. Yes, “grey” it is.

*

Last week was a pitiless week! I’m wrung out, strung out, and stand in need of a quaff of elemental Anglo-Saxon. Or mellifluous old French cobbled from wurst verse. I’m ruffled by want of a cigar. I need dollops of good sense, of reflection on Christ’s instruction that we carry our cross and give ourselves completely, renounce all our possessions, and put Him ahead of wife and mother, father and child, career or position. The harsh Bible verses sound like echoes of Stoic virtue.

I needed Mass to be open to this new climate of change in the organization, because change is endemic these days. We’re becoming lobotomized by IT and by meetings, a sclerosis that paralyzes. The big driver of it is Big Data. Big data requires turning the keys to the kingdom over to the IT department. And that entails plentiful meetings because IT is a bureaucratic meeting-centric organization and they need to learn our business rules from scratch. It’s labor-intensive. Team-oriented. All those things that I recoil from.

*

Today’s morning prayer included the words of St. Paul that could be applied to all the saints, in that they seem content with the obstacles that God seems to allow to happen even (especially) when proclaiming the gospel:  “I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.”

I think of all the hardships that even the Blessed Mother had to endure, the greatest which was watching her son die. And I think about how hard Mother Angelica had it, with the stroke and all the family dysfunction growing up. Or I think about the relatively minor incident how St. Teresa of Avila was thrown into mud and said to God, “if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!”

The answer could make some sense read in light of St. Paul’s idea that these weaknesses guarantee Christ’s power staying with us. A powerful motivation, although admittedly power is not what we should be chasing after but love.

*

Appreciate the frank view of German regions by Patrick Fermor, who called the Rhinelanders civilized, the Bavarians a tad aggressive and perhaps ruthless, and the “diligent and homely Swabians” (ouch! I’m a descendent of Swabians from Baden.)

The impressions of Bavarians included this: “wrinkles and deep eye sockets, of friendly warmth and hospitable kindness” (sounds exactly like a certain Pope Emeritus).

November 14, 2017

To Read Or Not To Read...

A friend gifted me with the book by Roger Stone titled The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ.

My lack of desire to read this book is exceeded only by the speed of the decay and dissolution of the Republican party.

I decided that part of the issue is that I don't trust the author.  (The Washington Times calls it a swing and miss.) My friend replied, "what about the footnotes and citations in the book?" I said they can be made up. "Fake news" is something everybody appreciates now even if everyone points to a different set of fake news. One thing we can all agree on is that fake news exists.

I've decided to try to advance the cause of vetting and reading with the following decision tree flowchart (click to enlarge):

November 12, 2017

Lectionary Choices

It continues to fascinate me that the gospels pre-Vatican II (and in the Eastern church to this day) focus on Christ’s miracles while the post-Vatican II church gospels focus on moral instruction (like today’s parable of the ten virgins; the Traditional calendar meanwhile offers a miracle story). 

On the one hand I get why the New Mass lectionary appears to want to emphasize what we can do for Christ rather than what Christ can do for us (even if that can fringe into Pelagianism, and I know there’s nothing we can do for Christ in that as God he already has everything but...).

Perhaps the idea was that the miracle stories don’t give enough instruction, don’t provide the impetus towards change, which Vatican II was set on achieving. I’m sure there was a practical consideration: how does a miracle story relate to the person in the pew?  The story of the ten virgins - which focuses on us, not Jesus - is thus seen as more relatable. 

But as I get older, I’m beginning to think that the root of all evil is practicality. It’s practical in secular eyes to think that marriage shouldn’t last forever given increasing lifespans. Or that ending a life in pain, or a birth that would result in a life of poverty, is needful.

An unintended side effect of stripping the miracle stories, especially when combined with the crippling of the mystery of the mass by adding folk songs and removing the Latin, was to make it seem like Jesus Himself isn’t all that mysterious or powerful, which, of course, is the death of faith. 

I guess that the Vatican II church simply assumed that everyone was already aboard the train that viewed Jesus as mysterious and powerful and that now what was needed to teach the “block and tackling” of social justice. But the inspiration for social justice is ... the mystery and power of Jesus.  


November 06, 2017

The Rise of the Rabble-Rousers

Heard interesting comments from Jonah Goldberg on Bill Kristol show.

Seems a half a century ago a guy named Will Herberg foresaw our present political condition.  Writing in "The New Leader" in 1954, he said the Founding Fathers were as afraid of despotism as they were of direct democracy because they were close students of history and understood that direct democracy leads to despotism.  He said the demagogues of ancient Greece and Roman manipulated the crowd and Caesar and Pericles used the Forum and the Arena to rabble-rouse and exert their will on the elites, and the Founding Fathers were terrified of that -- they wanted deliberative democracy that was largely closed off.

But it was democratic in these were the legitimate representatives of the people, but then behind closed doors they could slowly and methodically think things through.

Herberg said there has always been rabble-rousers in the past but there was no means of doing it well technologically until radio came along and FDR became first modern effective rabble-rouser.  FDR’s fireside chats were used to launch these incredible public pressure campaigns against Congress: write letters, make phone calls, send telegrams in order to force Congress to exert my will.

Then Sen. Joe McCarthy comes along and there’s rabble-rousing on the right on the radio.   McCarthy had no serious ideas to do anything, just has the right enemies and aroused passions.  (Sound familiar?) Herberg said television was making it worse and that the early investigative hearings were basically TV shows.  Mass entertainment technology, he claimed, is siphoning off the deliberative aspects of politics and making it into rabble-rousing and entertainment.