Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Word is Coming

Today's readings (Rom 10:9-18; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Mt 4:18-22) at Mass did not at first seem to prompt Fr. Johnson's homily at OLO Lourdes, Bethesda. That's OK by me, because the homily is supposed to be the "Word of God under another form," or something like that, and on Sundays the epistle isn't usually calibrated to match themes with the first and gospel reading anyway. I especially enjoy lives of the saints. In any event, I was mistaken, and happily so. Fr. Johnson's homily was
inspired. I'll try to recap a couple key points in brief.

  • Especially as one begins to study languages, languages and words become fascinating.
  • A word is, on one level, just a sound made by a voice; but not really, because it is a sound intended to convey meaning.  Words are attempts to communicate what is inside oneself to others.
  • The Holy Father is to be commended for his easy, comfortable use of the Greek word logos, which means "word."
  • God "in many and various ways... spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets," (Heb 1:1).  In doing so, he was attempting to reveal himself to us more and more; our ears were stopped, but gradually he prepared for the fullest revelation.
  • Jesus is the Word of God - not mere words spoken by men - but the Word become a Man.  Jesus is God's Logos.  He is the fullest utterance of God to people about himself, about who he is, about what he wants for us.
  • Everything about the life of Christ, then, is revelatory - a self-disclosure of who God is and what he wants for us.
  • Jesus was born humbly, lived his life dodging fame, and died in humiliation - and all of it voluntary.  God's ego is not on the line.  He doesn't want us to worship him so he can get his kicks.  He wants us to worship him because that is what will give us joy.
  • This Word, Jesus, is so powerful because it is divine and because it is filled with love.  It is this Word that turned Peter, Andrew, James, and John on their heels and led them to drop their nets, their livelihoods, their lives, and to follow Jesus.
I would like to add my own point.
  • The Word comes to us today in our lives, but the world is very cluttered and busy, chaotic and noisy.  The Word is not forceful or violent.  It is quiet.  It is born in a manger.  We will only hear the Word if we make time for silence in prayer and with the Word of God written on paper, so we can get a sense of how he speaks and thinks.
Wow, Fr. Johnson!  Thanks!  That was  a great homily.  At the end of Mass, he apologized for going on a bit long with his logos.  That was awful considerate of you, Fr. Johnson, but unnecessary.  The heads nodding when you asked if people were understanding you should confirm a theory of mine.  People don't mind someone going on for a bit if they really have something useful to say.

Something Beautiful to Start off Advent

This is the "Missa Orbis Factor," a Latin setting for the Mass whose title means 'Maker of the World' Mass. I found it at the Catholic Key blog. Every mention of it I find on the web says that it is Gregorian chant. All of these sources are amateurish, though - bloggers like me. It strikes me as simpler than Gregorian, though. It sounds more like Sarum to me. This theory strikes me as likely because it seems to be an old English chant, or at least is making its appearance through Anglican parishes. Except, well, that could just be because they like beautiful things (may they bring them with them when they come)! But then, I am amateurish - just a blogger. The biggest piece of counter-evidence to my theory is that the chanting in the YouTube video I have enclosed is actually performed by a Milanese Gregorian schola. One would think they would know... except maybe they like to branch out. Plus, it's not like Gregorian and Sarum are worlds apart... not to my amateurish ears, anyway. Anyone out there know more?

More on the Church Persecuted

This story, from InsideCatholic, is an excellent and well-written account of the martyrdom of three Pentecostal pastors in Iran during the last decade of the last century.  Just keep saying it over and over again, secularist pundits: Islam is a religion of peace... Islam is a religion of peace... Islam is a religion of peace... Islam is a religion of peace...

Happy Thanksgiving

Gratitude ... goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Let's try to make a point today, at least, of sharing some of that which we have so freely been given by our Creator.

A good spiritual exercise at the end of the day is to list off at least five things for which we are particularly grateful on that day.  In the morning, read the list from the previous night.  On both occasions, at morning at night, conclude the writing and the reading of your list of gratitude by making a short Act of Gratitude.  The Grace After Meals seems appropriate enough:

We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for these and all Thy benefits which we have received from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Proverbs that Might Be True, pt. 4

Men must be governed by God, or they will be
ruled by tyrants.

-William Penn

Watch Chris Matthews Be Rude As All-Hell to a Bishop

But I warn you, I was greatly irritated by the whole thing. If you watch this, promise to email Chris Matthews and tell him to let his guests get a word in edgewise.

Matthews didn't beat Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI in a debate; he just beat him up - and not with reasons, but with rudeness, interruptions, and haranguing. I am surprised that the bishop even agreed to go on the show. The people who are fighting us on this do not fight fair. That much should be clear to everyone by now.

The End Times?

Here's another post from the desk of Deacon Dave Wells... posted under my name while he learns to post on his own :)

The year is quickly coming to a close. Now, don’t run out and buy your noise makers, balloons, or champagne just yet, because the year I’m talking about is the liturgical year. The Church’s year begins with Advent and ends with the feast of Christ the King, which we celebrated this past Sunday. As we get towards the end of the year, the Sunday readings appropriately reflect the end times. They remind us that we are on a journey, that our ultimate goal is heaven, and that Christ will come again at the end of time.

In the second to last line in the whole Bible, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus promises, “Yes, I am coming soon.” The author of Revelation then responds, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Those should be our thoughts and words as well: “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

A question that we might have is “What exactly is going to happen when he does come?” It’s important to follow the teaching of the Church here for two reasons. One reason is that the end hasn’t come yet, so this drives people to speculate, guess. I haven’t seen the movie, 2012, which came out this past weekend, but rest assured that the producers didn’t study Church teaching before producing it. I haven’t heard anything about the movie yet, but for as entertaining as it may be, it is probably fraught with errors. The second reason why we have to be careful is because what has been revealed to us about the end times is very symbolic. The language associated with the end times is called apocalyptic language. We see it today both in the first reading and in the Gospel. We don’t read apocalyptic language as we read Sports Illustrated or a science text book, but we realize it’s very symbolic language and we must interpret it in line with how the Church has always read it.

That being said, what do we know about the end times? Christ’s second coming will follow a period of great persecution for the Church. We see this in today’s first reading and Gospel. Many believers will have their faith shaken as the evil one futilely attempts a last gasp effort at defeating Christ’s Kingdom. Following this final trial, Christ will come again in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Christ says as much in today’s Gospel: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory.” All of those who died before this time will receive their resurrected bodies, and those still living and those who have resurrected will either be punished for their sins by going body and soul into hell or rewarded for their faithfulness by going body and soul into heaven. This event won’t just affect us, but all of creation. We read in today’s Gospel, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky.” This language, which we don’t necessarily read literally, does show that the end times will be a cosmic event. Christ will bring about a new heavens and a new earth, as Scripture relates. The universe will be transformed in a way unimaginable to us. This is what the Church teaches about the end times, which we must be prepared for always. There will be great persecution of the Church, followed by Christ’s coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, who will receive their resurrected bodies at this point; and, finally, his second coming will be a cosmic event, affecting all of the created universe.

“Good” you may say but, “Why hasn’t Christ come back yet?” “What’s taking so long for him to come in glory?” we might ask. One response is found in St. Peter’s second letter, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” It has been two thousand years since Christ ascended into heaven. In the grand scheme of things, two thousand years are a blink of the eye in a universe that’s billions of years old; and even less than a blink of the eye when considered from God’s perspective from eternity.

To think about this question from another way, imagine if Christ returned in glory five years ago. The world would have ended five years ago. That means that some of my youngest nieces and nephews or your sons or daughters or grandchildren wouldn’t have been born and hence, they wouldn’t have existed, much less been saved by Christ. With each passing day, new members are added to the human race, and these are people that God has willed to exist from all eternity and to be with him for all eternity. God doesn’t benefit from the passage of time before he comes in glory, because he’s already perfect; rather, we benefit because more people are brought to salvation every day. The end times won’t come until all the people God desires to save—and he desires to save all of us—have lived on earth.

Connected with this previous point, I have a third answer to our question about why Christ seems to delay in returning. It’s really an act of mercy on God’s part that he hasn’t come yet. An analogy might be helpful to explain this. As a kid, I hated getting up for school. My mom had to yell at me to get up about six or seven times a morning. Finally, I’d tumble out of bed, and take my good ol’ time in getting ready. I recall with nightmarish memories my mom sometimes yelling, “The carpool’s here to pick you up! I hope you’re ready!” And, of course, I wasn’t ready—homework wasn’t done, or teeth weren’t brushed, or one shoe was nowhere to be found. But guess what? It was too late. I couldn’t do anything more, or stall more; it was simply time to go. When Jesus comes suddenly at the end of time, it’s time to go. As the Gospel says, “He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds.” Each day that Christ doesn’t come gives us another chance to grow in holiness. We have another day to improve a little more, to be a little bit nicer, to love God a little more sincerely. After Christ comes, there isn’t any chance to improve or amend our ways. So each day that Christ delays his return is a chance to grow a little bit holier so that we might be all the more fulfilled and joyful in heaven.

In answer to the question, “Why hasn’t Christ returned yet?” because one day for God is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day; he hasn’t come because all the people he desires to save have not been saved yet; and also, each day he doesn’t come is an act of mercy for us, because it gives us a chance to improve and love God more.

Christ has accomplished his mission. God became a man, died to save us, resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven. The only thing that remains is for him to come again in glory. Our attitude should not be one of fear as long as we stay close to the Church and truly love God. God loves us and desires our salvation. Our attitude should be like that of the author of Revelation, who said, “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

Trying to Out the Church

You may be aware that the Church in Washington, D.C., has been at loggerheads with the City Government about whether it will continue to contract with the city for social services on the condition that it cease to "discriminate" against gay "marriages." You may have heard it as the Church trying to bully or blackmail the City Government by threatening to "stop serving the poor." That probably rings very hollow to you. Church has never stopped serving the poor, and she never will. The media, naturally, is all over the thing and supplying all the headlines and cursorily written stories it can to try to make the Church look bad.

Some people have been unhappy with this action or that of our Archbishop in the past, but anyone with eyes will see that he is clearly shepherding his flock strongly and well right now, against immense social pressure from a number of angles. God bless Archbishop Wuerl, and thank God for giving him to us at this hour! He has just recently served as a principal craftsman and signatory of the Manhattan Declaration in support of traditional marriage, the right to life, and the right to religious liberty. The statement, signed principally by 148 leaders of the Christian community in the US and Canada, and already by thousands more, basically says that we will not budge one inch on these issues, and will not be bullied or coerced.

But the enemies of life, of marriage, of Christianity are fighting back hard. A website (to which I will not provide a link because I do not want to encourage hits) has just been launched and is being publicized, inviting people to write in stories of homosexuality among the Catholic clergy of, or resident in, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The site outrageously pretends to be an effort to help gay clergy to have a spiritual awakening through "new-found integrity." The site even contains a handy drop-down menu with a list of all the clergy to facilitate the process of blackmail and slander. Now who is blackmailing whom?

"Lastly, we encourage every Catholic priest to trust in God and in the power of the Christ to help you through this difficult, but important act of truth, faith and love.   It is not the intention of this site to complicate the lives of closeted gay priests, rather to help them make the difficult choice to stand up against the hateful and harmful new direction the Church hierarchy is taking the Holy Mother Church.

Disclaimer:  The goal of this site is not to force Catholic priests out of the closet against their will.  The goal of this campaign is to aggregate reports on every gay priest in the Archdiocese, so that we can work with them, one on one, helping them stand up to the the church hierarchy's stand on this important issue." - From the Blackmail Website
Yeah, right.

The measure is an attempt to coerce clergy into disobedience and apostasy, to sow dissension in the Church, to punish the Church for failing to bless sins of aberrant sexuality.  We need to show our support of our clergy.  Please, please, PLEASE take a minute to write a letter to your pastor or one of his associates, or to our Archbishop, and encourage them in this difficult challenge.  I also want to beg the rest of you to pray, pray, pray for God to act in this horrible situation to protect the Church. In addition to the Holy Mother of God, let's especially invoke St. Joseph and St. John Vianney, the great patrons of spiritual fathers and parish priests. We're all in this together now.

Please remember, "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places," (Eph 6:12). No matter what dark powers threaten from their high places, Jesus Christ is LORD! In a timely reminder, today is the Solemn Feast of Christ the King.

Something Interesting I Just Found Out

While reading a bit about the Solemn Feast of Christ the King, I came across this Methodist website and this Calvinist (Presbyterian?) one.  I was startled to say the least, but these appearances serve as an anecdotal confirmation of something I heard a year or so ago.

About a year ago, Archbishop Wuerl spoke at the Catholic University of America about the Synod of Bishops he had just attended.  The purpose of the synod was to discuss the role of the Sacred Scriptures in the life of the Church and to put together its findings and views in a brief to the Holy Father for his consideration, and ultimately for his use in the development in an exhortation to the whole Church.  The Synod was a great mix, he said.  Its voting members were of course only bishops, but collaborating experts and guests included any number of others, even non-Catholics.  In Archbishop Wuerl's working group there was the publisher of a Bible society of particular importance in the English-speaking world.  The publisher was a conservativish mainline-evangelical.  He said to the rest of the working group, "You Catholics have a major problem regarding the rest of the world."  At that, they all perked up.  I speculate that some were thinking, "Who is this joker?  Does he know where he is?"  The publisher continued, "Your problem is that you don't understand your relationship to the rest of the Christian churches.  We might be 'separated brethren', but we still look to you constantly... we can't help it, we always have, even when we'd prefer not to."  The Protestant world, even with regard to its highest earthly good - the Bible - rebelled against the Church, has constantly kept one eye on her, and nowadays finds herself looking over the Church's shoulder frequently, to see what the Church is "reading," as it were.

So in 1925, Pope Pius XI declares that henceforth, the last Sunday in Ordinary Time (then simply called "after Pentecost"), the Sunday before Advent, will be kept as the Solemn Feast of Christ the King.  The declaration was a response to the rise of Fascism in Italy in the early 1920s.  It remained as a challenge to National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany in the 1930s, and it remains as a challenge to secularism in the last days of the second millennium and the first days of the new one.  Mussolini might be Il Duce ("the Leader") and Hitler might be Der Fuhrer ("the Leader"), but Christ is King!

And interestingly enough, mainline Protestant churches started celebrating it as well, sometime between 1925 and the 1980s, as they adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, their cycle of readings based on the order of our (Catholic) lectionary.  So in this matter, on some level or levels, the Protestant world has looked to the Catholic again.  Let's see if, by our reverent devotion to our King, and our insistence upon his Lordship, we can set a good example.

To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King

Hint: click the song to hear it played and sing along.  I know, I'm wicked clever ;-)
The above is one of my favorite songs, and today is one of my favorite feasts.  We celebrate Christ in his Kingship on the last Sunday of the Church's liturgical year because on the last day of the world he will come in his glory to judge the "quick and the dead."  Two years ago I wrote a post on Christ the King and on Bl. Miguel Pro, martyr of the Mexican Revolution who died proclaiming that name.

We are living in darker and darker times, and great efforts are being made to muddy the waters, to keep things from being clear.  Sin abounds, and that makes it harder to see things clearly, harder to know what to do, harder to summon the courage to do it.

Here is a notable point.  In medieval times, the people did not defend their kings from barbarian hordes; rather, they lent their services to him so that he could defend them.  Jesus Christ does not need us to defend him or his honor.  His is not only our king, but our God; we need him to defend us.  Against all the pressures, deceptions, and coercion of sin in the world and in our hearts, let us have constant recourse to him, to our great and mighty King and to the heavenly host at his command.  By recourse to prayer and the sacraments, let us remain united in faith, hope, charity, and even in good cheer amidst suffering, which is surely one of the most powerful witnesses to those three great virtues.

Never Give Up - Nick Vujicic Explains Why

This guy's name is Nick Vujicic. He is amazing to me.

People like Nick are monkeywrenches in the abortion movement. Why do I say that? Because he is the sort of person whom they use as an excuse to abort babies - you know, "fetal abnormality" or "severe handicap." Funny thing is, he seems to prefer life to death; and what's worse for them, he seems happy.

More on the Manhattan Declaration

Click here to download the entire Manhattan Declaration.

The Manhattan Declaration on Religious Liberty

Today at noon at the National Press Club, a coalition of about 150 leaders of the Christian community in the United States have issued a statement called the Manhattan Declaration. In the statement, numerous Catholic and Orthodox bishops and seminary rectors, Evangelical and Protestant ministers, and other Christians involved in culture, politics, and public life have all vowed that they will not budge one inch on traditional morality pertaining to abortion and marriage; they have insisted upon the primacy of religious liberty in public life. The statement is truly inspiring.

The Manhattan Declaration can be found here, on the website First Things. Additionally, a website has been established called, with a place for visitors to sign onto the declaration alongside Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Chuck Colson, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Fr. Joseph D. Fessio, Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, and a host of others. Unfortunately, right now the link is having trouble and redirects to Chuck Colson's website, which is still an interesting read.

What's monumental about this is the strength and courage of the statement and its ecumenical breadth.  It is a clarion call to the nation's Christians - 80% of America.  With 60% of Americans saying that religion is important in their lives, this statement should be something of a wakeup call against the militant atheism that, in the name of maintaining a secular government (and secular it should be), is attempting to secularize the entire nation, and to bully anyone who objects or refuses to play along.

Here are some more articles related to it: from the Catholic News Agency and another about the Declaration's special place in current DC local politics.

Especially as we approach the Solemnity of Christ the King, this weekend, it behooves us to remember that nothing Caesar or his cohort can say or do has any authority over us except inasmuch as it aligns with the Law of God.  No matter who is president, no matter what lobby gets whatever law passed, Jesus Christ is Lord!

Proverbs That Might Be True, pt. 3

We love to the degree that we see ourselves as loved.
-St. Catherine of Siena

Another Reading from the Maccabees

Today's readings (2 Mc 7:1, 20-31; Ps 17:1bcd, 5-6, 8b and 15; Lk 19:11-28) are as gripping as yesterday's.  I have been partial to the Books of Maccabees ever since I read them.  The first reading is about the passion of a mother and her seven sons.  The selection for Mass cuts out vss 2-19 of the chapter, skipping over the deaths of the first six sons.  It does so for brevity's sake, but really the whole thing is worth reading.

The mother, after watching her first six sons die, is urged by King Antiochus to beg her last son to apostatize so that he will not die; in fact, Antiochus offers all sorts of incentives if he will abandon the law and God of his fathers.  The mother urges the son to spare her the grief of seeing him apostatize.  She let truth govern her emotions, rather than the other way around.  Amazing!

Graham, Catania, and the Bit of Pork

The first readings each day for Mass for week come from the Books of Maccabees. Today's readings (2 Mc 6:18-31; Ps 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Lk 19:1-10) document the passion of Eleazar, an old and respected leader of Israel, a scribe. Judea had been under a Greek dynasty for a hundred and fifty or so years, since Alexander the Great conquered it, together with the rest of the Eastern world. For the most part, the Greeks had not been too demanding: pay your taxes and don't cause a fuss. But King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had a different agenda. Let's put it this way. Epiphanes means manifest in Greek, and what he meant by calling himself (that's right, he picked his own surname against common convention) was that he manifested God. Uh-huh.  No joke.  He commanded that his whole empire - roughly what we would now call Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and western Iran - should be hellenized, made Greek, made to follow Greek customs.  This measure would secure their obedience to him.  Now, since they were the bigshots in town, the Greeks were exactly the sort of people that most folks kinda tried to imitate anyway.  No problem.

Except for the Jews.

They had this thing, called the Torah (they still do) which means something like Law or Instruction.  Its purpose was both to govern the people and to teach them goodness, to teach them God's will, God's mind, God's heart.  Less than four hundred years earlier, they had been in bondage in Babylon for disregarding it.  By the time of Antiochus, about one hundred and sixty or seventy years before Christ, the Jews had pretty well learned the lesson: stick to God, and things will go OK; abandon His way at your own risk.  But Antiochus the self-styled "manifestation of God" was not one to brook dissension.  He became furious at Jewish dissent and eager sought out Jews who would help him 'enlighten' (yes, that's the term he would have used, or maybe 'get up with the times') their countrymen.  That's where today's reading picks up.

Eleazar, the man of God, is commanded to break the Law of God by eating pork. He refuses on the grounds that to do so is immoral.   His oppressors, agents of King Antiochus, have known him for years.  They've been friends.  They ask him privately to pretend to eat the pork so that he can save his life.  He refuses on the grounds that to do so would set a bad example for the youth.  The king's men become furious and force feed him.  He spits out the pork and insists:

Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws, (2 Mc 6:26-28).
Eleazar will not abandon God in order to please men, nor even to save his own life.  This attitude baffled the rulers of Eleazar's day, his "friends," and they flew into a rage and beat him to death at the age of ninety, entirely forgetting his service, their friendship, even his gray hairs.  They not only put him to death, but many others as well.  Why should he be so obstinate over such a small thing, a little piece of meat that everybody else is eating?

We must pray for our Church and its leaders.  The local church of Washington, D.C., right now needs the prayers of our brethren immensely.  Local officials in the city government have decided to get on the gay marriage bandwagon.  It is probably going to decide to attach to any funding or contracts it awards the stipulation that the recipient must not "discriminate" against gays, including failing to recognize their "marriages."  Those who do so will be ineligible to receive either assistance from, or contracts to work for, the city.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., has long been the most effective provider of social services in the city, and the largest private one to boot.  It provides services to over 10% of the city's residents.  Many of those services are contracted to it by the City, a tacit recognition of the fact that the Church is able to do what the City cannot: mobilize volunteers and trained, certified workers to provide services efficiently and in a caring way for the city's neediest residents.

The problem is that the Church won't eat the pork.

Everyone else is doing it.  Nobody is making the Church change its teachings, after all.  It's free "to go right on hating gay people" (opines a local columnist).  It just has to pay spousal benefits to their sodomite cohabitants, that's all.  Oh, and, it goes without saying - not use those words, either.  Oh, and it can't refuse to help them adopt children, either.  If the Church won't acquiesce, then the City cuts it out of the help-the-poor loop.  Well, the Church will continue helping the poor, using as much of its own resources as it can, just as it always has.  The problem is that all those poor people that got helped by City money administered by the Church won't have anyone to serve them now.  Except maybe the City... which we know does splendidly with all the other services it provides: schools, roads, emergency rescue - all top notch in D.C., right?  Right.

Well, to keep the Church from bailing, the City and its propaganda wing, the Washington Post (it should be called the Washington Pravda), have decided to lampoon the Church and bash it as hard as it can.  In the Pravda, er, Post's online column's, Susan Jacoby has decided that the Church is "blackmailing" the poor, helpless government.  The goal is to pressure the Church into a compromise.  Headlines read such as, "Church threatens to cancel social services over gay marriage."  The truth is obfuscated: it is said that other dioceses have not stopped services in the face of similar legislation.  What is left unsaid is that the "similar legislation" in other states has included religious/conscience exemptions of the sort excluded by the DC City Council's bill.  Except in the case of Massachusetts, other states have allowed those with a doctrinal reason to continue operations.  In Massachusetts, the relevant dioceses have ceased the provide the relevant services, though almost everyone thought the church would open wide and eat the pork that Antiochus demanded to prove obedience.  The purpose here, as there, is to push the Church just a little bit further out of public life, to be able to say, "See how useless those hypocrites are!"  If you have any doubt about it, you have only to ask the leaders of these legislative movements.

The effort in DC is spearheaded by Jim Graham and David Catania.  Back in July 2000, the two openly gay members of the City Council were sponsoring a bill, without religious/conscience exemptions, that would have required all employers who provided health care to include coverage for contraception.  Graham commented, "My problem is surrendering decisions on public health to the church…I've spent years fighting church dogma."  That bill failed because the broader political climate prevented it from coming to fruition.  The climate has changed now, and the two seem to have the votes they need to continue their fight against "church dogma."

The complaint is sometimes made that our leaders in the Church are not strong enough, or outspoken enough.  They hobnob to easily with public sinners, it is said.  (Lol. I am glad they do not shun my company!)  But our leaders have a history of fighting as well - they will not be pushed or shoved.  When the Maryland legislature was poised to remove the legal protection for the confidentiality of the confessional back in 2003, (lovable, old) Theodore Cardinal McCarrick said, "If this bill were to pass, I shall instruct all priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who serve in Maryland to ignore it... On this issue, I will gladly plead civil disobedience and willingly -- if not gladly -- go to jail."  Archbishop Wuerl, now governing our archdiocese, has been as adamant.  The archdiocese will not put itself at the service of the City's welfare system if doing so is conditioned upon betraying its broader mission.  The Post has graciously given the Archbishop a chance to defend the diocese from its headlines in this op-ed piece, published today.  It is well worth a read.

Our role models in the Church, it seems, will not eat the King Antiochus' pork.

Brethren in Free America, please pray for us here who are being put to the screws by Epiphanes.

What's Caesar Got Behind His Back?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is hiding some data behind its back. Rather, it's hiding the data from the public. Our policymakers are given access to it, but we, the policymakers' bosses, are to be kept from seeing it.  It seems the CDC is recommending that the Federal government put the kabosh on abstinence-only sex education because their stats on its effectiveness are "inconsistent." 

Perhaps the results are inconsistent with their ideology.  The fact that "comprehensive risk reduction" approaches, ones that favor the use of prophylactic measures, show "limited direct evidence of effectiveness," doesn't seem to stop them from recommending those approaches.

It is telling that there will be no public scrutiny of the data until after public policy is set.  So much for transparency in government.

Our cultural powers are making ceaseless war upon the ways of life developed over eighteen or nineteen hundred years.  They feel Christianity responsible for the misery they experience in lives evacuated of meaning by the expulsion of God.  The economic powers that be are funding this war in order to enrich themselves.  Christians, it is our job, to show the beauty of the Christian way of living by our conduct of life.  While doing what we can to advance the Christian vision, we must brace ourselves for the likelihood that our triumph will not follow obvious victory, but apparent defeat.  Look to a crucifix for a role model.

God At Work Among Us

God is still at work in the world, drawing all people to Himself whenever he is lifted up (Jn 12:32), and sometimes even when he is not.

Read about Kumar and Uma Krishnan, who were led into our holy Church by dreams of the Blessed Virgin.  They were initiated this past September at St. Mary of Sorrows, Fairfax, Virginia.

Or read about Fr. Stephen James Taluja, born Jaideep Singh in 1981 to a Sikh family in India.  His experience of Catholic education led him to embrace the faith a few years after graduating, and led him to Catholic seminary.  He was just ordained a priest of Maryknoll by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Why I Changed the Subtitle

Those paying close attention will have noted that the subtitle of this blog recently changed from "Meanderings in Faith From One Hoping To Grow In Charity" to "A Pilgrimage Of Faith For Those Hoping To Grow In Charity."  Why, you might ask.

Well there is an anterior reason and a proximal reason.  Lol.

The anterior (earlier) reason is that I have had a growing desire to somehow draw this blog into my Christian apostolate.  Huh?  Every Christian is called to have an apostolate, a way or ways of presenting Christ to the world.  Some apostolates are really the task of every Christian: virtuous living, for example.  Other apostolates, like teaching religion, need a bit of specialized training.  Some apostolates are apostolates-by-example: working in a soup kitchen, for example.  Other apostolates are more apostolates-by-proclamation: writing books about the Faith, etc.  One's personal apostolate is the way or collection of ways in which one presents the love of Jesus Christ to the world.  Clearly, different seasons of our life will include different sorts of apostolate.

Changing the subtitle from "from one hoping to grow in charity," to "for those hoping to grow in charity," is intended to indicate the shift I am getting at here: this blog started as my personal ramblings that might or might not have been interesting to others.  Now, I would like this blog to shift focus to be ramblings (perhaps from a variety of source) that may help people to understand the holy Catholic religion, and the way we think and see the world.

The proximal reason for the change in the subtitle is the homily that I recently posted on behalf of the Rev. Mr. David Wells.  He made the point that life is a pilgrimage.  That got me to thinking: pilgrimages have points.  Meandering means wandering aimlessly, or something like it.  I am a Christian, and while I get sidetracked and sometimes wander, I certainly am not wandering aimlessly.  At least, I hope not.  A pilgrimage, on the other hand, is "a journey, esp. a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion."  I am, please God, on a pilgrimage to heaven, as Deacon Wells pointed out.  Thanks, Rev!

So I hope, dear reader, that you will stick with me, offer your contributions, and grow with us in faith, hope, and charity though clear thinking, experiencing beauty and goodness, and praising God.

no time ago

If anyone doubts that e. e. cummings' poetry often has religious themes, let this poem serve as a gentle and partial rebuff:

no time ago
or else a life
walking in the dark
i met christ

jesus)my heart
flopped over
and lay still
while he passed
close as i'm to you
yes closer
made of nothing
except loneliness

This poem is brief and the grammar is relatively straightforward.  There are parts that are hard to figure, exactly.  The encounter with Christ - either a moment ago or a lifetime ago - was not exactly a moment of conversion, although there was something of a change ("flopped over") of heart involved.  Is the poet's heart playing dead?  Christ came very close to him, but what - was it Jesus? - was made of "nothing except loneliness"?  And what does that mean, exactly.  The poem is desolate or forlorn... is it desperate?

An encounter with Christ, outside of the happy-clappy conversion ("I've been saved, Hallelujah!") moments, can be hard to categorize.

Your thoughts, dear reader?

All Called to Be Saints

Here is the first contribution of Rev. Mr. David Wells to this blog.  I have adapted slightly, with his permission, the homily that he gave on the Feast of All Saints, about two weeks ago.  Before long, his posts will appear with his own signature.  Enjoy!

The Marine Corps Marathon on a recent Sunday in D.C. and I know a few people who ran in the race.  One was a priest who used to be where I currently serve as deacon, at St. Jude’s, Rockville, Maryland; he goes by the name of Fr. Rob Walsh.  From what I hear, Fr. Walsh finished the marathon but it was not beautiful to behold.  Even with months of training, running a marathon is no easy feat.  Everyone who runs a marathon follows a training regimen, more or less strictly, so that when race day comes, they don’t get to mile seven and start looking for the nearest metro stop.  In other words, they have a goal—finishing the marathon—and a plan for how they will carry that out—their training regimen.

"My uncle was fond of saying that the goal of life is heaven.  “The goal of life is heaven.”  One spiritual writer puts it this way: “The ultimate failure in life is not to be a saint.”   Recently, the Church celebrated the Feast of All Saints.  We honor those who have reached that goal of heaven and we ask for their help and prayers to rally us on to the finish line.  The saints are like those people who cheer us on after they’ve finished the race, because they know that the award is well worth the struggle.  But even if we have the goal firmly established, how do we reach that goal?  The last thing we want is to be like that person who decides to run a marathon and has no plan for running it.

"Now the plan for going about reaching our goal of heaven is unique for each of us.  God has a distinct plan, a distinct mission, for each one of us.  But that being said, there are some things we all share in common.  There are certain things that if we keep them in mind and carry them out, will aid all of us in reaching our goal of heaven.  I’ve come up with three suggestions, but the Lord knows there are many other things.

"The first piece of advice I have is “keep your eye fixed on the prize.”  When you first begin training for the marathon and you’re sore and out of breath after a half mile; when it’s 95 degrees out and not a bit of shade on the route; and when those shoes everyone says you have to buy cost more than your last suit.  When you encounter all of these setbacks, if your goal is not fixed firmly in place—to run a marathon—you’ll soon give up and head back for the air conditioning.

"The saints recognized and always kept at the forefront that the goal of life is union with God in heaven.  This motivated not just their big decisions but was the motivating factor behind their small decisions as well.  We should think about heaven . . . a lot.  It should fascinate us.  The first reading from the Book of Revelation powerfully and symbolically illustrates the glory of the saints in heaven.  St. John asks who the persons wearing white robes and holding palm branches are.  He is told that these are the saints who suffered great tribulations on earth but whose robes have been washed by Christ’s blood and now glorify God forever.

"In the second reading, St. John reminds the community to whom he writes that they are God’s children now.  This great saint and mystic admits next, “What we shall be hasn’t been revealed.”  It’s beyond our wildest imagination and surpasses our greatest hopes what we shall be like in heaven.  And finally, in the Gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples to undergo suffering and face difficulties during this life, because they will enjoy great glory in heaven.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The saints greatly look forward to heaven and to being with God forever.  We, too, must keep our eye fixed on the prize, and not get too distracted by our everyday problems.  This world is short, eternity is forever.

"The second thing we should keep in mind to reach our goal of heaven is that it’s possible.  It’s possible to be a saint.  No, this is too weak a statement.  It’s expected of us, it’s normal in God’s eyes.  Not only that, but God wants us to be saints and will give us every aid necessary in order to reach our goal.  Sometimes it feels like God is working against us, but this is never the case.  He’s our number one fan and supporter.   Pope John Paul II canonized more saints in his 25 years as pope than were canonized in the previous 450 years.  In doing this, he wanted to show us that not only is it possible to be a saint, it should be thought of as normal to be one.  We’re all called to be one.

"One of the things that makes this difficult is that we think the saints were superhuman and we could never equal their feats.  We don’t read souls, pray all day, talk with God in mystical prayer, or appear in two places at once.  Well, don’t worry, because the saints, apart from Mary, were far from perfect.  St. Padre Pio, an Italian, was known for being short-tempered.  St. John Marie Vianney failed out of seminary and was sent to the middle-of-nowhere city of Ars, France because it was thought there he could do the least damage.  St. Teresa of Avila got so mad at God once, she shouted at him, “if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”  The saints weren’t great because they were superhuman or perfect, but because they realized they were sinners and relied totally on God.  Reaching our goal is possible, because God desires it, the saints root us on, and the Church is like our mother, giving us the spiritual nourishment to accomplish it.

"The third thing to keep in mind as we strive toward our goal is that we fail daily, but we should persevere nonetheless.  Discouragement is one of the most debilitating things for us as faithful Christians.  Scripture says that even the just man falls seven times a day.  Mother Teresa wisely said that she received so much grace because she was such a great sinner.  The great St. Paul tells us that he is the foremost of sinners.  But this doesn’t get him down.  He recognizes his sin, and then abandons himself to god’s infinite mercy.  After a century of two World Wars, countless other massacres, and many other evils, humanity is tempted to reflect and concentrate on its own sinfulness.  This couldn’t be any more false.  The message Christ gives us is that of mercy.  His mercy completely swallows up the worst of our sins if we turn to him with true contrition.  If we are faithful to the sacrament of confession, we are well on our way to reaching our goal.

"If we keep our eyes fixed on the prize of heaven, realize that it is not only possible but it’s expected of us, and if in spite of our failings we persevere in the race, we shall surely be among those who are with God forever in heaven.  This is our hope and this drives us on.  My brothers and sisters, let us enter the race, so that one day we may share the joy of the communion of saints in heaven.  My all the angels and saints pray for us and intercede for us."
Awesome, Deacon Dave! Thanks!

Introducing the Rev. Mr. David Wells

Dear Reader,

It is with great excitement that I would like to announce to you the first major news about this blog, well, in forever.  A friend of mine, the Rev. Mr. David Wells, is a deacon-seminarian of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.  He will hopefully be ordained a priest in just a few months, and has agreed to join me as a contributor to this blog.  Mostly, he will be posting his homilies.  He may also post papers or links to papers he's writing at seminary.  He's a sharp one, so they should be interesting to read.  One hopes that Deacon Wells will also splash random thoughts from time to time, because his random thoughts are pretty good too.

I am eager to have Deacon Wells' contributions, partly because they will be good in themselves, and partly because they will increase content and broaden the overall perspective of the blog.  That can only be a good thing.  I've known Dave for a number of years now, and he's got an approach that is both laid back and yet serious, which translate to an evangelical zeal that challenges and yet is not at all off-putting.  Most importantly, he is a man of prayer, and I believe his words will inspire his listeners and readers to a more intense spiritual life.  If I can increase those who hear or read him, even by just five or ten per day, I will have done a good service to the Kingdom of God.

Surrounding the addition of Deacon Wells, and perhaps others, as contributor(s) to this blog, some other changes will come over it in the next few weeks and months.  They will mostly be small.  Their purpose will be to intensify the focus of the blog on the apostolate, especially with an eye toward exposing people to the holy Catholic religion.  Hopefully, this will help non-Catholics see the reasonableness and beauty of our way of thinking and living; hopefully it will help us Catholics to live and think in a more reasonable and beautiful way.

Ryan Haber
Kensington, Maryland

except in your

Here's another poem by e. e. cummings.

except in your
my loveliest,
may move may rest
-you bring

(out of dark the
procession of
huger than prove
our fears

were hopes:the moon
for you and close
will shy
wings of because;
each why

of star(afloat
on not
quite less than all
of time)
gives you skilful
his flame

so is your heart
of languages
there's none
but well she knows;
and can

perfectly speak
and rainbow mind
and soul
november and

who younger than
are,the worlds move
in your
(and rest, my love)
The poem, intensely pure by Christian standards, is a love poem to woman.  I've color-coded it to help with parsing.  I will not stand by the color-coding; they are just my first glance effort and one who is more skillful than myself would probably do it differently, and better.

The poem starts and ends with a rough parallelism: "except in your honour, my loveliest, nothing may move may rest" and "the worlds move in your (and rest, my love) honour".  I do not know if, or what, significance is attached to the reworking the verses undergo from their place at the start to their place at the end.  But the parallelism binds the poem together and, I believe, sets the theme.  Everything revolves around the woman he loves, so much so, that in his heart, everything serves to honor her, regardless of what it does.  When the Pharisees chide Jesus for letting his disciples hail him as king upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus responds to them, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out," (Lk 19:40).  This thought, that all creation proclaims God's praise, is also found in the psalms: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork," (Ps 19:1; cf. Ps 97:6; Hab 3:3).

The woman whom the poet praises brings a "procession of wonders" abundantly sufficient ("huger than") to "prove our fears were hopes."  There is something about this woman and the things she evokes that inverts one's whole way of thinking.  She transforms the craven and base into one of the noblest of human intentions: aspiration, hope, confidence.  She draws these wonders out of "dark the earth," out of our darkened, human experience, bound and trapped otherwise by matter, and presumably time and space as a whole.

The "shy wings of because" close because explanations lose their power in her presence.  She transcends mere explanations, as the stars fly higher than any wings can.  The stars ask "why?" because they fill us with wonder and awe.  These why's are "afloat on not quite less than all of time."  The woman poses, or perhaps embodies, eternal questions, mysteries that beggar explanation.  The poet, thematically throughout his poetry, definitely prefers wonder and awe to mere knowledge and facts.  "Each why of star... gives you skilful his flame," fits a common e. e. cummings construction of inverting the order of the modifying adjective and modifying articles or pronouns.  In common English we would have "his skillful flame," but cummings loves to switch "his" and "skillful," or whatever words fill those spots in the construction (above, note "dark the earth").  The woman receives the skillful flames of the stars, as if they were gifts offered in homage to a queen.  This openness to mystery, and the deep wisdom received by the one open to mystery, enables the woman to speak every language.  ("there's none but well she knows") e. e. cummings lists some of the languages that she speaks: "snowflake and rainbow mind and soul november and april."  The rhythms and wonders of nature are the expressions of herself.

The lady is "younger than begin," a phrase I find a bit hard to read.  Is it a way of expressing her eternity, or near eternity?  Is it expressing her non-eternity, since she presumably was not present at the beginning?  Or, is this the wrong track of thinking entirely, I wonder.  Perhaps "begin" is the youngest thing since it is the place where things start off, and so younger than begin is some sort of eternal youthfulness or very youthfulness.  I am not sure.

e. e. cummings was a Catholic.  I do not know about whom he was singing, but the nearly idolatrous song is one that Catholics could almost sing in Church.  Is anyone else thinking of Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Mother of All Nations, whom the scriptures describe as crowned with the stars, clad with the sun, and standing aloft upon the moon (Rev 12:1), and whom all the souls of the just will praise (Lk 1:48), alongside her Son, for all eternity?

To Our Nation's Servicemen and -Women

Dear Sir or Madam:

I have never served our country under arms.  I have never endured the rigors of basic training or the deprivation of the campaign.  I have never been away to a foreign for many months or years.  I have never been shot at or shelled.  I have never been put on alert, standby, or shipped away from my family.  I have never been maimed.  I have never been killed, or seen my best friend killed.

You have done all these things for the rest of us, so that we might enjoy a land of peace, where people are ruled by laws, rather than by tyrants, so that we may build a culture of civility and opportunity.  Because of your heroic conduct and generous hearts filled with a willingness to sacrifice, we have a country that is the envy of the world, and in a good way.  Foreign nations might detest our nation for any number of reasons, but not for the conduct of our soldiers abroad, which, with very few exceptions, has been exemplary and a source of national pride.  When the odd bad seed has caused problems, the rest of you have nobly stepped up your own service to stand in the breach and to restore our national honor.

I read an account of a Muslim woman in the Middle East who converted to become a Christian at great personal risk.  She was inspired by you, good soldiers, because of your conduct: after a battle, you care even for the enemy wounded, and treat the bodies of their fallen with respect and dignity.  You do not seek to heap catastrophe upon the enemy, but use your prowess in battle to minimize the number who must perish.  You do not demand sacrifice of others, but sacrifice yourself, very much as our Lord willed to do.  You give chocolate bars to children, and play sports even with the sons of your fallen enemies.

You are inspirations and role models to us all.

May God bless you and keep America from ever ceasing to be grateful for you.  For what it is worth, you have my thanks.

Yours Gratefully,
Ryan Haber
Kensington, Maryland

Bishop Tobin Lays the Smackdown

The Most Reverend Thomas Tobin, by the Grace of God bishop of Providence, has just given Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) a beat-down like he has perhaps never before received. The two have been quarreling about what it means to be Catholic. Apparently, Congressman Kennedy thinks that having a famous uncle or grandfather, or having been baptized as an infant, means that nothing one can do can make one "less of a Catholic." His shepherd disagrees and is unafraid to go at it with him.

Good for you, Bishop Tobin! God bless you for your charitable forthrightness, clear shepherding, and defense of the flock and its faith. May God bless you a hundredfold for ever curse hurled at you by enemies of Holy Church and our holy religion.

There's no need to go picking fights with people, but this bozo congressman picked a fight with the Church for saying that hey, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't be eagerly supporting health care reform that funds the butchering of children.

Read the most reverend bishop's letter by clicking here. It is available online now, and will appear in print in Thursday's edition of the local Catholic paper. Between Bishop Tobin's stern (and sometimes eye-popping, to be frank) words to the congressman under his care and the words Archbishop Dolan (of New York City) to the New York Times, we are starting to see some bishops unafraid to brawl in public.

Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Speaks Out Against Secular Sterility

Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, must have caused a stir with his speech just a few days after taking his seat in the House of Lords of the UK last week.  He said that Europeans are too busy shopping to have children.  I wonder how that went over.  His speech also does a good job of pointing out succinctly why secularism and moral relativism can never win an argument about civilization or culture.

St Jude, You're the Man!

Today is the last day of my novena to St. Jude.  I am asking him for a full-time job, and for a couple other bleak prospects.  If he doesn't pull through this time, I'll give him another shot.  I hear he's good for it, though, so I am gonna trust him and wait and see.


(As a side note, I'd like to point out that I am very grateful for the part time work that I do have.  Thank you, Jesus.)

The Popes' Guardian Angel

A friend of mine just made me aware of the existence and life of Camillo Cibin, papal bodyguard extraordinaire.  The man is pretty amazing.  Here is a link to the London Telegraph's biography of the man called the "Pope's Guardian Angel," because of his role in catching one would-be assassin and in thwarting a much less well known assassination attempt that happened one year later to the day.

Mr. Cibin died on October 25, at the age of 84, four years after retiring from 59 (!) years of personal, physical service as papal bodyguard.  Far from being funny, into his late seventies the man - quick, burly, and strong - was known to toss people back over the barricades they had leapt in order to get closer to the Pope.  The article is short, easy read about this man who was chief of security at the Second Vatican Council and personal bodyguard to at least three popes.

Congratulations, Germany!

On July 1, 1990, Germany was reunified - forty five years to the day from the date upon which it was divided by the Allies after the war's end. Today is the twentieth anniversary when the Berlin Wall - the physical manifestation of that division - was opened by the East German authorities. Today on the radio, I listed to an (East) German political dissident speaking about what it was like to have a wall put up in the middle of his hometown. I cannot imagine such a thing here. It would be awful. A couple things strike me.

Forty-five is close to forty - the biblical number of waiting, exile, and penance.

Twenty is the number of years that elapsed between the Treaty of Versailles, that ended World War I, and the invasion of Poland, that sparked the firestorm of World War II.

I am not sure what any of it means, except that it makes me happy. It is fitting that a people ought to be free of foreign domination and united in the governance of their choice. I wonder whether modern Austria would like to be united with Germany, whether the feeling is reciprocal, if it would be plausible given the modern history. A lot of bad things have happened in modern history, and Germany has been at the heart of some of the worst of those things. The reunification of Germany, though, is a very good thing.

Herzlichen GlΓΌckwunsch, deutsche Freunde!

Proverbs That Might Be True, pt. 2

Life is pain, princess. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.
-The Dread Pirate Roberts, "The Princess Bride"

Proverbs That Might Be True, pt. 1

I am going to start a new series of random aphorisms and proverbs that I either make up or hear from other untrustworthy sources. PLEASE give me feedback on these. If nothing else, they might be cool conversation starters. Here's the first one:

Silence is nine tenths of discretion, and discretion is nine tenths of prudence.
- Le sage, c'est moi

Holy Cow - Articulate Defender of Georgetown's "No Birth Control" Policy

And in, of all places, the Washington Post / Newsweek "On Faith Blogs."  That's right, a blogger for Georgetown / On Faith's blog has written this piece, supporting Georgetown's insurance plans, that do not cover contraception, and chide the university leadership for skirting the issue quietly rather than offering a cogent defense of that policy.  Mr. Deneen, the blogger in question, offers that cogent defense in his piece.  It is not meant to be a conclusive, syllogistic argument, but it is cogent and strong, arguing both that birth control is wrong (or at least, that the Church is not wrong for warning against it) and that Georgetown is right not to finance it.

I am really surprised and impressed.

Triumph of Democracy

In a breathtaking change of tack, Congressional Democratic leadership has decided to behave democratically. They are going to allow the House to vote on the overwhelmingly popular position to exclude federal funding from federal health care spending. Rep. Bart Stupak (R-Mich) and a group of a few dozen Democrats should be applauded for putting principle above party loyalty. The Democrat machine might try to grind them out of politics, but God will reward them.

Now the Washington Post reports that the Stupak amendment has been inserted to the House Democrats' catastrophe on a vote of 240-194. Whether the plan is stupid and ruinous for our nation, at least now we can be reasonably sure that it will not fund, either directly or surreptitiously, the murder of unborn children.

Thank you, Congressman Stupak!

The blogosphere is filled with rants of people who feel women are somehow being abused by the Stupak Amendment. In reality, their own logic is being turned against them, as is the tide of American thinking generally, and they are bitter and frustrated.  The vote on the Stupak Amendment seems to more or less coincide with the majority of Americans, who believe they should not be compelled through taxation to pay for an act they believe to be morally ambiguous or worse.  Abortion supporters continue to speak out of both sides of their mouth.  On the one hand, as a normal medical/surgical treatment, they want abortion funded.  On the other hand, as a private choice, they do not want it regulated by government authority.  On the one hand, they say that abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her doctor.  On the other hand, they want it funded - apparently by everyone BUT the woman or her doctor.  The moral nonsense is compounded by legal nonsense.

It is heartening that Americans are starting to wake up.

Priestly Solidarity with the Poor

I cannot tell you how happy it made me to read that the priests of the French diocese of Lyon have decided to donate a month's wage to a fund established to help those crushed under by the economic troubles we face. What an awesome witness. For your convenience, I've inserted it below:

My Life Is Average

A friend of mine just told me about this site called My Life Is Average.  Open contributions from anyone who cares to contribute provide a steady stream of pleasant and cheerful anecdotes, like the ones quoted below:

Today, I was driving behind my boyfriend when he suddenly pulls over. I do the same and am utterly bewildered as he runs out of his car and pulls me out of mine. He then grabs my hand and we take off running.. and jumping into a giant pile of leaves he saw on the side of the road. I do believe I will be keeping him around. MLIA.
Today, I was eating my dinosaur themed fruit snacks. There were only a few left, and poured them out into my hand. I find half of a red dinosaur, and a T-Rex with red on its teeth. Best bag of fruit snacks ever. MLIA.

I am convinced that even more than daily miracles, God offers us daily chuckles, if we will open our eyes to see them.  C. S. Lewis wrote that he was confident that affection is responsible for nine tenths of basic human happiness.  Being able to chuckle once or twice an hour probably goes a long way to basic happiness, too.

This Chick's Hilarious - Read All About It!!!

A recent blogquaintance of mine, who goes by the moniker LuceMichael (Luce, is that a Latinism? "By the Light of Michael"?), wrote this piece on her blog. It is an imaginary interview with a bible scholar. My ignorance of the scholar is inexcusable, but even never having heard of the cat, Luce's imaginary interview was both hilarious and instructive. Read it when you get a bit of time.  Especially if you enjoy Peter Kreeft's imagined dialogues between folks like JFK and Karl Marx, you'll love Luce's witty introduction to the scholar's life and works.

By the Mines of Moriah

We spent the day in Moriah, New York, nestled among the Adirondacks, east of the High Peaks region and near the southwestern shores of Lake Champlain.  The people there were extraordinarily friendly, and mostly seemed supportive of our candidate.  It is amazingly rural - a half hour from the nearest large road.  The people are proud of their cultural heritage here, and proud of America.  They feel that things aren't going so well, but do not believe that America is "broken."  They'd mostly like our leaders to leave things alone.

View Larger Map

The community was founded upon mining, but I do not know what they do now.  A lot of the people are from here, but like my own neck of the woods, the area has experienced some growth through the gradually immigration of folks from other parts of the country.

We ate a hearty Election Night Harvest Dinner in a Baptist church hall, at the invitation of the mayor and at the expense of a local well-wisher who calls himself Brett the Mountain Man.  It was a really nice evening and a nice way to finish a day of meeting local townsfolk and even more people come in from the countryside to vote in this local population center of four or five thousand people.  The mayor, who was probably five or ten years younger than my dad, and vigorous, sat next to a widower who was much older but only a bit quieter.  The widower told us how a ninety-four year old neighbor of his had had both of his legs amputated after a quadruple bypass surgery had wrecked his circulation.  "Shame and a waste," said the mayor.  "When my heart gets like that, I'd rather just say a quick rosary and then go to meet my Maker."  Why make such a big deal of trying to save an old man from living his last days?  Doctors may sometimes be more afraid of death than their patients.

We sat next to one woman who has lived her entire eighty four years here, and more than sixty of them with her husband, who died only last December 18.  I will try to remember this kind woman and her husband in my prayers that day this year.  She was visibly choked up a bit when we discussed him briefly, but she mostly expressed gratitude to God for His kindness in giving her "such a loving man for so many years."  The mayor and her elderly neighbor, the widower, listened sympathetically as she told us just a bit about him: "He never said an unkind word about anyone, never so long as I knew him, which was all my life."  She told us about a young priest that used to visit their family when she was caring for their child and babysitting her nieces and nephews.  Though her family is Methodist, she said that the priest was always very warm with them and told them he felt very welcome in their home.  "Well, he was," she said, "He was most welcome.  What a fine young man he was."  The widow, the widower, and the mayor were excited to see young people (us) caring so much about politics and about the state of the union that we would drive all the way up from Maryland.  We were encouraged by their hospitality and functioning, albeit small, community.

There weren't many young people here, in this place without few jobs, and none for folks with degrees - except for perhaps the mayor and a nurse or teacher.  Some young men drove by in pickups and waved, giving us thumbs up.  The ones who drove by in inexpensive sports cars were less visibly supportive.  I wonder if there is a correlation.  Young women mostly drove by packed in small American or Japanese imports like Kias and Hyondais.  They mostly waved or didn't seem to notice us.  The shopkeepers were immensely friendly in Moriah, where we got early morning coffee, and in Port Henry, where we got our brunch and late lunch.  Like the waiters and shopkeepers I encountered in Germany, they did not overdo it, nor did they seem interested only in making a sale.  They lacked either the sicky-sweet attentiveness or the condescending, distracted rudeness that alternatively characterize the staff at accommodations in the DC area.  Like the staff in mountainous Bavaria, these mountain folk were genuinely friendly and interested in their customers, but no more so than they would be with a stranger or loose acquaintance on the street.  The ones we met on the street though, were eager to exchange phone numbers or email addresses.  That made me think faintly of Mexico on my earlier visits, when the internet was still new there.  Brett the Mountain Man joked about his internet connection being delivered by pack mule.

I'll miss it. But maybe I'll return. I've no doubt I'd be made to feel welcome.

What Hath God Wraught?

4D Ultrasound, a man-made marvel, reveals a glory not made by human hands. Behold, the child!

News from New York

I am up in New York state, here:

Plattsburgh is a nice town. It is the only town in this neck of the woods, for a long ways, in any way. Burlington, Vermont is actually fairly close - but it is across Lake Champlain, the crossing of which requires considerable time waiting for a ferry or to go around the lank, or by the bridge near the Canadian border.  It's not as cold as you'd think, and it's not as "liberal" (what a lie, in its modern usage, that word is!) as the rest of New York is (thought to be, at least).  This congressional district is the largest in the country, geographically speaking, and one of the most sparsely populated.  It is the size of Connecticut, and most of its towns' populations are counted in the hundreds and scores, not in the thousands or tens of thousands.  People here are not rich.  They do not frequent health clubs or expensive universities.  If they want a helping hand, they want it from their neighbor, or from their family or pastor, or maaaaaybe from their mayor - but NOT from their Uncle Sam.  They fear that Uncle Sam would rather be a Big Brother.  I fear with them, and in many things think like those with whom we have spoken.

I am here doing something I have never done before.  I am working in a political campaign.  The GOP apparatchiks decided to put a candidate on the ballot, and God alone knows why, that has nothing to do with the GOP - Dede Scozzafava.  She is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and pro-public option.  More mystifying, she has nothing to do with the views of Republicans in the area, evinced by the fact that they are defecting in massive numbers to support a local party's candidate, Doug Hoffman of the Conservative Party.  She trailed increasingly in the poles behind not only the Democratic candidate, but also behind Hoffman. Since bowing out of the election race, she has endorsed the Democratic candidate!

I came up hear to post signs and hand out leaflets for three reasons, even though politics isn't normally my thing:
  1. If our democracy is to be healed, we need more political parties, ones that stand for things - anything at all, almost - rather than merely seek power;
  2. Big party bosses are entirely out of touch with their constituents in an increasingly obvious and ridiculous way - see above;
  3. Our President and his administration and the congress need to be reminded that they were elected as moderates and that their political careers are mortal.
Coincidentally, after the poorly supported Republican candidate's abandonment of the race, most of her supporters seem to be joining up with the Conservative candidate whom the Republican leadership would not nominate.  This additional support is giving him a clear lead in a state where only a plurality of votes is necessary to gain office.  Tomorrow we will stand in the rain and give out leaflets at the polls all day, before driving home.

If you think that this neck of the woods is insignificant, think again.  It was in upstate New York that both the American abolitionist movement and the women suffragist movement were born.  This region might very well the broadcasting hub of all that is good about America, a sort of antithesis to New York City or to Hollywood.

Interesting side note: The people in this region are easily the most intelligent in the country.  They have a thing called Steward's.  Steward's is an coffee and sub shop rolled together with a gas station and a - get this - ice cream shop.  I don't mean that Steward's sells ice cream sandwiches or nutty buddies.  I mean, twenty, thirty flavors that you can mix and match, and a double scoop of their own flavors (which include black raspberry, Fourth of July, and Irish Cream, inter al.) costs a mere $2.50.  When you stop for a fill-up, you can stop for a fill-up!  It's BRILLIANT.  Between the scenery, the nice folks, and the Steward's ice cream, this place is like a piece of heaven.