Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

St. Teresa of Avila on “true humility”

“Pay great attention, daughters, to this point which I shall now make, because sometimes thinking yourselves so wicked may be humility and virtue and at other times a very great temptation. I have had experience of this, so I know it is true. Humility, however deep it be, neither disquiets nor troubles nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy and tranquility. Although, on realizing how wicked we are, we can see clearly that we deserve to be in hell, and are distressed by our sinfulness, and rightly think that everyone should hate us, yet, if our humility is true, this distress is accompanied by an interior peace and joy of which we should not like to be deprived. Far from disturbing or depressing the soul, it enlarges it and makes it fit to serve God better. The other kind of distress only disturbs and upsets the mind and troubles the soul, so grievous is it. I think the devil is anxious for us to believe that we are humble, and, if he can, to lead us to distrust God.

When you find yourselves in this state, cease thinking, so far as you can, of your own wretchedness, and think of the mercy of God and of His love and His sufferings for us. If your state of mind is the result of temptation, you will be unable to do even this, for it will not allow you to quiet your thoughts or to fix them on anything but will only weary you the more: it will be a great thing if you can recognize it as a temptation. This is what happens when we perform excessive penances in order to make ourselves believe that, because of what we are doing, we are more penitent than others. If we conceal our penances from our confessor or superior, or if we are told to give them up and do not obey, that is a clear case of temptation. Always try to obey, however much it may hurt you to do so, for that is the greatest possible perfection.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 39, para. 3).

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“He hit me first!”: Nations are basically Four Year Olds

It’s gotten tougher as the family has diversified, but one of my rules is the “King Solomon Rule.” When two kids are fighting, I don’t care who started it. I care who’s willing to end it first. If they’re fighting over something, and they can’t make a compromise, I take the item away.

We’ve all heard it as parents, and we did it as kids: “He hit me first!” “Because he made a face at me!” “Because he was teasing me!” “Because he took my toy!” “Because he wouldn’t let me play with it!”

Nations, whatever their pretensions, are basically a bunch of preschoolers.

Call it my liberal public school education, but one thing I have never understood, since I was in kindergarten, was why we ever refer to “good” and “evil” in international relations. As a kid, I naively thought, “Isn’t everyone basically good?” Of course, as I got older, it changed to “Isn’t everyone basically evil?”

After all, I was taught in school that, while Communism was itself evil, the people in Communist countries didn’t really want to be Communist: deep down, everyone wanted to be democracies just like the United States. I figured that, if the “Russians” didn’t really want to be Communists, and they didn’t like their dictators anymore than we did, then why did we call the Russians “evil”?

The Holocaust was an act of unspeakable evil. Invading someone else’s country is also an act of unspeakable evil. Josef Stalin killed millions more Jews and other dissidents than Hitler did, and this is an act of unspeakable evil. The United States killed and sterilized thousands of disabled people in the 20s-40s, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasake, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil. The United States and Europe and so many other countries are aborting millions of children a year, and this is also an act of unspeakable evil.

I finally read the trade paperback of the first issues of the new IDW GI Joe continuity. In a passage I’d already read in an online preview when IDW’s series started a while back, the Joes take down a weapons shipment by a small terrorist group from Macedonia.

“They have a grievance that goes back to before Alexander was born,” says Duke.

“They blew up our buildings!” “They shot at us!” “We have the right to wipe out everyone else because everyone has been mean to us!”

Recently, famous White House correspondent Helen Thomas has gotten into hot water over comments she’s made about Palestine (one of the basic rules of Journalism is never to become the story). Indeed, she’s now been fired by Hearst after a half a century as a White House correspondent.

Thomas is Lebanese, of Melkite Orthodox belief, and has a history of favoring the Palestinians, though usually in a more subtle manner.

Well, she went a bit too far recently, apparently. When asked at a Jewish Heritage Month function what she thought was the solution to the crisis in the Middle East, Thomas said that Palestine is occupied territory, the Palestinians are under occupation, and the occupiers, the Israelis, need to go back to their home countries. Sadly, she used some profanity I won’t repeat here, and, though she listed “America” among the countries, the way she said it was “Germany, Poland, America, or wherever else they came from.”

This has been taken by many to indicate that she wants another Holocaust. Yet it seems like Germany these days is pretty darn safe. After all, with all the laws designed to prevent “anti-Semitism,” including laws against “holocaust denial” (and some of what I’ve said here can be construed as “Holocaust denial” by those for whom the Holocaust is THE WORST EVENT EVER IN HISTORY [TM]). If I could go to a country where it was 100% illegal to say anything against my religion, my ethnic background, or even to question my views on historical facts, versus living where I run a constant risk of being killed by terrorists, and I could afford to emigrate, I’d go there in a heartbeat. Indeed, if anyone can set me up with a good job teaching English in Malta, let me know.

Anyway, another of Thomas’s controversial statements is questioning why the International Community is giving Israel a pass for attacking a flotilla of humanitarian aid being sent to the Palestinians. If any other country did this, she noted, it would be immediately condemned worldwide.

I’m not a fan of Israel. I’m not a fan of Palestine. I am a supporter of my Christian brothers and sisters, and I know that Christians in Palestine–except the ones who collaborate with Muslim terrorism–get it from both sides. I also know, from what happened in the 1990s, that “peace” in the “Holy Land” means death to Christians, since the Jews and Muslims only stop fighting each other to turn their attention on their common foe.

I also don’t understand the fascination with the Holy Land. It’s a piece of dirt. I understand why Jews and Muslims are so obsessed with it, but why Christians? Shouldn’t Christians be actively working to *convert* the Jews and Muslims?

Otherwise, who cares who runs it? St. Francis of Assisi was a great devotee of the Holy Land, and yet he also realized what a mess it was in his day. So he started a great many devotions–Christmas Creches, Stations of the Cross, and the Portiuncula Indulgences, to name a few–that said you can get the same graces you’d get from going to the Holy Land just by practicing those devotions and bringing the Holy Land to you.

If the people of Israel want the land God promised them, then let them keep up their part of the covenant: offer animal sacrifices, don’t associate with Gentiles, and keep the Sabbath–not just the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath year and the Jubilee. It was failure to forgive debts and stop working for a year every 7 years, and 2 years every 50, that lost them the Holy Land to begin with. Is it anti-Semitic to suggest that they should actually practice their own religion?

In any case, “Israel” isn’t “the Jews” any more than “USSR” was “the Russians” or “PLO” is “the Palestinians.”

People are people; governments are governments, and there is no such thing as a good government. There is no such thing as a good earthly power. All earthly powers are corrupt. All are subsidiaries of the Prince of this World.

I don’t understand why criticizing the faults of a country mean one “hates” that country. Indeed, as G. K. Chesterton observes in Orthodoxy, a friend merely likes a man the way he is; a wife loves him and wants him to be *better*.

In any case, to take sides in any international conflict is really like taking sides with a conflict between toddlers. Very rarely is either party completely innocent. International relations should be handled just like parenting: “Stop fighting, or you’re both in trouble. Work it out. Make peace.”

People want to come up with all sorts of platitudes about why they favor Israel over Palestine, but what it boils down to is that there should be no favoritism. The only way to have peace is for both sides to quit being selfish, and for the world to treat both sides with an even hand, just as that is the only way to make peace among little kids.