02 October 2010

On to Rome! (Or maybe not. . .)

Great, just great. . .woke to find this blaring at me:

US to tell US citizens to be vigilant in Europe (AP)

So, to pack or not to pack?  That is the question!

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Tea Mug Browsing

The Senate couldn't pass a budget before it adjourned. . .but it found the time and the votes to pass another Nanny Law.

Is the current state of European society and politics the future of America?  I don't think so.  Europeans have a much more optimistic view of gov't than we do.  They see gov't power as something to be used for the common good.  Generally, Americans see gov't as a necessary evil. . .and act accordingly.

Does poverty cause terrorism?  No.  Extremist, irrational ideology causes terrorism.

Andrew Breitbart asks O'Keefe for an explanation of CNN "prank."  Yea, good idea.

Computer virus attacking Iran's industrial base contains Jewish/Biblical references?  Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

WOW!  Just. . .wow.  While the Tea Party is being vilified for its angry rhetoric and falsely accused of political violence, the eliminativists of the Eco-fascism movement are threatening to kill your kids if you don't Go Green"With No Pressure, the environmental movement has revealed the snarling, wicked, homicidal misanthropy beneath its cloak of gentle, bunny-hugging righteousness."   Um, isn't this sort of like members of a certain religion who murder those who refuse to convert?  Expect total silence from the MSM. 

Oh, the irony!  The soldiers defending the Union are coming more and more from the South.  The east and west coast are vastly underrepresented in today's all-volunteer military.  So, while the libs from the coasts are screaming about their rights and entitlements, its the Good Ole Boys and Gals (by and large) who are actually manning up and making sure those rights are protected.

Shame, shame. . .Dem senator Babs Boxer fails to pay the day laborers she hired to hold signs outside a debate with her GOP opponent. 

Fr. Robert Barron on "Dumbed Down Catholicism."  Dumbing down the faith is worse than outright lying about what the Church teaches.  Lies can be detected as such and rejected.  Dumbed down teaching allows falsehood to sneak in and soothe the anxious conscience.  Half-truths are just stealthier lies.

Three words you never expected to see in combination:  Geriatric. Segeway. Crusader

Me too!   "Sometimes I'll look down at my watch three times and still not remember what time it is."

The Corporate B.S. Generator. . .this also works for internal committees set up by religious orders and bishops' conferences.

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01 October 2010

Going back to the playground (Repost)

A homily for the memorial of the Little Flower reposted from 2007:

Little Flower: Isa 66.10-14 and Matthew 18.1-4*
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

First, we have the Kroger Child who starts screaming at the door, screams from the mangos and hot dog buns all the way through picnic supplies and dried pastas and on to organic juices, candy bars, and trashy gossip magazines at the register. Then we have the two little girls, five and seven, who sit quietly through the 7.30 Sunday Mass, run up to me immediately after, hug my legs, and thank me for being a priest. And then you have the hundreds of neo-natals in ICU’s across the country; the kids at Family Gateway and the Merilac Center w/o parents or homes; the fifty children on CBS’ latest “reality show,” living w/o adults in a “Lord of the Flies” scenario, complete with readily available tribal make-up and hundreds of cameras; we have the children in our lives, these here, those at home, in school, the ones we see only in pictures from our own kids. . .and then we have those who show us how to get into heaven. Jesus says to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps it is time we turned to the playground again.

You have to imagine the scene clearly. Jesus is praying quietly by himself. His disciples, the twelve and probably a few others, all grown men in their thirties and forties, approach Jesus expectantly. He opens his eyes, takes a deep breath, and waits for the question. And what cosmos-quaking question do these students of the Anointed Messiah ask their master? What is the nature of peace? Of mercy? How do we live abundantly in poverty? Hunger? No. They want to know who among them will be the greatest in heaven. Ah, it’s about ambition, about being the alpha-dog. You can almost feel the heat from Jesus’ embarrassment and perhaps just a degree or two of his anger. Jesus—no doubt thinking: how do I get through to these thick skulls I’ve chosen to be my apostles?—calls over a child and stands the child in the middle of the group. There’s a tense silence among the nipping canine-disciples, an expectant hush as they wait to hear what incredible nonsense Jesus will try to teach them this time; and Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” I see dumbfounded stares, dropped jaws, disappointment, confusion, all flavored with a bit of frustration and anger. Children!?

Yes, children. Jesus sets a child among them and anoints the child as their exemplar. He puts two conditions on entering heaven in this passage: 1) we must turn and 2) we must become like children. Turning makes perfect sense b/c as adults we would have to make radical changes, turn-a-bouts, in order to arrive back at where we started—innocence, humility, a sense of wonder. Turning is conversion, flipping over, stopping and going in reverse, facing the other direction. What does it mean for us to become like children? No doubt Jesus is pointing out the desirable qualities of a first-century Jewish child. Respect, humility, willingness to serve, eagerness to learn, docility in obedience—all of the qualities we would associate with “good kids.” He is also lifting up in this child those qualities that we sometime leave behind as adults: imagination, wonder, a perfect sense of awe, that ability and willingness to look at the world and live wholeheartedly in joy, overflowing gladness and a complete lack of pretension.

Jesus is telling us that we must become a particular kind of child. We must become small, little; without worldly ambitions, without aggressive pretense or a need for secular approval. He is telling us that we must become who we truly are already: creatures of a Creator, children of the Father. We are to be students, apprentices of charity and grace, interns of eternity. As adults of the twenty-first century, we must become the children of the first. If we would be the greatest, we must be who we truly are: the least. To do this we must turn and turn and turn. Always turning back to our heavenly Father. What else can His favorites do?

*These readings are proper for the saint's memorial.

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30 September 2010

Tea Mug Browsing

Pelosi predicts that she will still be Speaker five weeks from now.  I predict the sun will rise this morning. . .and tomorrow morning too.  Since a newly elected House will not be seated until Jan 2011, Pelosi's prediction is safe one.  After Jan 2011, not so much.

While touting his "stimulus" bill in IL at a Caterpillar factory, B.O. promised that the plant would be re-hiring workers rather than laying them off.  He was right!  Except that all the new hires are Chinese. . .ya know, in China.

Seminarians talk about their vocations in the post-scandal age.  The most courageous response comes from a Dominican student brother in the Western Province (USA):  "I find that it is difficult to not question the judgments of any priest or religious who has been ordained or professed longer than 10 years."  We can argue for years about what caused the scandal.  One thing is absolutely clear:  something went terribly, terribly wrong with faith formation in the religious life between VC2 and the 1990's.  

Ignorant of the facts. . .about religion.  No, not the just MSM but Christians as well.  You can take the quiz here.  I got 100%. . .but I do this stuff professionally.  :-)

Public trust in the MSM at an all time low.  And yet they keep spewing the same old leftist nonsense.

To:  B.O.  Re:  "climate change" legislation"The country you left swimming in debt will not suffer another dime of its money to be confiscated for the benefit of global-warming carnival hustlers.  The great bid to frighten Americans into handing over control of their lives to a junk-science religious cult has failed."  Amen and amen.

Because, as we all know, going on strike is the surest and fastest way to create money out of thin air and magically balance national budgets.  Only in the socialist LaLa Land of Europe does NOT working produce wealth.  Time to re-think unions.

Heh.  Bill O'Reilly (not a big fan, btw) spanks Bill Maher on the air.  Maher has had a number of on-air spankings lately.  Apparently, he's only brilliant on his own show where no brooks no opposition.

I'm just saying. . .The newly elected leader of the U.K.'s Labour Party is an atheist, a Marxist, and has yet to marry the mother of his children.  There is no requirement that politicians be theists of any sort.  Nor should there be such a requirement.  

Conservative citizen-journalist who busted the ACORN criminal racket is himself busted for trying to punk CNN.  Maybe the adulation he received after his masterful undercover work with ACORN went to his head.  Regardless, if the reports are accurate, this stunt is just embarrassing and needs to be unambiguously denounced by his fellow conservatives.

Ace of Spades casts his ever skeptical eye on the O'Keeffe/CNN episode.  Wait and watch, folks.

Don't be the fat kid. . .when the Zombies come.  This reminds me of the tee-shirt that reads:  "When a bear is chasing us, I don't have to outrun the bear.  I just have to outrun you."

Free chicken strips!  Who doesn't like free chicken. . .oh, nevermind.

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29 September 2010

On poetry and consolation

Many thanks for the recent activity on Ye Ole Wish List.  Thank You notes will go out immediately if return addresses are available from the invoices.

It will be nice to return to Rome and find a couple of volumes of good poetry waiting for me. . .

. . .something to console me after I'm told again, regarding the French exam, "It was not a success."

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28 September 2010

Muslims call for the defense of free speech. . .

On Sept 28, 2010 the American Muslim posted the following statement on the necessity of free speech rights in a liberal democracy.  Go to the link to read the rather impressive list of signatories to this statement.  

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.  [Evidence?  The MSM is twisting itself into pretzels protecting the identity of alleged terrorists.  FBI Hate Crime stats indicate that reported anti-Muslim violence has dropped from 13% of all violence motivated by religious bias in 2004 to 7.5% in 2008.  Violence against Jews remains relatively steady btw 65-69% in the same period.  "Sentiment" is entirely subjective and not quantifiable.]

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:

* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

[Mainstream Muslim groups need to launch a comprehensive campaign to educate Americans on the basic moral principles of Islam.  Though all decent, free-thinking individuals can agree with the above listing of moral precepts, there is plenty of evidence that Islam is intolerant and violent by design.  If this is not the case, mainstream Muslims are obligated to publicly combat this misconception and rebuke elements in their faith who are distorting the truth.  The Church has been consistent in condemning Christian violence, e.g. the murder of abortion doctors.  Do we see the same sort of condemnations coming from the Muslim world?]

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.  [Bravo!]

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority. [A fundamental human right routinely denied to religious minorities in predominately Muslim countries--all the more reason for these basic rights to be vigorously enforced in western democracies.]

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

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Tea Mug Browsing

More uselessness from the U.N. . .envoy to extraterrestrials appointed.  Maybe the aliens will do us all a favor and beam the U.N. into the vacuum of space.

Apparently, the little green buggers have been busy deactivating our nuclear arsenal.

Tax-dodging multi-millionaire Dem Senator, John Kerry, helps the Left to dig itself in a little deeper:  "We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”   Um, sorry there, um, Milord Kerry, but we are paying attention. . .that's why your party and its twin in the establishment GOP are circling the political bowl.

Show Us the Money, ermmm, the Text! When confronted with the nonsense of the Spirit of Vatican Two crowd, politely and persistently ask them, "Please, kind sir, show me the text."  I did this in my seminary days with both the documents of VC2 and the Code of Canon Law.  My popularity among the profs was not measurable by any known scale.

TIME propagandizes for the impossible. . .the sheer ignorance of this article is breathtaking.  I was prepared to be angered by the anti-Catholic bias; however, how could anyone get angry at a four year old who doesn't understand algebra?

Interesting question:  how does FoxNews cover the GOP primaries when so many of the potential candidates are under contract to the company?

Coffee Party Convention!  Mmmmmmm. . .coffee.  Well, I would've attended but, ya know, my beard needed trimming and, and, and, ummm. . .I didn't have any clean socks. 

Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP:  On the warning signs of the presence of a diabolical spirit

Anger management is often a problem best tackled in a sitting position.

Groan. . .bad choral pun.

Let me see your war face!!!  Um, I didn't say "let me see your face at war with itself."

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26 September 2010

On resenting beggars

26th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Blackfriars, Oxford

I resent beggars.* I avoid them when possible and ignore them when they can't be avoided. When they can be neither avoided nor ignored, I simply refuse them. Since I live in Rome most of the year, avoiding, ignoring, and refusing the Eternal City's legions of panhandlers has become something of an art for me. It is almost possible for me to make my way to and from the priory without feeling as though I have damned myself eternally. Almost. Living in the mid-town district of Houston, TX helped to train me for the running the begging gauntlet of Rome. Daily, nightly, all through the day everyday, the doorbell of the priory would ring. My wife and kids are up on the highway in our broken down car. I need $7.82 to buy a bottle of oil. I am stranded on the interstate and need just $5 to buy some fuel to get me home. Same story, different dollar amounts. Day in, day out. Once, just once, an honest beggar said to me, “I'm losing my buzz. Need a few bucks to buy some beer!” Without fail, I refused to give them cash. Most of the time, they accepted my offer of food and water. I don't resent beggars b/c they interrupt my work or cause me a bit of trouble in the kitchen. I resent them b/c they remind me just how far I am from attaining the holiness that brings the peace of Christ, just how much more there is for me to work on, to perfect, in order to achieve the necessary detachment from fleeting things. Like Lazarus outside the rich man's door, these beggars are a sign, a memento of impermanence—no less worthy of God's bounty than the rich man in his fine garments or a friar in his only habit. In this world, we too are impermanent, a vanity made to die. How should we live knowing this truth?

The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man is not a story about the blessedness of destitution and the evils of wealth. Billionaires can be saints and beggars can be sinners. Jesus makes it clear that holiness is more readily achieved in poverty b/c a beggar's heart and mind are not focused on earthly treasure. However, a billionaire who shares her wealth in love for the sake of Christ does holy work. Beggars and billionaires both can lie, cheat, and steal. And both are perfectly capable of great charity and mercy. We could say that the question here is not what does one have or have not but rather what does one do with one's wealth or poverty. But these miss the point as well. Maybe the question is one of attachment. Is wealth or its absence the whole focus of your life, the defining quality of your existence? Closer but still not quite right. What if the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man is a story about how you choose to love, that is, how you choose to manifest love in the world? By what means—tangible, palpable, really-real—what ways do I, do you leave evidence of God's love behind? Giving a beggar in the Corn Market a pound or two may assuage my guilt, but have I loved? Organizing meetings on the causes of poverty, protesting corporate greed, and calling for the redistribution of society's wealth, all of these might edge me closer to a feeling of “getting things done,” but am I doing any of these for love, for God's love?

Let's ask an existential question: whether you are 16 or 60, who do you hope to become? Since you are here this morning, we can wager that you hope to become Christ! That's what you have vowed to strive for, promised to work toward. You died and rose with him in baptism, and you eat his body and drink his blood in this Eucharist. If you are not intent on becoming Christ, then you have come to the wrong place. Why? By participation in the divine, we become divine—perfected creatures made ready to see our Creator face-to-face. Let's break that down a bit. If God is love (and He is), and we live and move and have our being in God (and we do), then it follows that we persistently exist in divine love. Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, we live and move and have our being in the creating and re-creating love of God. If we are to become Christ—fully human, fully divine—, we must participate wholly, fully. . .heart, mind, body, strength, intention, motivation, completely and without reservation, holding nothing of ourselves back, and shedding everything that prevents the light of Christ from shining through us: false charity, self-righteous indignation, token works of mercy, vicarious poverty, the delusions of worldly justice. Becoming Christ is always and only about becoming Christ for others and doing so for no other reason than to be a witness to the love that God is for us. To become Christ for any other reason is to become the Rich Man who steps over Lazarus on his way to yet another sumptuous feast.

Earlier on, I asked, how should we live knowing that we are impermanent beings? We can take the Rich Man as our anti-example. Why does he find himself in Sheol? Not because he's rich. But because he failed, repeatedly failed, to love. Like us, the Rich Man lived and moved and had his being in Love Himself. He was gifted, freely given, all that he had and all that he was. While living and moving and being on earth, he refused to allow the light of God's love to shine through his words and deeds. Lazarus was for him a sign, a memento of impermanence, a story about the vanity of all the things he held dear. But he refused to see the signs, refused to read Lazarus' story, and God honored his choice to reject His divine love by allowing him to abide forever outside that love. Sheol, or hell is by definition, one's “self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed...” God does not send us to hell, we send ourselves. Just as the Rich Man places a limit on his love, so God honors that limit after death. The chasm that separates the Rich Man from Lazarus after death is precisely as wide and deep as the chasm the Rich Man placed between the freely given love of God and the beggar, Lazarus. Failing to participate in divine love while alive, the Rich Man chooses to deprive himself of that love after death. And so, he finds himself in Sheol begging the beggar for just one drop of water. 

Our Lord commands us to love one another and to go out and proclaim his love for the world. He does not charge us with ending hunger or fighting poverty or ending war. Our goal as followers of Christ on the Way is not is turn Lazarus the Beggar into Lazarus the Respectable Middle-class Worker. When we heed our Lord's command to love, feeding the hungry and standing up for justice come naturally; these arise as works uniquely suited to the witness we have to offer. What could be more just, more perfectly humane than helping another to see and enjoy the image of God that he or she really is! Poverty, hunger, war, all work diligently to obscure the image of God placed in every person. But they are all just effects of a larger and deeper evil: the stubborn, cold-hearted refusal to manifest the divine love that created us and re-creates us in the image of Christ, a refusal that God Himself will honor at our death. 

How should we live? As if we were Christ himself among the poorest of the poor, enthusiastically loving because we ourselves are so loved.

*When I preached this homily, the irony of this opening sentence struck me.  As a Dominican friar, I am a beggar!