April 17, 2015

Three Quick Takes

It feels kind of ironic that the very thing that works against humans every second of every day - the force of gravity - is also our greatest friend. We grunt with effort to get up from a chair or to lift a heavy box and yet in zero-gravity space, the joy of never having to move a muscle, to float above it all literally, will result in a very brief life unless you're doing a constant amount of resistance training.

Surely there's a spiritual parallel in that the very thing that makes us grunt with effort, be it forgiving someone or fighting discouragement, is that which keeps us alive. I suppose our foe is our friend when it comes to overcoming inertia.

*

Ah gliddy glupe goopy ah la la lee low… to borrow from Good Morning, Starshine.  I feel it almost incumbent upon myself to introduce the grandkids to that song, although that could be introducing them to a lifelong earworm. Also had a sudden inspiration to want to get them a ship in the bottle. Both are cases the evoked wonder when I first experienced them.

*

The following, from St. Vincent de Paul newsletter and aimed at eradicating material poverty, is likely applicable to spiritual poverty as well.  It certainly echoes what our recent Holy Fathers have done so much of (i.e. encouraging & cheerleading):
Many of the life skills that we have learned in our middle class life are exactly what people in poverty lack. Much of the task is in encouraging and cheerleading, because they have to do the hard work of change. They sometimes need pointing in the right direction and encouragement to meet this challenge. 

April 15, 2015

Unconnected Items Connected by an Asterisk


One thing about moving to Columbus that bothered me, admittedly very little compared to distance from family, was that I was moving away from “Catholic Cincinnati” and heading to far less Catholic Columbus. At least that was my initial impression given that Cincinnati had roughly double the number of Catholics as Columbus. But a funny thing happened on the way up Norte - I found myself in a healthier diocese by most measures: better bishops and more orthodox leadership, better vocation outlook, and far fewer priestly pedophile scandals. Much better seminary too (i.e. the Josephenum versus Mt. Saint Mary's), so I guess you can't judge a church by its numbers.

*

I'm not a gun-owner (though I played one as a kid), but a recent AP piece was a classic op-ed half-dressed as “news”. The big tell was: “NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, never given to understatement, predicted doom for the nation if [Clinton] should win.”
My question: is there any possible way that the AP would write that about the Emily's List president, who presumably is never given to understatement either (i.e. we'll have back-alley abortions and a war on women if a Republican becomes president)? Or Planned Parenthood?
No, Emily's List and Planned Parenthood are treated with respect and deference while the NRA is treated with a snark and derision that is apparent even in the opening line: “The prospect of Hillary Clinton's imminent presidential campaign dropped like a gift from the heavens…”
More accurately, the prospect of an unbiased AP would be a gift from the heavens.

Sure, pointing out liberal bias is shooting fish in a barrel but I suppose sometimes it must be done. Or maybe not, given how little complaining does. The response to liberal bias was the creation of talk radio and Fox News, so I suppose what the liberal media has sewn it has now reaped in alternatives.

April 13, 2015

Losing the Reality Behind the Suffering


I read Mother Teresa's book Come Be My Light when it came out a few years ago, and what was ultimately memorable for me about it was not God's love, or her love, but her suffering.

I don't think she'd like this to be the takeaway from her diaries although admittedly I'm sure others were left with more inspiration. I can hold up the evidence that she herself did not want her notes/journal made public, if possibly for different reasons, but who are you gonna trust more to make that decision: a soon-to-be-saint or her spiritual advisor whom, presumably, is not quite as saintly?

I'm reminded of a line from Raymond Arroyo's marvelous biography of Mother Angelica in which he quoted her as instructing him not to emphasize her suffering lest we miss the reason for it and the motive behind it.

And in Praying the Rosary with Pope Francis, the Holy Father is quoted as saying that "the logic of the Cross is not primarily that of suffering and death, but rather that of love and the gift of self which brings life."

April 10, 2015

Jonah Goldberg's Latest....

...from his newsletter on the '16 nomination fight:
"As I’ve written a lot over the last couple years, I think the GOP has a persuasion problem. There are lots of reasons for it. Among them:

-George W. Bush was an honorable man, but a lackluster speaker and intellectual salesman. He testified about what he believed more than he argued or explained. It’s been a very long time since we had a president who could articulate a conservative worldview in the way Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could articulate theirs.

-The Republican party and conservative movement reward people who can most effectively tell audiences what the audiences already believe and want to hear. This can lead to contests over purity rather than ones over effectiveness or persuasiveness.

This dynamic has elements that are unique to the right, but it also aligns with larger cultural and technological changes that allow people to choose what they want to hear from the media à la carte.

...[Republicans] have to be better communicators than their opponents to cut through the built-in advantages Democrats have. This was the secret to Ronald Reagan’s success and William F. Buckley’s, too. (If the media had its way, George Wallace, not WFB, would have been the official spokesman of conservatism in America.).

*

"I haven’t picked a favorite in the field yet, and I really don’t plan to for quite a while, if ever. But I will say that my bias is towards those who can effectively and persuasively articulate the conservative position and/or have an established record of actual policy accomplishment. The first criterion disproportionately benefits the senators, the second the governors...

Glibness alone isn’t what’s required. Persuasiveness matters. Ted Cruz is one of the most impressive talkers in American politics, but can he persuade people who don’t already agree with him? That remains to be seen. Rand Paul and Ben Carson are great at saying what they planned on saying, but they have more trouble answering questions they didn’t want to be asked. I’ve yet to see Rubio, Cruz, Jindal (or Fiorina) thrown by a question. I can’t say the same about Scott Walker, who I still have very high hopes for. While I think he isn’t in the same league as Cruz, Rubio, Jindal, Christie, or (sorry folks) Bush in being able to discuss and debate national policy issues, Walker has the advantage of having accomplished things that none of the others can hold a candle to (with the possible exceptions of Jindal and, again sorry, Bush). Cruz can talk a lot about how hard he fought, but he can’t point to a lot he’s accomplished as senator."

Baseballus Resume-us!


April 09, 2015

St. Thérèse's Non-Incorruptibility

Moving account of the 1910 exhumation of St Thérèse:
Many times during her last illness, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had announced that, according to her desire, after her death one would find only her bones.

“You have loved God so much, He will do wonders for you ; we will find your body incorrupt,”  a novice told her shortly before her death.  This idea seemed to pain her, and she answered somewhat sadly “Oh, no ; not that kind of wonder!  That would be a departure from my little way of humility ; little souls must find nothing to envy in me, so you can expect to find nothing but a skeleton."

The work of exhumation presented many difficulties.  The coffin had been buried at a depth of 3m. 50 and was in a very poor condition...And while the priests chanted the Laudate pueri Dominum, one noticed, through the disjointed planks, the palm leaf, all green and fresh as it was on October 4, 1897, the day it was first placed on the virginal body of the Servant of God.  Was this not the immortal symbol of the palm she had won by the martyrdom of her heart? This subject of martyrdom of which she wrote: “The palm of Agnes is needed for the lamb . . . and if this is not through blood, then it has to be through love."

A few weeks later, the result of the exhumation came to the awareness of a professor at the University of X, a man of great intellectual achievement, of an eminent piety and, moreover, very favored by the Servant of God through all kinds of graces during the more than ten years he had known her.  First of all, he was saddened that the body of the angelic virgin had decomposed like everyone else’s.  As he gave in to his melancholy thoughts, he heard an interior voice answer him: “It was the dress of my day’s work that I threw off. I await the robe of the eternal Sunday ; I do not care what happens to the other.”

   “And so,” he said, “I had a light that consoled me, I understood that this dissolution will spread atoms of her body everywhere, in such a way that not only her soul but also something of her body could be present and do good on earth.

It seems to me, indeed, all that really belonged to the body of a saint is a relic.  If this is so, not only her bones but also the invisible molecules of matter can carry in them the grace of relics.”Is it not the answer to this desire so poetically expressed :

Lord, on your altars more than one new rose
                        Likes to shine.
            It gives itself to you ….. but I dream of something else
                        To be unpetalled !... »

April 07, 2015

Past, Present, Future


On Holy Thursday a strong streak of laziness struck. I didn't want to go. It's not a day of obligation, of course, which is always cause for perplexity. It's something that makes no sense except to maybe see it in light of the Church's opportunity to reserve one of its holiest days to the volunteers. Love can't be forced.

I'm so glad I went. My own helplessness was made manifest and yet I felt the kiss of God that assured he would love through me via the infusion of Communion. Capax Dei as Tom of Disputations greatness says.

I thought about how God offers us not just our bodies, our existence, but his Body. And not just his Body, but his soul and divinity. He wants to share his divinity with us! How incredible is that?

I thought of how I have to get over focussing on the morbidity of tragedies, of taking them under my wing, so to speak. How forceful the jetliner crashed by that Germanwings pilot struck me! If I don't look to God I will fail, looking at the figurative crashing sea. Same with that poor young kid who tried to save his dog in our local lake and perished. Or did he? What is faith but that bodily perishing is temporary? How beautiful and commanding the words, “I Am the Resurrection / I Am the Life”.

I thought of how death has been marginalized, has been made less by Christ. I thought of how at Communion Christ dies a kind of death on my tongue, dissolved but alive in Spirit. I thought of how when we say, “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” we mean not just the roof of our mouths.  How different our situation is than the Roman centurion who originally said that: He was saying he was unworthy of Christ's presence in his house. How much more unworthy we are that Christ died for us! How much more intense is someone dying for you compared to someone coming to your house, even if to cure.  The Psalm today goes, “How can I repay the Lord / for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise.”

What goodness? The goodness of existing. The goodness of His dying for us. The goodness of His being present to us in the sacraments.  There's a tendency sometimes to think his goodness to us as mostly a past event, that of the Crucifixion. But the present event is His gift to us in the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist! Our answer is to embrace his love.

That Amazing Political Recoil

The whip-quick retreat of Indiana and other states on the religious freedom bills is interesting to me not so much because I'm heavily invested in the outcome but just to see what really moves leaders. What power can move these paragons of political non-pulchritude?  What makes them dance like marionettes in this case but not others?

I admit to feeling enormous envy on how gays have achieved a seeming redefinition of marriage in the space of a dozen years while the march of unborn infants to the grave continues apace.

You might say politicians have folded due to popular opinion and perhaps that's true in this case, but it could also be the business community. Follow the money.  Follow the contributors to campaigns. And business has shockingly left on the issue. Why? Maybe because they fear a boycott. Companies have shown a devout deference to social media and the whole "Boycott Indiana" was surely an attention-getter for the chamber of commerce crowd.  Maybe because "cause marketing" has become so popular and LBGT issues are an easy one since it doesn't take a rocket scientist to get in front of an already enormous shift in attitudes especially among the young (ever a key demographic).  Maybe simply because all things gay have become cool, the "new black", and businesses want to be perceived as Apple-cool just as politicians want to nowadays. And maybe because businesses feel the have to attract and keep talented gay employees.

Maybe it's a perfect storm of all of the above. Which suggests the way forward for the pro-life issue is for a similar combine of interests - a shift among the young (already having taken place to some extent), a boycott of pro-abortion companies, a sense that life and not death is cool.

Tidibits of Varying Quality

17th century British citizen's (author Richard Burton) view of the national sins of various countries:

    Britain: laziness
    Italy: luxury and riot
    Spain: superstition and jealousy
    Germany: drunkenness
    Northern Europe: gluttony & intemperance

Times and reputations change! I certianly don't equate Germany with drunkennes.

*

I headed to Cincy on Easter listening to David Brooks on C-Span (later I would hear an interview with author of a book on James Madison, and then White House correspondent Ann Compton - so a goodly measure of Brian Lamb, God save him.)

Easter's gospel passage went, “[Jesus] is going ahead of you to Galilee; that is where you will see him.” and I thought of this in terms of saying to us “Jesus is going ahead of you to Heaven; that is where you will see Him.”

*

My Catholic triumphalism can appear in strange places.

I'm mailing a Bible to an amazon.com customer. I have it wrapped, but the mail guy thinks I'll save money if I put it in a smaller package. So he finds one, opens my package and removes the book. Stares at the cover of the Didache Bible.

“What's a Didache Bible?” he asked, saying “Didache” twice trying on different pronunciations.

I wasn't prepared to answer, and it's a bit complex. The Didache is a document from early Christianity, a sort of early catechism, while the new Didache Bible is the biblical text with commentary from the Catechism.

“It's a Bible with early Church commentary,” I say, somewhat inaccurately.

“Is it Christian?”

“Yes.”

“Says here 'Catholic' on it.”

“Same difference!” I say.

“No, not at all,” he says with vehemence.

“Catholics are the originals… Accept no substitutes!” I counter, smiling.

He drops the subject, figuring no doubt I was a hopeless case.

*

Giddified by a freebie: Poetry Magazine's latest is free download. I read a black-centric poem and thought: it's awfully hip to be black.

This was also brought home by a press conference yesterday in which a black UK star called the white Wisconsin star a “n-----”. Which is the ultimate compliment, at least in the minds of some on Twitter. (One wag said it would've been great if the Caucasian player who was dubbed an honorary N-word responded by saying, "That's mighty white of you."

Even I, a middle-aged white conservative, find myself occasionally thinking white male politicians over 50 seem boring and stale, likely because I've been trained by the culture to view over 50 white men as boring and stale. I try to resist it, but if I'm trying to resist that, imagine an undecided voter?

That being black is cool is hardly controversial. Even a liberal NY Times writer recently said that Obama would likely not have been so attractive if he was white. That's surely part of the appeal of guys like Herman Cain and Ben Carson. Republicans are so desperate to be cool, that we'll take a long, hard look at somebody with no political experience if they're sufficiently tan. There are, what, six black Republicans in the U.S.? And two of them have run for president now. I guess they think the Republican party needs their coolness factor.

Police departments are surely the last vestige of having complete resistant to coolness, so it's not surprising that they draw the angst. The final frontier for African-American activism is surely police departments and criminal justice system.  Or, at least that's the next frontier.

One thing seems obvious: there's little forgiveness in black hearts for what they or their ancestors went through. Perhaps understandably, but still sad. The race problem will be a problem long after any and all remaining white prejudice is gone simply because the community is now built on that sense of grievance. 

*

On Holy Saturday I had a sudden desire to tweet “hope everyone's Lent was lenttastic!” A bit flip so I foreswore it.

*

Got a thirty minute massage the other day. Tight left shoulder was her expert diagnosis, and I submarined under the blue yonder, under distant blue waters, wondering where I left off in Odyssey and Moby Dick.

I thought of kayaking the Darby last fall. I thought of Samovars and Sam overs. I thought of snorkeling Cozumel, at our old place. I thought of how much of a tip to give her.  I thought of Belize, that fetchingly foreign name, how exotic it sounds. I thought of how tight I felt and if I was insulting her by not letting go more fully.

Was amazed by her dexterity, professionalism and the care that came through her fingers. You had the feeling that she sees the wonder in the human body, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

March 31, 2015

Book Review Humor

A textbook example of faint praise from The Economist:
“The Fishermen” may be the most interesting debut novel to emerge from Nigeria this year.
"Debut novel.” “Nigeria.” “This year” (still only three months in). “May be.”

That's some highlarious hedging of bets!

I'm not a student of debut novels from Nigeria from this year so I cannot weigh in. I refuse to weigh in despite the blogger's responsibility to express an opinion on each and every extant subject.

Nevertheless, I've often thought I could write the best debut novel by anyone who lives on my street, runs four miles per week and enjoys craft beer.

March 29, 2015

The Republican Establishment Worthy of Praise?

It's easy to reflexively disparage Republican big money donors and Republican elites (such as Haley Barbour) out of a democratic (small 'd') impulse, but I learned something today that is instructive.

Mark Halperin said in an interview that Mitt Romney was not the choice of the money men and elites despite Romney being wealthy and elite himself.

They wanted Chris Christie and in retrospect (hindsight being 20/20 of course) Christie was surely the better candidate since he didn't have the baggage of Romney's perceived elitism and flip-flopping. Certainly Christie couldn't have been worse given that Romney lost.

If you look back at 2004 the money men were not supporting John McCain, who famously had no money for most of his campaign. And again they were right since McCain was a flawed candidate with few new ideas, was too old in this (unfortunately) telegenic age, and an ineffective debater not willing to take Obama on.

So this time around maybe we should look upon the Republican establishment with a bit more respect. They're going with Jeb Bush, and time may tell if that's a good choice. Regardless, it surely hasn't been the establishment responsible for the last two presidential defeats. The fault appears to fall on the Republican primary voter.

March 27, 2015

Jesus & Daphne


Attraction seems such a social construct, so susceptible to environmental clues. And yet…yet there's also a genetic component, the idea that curves on a woman are attractive for reasons of fertility. I suppose there are biological limits to what we find attractive.

I think back to how much a single movie might've affected me, namely Daphne Zuniga in The Sure Thing. I wonder how much my crush on a girl back in college was unwittingly influenced of that movie. That look - high cheekbone, beautiful raven hair, twinkly eyes - was not always my thing.  In 5th grade through 12th, blondes held my fancy, perhaps because they didn't look like my black-haired sister with whom I regularly fought.

But I have to assume it was popular culture that ultimately altered my perceptions of attraction. Certainly even names themselves become popular as a result of the culture; Malcolm Gladwell I think once studied the names given to children as status indicators.

This too makes sense with respect to prejudices and racism. If you meet someone you really like who happens to be black, gay, polka-dot or named George, you might associate warm feelings, or greater openness towards, those who are black, gay, polka-dot or have the name George. Which is why we'll always have prejudice with us since impossible to have positive examplars possessing every possible prejudicial characteristic. (Serving all of your alliteration needs for over a decade now!)

Back in the '80s I often thought that my own popularity with girls was marginally dependent on whether some actor who looked just like me (but with great charisma) became popular in pop culture. Matthew Broderick being the closet. Because then those feelings that women had toward that actor might be partially transferrable to me, or at least would make them more open to me. I was looking for someone who looked like me to pave the way for me.

Sort of like Jesus. Here was someone who looked like us humans who could pave the way to God the Father, to make us look (and be) acceptable. The charisma of Christ was such that the Father couldn't resist the Son, and thus the Father looks on all of us humans more favorably.

March 26, 2015

Appalachia

This photo, in the latest Economist, just reeks of fascination:


For one thing, the utter inaccessibility.  To even try to approach such a house would likely get you killed. You don't go to a holler unaccompanied.

Second, the disparity between the girl and the house.  The house is falling down, ugly, neglected. The girl is none of those things. She's dressed in nice clothes, her hair braided. The shoes, crocs, seem well-suited for the muddy environment.

Looks like there's even a satellite dish on the house. Priorities seem reasonable:  personal appearance first, puppy care, and entertainment.  Home improvement projects last.

The article says that poverty in Appalachia has decreased significantly over the past fifty years due to food stamps and other government programs, but health has decreased, reflected in higher relative mortality rates.

More:
IN THE hills around Paintsville, a small town in eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian region, some of the nicer houses have paths that wind from the front porch up to a gate. Through these gates family cemeteries with headstones and brightly coloured imitation flowers can be glimpsed. These hallowed patches of ground help to explain one of the things that puzzles outsiders about Appalachia: why the people who live there remain so attached to a place that has been a byword for rural poverty for at least half a century.

Cynthia Duncan, a sociologist who recently returned to Appalachia to update “Worlds Apart”, an influential book on persistent poverty first published in 1999, says that though poor schooling and a fondness for a familiar landscape do tether people to the mountains, Appalachia’s poorest residents also have a remarkable capacity for resilience when faced with hardship, of which they have seen plenty.

It Occurs...

It occurs to me that I don't have enough nearly enough glurgy pictures on this blog. Forthwith I shall remedy!




Three Takes

Stern ol' teacher Sister Ruth, 4th through 6th grade. A throwback. Came of age during the Depression and worked in Communist China teaching the heathens. Them and later us. 

I remember a few incidents like they were yesterday but only these few, probably because I spent so much of the time dreaming outside the present moment:

- the shock and awe of one female student crying and screaming “I hate you!” to Sister. The response seemed measured and calm, although I remember the eruption more than the response. I couldn't believe you could say that in class.

- How she loved all hymns because they expressed holy sentiments. Lyrics uber alles.

- How she didn't mind dull sermons because she knew someone needed to hear what was being preached. I recall being shocked by that notion; I thought only in terms of me, of course, and couldn't imagine “liking” a homily for the sake of another.

- Her comparing sin and forgiveness to the opening of a feather pillow from a height and watching helplessly as the feathers fell, seemingly irretrievable, except by God.

- And, of course, the time she called me “a dreamer”. I assume derogatorily, although I doubt I took it that way then. I think I thought it meant I was special.

Three years and that's all I recall. It's amazing how sometimes small things can be disproportionate in memory.

Ultimately (perhaps unfortunately) self-knowledge offered from the perspective of others is highly memorable, especially when it has never occurred to you before. When the mother at a party of fellow seven-year olds told me my name was “so common” her comment stung (did it at the time? Or did “common” only later seem a negative? the tricks of memory….) and has resounded in my head for over forty years though the children I was with at the party have been long forgotten. Words are often more memorable than people, which is an very odd thing if you think about it given how little they mean compared to people.

I think of Sister Ruth with affection now and a bit of awe at the self-giving emblematic of all those nuns. Like Nixon, we don't have them to kick around anymore and we're feeling their loss severely (i.e. in Catholic school closings and sky-high tuition). At the time Sister and I felt on “different teams”, that unbridgeable gulf between teacher and student, ruler and ruled. Now I feel like we're on the same team, oriented to the same goal of salvation, even though of course she was infinitely closer to her goal then (and presumably has reached it) than I am now.

I think also of likely the most devout Catholic (and counter-culture warrior) at high school was Mr. Mulchaey, a teacher concerning whom, at the time, I was mostly indifferent. He was a man's man but with a sense of wonder, wonder in the sense that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I recall how airy and unreal that felt at the time. He was teaching theology-of-the-body-type concepts in the late '70s, or at least deep respect for the material God gave us and of the holiness of sex. Doesn't get more counter-cultural than that.

We had saints in our midst and we were blind – it's funny how we see clearly only in retrospect, of how those who sow seeds of faith do so with almost no immediate gratification. The long view is the Faith view, and given human nature I'm not sure there's any getting around that. We are all lagging indicators, usually only seeing the preciousness of people and the gift of Catholicism belatedly. Maybe not till Heaven.

*

Speaking of the afterlife, Blogger Bill at “The Gospel Truth” writes:
In the [preface] Father Robert Barron quotes a vision of St. Catherine of Siena where she suffered in her soul to even think that one of God’s creatures would be damned for all eternity. She said she did not know how to reconcile even one of your creatures made in his image and likeness should be lost and slip from your hands.
The Catholic Church is not one of just laws and judgments. It is the Church of love and mercy. But it is one pregnant with paradoxes and deep esoteric truths that most cannot fathom. God’s infinite mercy is irreconcilable with His absolute justice. It is the ultimate squared circle. We can’t understand it because it contradicts our human logic.
I also read a story about a priest who quipped while I am alive, I am all for God’s Justice but when I die, I am all for His mercy! A resounding Rush Limbaughesque Dittos to him!!
*

Read interesting article about a guy who collected John Updike's trash for years. In the article Updike was quoted as saying that in his work he was interested in the tension between following one's desires and the consequences, how we may listen to our inner (often sexual) urges only to find the “social fabric collapses murderously” but of self-sacrifice and duty it “results in man's private agony and dwindling.” Sounds like the classic dilemma, of whether trying to save one's life, or to save one's soul.  But a false dichotomy? – the last three pontiffs, Popes John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis hardly seem in agony or “dwindled” by their heroic adherence to Christianity.

March 23, 2015

Reformicon

I found the following, from Jim Geraphy of NRO, interesting. Particularly the idea that having ideas makes you suspect. And how the emotions of revenge can block performance (sin makes you stupid?):
"Yes, it’s usually a mistake to read the comments under any article.

But I’m struck by the amount of skepticism and animosity that greets a mention of the word “reformicon.”...The “reformicon” agenda -- to the extent it can be boiled down -- is to find conservative reforms of existing local, state, and federal laws to help the middle class. Start with the problem facing the middle class -- high tuition, high tuition, high health-care costs, high cost of living, slow wage growth -- and come up with ways to get government out of the way as a driver of costs, or figure out how to get the government to achieve the required goals more efficiently and with more choice for individuals.

The reformicon agenda offers problem-solving . . . at a moment that a big chunk of the conservative base wants vengeance for the progressive stinkbombs laid upon this country by a runaway administration: Obamacare and its sales pitch full of lies; a partisan IRS; de facto amnesty by executive order; an enormously wasteful un-stimulative stimulus full of Solyndra-style pork and payoffs; a Dodd-Frank “reform” that turned “too big to fail” into “even bigger and more risky”; shipping guns to Mexican drug cartels in “Fast and Furious”; destructive race-baiting; a retreat from war against radical Islam; a reset button to an ambitious, duplicitous Putin; lying about the cause of the Benghazi attack; skipping Paris rallies for free expression to watch football; and giving away the store to Iranian mullahs.

The reformicon agenda is important, meat-and-potatoes governing issues, but that’s not what gets conservatives’ blood pumping at the moment – and there’s a sense that somebody really focused on the former is giving a pass to the latter. I think that sense is erroneous, but it’s out there.
The other element in there is those who suspect that “reform conservatism” seeks to reform conservatism itself, something that every reformicon insists isn’t true. But while conservatism doesn’t need updating, maybe the particular policy goals do.

There are, in some circles, this insistence that “if we Republicans want to win again, we just need to do what Ronald Reagan did” as if 30 years hadn’t passed since Reagan’s last electoral victory. (If you plug Reagan’s winning percentages among various demographics into the 2012 electorate, Reagan loses.) It’s not 1979 anymore; we don’t have a 1979-style economy, tax rate, education system, health-care system, workforce, and so on; why would it be controversial to take the concepts of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty and apply them to the concerns of today’s middle-class Americans?" 
Why indeed.

Un-imprimatur'd Thoughts

This pic is apropos of nothing in particular...

Heard Fr. Larry Richards on EWTN radio mention he doesn't like emotional intimacy, which is a pretty intimate admission. “Why do you think I'm celibate?” he joked.

He went on to say we typically don't want the truth. We judge how much someone had helped us by how much they soothed rather than healed us, preferring temporary relief of symptoms over painful removal of a root cause any day. We tend to want to choose our medicine and not leave it up to the Divine Physician. Jim Curley quoted St Francis de Sales as saying God may take us the route of consolation or desolation. St Pio was so bold as to ask what it should matter to us of God gives an arduous or less difficult climb to Heaven.

One of the more “impactful” song lines from the '80s for me came from none other than pop singer George Michael. The killer lyric was from the wistful One More Try:
“'Cuz teacher
there are things I don't wanna learn….
When you were just a stranger
And I was at your feet
I didn't feel the danger
Now I feel the heat.”
Ain't it the truth?

I recall reading many years ago that the famed writer Graham Greene was fascinated by Padre Pio but he didn't want to meet the future saint. Feared it in fact. Because there were things Greene didn't “wanna learn”.

I think that was also part of the problem for the disciples of Jesus leading up to Good Friday. There were things they didn't want to learn, specifically the stumbling block that is the Cross…

*

Got mildly obsessed with Jer 31:31-34, the First Reading on Sunday. Distracted by the promises made, wondering if they were made to us now, or in Heaven or some combination. Collected all commentaries concerning the prophet's assertion that we would no longer need instruction from others, that the knowledge of God would be implanted directly into our hearts. Seems slightly over-enthusiastic, perhaps.

Wansbrough:
“No need for everyone to teach brother’? Yes, we must still learn from one another and accept the guidance of the Church, but the bond is between God and the individual, no longer the race as such.”
Orchard:
“Jeremiah is indicating and contrasting the predominant characteristics of the two dispensations; not that faith and love and forgiveness were entirely absent from the old dispensation, or that proper instruction will be entirely unnecessary in the new.”
Haydock:
“Christ himself came to instruct mankind. The true God was better known than ever, even by the illiterate. Yet God requires us to have recourse to men, in order to know his truths, as S. Paul was sent to Hananias, and the eunuch to Philip. H.—The apostles were enlightened by the Holy Ghost, who still guides the flock by his pastors. The private spirit is too fanatical and delusive. H.—The most ignorant shall easily become acquainted with the truths of salvation. External preaching is requisite, though of little use unless grace touch the mind and the heart. T.—All will hear successively, (H.) or embrace the gospel at the same time, for several years before the last day.”
Some of the early church fathers presumed this to refer to our heavenly existence, not earthly. St. Augustine sermonized that we should memorize the Creed so that it would be written in our hearts rather than on parchment or stone.

*

New Jerusalem Study Bible on what's “new” about the New Covenant?:
1. God's spontaneous forgiveness of sins
2. Individual responsibility and retribution
3. Interiorisation of religion: the Law is to be no longer a code regulating external activity but an inspiration working on the human heart under the influence of the Spirit of God, who gives a new heart capable of knowing God.

*

You can no sooner strip someone of irrationality as you can his clothing. He'll protest and resist. And I recall my own metastasizing fixations of yore, of the girl on whom I would pin my hopes of salvational intimacy. (“Sex is the mysticism of a materialist society,” as one convert Englishman said.)  Tangibility uber alles.

I recall travel to foreign lands as of a similar quality because I felt the foreign held an answer, the key, and something inherently transcendent. The magic of the Ireland trip was that I believed in magic: I believed I might see a faerie, visible or otherwise. I felt the land inhabited a spirituality denied to poor ol' Ohio. This cult of the foreign, be it a foreign body (i.e. a naked girl having parts I lack) or a foreign land (i.e. Ireland, with it's spirits and land-specific tonalities), was somehow both true and false. True because the foreign does possess great worth, but false because both male and female, America and elsewhere, are composed of sacred land. The trick in Christianity is to go from believing the sacred is limited, special, rare and supernatural, to believing it's also plain, natural and accessible even unto us. No prophet is without honor in his hometown and no person is without supernatural grace except in his own mind.

From a recent church document Love is Our Mission:
The tangible, the earthly, the corporeal world is more than inert matter or modeling clay for the human will. Creation is sacred. It has sacramental meaning. It reflects God's glory. That includes our bodies. Our sexuality has the power to procreate, and shares in the dignity of being created in the image of God. We need to live accordingly.
That's pretty potent stuff in our current Gnostic age. Who can believe the earthly, the natural, our penis or vagina, are sacred? (Ok, I just wanted to say 'penis' and 'vagina' on a Catholic blog.) Ireland or Ohio or Timbuktu, it's all sacred ground.

That can be taken too far of course, into pantheism. The pilgrimage to a holy site is a wonderful thing, and we surely recognize there's a hierarchy of sacredness such that some things are more God-like than others (a mosquito versus a human being versus the Blessed Sacrament).