22 March 2014

Coffee Cup Browsing

A glimpse into the "mind" of a baby-hater: ". . .babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness." NB. her language is obscene at times. Apparently, being enlightened and liberated by reason limits one's vocabulary.

Like "global warming," fracking has become the Leftie go-to man made disaster that justifies all their totalitarian impulses.

Do federal social programs work? Well, how do you define "work"?  They certainly "work" to provide public employee unions with lots of taxpayer cash, and politicians with lots of opportunities for corruption. Not to mention inventing and reinforcing a dependent client caste that benefits the politicians come election time.

50 Great Documentaries

Why does the MSM ignore/downplay Muslim persecution of Middle Eastern Christians? Short answer: to do otherwise muddles the anti-Israel narrative.

It's sweet that she assumes that the purpose of Common Core is to educate children. 

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21 March 2014

Tragically diminished without God

NB. The Times-Picayune published this piece in their Friday newspaper, but they have yet to post it on-line. Not sure why. I had hoped to send some traffic their way. . .oh well.  If they post it tomorrow, I'll add a link.

Tragically diminished without God
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. – W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919.

Though Christ has not yet been chased completely out of the twenty-first century public square, his presence and influence are quickly fading. And fading by design. While Yeats watched Western Europe tear itself apart in the first two decades of the twentieth-century, members of the intelligentsia were still applauding Nietzsche's 1882 announcement that “God is dead” and speculating on what western culture should look like after His funeral. For the most part, they cheered the idea that we were all better off without God. However, as modern history has shown, western culture is tragically diminished in the absence of God.

In Yeats' time and in ours, things fall apart and the center does not hold. Those who believe that things should fall apart and that the center should never hold promote the “death of God” as the greatest event in the history of human liberation. Without God to inform and enforce objective standards of truth, goodness, and beauty, we are free agents in the design and construction of our fate. Ultimately responsible for every choice, each one of us is left utterly alone in our freedom. Secularists argue that this is a good thing. However, such freedom, understood as license, comes with a high cultural and personal price: anxiety, desperation, and grief. All too often our survivalist's instincts lead us toward nihilism and, eventually, self-destruction.

And how can we look back on the twentieth-century and fail to see ourselves committing cultural suicide in the absence of God? World War I killed 37 million. WWII killed more than 60 million. Stalin murdered 20 million; Mao between 45-72 million. Add the death toll from other secularist regimes and the total verges on the incomprehensible. But it's not just wholly secularist nations that contribute to the butcher's bill. In the U.S., since 1973, secularist ideology has provided the legal framework for domestic genocide: 53 million abortions and that number grows every year by 1.7 million. It's no accident that 65% of these abortions occur outside the marriage bond. Without the transcendent, without God, all we have left is our belief in nothing and everything is permitted.

Over the decades many secular thinkers have tried to replace God with a useful, all-too-human idol. Nietzsche gave us the √úbermensch, the Super Man. Marx gave us The Worker in Class Struggle. And Freud gave us the Neurotic, drowning in his sexually repressed unconscious. None of these idols brought the human person to the fullness of true freedom, nor can any of them bring us closer to the truth, goodness, and beauty offered by classical western theism. What they did bequeath to us is a severely diminished culture crippled by the secularist myth that believers are little more than superstitious primitives who are best ignored, if not outright eliminated. Why? Because left alone to influence the shape and direction of a nation, believers will inevitably turn a democracy into a theocratic gulag. Or so the myth goes.

To better understand why we need God, we need to think about why secularism wants Him out of the cultural picture. Catholic philosopher, Charles Taylor, defines culture in terms of the “social imaginary,” that is, culture is more than just how we do things, it's how we imaginatively arrange both our internal and social lives as the two interact. For the Christian West, the social imaginary has always been rooted in the reality and availability of the transcendent God who became flesh to dwell among us. If the incarnation of Christ tells us how to think about our ultimate end and we use this knowledge to organize our social lives, then those virtues given to us by God (faith, hope, love) become real, enforceable social norms. In other words, morality is objective, knowable, and actionable. If the secularists are right and God is dead, then so are the virtues He infuses into the human person.

So, where does that leave us? Exactly where we've been left time and again by secularist ideology: the one with the most money and guns wins. And there's no appeal to a higher authority if you are among the losers. Fortunately, we don't have to stay here. Lent is that time of year when Christians confront the difficult difference between living in the world but not being of the world. Our graced task is to stand among the ruins and reconstructions of our diminished culture and show our neighbors – through word and deed – how the world can be both a sign of God's love and a tool of devilish temptation. We do this by digging into the hard work of charity, the seriously earthy work of feeding the poor, clothing the naked, praying for our enemies, and fasting in sacrificial love, all the while keeping our hearts and minds stubbornly turned toward God's promise of final rescue. If secularism has again unleashed “mere anarchy” upon the world, then we who follow Christ must give our lives upon the cross to show the world again that Christ is King.

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Dominican appt'd Archbishop (UPDATED 2.0)

NB. This post has gotten over 1,000 hits! I have no idea why. Where are all you people coming from? Welcome! 

Update 2.0: Now this post has over 2,000 hits. Please, let me know where you are all coming from. . .

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Malcolm McMahon, OP as Archbishop of Liverpool, UK. I don't know much about the Good Friar's ecclesial politics or theological bent, but I imagine that he falls well within the norm for Baby Boomer English Dominicans -- to the left but within the tradition.

fra. Malcolm ordained me to the diaconate on July 3, 2004 at Blackfriars, Oxford.

As usual, Rocco has the scoop. . .

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20 March 2014

Four Items -- quickly. . .

First: HUGE mendicant thanks to Gregorio M. for sending me Guardini's The Lord from the Wish List. If I had a dime for every time this book has been recommended to me I wouldn't need to beg for books on the internet. 

Second: The return of Coffee Cup Browsing has been a stat success. Oddly, Mon, Wed, and Thurs' editions got an average of 100 hits, while Tues' edition got over 520!  I have no idea why. 

Third: Several of my Internet Mothers have written to ask about my health. I'm still old and fat and my knee is wobbly/achy. Other than that, I'm fine. I have a doc appt on April 3rd for a cardiac check-up and a bone-doc referral.  Thanks for the prayers! 

Fourth: My Lenten article for the Times-Picayune has been submitted. They will post it on-line tomorrow. Watch for links.  Maybe if we spike their stats they will ask me to write something regularly!  :-)
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Coffee Cup Browsing

"Christians Need Not Apply." When non-discrimination requires discrimination. 

NASA -- ya know, the federal agency that deals the Space Stuff -- spends tax money to tell us that we must redistribute wealth or risk social collapse. UH?

That Women's Studies prof in CA who attacked a 16yo Pro-Life activist spends some time telling us why her feelings are more important than our rights

The Above Mentioned Prof drops a feminist code-word in her police interview: triggering. This is just a fancier version of the heckler's veto. Who knew that academic feminists were such delicate flowers in need of protection.

Rape Culture: reminds me of the time back in the late 80's when I served on a county jury in an aggravated rape case. One of my feminist grad school colleagues demanded that I convict the guy b/c "men have been raping women for centuries." Damn the evidence! Let ideology rule!

To all my brother friars who laughed at me in the Studium when I told you that carbs are the dietary enemy not fat: "Toldya."

Lightening Fall: A Novel of Disaster. If anyone reads this one, please let me know. Reminds me of Lucifer's Hammer.

"When how we vote is how our souls are saved." Secularism is a postmodern religion. 
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19 March 2014

Coffee Cup Browsing

Global Warming Heretics must be jailed. All for the cause of tolerance and science, of course!

White House quietly rewrites FOIA. . .in 2009. Lawlessness.

We were relentlessly pushed into "collaboration" with religious sisters in seminary. This meant that we did exactly what the sisters wanted to do. Lack of collaboration with their agenda was seen as a "formation issue," and threatened a black bean come voting time.

Asian politicians (D) in CA halt effort to enshrine racial preferences. Good. NB: no one called them "racist." Wonder why?

Don't Harsh the Narrative: "Pedophile priest" given the boot by the Vatican. NB: his victim was a 14 yo male teen. That's not pedophilia.

MSM struggles with reporting on recent Big Bang discovery. Apparently, the universe "transformed itself" from Nothing to Something

On Pride: suffering for something worse.


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18 March 2014

Coffee Cup Browsing

No 1stA rights for our Christian FlyBoys and Girls? Here's where to help.  

Here's another source of help for Christians being bullying by Secularist Fundies: Thomas More Law Center.

On the upcoming 2014 Synod on Marriage: "I no longer fear the charlatans behind the media curtains. Sure, they can still produce plenty of smoke. But most of their Catholic mirrors are gone." Your mouth to God's ears.

Grav waves from Big Bang discovered. No doubt the Inquisition is collecting kindling in St Peter's Square.

Speaking of anti-science propaganda: Cosmos' ratings drop dramatically. Good. Here's to a season's worth of cricket-chirping. . .and cancellation.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass celebrated at Harvard!

Vietnamese Catholicism. . .several of my formation advisees are Vietnamese, specifically religious brothers of the Congregation of the Mother, Co-Redemptrix (CMC).
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17 March 2014

Coffee Cup Browsing: The Return!

Shocked! Shocked, I say! Anti-religious bias in the newsroom

Media Project 2014: Fictionalize Francis.

The moral genius of the Church is her ability to hold to the truth of the ideal even when (especially when!) we fail repeatedly to achieve the ideal.

Hillary: "You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development, without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights." Sure. 'Cause killing babies is healthcare, ya know

Taking liberties with Son of God? Haven't seen it. Probably won't. 

B.O. surrenders the internet to. . .the UN. Great. That's gonna work just swell for liberty worldwide.  Maybe China, N.Korea, and Egypt can sit on the panel that governs access.

LOL. Good one.


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16 March 2014

Marching Orders for Lent

Decided to go with this one from 2011. . .

2nd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Here are our marching orders for the second week of Lent:  “Rise, and do not be afraid!” 

Are you tired of Lent yet? Wondering why you chose you favorite bad habit to give up? Are you finding yourself counting the days, just waiting it out, maybe twitching a little now and then? Thinking about marching right into Burger King or making a quick stop at the bakery? Is your tongue just itching to really tell someone off? Or maybe your credit card is keeping you up at night softly sobbing from loneliness. Imagine calling the whole thing off. Right now. Just stop Lent and get off. Stop the fasting, the abstaining; stop the extra prayers and just break those promises of weekly confession, daily Mass, nightly rosary. Just stop it all. Just say NO to Lent. And get off this crazy roller coaster of a liturgical season! I mean, really now…is Jesus coming back anytime soon? Who knows? 

Imagine the disciples for a second. There they were with Jesus, their beloved teacher, and they are having trouble understanding all his mysterious talk of suffering and dying and coming back to life again. The disciples! The guys who know him best are struggling with this whole going-into-the-desert-thing. Here we are 2,000 years later, and we’re trying to understand and benefit from the example of his temptations. You had better believe I would conjure up some bread after forty days without food. Not to mention a case or two of beer! Of course, I would call down an army of angels if the Devil appeared and started tempting me. And, yea, ruling the world seems like a heady vocation with lots of perks. But I, like you, must do what Christ did. And in case we’re scared out of our minds at the very idea of what’s ahead for the Church, we have Christ on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. And we have Christ's promise: “…his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light.” What sort of promise is this? What exactly is the promise of the transfiguration?

The disciples, gawking in fear at the sight of the transfigured Jesus, Moses and Elijah with him, fall flat on their faces in the dirt. Jesus touches them and says, “Rise, and do not be afraid!” When they rise, Jesus remains alone standing before them, shining brilliant white. Moses and Elijah are gone. The joyous light around him dissipates. All he says to the dumb-struck disciples is: “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” That’s it. That’s his explanation of what just happened. Um, what just happened? We received a revelation. And now that we have it, what are we supposed to do with it?

Let’s go back to Paul and his second letter to Timothy. Paul writes to this friend, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy life, NOT according to our works but according to His own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus…” What makes this holy life we are called to possible? Nothing other than the gifts we have received from God, the grace “now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus…” Paul, writing long after the revelation on the mountain, is reminding Timothy that he must “bear [his] share of hardship for the gospel…” How? “…with the strength that comes from God.” Jesus’ transfiguration, his transformation before Peter, James, and John is our Lord’s seal on an ancient promise: endure with my strength, endure with the gifts you have been given, endure with one another, and you too will be transfigured; you too will shine like the sun, white as light. 

What do we do ‘til then? Jesus touches his frightened disciples and says to them, “Rise, and do not be afraid!” In this one command, we can hear the echo of all of the promises our Lord made to Abram: “I will make you a great nation…I will make your name great…I will bless those who bless you…All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” None of these gifts are ours by right or inheritance. It is ours in faith by the promise of the One who blesses His creation with His presence. We cannot lay claim to a single blessing, not one gift from our Lord if, trembling in fear of our future, we are face down in the dirt. Or if we will not look up into the eyes of Christ; or if we refuse in our sinfulness to be transfigured, to be changed into He Whom we adore. So, rise and do not be afraid! Do not fear small sacrifices or large ones; do not fear little fasts or days of abstinence; do not fear that the Body of Christ is sick beyond healing, or that the Word is silenced against the world’s unbelief and violence. Meet your temptations for what they are: lies. Meet the Devil for who he is: a liar. And rejoice that you have been given a seal on the promise of your salvation! A bright shining promise made by he “who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

What awaits our Lord in Jerusalem is an ignoble death on the Cross. He knows this. Yet he rides into Jerusalem like a slave on a donkey. And though he is cheered as a king, he is abandoned like a beggar to beg for his life. . .even as he dies. His face shone like the sun on the mountain. But it bleeds on the Cross. His clothes become brilliant white on the mountain. But when he is lifted up on the Cross, he wears a king’s purple, red with his own blood. And when he stands before the disciples shining and bright on the mountain, he stands with Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets; yet in the garden he is alone. On the Cross he is a criminal among thieves. He knows all of this. And he appears to his disciples to seal an ancient promise of mercy. He appears, transfigured, to ease their doubts, to strengthen their resolve, to bolster their lagging faith. 

Are you ready yet to abandon your Lenten fasts? Your sacrifices? Are you ready to deal with the Devil and shop among his lies? Are you ready to stop this crazy ride and get off? If so, hear this one more time: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Listen to the Cross. Listen to the fall of the temple veil as it crashes. Listen again to Paul: “Beloved, bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Listen to Jesus say as he touches your hand, “Rise, and do not be afraid!”


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Can you name your shadow?

The Holy Spirit and St. Caffeine of Folgers is having a tough time breaking through the lingering exhaustion from last week.  I may have to preach this one from 2013 again.
2nd Sunday of Lent 2014
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Cloud, shadow, and darkness. On this second Sunday in Lent, we are confronted by our ignorance. Just two weeks into our desert pilgrimage and already we are being driven deeper into the truth and the beauty of what we do not know about our God, our incomplete understanding of who God is and what He wills for us. Maybe ignorance isn't the right word here. Maybe we should call our inability to fully experience and know God something like “seeing with one eye closed,” or “touching with a gloved hand,” or “hearing with muffled ears.” We can see, touch, and hear the divine, sure; but it's all done imperfectly, dulled somehow by merely being human; imperfect sensations, giving us imperfect knowledge b/c we are not God. Abram speaks with God. And afterward, “a trance [falls] upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness envelope[s] him.” Peter, James, and John speak with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. And afterward, “a cloud came and cast a shadow over [the disciples], and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.” Lent is our time to enter the cloud, to walk in the dark, and grow in the shadow. Before we come to know God, even imperfectly, we must know and accept—in all humility—that we are not God.

That we can grow in the shadows or live in the darkness seems to run counter to everything we've ever been taught about being followers of Christ. We share his light; we thrive under his sun; we harvest the fruits of his sacrifice with the fire of the Spirit. It's the wicked who prosper away from the light, while Christians seek it out. All true. But what is the light we seek? On the mountain, Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John. He is shown to them shining in God's glory beside Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets. With Moses the Law and Elijah the Prophet, Jesus the Christ stands before his disciples wholly changed, brilliantly radiating a glory that only God Himself can impart. The disciples—as they usually do—misunderstand this moment and offer to build shrines for worship on the mountain. Their ignorance manifests as a dark cloud and from that cloud a voice rings out, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” The light we seek is the Chosen Son. And our ignorance is relieved when we listen to the Word he speaks. But before we can listen, we must come to accept that we are not listening. Lent is our time before Easter to enter the dark cloud and confess our disobedience, our failure to listen.

For centuries, the image of the dark cloud, the menacing shadow has stood as a sign of human ignorance of the divine. Traditional monastic spirituality—the three-fold path of purgation, illumination, and unification—is designed to lead the willing soul through obstacles and temptations and on to the purity that union with God promises. More than anything, however, the dark cloud expresses the individual's view of his/her spiritual condition. Bereft of light, solitary, struggling with sin, abandoned by God, and despairing of hope. This is the Dark Night that St John of the Cross says we must spend before the enlightenment. This is the desert—stripped of all consolation and exposed to the Enemy—the 40 day surrender of Christ to his wilderness. It is silence. With no one to listen to but the Enemy lying to us, tempting us away from the light with treasures that have never been his to give. No one who has ever called on the name of Jesus has failed to fall into darkness, failed to enter a cloud, a shadow. Once you have seen the light, its absence is just that much brighter and your longing to see it again just that much stronger. So, your Lenten cloud is not the enemy; your Lenten shadow is not a hiding place for temptation. They prepare you for the Great Light of Easter! 

When Abram emerges from the “terrifying darkness [that] envelope[s] him,” God seals the first covenant with fire and grants to him descendents as countless as the stars. When Peter, James, and John emerge from their dark cloud on the mountain, a voice from heaven declares, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Having emerged from the other side of their darkness, these faithful men find waiting for them revelations of the divine beyond their imagining. Abram becomes the father of God's chosen people. The disciples become preachers of God's Good News to sinners. Beyond the dark clouds of their human ignorance, these men find their calling, their mission. They find in obedience to God their purpose, their holiness. They are gifted with all that they need to accomplish all that God has asked of them. And so are we. Holiness is not impossible. Living truly righteous lives as followers of Christ is not a ridiculous goal, nor some sort of improbable dream. Abram and the disciples emerge from their darkness by God's will, freely receive their gifts, and then work furiously to finish the job God has given them to do. Their holiness would be impossible if they labored alone in pride, alone in ignorance and disobedience. But they don't.

And neither can we. Can you put a name to your shadow, your dark cloud? What don't you know about your faith that's keeping you from growing in holiness? What or who is holding you back, submerged in darkness, away from Christ's light? Just like Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the Enemy, so we too enter our 40 days in the desert to expose ourselves to the worst the Enemy has to offer us. Fasting, praying, giving alms—all of these highlight in turn a portion of our ignorance. Do you know and accept that you are completely dependent on God for everything you have and everything you are? Do you know and accept that God has no need of your prayer and that prayer is meant to bring you humility in gratitude? Do you know and accept that nothing you have and nothing you are belongs to you, and that your generosity (or lack thereof) is a sign of your fidelity to the baptism that made you an heir to the Kingdom? Do you know and accept that all that you know of God and His will for you is a gift, wholly, freely given to you so that you might use this gift to grow closer and closer to Him? If you can name your shadow, your cloud, name what it is that holds you back, do so. And see yourself freed. 

Is it right to think of Lent as a 40 day long darkness? A 40 day long shadow looming over our efforts to grow in holiness? Yes, it is; if we think of the darkness as a wake up call to examine our ignorance of God and His will for us. On this second Sunday of Lent, we are confronted by cloud, shadow, and darkness but there is nothing for us to fear. Abram and the disciples emerge from their dark clouds to receive a revelation. And will we. Why is Lent dark; why is it cast in shadow? Because the future light Easter shines back on us, exposing our flaws and failures and urging us to name them, confess them, and see them dispelled for Christ's sake. We are not God. So all that we know about Him and His will for us is His gift to us. That truth is the foundation stone for a beautiful life built with the tools of sacrificial love and unconditional mercy. We have another few weeks to examine our darkness before the Easter light dawns. Prepare yourself to step up to Christ's empty tomb and receive a revelation; prepare yourself to receive every good gift you will need to flourish as a servant for the least among his children. When Christ speaks to you, listen to him and be freed. 

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