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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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. 

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

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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.