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.

If You Are Feeling Weighed Down

If you are Catholic, and trying to do it (i.e., be Catholic) well, and are paying attention, you probably feeling a little down about all the stuff going on right now.  I know I am.  I don't have anything really articulate to write.  The thing feels to me like a very dense storm cloud, fiercer than normal anti-Church nonsense.  It's very incongruous with the weather being so fine outside my window.  The cross is not ours to bear alone, though.  Please do not give up looking to Jesus, looking to heaven for help.

There should be some consolation in this: that our blessed Lord told us that we would be persecuted (Jn 15:20).  Now, don't get me wrong.  Getting called on sin - that's not persecution, it's a public service that we apparently need.  Being gleefully, ferociously stalked by self-appointed "watchdogs" who completely neglect their own house and who bay and howl for the House of God to be torn down to its foundations, head first - that is a little bit closer to what is meant by persecution.  At least, it gives us a watered-down taste of what our brothers and sisters in other countries face every day on a much more violent scale.  We should allow this animosity provoke us to prayer for our enemies and for our brethren whom they treat worse.
We should also take comfort in this prophecy of St. Peter, the first pope, who himself came against fierce opposition:
For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Pt 4:17)
If you find yourself fazed or perturbed, please remember these words of Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing perturb you,
nothing frighten you.
All things pass.
God does not change.
Patience achieves everything.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
 It's going to be OK.  Hold fast, pray, enter into the Triduum with your whole heart.  Remember Jesus.

The Brouhaha Over The Pope

I might be the last to have heard about these events, but it has lately come to my attention that the Holy Father is himself being accused of aiding and abetting child molestation, specifically by ordering the abandonment of the church criminal trial of a vicious child molesting priest in Wisconsin.  The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein "broke" the story, which in reality turns out to be little more than a well-orchestrated hoax, as Fr. Raymond J. DeSouza shows.  In fact, not only do the documents cited by Ms. Goodstein as evidence flatly contradict her assertions, but neither she nor any of the other papers or blogs to carry the story have ever contacted Fr. Thomas Brundage, ecclesiastical judge in the original case that was supposedly thrown out by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.  As the Anchoress points out, this sham is just the next in a string of annual hoaxes, fabrications, and exaggerations that by pure happenstance all come at Eastertide.

Sincere, devoted Catholics are more sickened than anyone else by the horrorific revelations of diabolical priestly sin and of the horrendous abdication of episcopal responsibility that have wracked the Church these last ten and twenty years.  But that's not what these fabricated accusations are about.  Nor are the legitimate stories, for the most part, being so vigorously reported because of a hunger and thirst for justice on the part of the media.  This brouhaha is about ideology.  That's why other organizations, a number of which are far more deeply saturated in this wickedness, are left unscathed by the media; it's why the media won't hesitate to run journalistic garbage as news.  Ideology?  Yes.  Sexual ideology - specifically, birth control, fornication, homosexuality, women's ordination, and so on.

We must pray for our Holy Father.  He has recently asked for prayers that he will not flee from ravening wolves who want only to shipwreck the Church.  This opportunity is one we must not miss to band together with each other and Christ, and to walk with this cross on our shoulder, together, to Calvary.

The Communion of Sinners

So, I've had this thought bouncing around in my head over the last few weeks.  Lining up for the confessional, I bumped into an acquaintance of mine.  Since I mostly make my confessions at the same time and same place each week, it's actually not that odd for me to bump into people I know in line at the confessional.  A smile or a nod passes between the two of us.  The smile or nod means a lot.  It means, "Hi."  It means, "Glad I'm not the only one I know that uses this thing."  It means, "Hey, another sinner.  That's great!"

 In Line for Confession
Well, clearly it's not great that we are all sinners.  What is great, though, is that it's not just one of us.  Wouldn't that stink?  Literally, one person would be to blame for all the world's mess.  It would be easy for the rest of us to feel self-righteous, especially toward that poor slob, but I do not believe that would be a good thing.

Instead, we have the situation of all of us needing Jesus.  Our sins may be different in "species and number," and even in gravity, but not in essence.  In essence, our sins are all affronts to the will of our Creator and against our own dignity.  We are called to live in the communion of saints, the strong bond of those redeemed and sanctified by Christ.  For the time being, while we haven't left sin behind entirely yet, we might as well get on with the work of building up a strong bond of those being redeemed and sanctified by Christ.  This communion will only grow among us to the extent that we admit what we have in common: that we are all sinners.  There's no use pretending, acting like we don't see each other in line for the confessional.  Instead, it's probably best to admit to ourselves that we are sinners, and in very specific terms what sort of sinners we are.  We should also admit to each other freely, easily in general terms, that we are sinners.  We can do so, if in no other way, by making an appearance in our local parish's confessional line.  To the extent that we can safely do so with people we trust, it might not hurt to share with each other in more specific terms the ways we sin.  In fact, it might heal to know that we are loved, not only by God, but by our brothers and sisters... sins and all.  Confessing our sins to our priest and, when prudent, to each other can only build up the communion of sinners until, hopefully, one day we enter perfectly into the communion of saints.

Oh, wait a minute.  You weren't in line for the confessional?  Oh.  I see.  Well, I suppose there's one thing more priggish than a person who sins and then tries to act like he's perfect: someone who doesn't even think he sins.  You do sin, don't you?  Then 'fess up.  Join the confessional line, the communion of sinners - so that you can be made worthy to enter into that other communion line.

And The Ayes Have It!

One lesson that leaps out on the Feast of the Annunciation is obedience to God.  Mary's yes to God literally revolutionized the entire world and all of human history.  It rerouted us from the downward spiral of sin and slavery onto the upward path of redemption and grace.

But how can a single yes be so powerful?

A clue can be found by delving into what happens to be my favorite beatitude, if beatitudes are the sort of thing that can be ranked.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:1) provides deep inside once we understand what is meant by meekness.  Meekness is not door-mat-ishness.  Meekness is the acceptance of reality.  Now, that doesn't sound too hard, but when we consider how much time, energy, money, thought, and emotion are invested into iPods, movies, shopping sprees, expensive vacations, distracting hobbies and enterntainment, and worse, darker things like addictions, we can quickly see that a lot of people prefer to avoid reality.  When we look at the power politics in a place like Washington, D.C., the micromanagement in our own office, or the violent behavior that often dominates in places like the Beltway, we can quickly see that a lot of people prefer to control reality.  The meek person, far from passively giving in to adverse forces, evaluates reality, understands what is possible to him without sinning against God or his neighbors, and then works within those parameters.  The meek person realizes that not only he or she, but also reality, is real too.  The meek person realizes that God is God, and that he is not.  Reality is real, and lying, cheating, or stealing won't make it go away.

This message can be really hard.  Some people feel very deeply that they have been jipped by life, and all of us have some hard knocks, from time to time, that tempt us to lash out against them, against somebody in our life, or against God.  The meek person, trusting in God's providence, rolls with the punches.

The virtue of meekness makes me think of a favorite movie of mine, Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen it, you should.  Two of the movie's main characters are brothers.  One spends his life in tremendous violence, always grasping for a better life.  The other sets his heart on love, accepts circumstances as they come without letting them deter him, and refuses either to do wrong or accept discouragement along the way.  The characters are not Christians, but they come very close to a perfect illustration of the polar opposition between the one who does whatever it takes to get what he wants, and the one who accepts reality as the framework for living life.  If to the latter way of life we add humble trust in God's will and fatherly providence for us, we have the Christian virtue of meekness, the virtue that wins us the whole world.

If we, moved by grace, can be open to God's will and say, "Yes," whatever may come, we will be amazed by what follows.  Since we are not immaculately conceived, we'll typically have years or decades of spiritual grime clogging our heart.  But even this first yes will begin to move things along, open things up, turn things around.  God will begin, perhaps slowly, but certainly surely, to move in our life.  He will not suddenly transplant us to a rose garden of a life - that wouldn't be real.  But as long as we keep saying, "Yes," to Him, He will keep giving us more and more of the raw stuff that joy is made of - love, peace, service, friendship, virtue, a clean conscience, and a sound relationship with Him.  He will give us all the things that we can never seize for ourselves or control like masters.

A great way to say, "Yes," to God, to accept the reality of our own sinfulness and to proclaim the reality of God's amazing justice and mercy, is to go to confession.  Especially during these last days of Lent, and especially if you haven't been in a few months or years, consider going.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, and will.
All that I have and am You have given to me,
And I surrender it now to be governed entirely by Your will.
Your grace and Your love: these are wealth enough for me.
Grant me these, Lord, and that shall be enough for me.
The Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

Beautiful Snippets from the Fifth Sunday of Lent

From the first reading, Is 43:16-21:

Thus says the LORD,
who opens a way in the sea
and a path in the mighty waters,
who leads out chariots and horsemen,
a powerful army,
till they lie prostrate together, never to rise,
snuffed out and quenched like a wick.
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
After starting with a reminder of God's powerful, demonstrated by mighty deeds in real history, the prophet tells Israel, and us, that God is going to set us on a new path, in which former sins are transcended.  The joy that His plans for us will bring is described in Ps 126:
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
Our bondage to sin and its ugly consequences will be broken.  St. Paul tells us how much this new life should be worth to us in the Epistle, taken from Phil 3:8-14:
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him...
depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection
and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death,
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
St. Paul continues to encourage us with his own efforts:
...forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
He would like us to share in them, no doubt.  Not only that, he wants us to join him in forgetting our spotty pasts except in as much as they humble us and become fertile soil for wisdom.  But guilt and shame from our past must fall away.  And lastly, Jesus' beautiful, beautiful words to the woman caught in adultery, whom he saved from stoning (Jn 8:1-11):
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Let's use these last two weeks of Lent to our great advantage.  Let's enter into it with our whole hearts, praying fervently for the grace to rise higher in Christ, leaving behind sin and the scars it leaves, to be transfigured with Our Blessed Lord.

The Paper It's Written On

I wonder whether it has occured to Bart Stupak and his group of pro-life democrats that in the hours after the announcement of the deal they've brokered with the White House, there is a deafening silence from the left, and especially from the abortionist left (if one need distinguish).  Granted, it has only been a few hours.  NARAL's website makes no mention.  The online stories carried by the MSM make no mention.  Nobody is mentioning the reaction of the abortionists.

I suspect that's because there isn't any.

They know what Bart Stupak and his (I believe sincere) colleagues have allowed themselves not to know.  The abortionists know that the vaunted executive order to clarify how a health-care plan that expressly covers abortion does not in fact do so, if it is ever actually issued, will not be worth the paper it is written on.  With the television cameras off, and they will be off, the President will never get around to it; and the calls from Stupak and his group that he do so will not be heard outside of Congress, or perhaps outside of congressmen's offices, perhaps.  And if the order is actually, in some imaginary world, issued, it can as easily be rescinded.

If any of the above were false - if an executive order carried more weight than legislation, rather than less - the abortionists wouldn't have fought so tenaciously to keep it out of the law, and they wouldn't be so taciturn about the whole thing suddenly.  But wait, I do hear noises, after all: the sound of snickering in sleaves.
I am trying hard not to judge Stupak and his group.  The amount of pressure that they have been receiving has been enormous.  I think it safe to say that the spiritual combat is not yet over.

Alice von Hildebrand Strikes Again!

InsideCatholic just reprinted a 2008 article by philosopher Alice von Hildebrand entitled, "When Is Stupidity a Sin?"  Here's a quote:

When a Catholic gratefully proclaims that the Church has the fullness of revealed truth, this assertion should be wrapped both in humility and gratitude. This is a key to a successful apostolate: "To be possessed by truth" is a clarion call to live it, reflect it, and thereby draw other hungry souls to its beauty.
Read it!

Priceless Irony

A UK court made an excellent ruling today.  A law in the UK, passed by parliament and authorized by the Queen in 2007, prohibited organizations from discriminating against homosexual couples - that is, any service or good, not strictly religious, could not be denied to a homosexual couple if it would be permitted to a hetersexual couple.  A number of dioceses began to spin-off (secularize) their adoption services, etc., so that those agencies could continue doing good work without the Church having to be implicated.  A poor solution by any standards, but an understandable one, too.

The statute contained its own demise, though.  In a selfish bid for special status, the statute included a provision that exempted organizations whose purpose was to serve persons of one particular sexual orientation (the homosexualists of course meant their orientation).  The homosexualist groups wanted this provision included so that they could exclude and refuse to serve heterosexuals.  In an almost inconceivably (these days) fair judgment, the justice who heard a relevant case has ruled today that the same provision provides protection to any organization, provided their mission includes service to only one sexual orientation.  The wicked statute is thus effectively gutted, its heart pulled out right through its own loophole.

Read all about it.

St. Patrick and the Snakes

I am rather inclined by nature to prefer natural explanations to supernatural ones, when it comes to understanding natural events or, for that matter, when it comes to analyzing claims of supernatural phenomena. I also understand the difficulties in interpreting historical accounts written by people more or less willing than myself to believe reports they have heard of the supernatural.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in miracles as a possibility - and not just the "sunshine is a miracle" sort, either. I have made four pilgrimages to Lourdes and while there, I witnessed what seems to me to be the supernatural healing of a paraplegic. I also have had a couple near brushes with death that have given me great confidence in my guardian angel, whose existence I do not take to be figurative, but very, very real. Realer than my own.

All of this is said by way of disclaimer, because I want also to say that I think the account of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland is probably at least somewhat allegorical rather than purely factual in nature.
The Ireland of Patrick's day, the Ireland that enslaved him and the Ireland that the missionary bishop evangelized, was not a nice place. Britain being the edge of Roman civilization, Hibernia (as they called Ireland) was the beginning of the shadows. Beyond that was the dark and brooding North Atlantic, which no man had sailed. The island did not have a government and laws, but had warlords and power. It did not have manorial estates or great cities like those found in the Roman world, but id did have slaves like the Romans had. It did not have elegant priests with elaborate cults to various gods gathered from around the world by explorers and soldiers; no, it had gods of its own, and fearsome priests who conducted deadly and secret rituals. Those fearsome priests fed their fearsome gods with the fearful blood of human victims.

I believe that the snakes in this allegory about St. Patrick represent the evil demons hidden behind the masks provided by the names of those Celtic gods. Wherever those dark gods have been worshiped - Hibernia, Mesoamerica, Phoenicia, and beyond - they have demanded blood, and they have shared a remarkable interest in the blood of virgins and children. The most virginal of virgins (except for the Virgin) and childish of children is, of course, a little baby. No blemish nor spot, on the skin or in the heart - the perfect sacrifice for demons that hate God, that hate goodness, that hate innocence and purity, that hate. I believe they hate babies for this reason, and I believe that they are trying to prevent the final return of Jesus Christ, whom they believe will return as he came the first time: a little child.

St. Patrick, who prayed and fasted, who was unsuccessfully poisoned and burned, who loved his enemies, drove the demons out of Hibernia. I bet the people, living long under those dark shadows, were immediately interested in self-sacrificial love as a, shall we say "viable," alternative to the scheming sacrifice of others that was taught by their own priests. When they saw that immense love in his own person, they were hooked. What is known is that within a few years of his arrival, many average folks and several chieftains in Hibernia had been converted by the ex-slave with the shamrock. He provoked fierce opposition from entrenched religious and political interests in doing so, but by the time he passed to eternal reward, St. Patrick seems to have converted almost the whole darned place. In any event, Hibernia was well on its way to becoming Ireland. Ireland is not the First Daughter of the Church (that is France), nor the Finest Flower of Catholic Culture (I am going to award that title to Italy), nor the Most Ardent Defender of the Faith (let's say Spain, which conquered the Moors). But I will say that Ireland, her recent religious malaise aside, is perhaps of all rocky and cracked places, the country with the most tenacious faith.

St. Patrick did that.

Think of our country. We have immense potential and tremendous accomplishments. We unfortunately have a recent fascination with solving our problems by killing them. Even our littlest little "problems" get killed without quarter or mercy by our modern, scientific, medical and judicial priesthoods. Our country is, I believe, in the feverish and menacing grip of very wicked spirits. They pervert our leaders, enchant our spokespeople, drowse our people, mutilate our laws, and are eroding our nation in so many ways.
St. Patrick might very well be a powerful intercessor for us.  Think on that over your drinks tonight.

St. Patrick, please drive away the snakes from our nation. Amen.

Archbishop Chaput Weighs In...

Archbishop Chaput of Denver wrote a column in his diocesan newspaper yesterday clarifying the position of the U.S. Bishops with respect to the current Obamacare baby-killing governmental power grab:

The Church in America opposes it, unambiguously and for several reasons.  Read all about it.

Better Late than Never

The following is a shorter version of yesterday's Laetare Sunday homily: Authentic Christian Joy

We celebrate Laetare Sunday as a day of rejoicing in the midst of Lent. The Church gives us this oasis in the midst of our Lenten journey to remind us to keep our eyes focused on the goal of Easter. Our goal is the joy of the Resurrection. Authentic Christian joy is counter cultural; it goes against what the loudest segments of our culture tell us we should be searching for. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a great illustration of the difference between authentic Christian joy and the cheap substitute that our culture often feeds us.

The Prodigal Son is searching for happiness and joy. He just doesn't know how to go about finding it. He makes three major mistakes that eventually lead him to the pig pen. The first one is that he separates himself from the family in search of freedom. Freedom is great, he just has the wrong idea of it. He sees it as a getting rid of restrictions so he can do what he wants. Freedom for the Prodigal Son means setting himself up as his own moral authority. What he doesn't understand is that freedom separated from objective truth leads to slavery. He'll get there eventually.

The second major problem with his search for joy is that he is greedy and possessive. "Give me my share of the inheritance," he demands. In the Prodigal Son's mind, the more he has, the happier he'll be. Does that message sound familiar?

His third major problem is that his ultimate goal is pleasure. Pleasures are great, and our culture offers us an innumerable amount of them, but if we set them up as the thing to be sought after, we'll be miserable. First of all, pleasure is fleeting, and secondly, it tends to consume us and our energies. Sure enough, the Prodigal Son's search for pleasures absolutely consumes him and all his possessions. Welcome to the pig sty.

What happens next is a work of pure grace. The words of the Gospel are powerful: "he came to his senses." This is where is journey toward true joy begins. The same is true for each one of us. We find joy when we see reality as it really is. C.S. Lewis said our challenge throughout life is to see what's really real. The Prodigal Son's about to find out what's really real.

Whereas freedom meant separating himself from the family and becoming his own moral authority, the Prodigal Son now finds that true freedom is in the family and living by the rules of the household. But it's more than that. True freedom consists in surrendering himself to the Father: "Treat me as one of your hired hands." St. Paul makes this point explicitly when he said, "Be slaves of Jesus Christ." The paradox is that when we give ourselves completely to God, we become freer than we could ever imagine.

Whereas he thought possessions would make him happy, now he finds that the love of the Father makes him truly happy. When he lived his life of dissipation, people loved him because of what he had; now as he returns to the Father with absolutely nothing, he realizes he's loved for who he is. When we understand this point, we'll be able to be truly detached from possessions, whether we have many or few. The only thing that really matters is the love of the Father.

Whereas he thought that the goal of life was pleasure and that pleasure meant joy, now he understands that the joy of reincorporation into the love of the Father demolishes that notion. He is swallowed up in the love of that Father--the cloak, the ring, the fatted calf, the party with all the household (come on big brother!). Our true joy consists in relishing in that same love of God for us in the midst of the community that is the Church.

Just as the final joyous state of the Prodigal Son is dependent upon his reconciliation with the Father, so our joy is as well. The Church offers us the chance to receive sacramental reconciliation, especially in this season of Lent. I think you'll find that your joy is associated with how seriously you take this offer.

Dear Young People II

Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!  Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of the heart.  The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living.  Refuse to sell your dreams cheaply.  Watch out for the dangerous ways that lead to passing joys and satisfaction.  Deepen your relationship with God through prayer.  Prayer spreads Divine energy.  It makes us live in a new way and gives rise to a revolutionary evangelical style.

State Nullification is Back

For those of you who are unaware, there is a constitutional law concept called "state nullification."  What it is, in a nutshell, is the theory that a state has the right, as the source of authority and the basic unit of governance in the United States, to void a federal law within its boundaries.  Nullification was a big deal before the Civil War, especially in the 1830s.  The question was settled by the Civil War.  The federal government's in charge.  That's it.

Until now.

Different theories of nullification have existed from the beginning.  The most plausible one says basically, "Hey, we've got this Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
So therefore, if a power is not delegated to the federal government, but reserved to the respective states, then if the federal government tries to use that power, a state should have override within its boundaries, because the power is reserved to the state."

Now, with the healthcare reform effort becoming more and more divisive and partisan, and more and more expensive (remember when it was supposed to be budget neutral?), states are fighting back to protect their citizens from this economic trainwreck-in-the-making as best they can.  Read this New York Times article to see how Virginia is leading the way.

So why is this appearing on a blog dedicated to the spiritual life?  Well, simply, because I believe that we are being lied to.  We are (were) being told it will cost nothing, when in reality it will add to the mounting debt that is literally going to enslave our children and grandchildren to foreigners who do not live near them or care about them.  We are being told it will not damage the private sector, but "rein it in."  In reality, it will destroy the insurance industry that has served most of us reasonably well for decades, leaving only government programs to help us - DMV-style and at massive expense.  Further government involvement in private life will further replace family and community bonds of charity, and seemingly absolve those who neglect the need of their family and neighbors.  Lastly, and perhaps most deviously, I believe that the American people is being deliberated manipulated emotionally to make this government expansion possible - they are playing to our real hard feelings about people we've known who've needed treatment and - many times for reasons not actually related to lack of coverage - been unable to get it.  They are offering us a health-panacea.  For materialists, who believe there is nothing beyond this life, health is the highest good, and a panacea is the key to happiness.  They are essentially promising, in so many words, heaven - or a piece of it - on earth.  They are doing so without reference to Christ, our only real hope of real salvation.  The government is proposing itself as a provider, as a caretaker, as a father.  It is setting itself up increasingly over and against Christ.  That's not good.

We need to pray very hard for our country.  We Christians need to lead the way in depoliticizing this issue so that we can look for creative ways to extend our society's immense resources to those who go without basic needs met - ways that will not further empower a massive, inefficient, power-hungry government bureaucracy - ways that will actually address the real problems of real people.

What's Going On With This Blog?!

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the erratic and infrequent posts of late.  I am pretty excited about the cause of my recent unreliability in posting.

Without Having Seen is moving to a new home and a new platform.

My reasons are multiple, and I'll spare you.  Suffice it to say that I believe the reading experience will be comparable or superior.  At the same time that I am finalizing the blog's code at the new site, I am also recruiting some more writers to add to the base of perspectives offered on this blog.  All these things - plus more stuff at home - have got me busy enough that my blogging has had to take a back seat for a bit.

Please do keep checking in, though.  When the new site is ready, this one will announce the new home and automatically redirect the eager reader there.  In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl is an independent film staring Ryan Gosling.  The movie's central character, Lars, is a man that everyone in his small Minnesota town has decided is just different.  Reclusive and antisocial, but still perfectly civil, Lars goes to work, goes back home, and goes to church, all the time minimizing social contact, and certainly physical contact with other people.  He lives next door to his brother and sister-in-law and even tries to minimize contact with them.  His brother, and presumably much of the town, thinks that he just likes to be by himself.

That is, until Lars orders a girlfriend in a box: a more expensive cousin to the inflatable kind.  When Lars introduces his girlfriend to his brother and sister-in-law, they think he's lost it.  In reality, Lars is just beginning to thaw a little, break out of the long winter of his soul.  As the movie continues and the various personalities unfold, Lars' history and personality begin to unfold as well.  Gosling does an excellent job of offering peeks into his character's heart and mind.  The other members of the community each decide how they are going to respond to Lars' very real delusion about his not-nearly-so-real girlfriend.  The plot thickens as a (real) coworker of Lars makes more obvious her feelings for the oblivious introvert.  Hilarity and poignancy intermingle and flow back and forth throughout this movie.  The simple plot and the somewhat more complex, yet still comprehensible characters show in very natural, concrete, un-preachy terms how mercy leads to healing.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this movie.  I bought it used and can safely say it is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and easily the best $5 I've spent in a full year.  Click the picture to find it on

An Interesting Marriage Proposal...

Msgr. Charlie Pope, of our own Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has an interesting proposal concerning marriage.  No, he's not getting hitched - he's already happily married to Mother Church.  So what's his big idea?  It boils down to this: if the world is going to redefine marriage to suit the homosexualist agenda, then the Church should come up with a new name for what used to be called marriage.

Happily, he has an idea for a new term, or rather, an old term.  HOLY Matrimony.
Click here to read the rest of his marriage proposal.

I Think He Means It

Bart Stupak (D-MI) has been saying all along that he and his ten pro-Democrat colleagues will not collaborate with the expansion of Federal funding for abortion. Nor will they vote for any bill that draws Americans into further material collaboration with that monstrous evil.

Coincidentally, Bart Stupak is a former state trooper, and he kinda looks like it, doesn't he? I mention that, because even though he has also practiced law, state troopers don't strike me as the sorta cats that are given to b.s. and clowning around. You hear him talk, and that kinda comes through. When he says that he and his little caucus aren't going to let abortion expand on their watch, I think he means it.

Keep praying, Christians.

St. Agnes of Bohemia

This life of St. Agnes of Bohemia, whose memorial is today, is taken from

Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. At the age of three, she was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.

After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help. The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.

After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.

Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess; nevertheless, the title she preferred was "senior sister." Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother’s offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.

Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989.
Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. At the age of three, she was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.

After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help. The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.

After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.

Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess; nevertheless, the title she preferred was "senior sister." Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother’s offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.

Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989.

Did you catch that? Seven hundred and seven years (707!) from the time she died until Holy Father John Paul II canonized her. Talk about patience! St. Agnes of Bohemia strikes me as a great saint for Lent. She spent much of her life in the secular world doing good for Jesus. She entered a convent that she founded, did not seek prominent position or honors, was a gentle servant, but uncompromising in her devotion to Jesus. This Lent, let's continue to burrow into the interior monastery that God wants us to build in our heart. Let's deepen our devotion to prayer, detachment, and service to the poor.

St. Agnes, Poor Princess of Bohemia, pray for us.

Dies Irae

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla:
teste David cum Sibylla.
The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the sibyl!
Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!
How much tremor there will be,
when the judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.
The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will summon all before the throne.
Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.
Death and nature will marvel,
when creation arises,
to respond to the Judge.
Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.
The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.
Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.
When therefore the judge will sit,
whatever hides will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?
What am I, miserable, then to say?
Which patron to ask,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?
Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me fons pietatis.
King of tremendous majesty,
who freely savest those that have to be saved,
save me, source of mercy.
Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae:
ne me perdas illa die.
Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the cause of thy way:
lest thou lose me in that day.
Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
redemisti Crucem passus:
tantus labor non sit cassus.
Seeking me, thou sat tired:
thou redeemed [me] having suffered the Cross:
let not so much hardship be lost.
Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.
Just judge of revenge,
give the gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus:
supplicanti parce, Deus.
I sigh, like the guilty one:
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the supplicating one, God.
Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Thou who absolved Mary,
and heardest the robber,
gavest hope to me, too.
Preces meae non sunt dignae:
sed tu bonus fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.
My prayers are not worthy:
however, thou, Good [Lord], do good,
lest I am burned up by eternal fire.
Inter oves locum praesta,
et ab haedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.
Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.
Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis:
voca me cum benedictis.
Once the cursed have been rebuked,
sentenced to rancorous flames:
Call thou me with the blessed.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.
I meekly and humbly pray,
[my] heart is as crushed as the ashes:
perform the healing of mine end.
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Tearful will be that day,
on which from the ashes arises
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.
Spare him therefore, God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.