16 September 2011

Kindle Wish List (Update)

I've updated the Kindle Wish List!  (hint...hint)

After wading through some Plato, Aquinas, and Heidegger. . .I long for a bit of dungeons and dragons.  (NB.  No, Jesus didn't make me to be a philosopher!)

NB.  Mille grazie to Glenn S. and Matthew R. for the Kindle Books. . .you guys made my Saturday morning!

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15 September 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

Facts Under Construction. . .the latest paranoid theater piece from the B.O. campaign.  LOL!

Dem Congressman:  "You don't deserve to keep all of [your money]. . ."  Now there's a campaign slogan if I've ever heard one.  Definition of "gaffe"?  When a politician tells the truth.

A Confederate flying machine?  Too late to save the South during the War of Northern Aggression.

Hate crimes against Christians on the rise in Europe. 

The Holy See says the SSPX must accept the teachings of Vatican 2 if they want to rejoin the Church.  I wish the Vatican would say this to our more "progressive" brothers and sisters!

Abortion stats for NYC:  60% of black babies aborted.

Does the science of evolution debunk the faith?  Short answer:  No.  Nor can it.

My new favorite site:  Lifehacker.  Along the same lines:  Instructables.

Two B.O. appointed federal appeals court judges get the dates wrong.  They threw out a VA lawsuit based on an easily verifiable fact.

I'd do something like this.   No.  Seriously.

7 Reasons Why the Zombie Apocalypse will fail.  Yea, whatever.  I still want my Zombie Machete.

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14 September 2011

Military rule for America?

A recent survey of America's institutions is very bad news for Congress and very good news for the military.

Only 8% of those polled trust Congress.  Fifty-four percent trust the military.  At first I thought that this was an excellent result.  Congress doesn't really deserve our trust and the military does.  

However, a second and third thought gave me pause.  Is this healthy?  I mean, is it healthy for a nation's citizens to trust its military more than its democratically elected representatives?  

Don't get me wrong here:  I agree with these results!  America's military is a top-notch, professional organization stocked with well-trained, dedicated men and women who risk their lives daily for the maintenance of our nation's security.  Can we say the same for Congress?  Hardly.

So, what's the problem?  The military is not (and should not be) a democratic institution.  What does it say about the nation's direction that we trust an authoritarian organization more than a democratic one?

For a minute or two there I had visions of Americans welcoming military rule.  Is such a thing possible?  Of course it is.  Probable?  No.  But the level of anger and frustration with Congress, the President, and the Courts increases the chances of seeing some sort of authoritarian rule in the future.  

Natural disasters, economic collapse, terrorism, etc. push us toward longing for the kinds of decisive, non-political solutions to our nearly overwhelming problems that the military could provide.  I am confident that our military men and women would resist taking on the power and responsibilities that martial law would require. . .

Sadly, religious institutions rank  slightly below our public schools as trustworthy.  Frankly, this is the spot we deserve. 

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13 September 2011

Strange miracles?

St. John Chrysostom
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Blackfriars, Oxford U.

A strange miracle. Is the phrase “strange miracle” redundant or oxymoronic? Are you repeating yourself when you label an event not only “miraculous” but “strangely miraculous”? Or are you contradicting yourself? Writing against the heresies of Marcion in the second century, Tertullian uses Jesus' miraculous resuscitation of the widow's son to a make a point about Christ's relationship with his Father. In the process of making his devastating point, Tertullian quickly summarizes the scene from Luke and notes, almost off-handedly, “This was not a strange miracle” (Against Marcion, IV.18). Not a strange miracle? Correct me if I've misunderstood something here but Luke is reporting that Jesus has just brought a dead man back to life? Out of compassion for a widow whose only son has died, Jesus tells the woman not to weep, and then touches the dead man's coffin, and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” And he does. Now, Tertullian is telling us that it is not strange that a dead man rose from his coffin and started talking? Nothing odd about that at all. Nothing unusual in the least. Well, I am most confident in declaring that Tertullian and I have very different definitions of the word “strange.” To be fair to Tertullian, he's making a fairly broad point by using this Lucan miracle. His broader point is that the revival of the widow's dead son is not at all strange when viewed in the longer history of prophetic miracles. He asks, if God's prophets can perform miracles of such magnitude, why not His Son? Especially when the miracle bears the burden of revelation: “. . .they glorified God, exclaiming. . .'God has visited his people.'” 

Just a day or two before reviving the widow's son, Jesus had healed the centurion's servant. In both cases, Jesus showed compassion and exercised great power. In both cases, his interventions gave witness to his ministry and glory to God. And in both cases, news of his words and deeds spread like wildfire over Judea. There is one interesting difference btw the two events. In the case of the sick servant, Jesus acts on a request for healing. No such request is made in the case of the widow's son. What's interesting is that the power and glory of God are revealed in both cases, whether those most directly involved in the miracle ask for God's help or not. Where Christ goes—preaching, teaching, healing—so goes the most exacting revelation of God possible. The truth of that revelation—God's Self-revelation—is not contingent upon the need, the desire, the faith, or the credulity of those to whom He reveals Himself. To those with eyes to see and ears to hear, He is uncovered, unveiled, and all there is to do is give thanks and praise! For others, strangeness abounds when a miracle occurs and there is nothing to do but seek an empirical explanation.

Let's ask a somewhat difficult question: do we need a strange miracle to occur before we can say with the utmost confidence: “God has visited His people!”? Do we need a man several days dead revived? Do we need a sick servant healed from a distance? If so, if we, if you need a strange miracle to believe, ask yourself why. Why do I need such thing? And consider: God visits His people daily in the Eucharist. In the breaking of the bread, a great prophet rises among the people. God's mercy; His healing touch; His cleansing spirit; all the gifts necessary to come to Him in the perfection of His Christ. . .all freely available right here in His Church. Think of them as miracles. . .strange little miracles, if you want. Regardless, strange or not, miracles or not, in the Eucharist, all of the sacraments, Christ touches you and says to you, “Arise!” Arise from death. Arise from sin. Arise from disease, doubt, distress, worry. Arise, speak, bear witness, and be yourself a revelation of God the Most High!

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Received word about the comprehensive philosophy license (Ph.L.) exams. . .

The three hour written exam will take place on Oct. 7th.  The oral exams on the themes paper and the license thesis will take place either on the 6th or the 8th.  

Please pray for me and all those taking the exams!

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12 September 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

Records set on B.O.'s watch:  "It’s an unmitigated litany of failure, evidence of economic illiteracy, political incompetence, and ideological extremism."

A chronicle of how the "Religion of Peace" persecutes Christians.

The New Tone. . .now with 75% less civility!

Sigh. . .no disciplinary action against those Protestant ministers pretending to be Catholic priests in Austria.  Wish I could at least feign surprise.

"Barack Obama’s vanity is that he believes he is a world historical event." 

Lefty billionaire Soros claims that 9/11 memorials are really just monuments to anti-Muslim hatred.

Immigrants fleeing across the border to find jobs in a healthier economy. . .Americans moving to Canada.

Contraception --> Divorce --> Abortion --> Gay "Marriage" --> Polygamy --> Pedophilia?  Though Slippery Slopes arguments are logically fallacious, they are not necessarily historically false.

OMG!  I've seen the original at the Vatican Museum. . .wait. . .

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11 September 2011

Repair, Ruin, or Re-run?

NB.  Slightly edited repost from 2005.  Sorry.  Had the 8am Mass, and the Holy Spirit just couldn't get my cooperation for a new homily. 

24th Sunday in OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Blackfriars, Oxford

Let's see. In the last month or so, we've been exhorted to correct one another fraternally. To love one another. To spend more time looking in a mirror and less time looking through binoculars. To serve God by serving one another. To be fresh wineskins for the New Wine of the Lord. And on and on and on. It’s getting to where here lately that it is difficult to hold a decent grudge, to point fingers at other peoples’ sins, or to justify a little self-righteous anger. Or to just wallow in a little self-pity! Don’t be vengeful. Let go of rebukes. Do not hate your neighbor. Overlook faults. Be merciful. Do not cherish wrath. Perhaps we are right to complain that the Lord is too demanding, too demanding of our obedience. Surely, it is easier to find refuge in the ruins than it is to help build a new city.

Case in point. Here we are at Mass again and we hear again another string of demands, perhaps the most demanding of demands: Forgive seven times seventy those who sin against you. We must forgive. This is not merely encouragement. Jesus doesn’t say, “I urge you to consider forgiving them.” He doesn’t say, “Ya know, wouldn’t it be better if you just forgave them?” He, in fact, says, “You wicked servant! Unless you forgive your brothers from your heart your heavenly Father will give you over to the Torturers.” That’s not a suggestion or a hint. That’s a threat. Plain and simple.

We're accustomed to consumerist religious language, language designed to be inoffensive and persuasive, so we’re not used to hearing about threats from God. But there it is. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.” God “settles accounts”?! In this case, the account that needs settling involves forgiveness, or rather the failure to forgive. Jesus' demand that we forgive seems odd given that forgiveness is generally thought of as something that must be given freely, willingly. Isn’t forgiveness one of those religiously things that we’re told to do but often fail to do precisely b/c we know Other People are supposed to do it too. I mean, of course, I know I’m supposed to forgive, but aren’t you supposed to forgive my failure to forgive you? Well, yes, but you don’t b/c I won’t forgive you and on and on and on, round and round we go, spinning into Hell, clinging to one another, teeth embedded, claws deep in the flesh; we fall, forever, together. We can't say we weren't warned. 

Forgive one another. How easily said. Forgive one another. Not so easily done. I wonder why? Why is it so hard for us to forgive? What problems do we run into when struggling with forgiving those who have hurt us? No doubt these problems are Legion. There is fear. Are we condoning the sin if we forgive? Are we saying that the forgiven sin won’t be a sin in the future. THAT sin is OK now? Maybe we fear becoming prey to bullies, becoming a victim to others’ wrath. To deny forgiveness to the bully is a sure way to guard our dignity, to be diligent against abuse. Along with fear, there is also wrathful anger. Maybe we like being indignant, the feeling of resentment, the grudge, the rancor of spitefully stroking every slight, every wound, counting up the injustices and hurts. We become the Devil’s Accountant and our denial of forgiveness, our disobedience to Christ, becomes a way of playing a very perverse version of God—refusing forgiveness to feel superior, righteous, holier than the offender. Here we are tempted to imitate Satan, the angel who went from being the glorious Morning Star to the Lord of the Damned b/c his envy of God, his need to be God, killed his love for God. If the Morning Star can fall, we must ask with Ben Sira, son of Eleazar, who wrote the Book of Sirach: “If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?”

Perhaps we can look at this another way. The contemporary American poet, Eric Pankey, in a poem titled, “Prayer,” asks this question: “What do you love better: the ruin or its repair/Desire’s affliction or fire’s harsh sacrament?” The question of whether or not to forgive can be about whether or not to relinquish hurt and reach for healing. It can be about forgetting. It can also be about obedience and meeting the demands of your faith. But finally, forgiveness is about figuring out what you love more: the ruin of sin or the repair of forgiveness, self-destructive suffering or the hard, hard choice of burning away the slights, the injuries in the “fire’s harsh sacrament”? 

Paul writes to the Romans: “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Surely this is what we love best: that we are the Lord’s, we belong wholly—body, soul, spirit—to a loving God who has saved us from the need to be spiteful in the face of hurts, from the need to hold grudges, from the need to wallow in pity, wrath, and self-righteous anger. We are freed from the slavery of enmity, vengeance, death, and decay. Put the chains back on if you will, but consider: what do you love better: sin’s ruin or Christ’s repair? Your freedom or a wound to nurse?

Don’t be vengeful. Let go of rebukes. Do not hate your neighbor. Overlook faults. Be merciful. Do not cherish wrath. It is too much. It is too much if we go alone into the wilderness of holiness. Though it is easier to find refuge in the ruins than it is to help build a new city, we are promised to a God Who makes demands, Who wants our obedience, and expects us to live up to our end of the Covenant. Building His kingdom, the holy city, one soul at a time begins with the movement of love toward forgiveness. We can survive in the ruins. But we will flourish in the work of repair. And we will flourish more beautifully together than alone.

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Nota Bene

That's it!  I'm dropping out of society to go live in the wilderness as a unicorn!

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