NetGalley Reviewers!

Professional Reader  John and I are blessed to be part of NetGalley as a means to expanding our reading and sharing our thoughts on newly published books, from Catholic apologetics and inspiration to Christian fiction of various genres.

 

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Please help us get a new van.

In 2008, I got my first motorized wheelchair, and we were blessed with an opportunity to buy a twice used 2000 Chevrolet Express 3500 wheelchair van, which was first a prison van and then a medical taxi (I call it our “Paddy Wagon,” since the expression came from stereotypical Irish cops collecting groups of stereotypical Irish drunks in police vans).
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The van has served us well for almost 9 years as our primary vehicle.  “We’ve” had to put some money into it to keep it going, but when it all adds up, it was less than we’d have paid even for a regular van in payments, much less for a handicapped van that can fit our family.

Me and kids at Roper

Me and my kids in 2013, after my aortic graft surgery

Our economic situation simple: we make a little less than enough to get by in modern America.  Unless I should obtain the time and inspiration to write a best-selling book, we strike the lottery or get a really good  investment, we’ll never make much more than we do now.
So when a major expense arises, we need help.
Every few months, something malfunctions in the van.
We had to purchase a second vehicle, using up the small amount of room we had in our budget to add another monthly payment, so we only have to use the van when we need the power chair and so we have a backup when it fails.  The very day we went to pick up the “new” car, the lift stopped working.  When my abdominal aneurysm ruptures or requires surgery, if I survive, I will most likely lose my ability to walk completely.  In the meantime, I need to be able to keep strain off my aorta to delay that surgery as long as possible.
It won’t be long before our eldest daughter has to use a scooter or power chair–technically she already should because she subluxes her ankles every time she walks very far, but we can’t get insurance to pay for one.
As communities, Muslims, Mormons and Evangelicals seem to be very good at rallying around their members.  We Catholics, as a community, need to show the same generosity with ourselves as we do with strangers, to provide the “safety net” that keeps people from falling completely into destitution.  On an individual basis, we have many wonderful Catholic friends who have helped us more than we can ever thank them for.  We know someone out there can afford to help us.
We’re hoping to get a used, 2015 or 2016 Ford Transit Wagon XLT 350, medium height, for around $25,000.  I figure we can modify it ourselves for around $3000-5000.
So accounting for fundraising fees, taxes, etc., we’re trying to raise about $30,000-35000 just for that, though if a generous benefactor wants to help with about $80000 in other expenses we expect to face in the near future, we’d be very grateful.  If someone out there reading this happens to own a car dealership or know a car dealer (I recently heard a rumor that a major Catholic donor in our state owns a dealership), I’m going to be bold and ask if, in the name of Our Lord, you could please donate a van directly?
Please share this post. Please share the link to our fundraiser.  Most of all, please pray that God opens people’s hearts to share, and that He profoundly blesses all those who have helped us.

Please click here to donate.

Wake up!

From Evening Prayer, Friday Week 3:

2b Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,*3for you know that the testing* of your faith produces perseverance.4And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.5But if any of you lacks wisdom,* he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.c6But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.d7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,8since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

On May 25, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene De Pazzi, OCD, and the feast of the great and “venerable” Englishman St. Bede, Ireland, which St. Patrick prophesied would one day lose the faith but regain it to spread around the world, officially severed itself not just from Catholicism but from basic decency and Natural Law by sentencing millions of children to death by abortion.

About 20 years ago, I had a dream that the Chastisements would begin if Ireland legalized abortion. Prepare your hearts. Repent. Go to Confession. Get baptized if you aren’t. Fast. Pray. Stop blaspheming. Love God with all your hearts, minds and souls. Arm your family with faith, service and sacramentals. This is war. And we’re all soldiers asleep at our posts. Our Lord warns us that when we have done our duties, we should say “I am an unprofitable servant for I have only done my duty.” “You’ve done your duty; nothing more,” said Valjean to Javert.

St. John Bosco had a dream where St. Dominic Savio showed him all the souls he might have helped to bring to Heaven but even his efforts and faith were not strong enough.  One of the saints said that the thing Heaven and Hell have in common is that everyone says “I don’t deserve to be here.”

I for one know I could and should do much more for God.

I spent years reading books on apparitions.  I’ve always been conflicted on the “Three Days of Darkness,” yet it seems to match up not just with the prophecies of so many saints and approved visionaries but of many secular and Protestant ideas (the “zombie apocalypse,” for example).

Any Cradle Catholic who’s paid attention to their grandparents or “pious old Church ladies” has at least heard of it.  The prophecy is that, in a time such as ours, when the world and the Church herself fall into sin and rebellion and division, God will reveal Himself through various signs and plagues like those of Egypt, and one of the first will be three days of complete darkness (volcano? EMP?) when no lights will work except for the light of blessed beeswax candles.  One candle will last the three days and light a home, but it will only burn in the homes of those who are in a presumptive state of grace.  It will be the inverse of the “Rapture” as understood by Protestants: those who are in sin will be confronted by their sin and by demons and die.  Reanimated corpses will torment the godly in their homes, so doors and windows should be locked and covered, and protected with sacramentals.  Though it’s always struck me as a bit superstitious, too many signs are being fulfilled to not at least be prepared in spirit and in sacramentals:
https://www.cukierski.net/collections/spiritual-goods-collection

Want to stop school shootings? Ban contraception

Teenagers would have been considered adults 100 years ago.
Today, our “culture” coddles biological adults and keeps extending childhood. It’s difficult for those brainwashed by the media and public schools to think outside the box, as it were, but Americans live for self-centeredness and “I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!” Thinking.

Thus, teenagers and now twentysomethings are “just kids” when their bodies are telling them to get married and have kids of their own. Artificial birth control severs the connection of sex, marriage and procreation. Then sex, the primordial sacrament, as CS Lewis calls it, becomes supposedly a form of casual recreation, with people denying the deep physical and spiritual bond it creates between persons.

People engage in sexual relationships without the protection of marriage, “break up,” and are left with emotional wounds that get aggravated by the person “moving on”–same with serial divorce and remarriage–and then express that frustration in varying degrees of anger.  

Abortion becomes a back up to failed contraception and, along with the media, teaches kids that human beings can be eliminated if inconvenient to their ambition or pleasure. My father saw this decades ago in his students’ inability to understand why characters in literature felt guilt or trepidation about murder and said it wouldn’t be long before kids were shooting each other in school. All of these consequences were warned about by GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, TS Eliot and Pope Paul VI, among others.

 

Detraction: What it is and isn’t

I read an article about a celebrity who’s Catholic who had a personal conversion experience a few years ago and has been taking his faith more seriously.  I can be vague because it seems in recent years we’ve been happily seeing quite a few celebrities who are either converts or “reverts” to Catholicism.  And, as a celebrity, this person has a “past,” and I think such behavior is taken for granted among celebrities.

Meanwhile, some people seem to be relishing in allegations by various women that they had adulterous relationships with the current President at a time be professes to have really “found Jesus” and that were as “consensual” as a relationship with a married billionaire can be, so really no worse, sadly, than many presidents and at least not as bad as some presidents who’ve been accused of rape.  Thus, it seems appropriate to talk a bit about detraction.

There is a big difference between the “Known Sinner” coming back from the parabolic Pig Sty, and the “Righteous” who speak in hypocrisy.  So the reaction when a “Known Sinner” repents should be one of “Hey, good for you! Keep it up!”  If a person is going around saying, “I’m a good Catholic” and then sleeping around or doing drugs or gossiping or whatever, then perhaps it would be “objectively good reason” to point out their hypocrisy, but otherwise, to poi

Detraction: it’s a sin that, on the one hand, is far too common and we all fall into very easily, with or without the Internet.  On the other hand, it’s a sin people with a few thin lines.  According to the Catechism, one is guilty

“of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them” (CCC 2247).

An ambiguity in our day lies in the fact that there’s so much detraction and calumny in the media that most of us know very quickly about things, so for the average person, the secondary principle is often moot, though that’s one very good reason to avoid the “news.”

Then there’s the question of an objectively valid reason, which has two sides: if the goal is purely to destroy someone’s reputation, then it’s definitely sinful, and that is one of the problems with elected versus hereditary or appointed governance: our system is supposed to based upon deciding which candidate one believes shares ones values and is of the best character. That, contrary to what many think, is the point of the Electoral College: we’re supposed to meet our electors personally and get to know them at literal “political parties,” and the electors are supposed to personally know the presidential candidates.  Still, “I’m the best man for the job” often degrades to “I’m the lesser of two evils,” as it has from pretty much the beginning of the US:


I have always believed that character counts in an election, and I have always believed that people should vote for the candidate on their ballot who best reflects their views (I usually draw the line, literally, at “write ins,” unless it’s a local election with only one name).

The tensions of the last election strained and in some cases ended many relationships for me, like everyone else–and ironically for me it was mostly other conservatives because, even to the last minute, I could not bring myself to vote for Donald Trump.  I voted for Castle.  Had I been in another state, I might have voted for a different third party candidate, but as far as I’m concerned, one candidate was a Northern liberal who supported gay marriage and socialized medicine, and the other was Hillary Clinton.  One candidate was a rich, white racist and warmonger, and the other was Donald Trump.

I’m immensely relieved Clinton is not president, and until he and the GOP failed to merely defund Planned Parenthood, much less actually do anything for Personhood, I’d have said they were doing a fairly decent job, and I’m considering voting for him next time.

The cry of Republicans today, like that of Democrats in the early 1990s, is, “We’re electing a president, not a pastor.”  I believe character matters because a politician should be trustworthy.  If I’m electing someone based upon my convictions, I want to know that person shares my convictions.  In theory, at least, we want someone who’s relatively honest, able to keep a vow, emotionally stable, etc.

And it should definitely matter if someone in office is accused of an actual felony–the reason “high crimes and misdemeanors” is worded like that is to say that “character counts.”  The Founding Fathers intended for impeachment to be applied more generously than it has been, to put the Office above the Officeholder.

So it would not, then, be detraction to point out the sins of a public official–if it were, John the Baptist and most of the other Prophets would be guilty.  Indeed, Leviticus tells us that the entire people bear the guilt of the sins of their leaders.

Still, we knew Donald Trump was an adulterer before he was elected.  He was not, as far as I’m aware, accused of any crimes, and he has not been accused of adultery or sexual harassment that allegedly occurred recently.  Yet some people continue to harp on allegations made by different women to a degree that I would argue constitutes detraction, since their goal is mainly to impugn his character more than to discuss his qualifications to be president.

Indeed, the most potentially criminal allegations against Trump have been made, via that infamous recording, by Trump himself, and he has publicly admitted to and acknowledged his past sins about as honestly as a public figure can do without fleeing to a monastery afterwards.  It arguably help him.  I know it was the main reason I considered changing my vote.

Now, getting back to the main topic, one thing I have always struggled with is the Church’s insistence on avoiding scandal by not discussing past sins.  In her Life, St. Teresa of Avila talks about a habitual sin she struggled with.  She says it came from reading fairy tales and adventure stories.  She says it was something that made her a very bad nun and caused her father to almost disown her at one point, but that she never did anything to dishonor her family.  She says it’s a sin many people struggle with, and she wished she was permitted to be open about it because it could help others who struggle with the same sin.  And yet people always say, “Oh, it was just scrupulosity.”  Now, Therese of Lisieux was definitely scrupulous, but I think Mother was being as honest as she could about an actual bad habit.

When Mary and I did our Engaged Encounter, one of the couples leading the retreat were as we expected to be in a few years–and pretty much were.  They were a vibrant young Northern Virginia, JP2-era, Catholic couple who met on a cruise, spend 2 weeks together, got engaged the first time they saw each other after the cruise, and got married as soon as they’d gone through their 6 months.

The other couple were middle-aged, and they had a palpable tension between them.  I could sense from the start that something major had happened in their relationship–not just the comfort of years but an actual rift that they’d had and healed from.  Throughout their various talks, they eventually said that they’d had a serious rift they’d had to heal from and eventually that the husband had committed adultery.  And it became a profound story of forgiveness and healing.

If a couple were standing there, talking about marriage and *not* admitting to such problems, that would be hypocrisy.  Saying, “I sinned, and Jesus forgave me, and my [wife/parents/kids/friends/whomever] forgave me for sinning against them” is not hypocrisy and should not be considered scandal–it’s testimony.

 

 

Why Politics Polarize: Mercy and Faithfulness have Parted Company; Justice and Peace have Divorced

I often note how while my underlying political philosophy is traditionalist/conservative, my positions are often more moderate in practice (since US “conservatism,” has rarely been traditionalist).  I got to thinking last night about how all issues of politics and pastoral theology boil down to justice and mercy.

In “same sex marriage,” those who have been raised with a modernist understanding of “love” and marriage see it as a grave injustice that same sex relationships are not treated the same as marriages among voluntarily sterilized heterosexuals?  While even sterilization can be reversed, artificial contraception and sterilization do amount to sodomy and onanism just as much as any same sex relationship, so they have a point there–as I always say, Christians lost the modern culture wars before they even began, at the Seventh Lambeth Conference.  If two people can “marry” with no intention of ever having children because marriage has become essentially a non-binding legal contract to share property  and rights with someone you “love” (“love” being redefined to mean “this person gives me pleasure”) until you no longer “love” them,, then it is an injustice to say that someone can’t legally marry whomever they “love.”  If, however, marriage is a binding covenant that is stronger than any contract or any other familial bond, legally separable only by death, aimed at unity of two people into one legal person and at procreation, then same sex marriage, contraception and no fault divorce are grave injustices against the institution of marriage itself.

In abortion, the real debate is over perceptions of which party is being treated more unjustly.  If the unborn have human rights, then abortion is (as I believe) a grave injustice.  If the unborn do *not* have human rights, then to make abortion illegal is a grave injustice.  However, because of people’s polarized attitudes, it is difficult to talk of the secondary question: how do we give justice to the unborn and mercy to mothers in crisis pregnancies?

And the latter question pertains to many questions where “liberals” have a point, if not a solution.  How do we show mercy to the mother in a crisis pregnancy without injustice to the unborn?
How do we show mercy to illegal immigrants without injustice to legal immigrants and other citizens?
How do we help people with drug addictions while not performing an injustice against people with legitimate medical needs?
How do we show mercy to people who are financially struggling without injustice to workers who struggle to make ends meet as it is?
How do we show mercy to victims of gun crimes and gun accidents (two separate issues) without injustice to people who are legitimately concerned about self defense (even if they would never own or fire a gun themselves but like knowing they can sometimes save their loved ones by the mere possibility).
How do we show mercy to divorced people who’ve repented without injustice towards the children, wrong spouses, or thoes who have challenging marriages (what marriages aren’t?) and stay together because they believe divorce is a sin?

The Doctor, The Dialogue, and Dean Koontz

“The pilgrim, having passed the Bridge, arrives at the door which is part of the Bridge, at which all must enter, wherefore He says—‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he who follows Me does not walk in darkness, but in light. And in another place My Truth says, ‘ That no man can come to Me if not by Him,’ and so indeed it is. Therefore He says of Himself that He is the Road, and this is the truth, and I have already shewn thee that He is a Road in the form of the Bridge.”   The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin, Catherine of Siena: Dictated by Her, While in a State of Ecstasy, to Her Secretaries, and Completed in the Year of Our Lord 1370

Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble has provided insightful reasons for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to embrace the practice of “memento mori.”   Many spiritual classics encourage us to keep ever mindful that our paths all lead to one place–to death, to God, to our final judgment.  In a world that has long valued health, fame and fortune, perfection in anything but the spiritual life, the practice of remembering one’s death, one’s judgment before Christ, will always be a challenge.

I struggle with the fear of death, both my own and my loved ones, but God granted me my husband John, now a Third Order Carmelite, whose strong faith enhanced by the extreme medical challenges from his genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome, has allowed me to understand and embrace my mortality through my Catholic faith.  

Are there days when I falter and allow fear to overcome me?  Yes, just about every day. But thanks to God for bringing John into my life, I have slowly come to a better understanding of how to climb the ladder of theosis, to dialogue with God, to explore my interior castle, and embrace the Little Way.  So many times, Christ delights me in the amusing ways He brings my interests together in my life to remind me to get back to the path that leads to Him.

Recently, John chose a book he has owned for years, entitled Praying with Catherine of Siena, by Patricia Mary Vinje, for our family Bible study and saint study.  St. Catherine is a doctor of the Church, a title given for the insights into the Faith she provided in her life and writings.  I just happened to be in the middle of reading The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz when we started the studies.  I confess I pouted about being interrupted in the midst of the thrillers when God suddenly reminded me that His Way is the only way, and that He loves irony.

I sat down with the family, and we began reading. Each chapter takes an image from St. Catherine’s Dialogue as a means of meditation and contemplation.  The first one we came to was the “inner cell.” As we pondered the life of St. Catherine who had chosen a cell for her prayer life and was called from there by God to take on politicians who were corrupting Christ’s teachings, and adjure the Pope to go back to Rome, the higher meaning of Koontz’s new series dawned on me.  

Every one of Dean Koontz’s books I have read (most of them published since 2000, the year of his reversion to Catholicism) have made me marvel, laugh at the absurdity of humanity’s pride, be filled with proper fear, squirm in my sinfulness, and repent. His work is a true horror, meant to entertain, yes, but also to bring the reader to reconciliation with God.  And he does provide some great laughs along the way–a skilled mixture of bathos and pathos. Drawing from Flannery O’Connor’s discussion of Biblical exegesis applied to literature in her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” every one of his books can be considered literally, allegorically, typologically, and anagogically. His new Jane Hawk series is no exception.  

As we read excerpts from St. Catherine’s Dialogue, my mind reeled with the understanding that Koontz’s “silent corner” is a synonym for the “inner cell.”  Thus began the revelation of the higher meanings of The Silent Corner that I would never have learned if I had tried to bow out of the saint study.  (Pray for me.)   With that realization of the parallels between St. Catherine’s Dialogue and the names and imagery in Koontz’s Jane Hawk series, I continued to find the gems of allusion he had used from Catherine’s spiritual work and incorporated into his fictional yet spiritual masterpieces.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers in my brief analysis, but I would like to provide a few key points.  In her Dialogue, St. Catherine of Siena refers to Christ as the Bridge, and she refers to the importance of having an inner cell of the soul recollected to God, essentially a “silent corner.” In the Jane Hawk series, Jane has a son named “Travis,” which means “bridge.”   The name “Jane” means ” God is gracious” and one of the meanings of the name “Hawk” is “nook” or “corner,” so, her name blended could be construed as “God’s gracious corner.” Catherine in her Dialogue refers to the sin of the world as a “river.” So, extending the imagery, Jane as the soul recollected to God’s grace can use her focus on Christ as the Bridge (Travis) who has overcome the river of sin.  Every hotel room (silent corner, inner cell) she stays in as she pursues and is pursued by the enemy, she considers her actions and inspiration (Holy Spirit) as a means to return to her son and honor his father (so, the Trinity). In that sense, Jane could be the Blessed Mother, God’s full of grace corner.  Dean Koontz made Our Lady a rogue FBI agent! Or, taken another way, Jane is Catherine herself, a soul recollected to Christ, who took on the powers that be to bring them to repentance and to bring them to Christ.

As a final insight, in St. Catherine’s Dialogue she describes the Body of Christ as the staircase to Heaven…the next Jane Hawk novel is The Crooked Staircase...and the fourth novel in the series is The Forbidden Door, yet another reference to Christ in Catherine’s Dialogue.  I can only guess what images will be taken for the fifth, sixth, and seventh books in the series. 

So, if you were looking for a unique way to practice “memento mori,” I suggest reading The Dialogue of St. Catherine and Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series.  All of his books since 2000 can be considered a type of “memento mori,” as he encourages us readers to see our good deeds in the work of the heroes and heroines, but also to see our sins in those of the villains, and thus consider our final judgment, all the while providing suspenseful, amusing, inspiring, sobering, and terrifying fiction.

 

—Mary Hathaway

stcatherineofsiena

Can we talk about *Facts* and guns?

Until the last 48 hours, I considered myself a “moderate” on gun control.  I believe in “turning the other cheek,” etc., though realize sometimes physical self defense is necessary.
Let’s set aside the theories a second and talk numbers;
https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/10/gun-crime-us-state

https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6345a10.htm

http://www.businessinsider.com/world-suicide-rate-map-2014-4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

I’ve heard so many conflicting claims from both “sides” about gun laws, “gun violence,” where murder is worse, etc., and so I took some time to study the actual numbers for myself.

In short, both “sides” are slightly off in their rhetoric:
1) States with stricter gun laws have less “gun violence” or “gun related deaths” per capita.
2) States with stricter gun laws have *more* murders per capita.

For example, DC has approximately twice as many murders as “gun deaths.”  On the other hand, SC and GA have twice as many gun deaths as murders.

Accidental causes are about 1.5% of gun deaths.

The vast majority are suicides.  Looking at the suicide rate (above), it seems to correlate more to being lower in states with more cities and thus more mental health facilities.

Overall, the US suicide rate is in the lower-middle range worldwide.  Most states’ rates are about equal.  So while guns are the preferred means in states with more guns, those in states with stricter gun laws choose other methods.

So this idea that people are going around killing each other simply because guns are available is not supported by the facts.

 

“Blame the drugs.” “Blame the parents.” “Lock up everyone with mental illness.”

Madman commits an act of violence. People blame a) “mental illness” (or the specific “condition”); b) “psychotropic drugs”; c) “the parents”; etc. Let’s look at the real process:
1) Mental health is largely genetic. People self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, have kids, the kids either grow up with the addict parents or go to foster homes or adoption, then we blame “the parents” or “the foster system” or “adoption,” when so many others in the same situations do not end up as bad. If we look at the parents’ behavior, they’re dealing with the same basic mental DNA as the kid. Certainly, environment plays a major role, but we’ll get back to that.
2) Boys are more often put on stimulant ADHD meds than girls. These meds trigger dopamine. They’re between caffeine and cocaine in the degree to which they stimulate dopamine and endorphins. People speak of marijuana as a “Gateway drug,” and maybe it is, but for the past few generations, Ritalin and Adderall have been the biggest gateway drugs of them all. In my experience as a parent and a teacher, I’ve seen a few students and adults who were helped by these meds. I’ve seen very few who were helped on them without finding it made them angry. I had a college student once who told me he took Adderrall all week, stopped it on the weekends and slept to keep it from driving him insane.
3) A major problem in mental healthcare is the process. They start with largely outmoded Freudian analysis (refer back to 1). Then they try drugs. And they try the drugs in a trial and error fashion. Only under certain circumstances, and/or with much insistence, do psychiatrists and developmental pediatricians normally do actual medical tests on their patients. It’s “Oh, you exhibit this set of behaviors? Let’s try [Ritalin/Prozac/Xanax]….That didn’t work? How about [….]”
Just as a heart med that will help someone with one kind of heart condition may kill someone with another, or the med has a “side effect” of doing to other autonomous systems what it does to the heart, so too the wrong mental health drug can cause either other disorders by its side effects or have an adverse effect if it’s the wrong condition. Put someone with bipolar on an antidepressant, and they get manic.
Put someone on an anti-epileptic who doesn’t have the correct kind of neurological problem(s), and they develop epilepsy.
That doesn’t mean all psych drugs are bad for everyone, but they’re overprescribed and misprescribed.