Monthly Archives: September 2013

Part 2: Reflections on The Memorial of St. Wenceslas

I realized that yesterday was the feast of St. Wenceslaus. When my Dad played for daily Mass, the last three days in September were an opportunity to break out some Christmas music: “Good King Wenceslaus,” and then the angel songs for Michaelmas and the Guardian Angels. It’s become a tradition for one of us to call the other on September 28 and for us to sing it together. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t quite have the energy to sing the duet, but we tried. This year, it didn’t happen. So, here it is:

Good King Wenceslas; click for a Youtube of the Irish Rovers rendition (happened to be my first hit on YouTube, and since my Dad likes them, it fit)

The hardest part of this last 6 months for me (Thursday having been the sixth mensiversary of my surgery–another day that went by in a blur) has been my inability to sing. Not only can I not carry a tune, but I can barely sustain a sentence speaking. I’ve already explained in my previous post why I opted not to get surgery, and even if I got it, I wouldn’t be able to sing.

I cry almost daily about it. I first mentioned it the day I “got my voice back” after my “temporary injection.” I was watching the 2004 _Phantom_ movie with the kids and couldn’t help but burst out with “Angel of Music,” only to croak like Carlotta in “Poor Fool He Makes Me Laugh.” I keep dreaming that suddenly I try and, even though I still can’t talk, I can sing like I did before.

Once in Fifth Grade, my friend’s father followed me to the car leaned down when my Mom rolled down the window, touched me on the shoulder, and said, “I know what happiness is! Teach this kid a new song!”

The late Laurie Beechman (1953-1998), Broadway’s longest-running Grizabella. Click here for an amateur recording of one of her performances. Everything comes to a halt when the audience applauds.

When I was in high school, and my great ambition was to return to St. Jude (now closed) as a teacher or principal, another friend, Jeff, my future best man, would joke that “twenty years from now” (which is now), I’d still be walking down the hall singing Andrew Lloyd Webber shows (all parts, all the way through), come into teacher’s lounge, and Mr. Z would still be sitting there, saying, “John, shut up!” Or the time his dad was preparing a sample interim for a demonstration of how to write them in the “new” gradebook software, and wrote, “John Hathaway is a terrible student. He’s in my Trig/Pre-Calc class. He sings in the halls, falls asleep in class, tells jokes, and has a 110 average.”

Side story: the latest I ever went into the pool was in mid-October (I think the 15th), when their family came over for dinner, and Jeff convinced me to go swimming. The next day, at lunch, a girl who graduated the year before sat at our table. We were talking about swimming the night before, and she said, “You were at his house?” (Our parents were friends through church and Cursillo). “Yeah, his mom and my mom are friends,” he said. “And my dad and his dad,” I replied. “And my dad and him,” Jeff retorted, referring to the amount of time his dad I and would spend talking about computers. A few years later, during my parents’ annual Christmas party, which had a particularly big guest list that year, Jeff went to get a regular cup from the cabinet instead of a disposable. His sister scolded him and said that was impolite: “That’s for family.” “But I’m like family, aren’t I, John?” he replied, and I validated. When Mary met Jeff, he asked her, “Do you like Barry Manilow?” She said, “I don’t know yet.” He said, “Well, you’re going to have to.”

Here Comes the Night (no link)

_Evita_ got me through the Clinton years, and Eva’s poignant prayer at the end of “Waltz for Eva and Che” has always been a catharsis for me: “Oh, what I’d give for a hundred years, but the physical interferes–every day more, O my creator! What is the good of the strongest heart in a body that’s falling apart? . . .”

Back in VA, when I’d see a sign for Dumfries, or Mary would talk about her friend who used to live in Carlisle, PA, or just being on the VRE or Metro, would evoke “Skimbleshanks.”

“They were sleeping all the while I was busy at Carlisle Where I met the stationmaster with elation! They might see me at Dumfries if I summoned the police If there was anything they ought to know about.”

Allie (who, after her most recent growth spurt and personality growth, is starting more to fit her full name, Alexandra) has always preferred Provolone. One time, I bought her some when we had gone to Wal-Mart for one specific reason, and she said, in the car, “Well, are you gonna sing it?” Whenever we’d pick some up at the grocery store, or go to Subway, I’d sing the verse from the Italian mouse in “There Are No Cats in America” from _An American Tail_:

“The Times were harrd in Sic-cily; we hada no provolonay! The Don, he wa-as a tabby wi-ith a taste for my brother Tony! When Mama went to pleada for him, the Don said he would see her. We found her Rosary on the ground. Poor Mama Mia! BUT–“

During our first two years here, when I was doing my gardening, I would see my sunflowers, think of “Like a sunflower, I yearn to turn my face to the dawn,” and start singing “Memory,” or just doing labor which always leads to “Look Down” or “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” and thus everything that follows. I’d sing “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” when I was in a joking mood about Josef & Clara’s mischief and bickering.

In the ICU and rehab, I kept playing songs in my head, like Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” or the Four Seasons’ “Working My Way Back to You.”

Now, I just keep thinking of the best song from _Love Never Dies_: “Till I Hear You Sing”

Love Never Dies

Part 1: “We only read you when you write”

I truly thank God for Facebook and for the technology that both keeps me alive and compensates for each new problem that comes along. It can be tough sometimes to tell if I’m staying up because of FB or because of the pain, but I only have to think of the many nights before the Internet (and, thus, before Mary) when I would lie awake in pain and have nothing to do except read if I felt well enough, no one to talk to, etc. And now, with my vocal cord paralysis, it has been quite a living Purgatory as someone who “loves to talk.”

In July, I had a window of opportunity when my “temporary injection” gave me a voice that just sounded like laryngitis, which, when you think about it, it technically *was*. They inflated my vocal cords with a substance (the doctor kept referring to it as “gel,” but the nurse said it was Botox) to see how well it worked. People asked me to say something profound for my “first words,” and I quipped, “It will probably be something like, ‘[N], stop that!'” As it happened my first words, two days after the injection, were, “Let’s see if this works.” Then I began to recite the Gettysburg Address, which I have mostly memorized because of a great lesson on critical reading I built around it. When I started calling family members, the joke was, “I never thought the day would come I’d be glad to hear John talk.” When I called Mary’s parents, and got disconnected, her dad called back and said, “Mary, some guy just called impersonating your husband!”

When it wore off much sooner than expected, and the scope showed no change in my paralyzed cord, the doctor jumped to the most advanced procedure, reenervation, when they bypass a nerve (he didn’t say where they get the nerve from to restore nerve activity in the paralyzed muscle. He even said that he was reluctant to do the procedure on a Marfan and that it was probably too late (as I later read, the procedure works best 3 months after the paralysis, and this was already 5 months). Everyone with Marfan synrome who had vocal cord paralysis after an aortic repair told me that the laryngoplasty (the standard surgical method) didn’t make much difference, and a couple said they lost their voices entirely. Given the risks of the two surgeries, and the minimal benefit I got from the injection (since I still couldn’t sing–more on that later), I decided to leave well enough alone. If God wants me to have it fixed, or He wants to heal me miraculously, He’ll do it just like He did with my aorta (both times).

In the meantime, I constantly think the way I used to, gathering ideas I’d like to share with Mary, the kids, my parents or her parents in conversation, and then remembering I can’t. Somehow, it’s very difficult, though, to “keep in touch” with family online. My mom’s the only one who seems to use email much. My siblings have always been less “into” technology than I am.

Online, I can still share my thoughts. Fittingly, since we met online, chat has become the most effective means of communication for Mary and me. Skype was literally a life saver for me in the hospital, and my future sister-in-law suggested we keep in touch that way, but I just figured out how to get my account working on “my” laptop. I also just finally fixed a glitch on our web mail with Comcast. Even when I had a pretty clear speaking voice after my injection, I still had to wait for times when it was quiet to call. I was sharing all these frustrations with Mary last Sunday afternoon and she said, “Hey! Your voice actually sounds pretty good right now!” I realized it did, and, though I missed my OCDS meeting yet again we sampled a re-entry to the social scene by arriving late to a gathering we’d been invited to, and the next day I called my parents. Even so, ironically, I just don’t know what to say anymore. Thoughts I just want to share for the sake of sharing I do on Facebook and on here and consider them “shared.” Writing this long two-part piece has taken me about 2 or 3 hours so far, and I’m not even finished editing from the versions I posted on Facebook. So I really don’t know what my family members have or have not read on Facebook or my blog, and emailing seems redundant: so much I wish I could say and yet I’m at a loss for words or motivation.

I don’t know which part of my ICU experience I look back on with greater dread: the time period where I was mostly anesthetized and dreaming/hallucinating, or the few weeks where I was fully aware but unable to communicate except by tapping on letters on a board. My hands weren’t steady enough to write and, honestly, I haven’t really tried to write other than signing my name since I’ve been home.

I was essentially “locked in,” having the trach in my throat keeping me from speaking at all. Once I got over the paranoia and the shakes enough to trust the computer, everything changed, and everyone noticed it, but prior to that, although I did get some reading done, I spent most of my time praying the Jesus Prayer. It was very effective spiritually, but I don’t think I’m quite up to that level of hermitage yet.

I’ve blogged before about the greater significance of “Ships” (written by Ian Hunter; popularized by Barry Manilow), always one of my favorite songs, now that I’m an adult, how I always dreamt of acting it out with my dad or with my kids, and having one of them sing it for me when I’m gone. Now, the lyrics are all the more poignant. While searching for an image to go with the song, I found this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem:

“He said, ‘It’s harder now, we’re far away. We only read you when you write.”

Contrary to Popular Belief

I’m generally willing to admit when I’ve been wrong or mistaken. I just want to see the evidence. I generally agree with the following that I first heard in college:

Case in point: Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who this weekend was reconfirmed by Pope Francis as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Müller has made a lot of headlines recently due to his support for Liberation Theology, and articles in support of Müller’s positions have, without naming them, criticized the positions of both Bl. John Paul II and then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio on the subject. At his “closed door” meeting with Rome’s clergy last week, Pope Francis reportedly cut off a priest who was asking about approval of Liberation Theology by saying, “That’s what Müller thinks. That’s what he thinks.” Therefore, some had suggested that Francis might be replacing Müller, and, if only in the “Ford should have pardoned the draft dodgers” sense, it might have been a good idea, to assuage the fears of many Catholics that the MSM narrative regarding Francis isn’t that far off the mark.
Back when Müller was originally announced by Pope Benedict XVI last year, Fr. Z had this to say on the subject.
The EWTN-owned National Catholic Register also posted an interview with Müller, which was reposted on the Vatican website, which directly addresses some of the concerns of traditionalists.
Having read these articles a year after the fact, I for one am more at ease with the notion of Archbishop Müller. I just hope that the Pope doesn’t replace Cardinal Canizares Llovera as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

What did the Pope *Really* Say?

“The Pope says all priests have to be Jesuits.” “The Popes says all Catholics have to like Puccini, Dostoevsky, Manzoni, Caravaggio, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.”
Those proposed “headlines” would make about as much sense as the actual MSM headlines about the interview Pope Francis recently gave with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, the editor of the Italian Jesuit journal _La Civiltà Cattolica_. The Jesuits have had it translated into numerous languages and published in various national journals, including _America_. Normally, I would say that referencing something in _America_ to refute something in the _New York Times_ would be like referencing _Das Kapital_ to refute _The Communist Manifesto_, but in this case, the original is far different than what the NYT and other MSM outlets are reporting. The standard headline is that the Pope said, “The Church will fail if it doesn’t stop talking about abortion, homosexuality, and abortion” or “The Pope has said to stop talking about doctrine.” That is quite the opposite of what he said.
Let’s look at a few quotations. First up is the following radical statement by the Pope:

We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

Oh, wait, this isn’t Pope Francis. It’s an address Pope Benedict XVI gave to the Swiss bishops in 2006.
Or, how about this “spirit of Vatican II” statement about how priests should preach about the positive aspects of the faith before they preach against sin?

‘But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine he needs to be prepared by being put in the right frame of mind to really benefit by it.

‘This is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God, in His mercy, could hardly refuse to give them His grace. So I want you to preach my Rosary.’

Nope, that’s not Pope Francis, either. It’s a quotation of an apparition of Jesus to St. Dominic, related by St. Louis de Montfort in _Secret of the Rosary_.
So let’s keep those in mind as we read the quotations from the interview with Pope Francis, which can be found here.

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

That sets the context for the couple lines the media have cherry-picked, and sounds a lot like what de Montfort quoted, doesn’t it?
Now, here’s what the media have selectively quoted, emphasizing the “small minded rules” bit and ignoring the rest:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds [emphasis added]

Yet the media have claimed that the interview says certain things are no longer sins. That’s exactly the *opposite* of what he’s said. He goes on to say how just “leaving the doors open” in tolerance is not the right approach, though some people feel they cannot be forgiven and need to be reached out to:

Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.

Again, he emphasizes that the role of the Confessional:

This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

She’s obviously shown progress in many respects and is in a canonically irregular situation. Obviously, the Holy Father’s point is that “rigorism” is keeping her from the Church. She has options.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

Now, one of the parts that’s troubled some of us his statement, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” since most of us do not find the hierarchy speaking much about these issues *at all*, and there really are many people out there who think the Church says they’re “OK.” However, it’s ironic that in a wide-ranging interview, all that people want to talk about are the three things he says it’s not necessary to talk about all the time!
Here’s the other one the media keep pulling out of context:

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.

Compare this to the statements of Benedict and Louis de Montfort above. People need to desire Christ and accept the message of salvation. Getting the “disjointed” teachings doesn’t help anyone. He never says the Church will “fail” if She doesn’t stop talking about these “hot button” issues. He says her ability to promote these teachings will fall if it’s not grounded solidly in the wider Christian context.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

The Real Problem

One of the claims that gets floated around in the internecine disputes of the Catholic blogosphere is that So-and-so is attacking “good Catholics” or “good pro-lifers.” Supporters of the American Life League/Human Life International approach argue (as I do) that the incrementalist approach of the National Right to Life Committee is self-defeating, while the NRLC-supporters say that the ALL/HLI types are unrealistic. Those who question certain methodologies (e.g., the infamous example of lying to Planned Parenthood in the name of “exposing the truth” or the question of whether to show graphic images of aborted babies) are accused of “attacking pro-lifers” and serving the enemy. Michael Voris attacks Catholic Answers and EWTN people for “making money off of apologetics,” and they call him a demagogue (and both criticisms arguably have some merit). Both “sides” accuse each other of driving people away from the Church.
The fact remains that the vast majority of Catholics in America do not vote for Democrats because a handful of online Distributists argue against *both* Capitalism and Socialism but because their pastors and the mainstream media tell them the Church supports socialism.
They do not support legalized abortion because a handful of online pro-life Catholics have questioned the methods of certain “pro-life” groups but because their parents or grandparents taught them Catholicism was about “not pushing their morals on other people,” and their pastors constantly teach “Judge not.”
They do not oppose traditional liturgical practices and approaches to catechesis because of what some blogger or apologist has said: for most of them, everyone from EWTN and Catholic Answers to Michael Voris to the Society of St. Pius X are “traditionalists,” and “traditionalist” is defined by their pastors as “Old people who don’t like the changes of Vatican II, and we’re just waiting for them to die off.” For them, Vatican II, defined by their pastors, Nuns on the Bus and the Mainstream Media, is this vast “progressive” overhaul of the Church that rendered all previous teaching and praxis obsolete (the “hermeneutic of rupture”). So while “conservatives” fight among themselves, the majority of Catholics in our country waddle on in indifference and ignorance, welcoming people like John Dominic Crossan and Richard McBrien to speak at their parishes.

Thoughts on Liturgy and “Labels”

Extended from a Facebook post:
I guess I’m what some people would call a “neo-traditionalist,” which basically means, when it comes to liturgy, nobody likes me. My preferred liturgy in the Roman Rite is the “Novus Ordo”/”Ordinary Form” practiced “correctly,” with the options that are more in keeping with Roman and/or Eastern tradition rather than complete novelties, though ultimately I feel most “at home” in the Byzantine Rite. I respect the “Extraordinary Form” in all its “forms” (High/Low/Low with hymns) and would attend it if available, but I don’t think it’s obligatory, and if I had my choice between the two, I would go with the Paul VI Mass over the Tridentine.
as a “movement,” theologically, I have serious problems with the “Charismatic Renewal,” though, as individuals, some of the finest Catholics I’ve known have been “Charismatics” (though, also, some of the most evil Catholics have been Charismatics, as well). Similarly and conversely, I theologically agree with “Traditionalism” but find that “Traditionalists” as individuals tend to the same two extremes. In that vein, I don’t see why “ordinary Catholics” tend to identify all traditionalists with the bad apples but take offense at associating the Charismatic Renewal with its “bad apples” (e.g., the ones who say things like, “You’re sick because you don’t have Faith.”)
I can’t stand “folk” or “contemporary” Masses in general, especially since they almost always involve some sort of abuse, but unless the abuse directly relates to the Consecration or renders the priest heretical, I’ll attend them if I have to. Distractions just force me to do a better job recollecting myself.
I understand the differences between “liturgical,” “artistic” and “personal taste,” and try to handle these discussions accordingly. The fact that I consider something “inappropriate for liturgy” doesn’t *necessarily* mean I don’t “like” it; on the other hand, like many, the more I’ve read on liturgy, the more I’ve come to dislike a lot of songs. My two favorite hymns are “Now We Remain” and “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” (not “our”; “horizontal inclusive language” is OK, but in some areas we should just leave things the way they were written). I don’t see what’s wrong with including “On Eagle’s Wings” or “I Am the Bread of Life” in the Liturgy so long as they’re balanced with chant and “old fashioned” hymns and appropriate to both the tone and theme of the particular liturgy. However, I can’t stand “One Bread, One Body” and others that twist Scripture to promote an agenda. There are other folk/contemporary “hymns” that I don’t think are appropriate for liturgy but I don’t mind in a concert or recorded context. I’m in the “‘Amazing Grace’ seems too Protestant for Mass” camp, but I’m OK with other “traditional” Protestant hymns that don’t touch specifically on areas of theological contention. The recent tendency of “youth masses” to include “contemporary Christian” “praise and worship” music of the “all you have to do is change ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby'” variety is very disturbing.
I recognize the Vatican II call for “organic” development of liturgy, and insist from those who would change the liturgy that the changes, minimally, conform to that standard.
Melodically, as the preface to the original _Grail Psalter_ says, sacred music should emphasize the words, in keeping with the principle that “He who sings prays twice.” The role of liturgical music is to be catechetical. That is no more recognized than by the likes of Marty Haugen, the liberal Lutheran who has used the popularity of his music to push his agenda on the Catholic Church. If something has to be “explained,” it’s not appropriate for Mass. If something qualifies as a “performance,” it’s probably not appropriate for Mass (and that applies on both extremes). Both Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Arinze have said that “If there is applause at Mass, something has gone terribly wrong.” On the other hand, one of the purposes of liturgical music is to provide time for meditation, and there should be points of non-congregational singing to allow for that.
I appreciate the position that we must give our best efforts to God (the “I wish Francis were more like Benedict; a Pope should reflect his office” side of me), but I also appreciate the position that we should reach out to the “common folk” to get them into Church to begin with (the side of me that thinks Francis is on the right track). Yet again, we must be careful that we’re not “bringing people in” under false pretenses, and there should be a timelessness to the Liturgy, which is by definition Timeless, that is not held up by constantly changing to suit the latest “fashions” (which are often themselves several years behind).

Do you believe it because it’s True?

Recently, I started off on a train of thought, and it took me a bit differently than I’d intended. I talked about the notion of what people mean when they speak of “religion,” as if religion is some kind of recreational activity that is a way to kill time on the weekend, and how people treat their “choice” of religion with the same standards that one applies to, for example, the choice of a football team to support.
To most people, the notion that “religion” matters significantly as anything other than a source of conflict is thus completely alien. It doesn’t help that the term itself is vague. Is a “religion” a set of practices, or a set of theological principles, or something else? C. S. Lewis tried to answer that by his distinction between “thick” and “clear” religion: ritual and theology, respectively.
People will say, “You think your religion is better than other religions,” and mean essentially the same thing as, “You think the Gamecocks are better than the Tigers” or “You think that Pepsi is better than Coke.” They see the diistinction as being purely a matter of taste or preference and capable only of being discussed angrily, if at all, based upon emotion. The notion that a particular religion may be *true* is a whole other matter entirely.
I don’t see the point of adhering to a religion *unless* one believes it to be true and, thus, superior. To say, “You think you’re superior because you believe God is real and has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, and you look down on people who disagree with you” is the same thing as saying, “You think you’re superior because you believe that matter is made up of atoms, and you look down on people who disagree with you.”
Spiritual People Inspire Me; Religious People Frighten Me
Most people in our society, particularly those most likely to look down on “religious” people, would admit that it’s absurd to deny certain historical or scientific truths, yet they don’t understand why “religious” people think it’s absurd to deny what we believe to be perfectly obvious revealed theological truths, as well. It especially baffles me that people think religious conviction should lead to war any more than any other conviction. If someone wants to deny the Holocaust, or insist the moon landing was a hoax, or insist the earth is flat or that dinosaurs were put there by the Devil to deceive us, I’m not going to kill that person over it; I’m going to try to convince him he’s wrong. The same is true of theology. The same kind of people who would go to war over religion would go to war over any of those other matters, as well.

“Imagine” there were no “COEXIST”-ers

“Imagine” if there were no people with “COEXIST” bumper stickers, listening to John Lennon and insisting that everyone had to think and act alike so there’d be “peace.”
I was thinking this weekend of the following rather short Socratic dialogue.
Liberal: “Religious people frighten me; spiritual people inspire me.”
Me: “Why is that?”
Liberal: “Because religion is the cause of all the wars. Spirituality is about peace.”
Me: “Oh, so who would you consider an example of a ‘spiritual’ figure?”
Liberal: “The Dalai Lama.”
Me: “Oh, and what about a ‘religious’ leader?”
Liberal: “The Pope.”
Me: “OK, and do you have a specific war in mind? Maybe like Iraq?”
Liberal: “Of course.”
Me: “So, what would you say to the fact that the Dalai Lama supported the war in Iraq, but Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis have all spoken against it?”

“Can Atheists Go To Heaven?”

Many mountains have been made of molehills regarding Pope Francis’s comments on the question, “Can atheists go to Heaven?” It seems the common “take” on his response to this question (which is really no different than Benedict XVI’s, John Paul II’s, Vatican II’s or various pre-Vatican II teachings) is that he’s somehow denying the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice to say that Christ died “for everyone,” and that anyone can get to Heaven by accepting that gift of salvation. Many who are tempted by sedevacantism are falling into that position.
When people ask questions like, “Do you think non-Catholics go to Hell?” the implication is that one’s “religious affiliation” is somehow immutable and inherent, like race, and that thus salvation is not a matter of a free choice but a question of arbitrary, Calvinistic predestination. Asking “Can atheists go to Heaven?” is, for the questioner, the same as, “Can Asians go to Heaven?” It’s like the atheist has no choice *but* to be an atheist.
Of course, this all derives from the two classic “extreme situations”: the catechumen who dies en route to her baptism or the pagan who dies in some Third World country without ever hearing of Jesus. As I’ve noted many times about the two extremes on this issue,
a) Fr. Feeney was really a radical providentialist who insisted God’s Mercy would not allow a person to die in such a state, and that God would provide someone to evangelize and baptize such an individual; he based this on his own experience in which he claimed to have encountered several people on the verge of death who begged him to baptize them;
b) Fr. Rahner’s (and anyone who reads me knows I’m not a fan) theory of the so-called “anonymous Christian” necessarily involves that hypothetical pagan, so it does *not* justify failing to evangelize those whom we meet. I’ve read quotations from more liberal priests than Karl Rahner who insist that even Rahner’s position is “insensitive” because “my Muslim friend would be deeply offended if I told him I thought he was an ‘anonymous Christian.'” The problem with this, as I’ve previously noted, is that the hypothetical “Muslim friend” is no longer an “anonymous Christian” once he’s met the priest.

What exactly is the situation with the Vatican and “Liberation Theology”?

For the last few months, there has been some talk of an alleged “Approval” of so-called “Liberation Theology” by the Vatican, partly because of the publication of the Italian translation of a book co-written by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, currently Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P.
In June, Archbishop Muller published an interview in _The Vatican Insider_ about Fr. Gutierrez, in which he says that the Liberation Theology “movement” is “one of the most important currents in 20th Century Catholic theology” (quoted here, in a blog post by Frank Weathers). Now, “important” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” or “true”: I don’t think anyone would doubt that liberation theology has had great influence. That said, Weathers also quotes a previous _Vatican Insider_ article in which Muller distinguishes between the “movement” and Fr. Gutierrez’s actual theology (the old “Thomas wasn’t necessarily a Thomist” principle). Nevertheless, to some, including Weathers, who associate “liberation theology” with the Church’s “preferential option for the poor,” this is seen as an outright endorsement. Arguably, it might be to some extent because Muller’s leanings were well known when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Meanwhile, Weathers and others have taken Pope Francis’s preeminent concern for the poor as a sign of endorsement of liberation theology, even though then-Cardinal Bergoglio was one of its most outspoken critics among the South American hierarchy, and in fact a member of the movement that was counter liberation theology. Indeed, while Pope Francis has spoken often of the poor, he has also condemned the treatment of Catholicism as a political ideology.
So, as the Italian translation of Muller and Gutierrez’s book comes out on Monday, _L’Osservatore Romano_ has published a glowing review of the book by Fr. Ugo Sartorio, and _The Vatican Insider_ is again reporting that “The Vatican and the Liberation Theology” have “made peace”.
However, Sandro Magister suggests that Pope Francis might have something else to say on the matter:

Right from the beginning [Sartorio’s review] takes aim at those who “have even come to the point of giving up for dead and buried liberation theology, the fruit of the season believed to have concluded definitively with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the implosion of the Soviet empire connected to Marxist ideology.”

Oddly enough, Magister points out, that’s a paraphrase of what then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said back in 2005, a year after the German translation was published:

“After the collapse of the totalitarian empire of ‘real socialism,’ these currents of thought were thrown into disarray. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who anachronistically would like to re-propose it.”

So the story is far from over.
Meanwhile, several of the articles I’ve read about the alleged approval have suggested the false dichotomy that the only reason to oppose liberation theology is a support for unbridled capitalism; others go to the opposite extreme of the same dichotomy and saying that any opposition to unbridled capitalism constitutes support for totalitarian socialism. There are other reasons to oppose a theology which attempts to reconcile Marxism with Catholicism, and has been used to support violent revolution, just as there are other ways to support the poor besides a socialist state. It would help if everyone turned to the Compendium of Social Doctrine promulgated by Bl. John Paul II.

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton


Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

Give Kids The World: Ice Cream for Breakfast

Give Kids the World Village is having a special fundraiser/awareness campaign called “Ice Cream for Breakfast.”

Ice Cream For Breakfast is a grass-roots awareness and fundraising campaign inspired by one of the more unique traditions of our thousands of visiting wish families. At Give Kids The World, families are treated to complimentary, all-you-can-eat ice cream in the Village’s Ice Cream Palace from morning until night- even for breakfast!

We hope you will help support the Village by setting a goal, creating a mini-campaign online and asking your friends and family to join you in your efforts. Once you meet your goal we encourage you to host your own ice cream social or just meet your supporters for a scoop at your neighborhood ice cream parlor.

You can read more and either make a donation or start a mini-campaign by clicking here.
Give Kids the World Village is an amazing entity: an all-inclusive, self-contained resort for “Wish families” in Orlando, FL. The resort itself has enough to fill a week, especially for families with disabilities. While we were there last November, we encountered families who ended up spending most of their vacations in the hospital, although we were all blessed with relatively stable help. Families are supposed to come through sponsoring “Wish” programs like Make a Wish, though I’ve read of at least one family that raised their own funds independently. It’s a “once in a lifetime” vacation, and a particular child can only be sponsored once, but families with multiple children with severe illnesses have been known to come back for other children.
In any case, the wish child and immediate family are always welcome to return and visit the resort for “day use,” play miniature golf, ride the carousel, etc., and eat at the restaurants (below) for a nominal fee. The child gets a “star” in the Castle of Miracles:

Allie's Star is somewhere in this "constellation"

Allie’s Star is somewhere in this “constellation”


Many of the volunteers we encountered were relatives of past wish children. They say that the staff is like over 90% volunteers, and they ranged from teenagers to college students to working adults to retirees.
The Make a Wish process is a lot simpler than one might think. The child no longer has to be terminally ill: just a diagnosis of a condition that may likely cause death before age 18. Indeed, I saw on my Facebook news feed the other day an article from Make a Wish about how “Wish children” tend to have better prognoses. We applied for Allie, got a letter from our primary care physician, and within 2 weeks got a letter that she was approved. This was about a year ago. Two local volunteers met with us, talked in detail with me and with Allie about her wishes, her interests, etc., and with me about our family’s overall situation. I explained that while it was Allie’s “wish”, the urgency pertained to my health, and they put us on a fast track to get in for November.
I hadn’t blogged much about it because I’d intended, and still intend, to write a book about our experience, based around selections from the literally thousands of digital photos we took.
Anyway, a week at GKTW includes 3 days at Disney World, 1 day at Sea World and 2 days at Universal/Islands of Adventure. It includes all the Make-a-Wish amenities (like cutting in line and free professional photos), plus things that are specific to GKTW: every morning and evening at the resort has an “event.” The family gets a food card for 3 meals a day at one of the restaurants (the Ginger Bread House, all you can eat buffet, sponsored by Perkins, a sandwich shop sponsored by Boston Market, or an “Express breakfast” at the Ice Cream Palace). Then there’s all you can eat Ice cream from early in the morning till like 11 at night, and the possibility of having pizza delivered to the villa: an option we used one evening just for the sake of trying it, but they feed you so much you don’t need to.
In addition to the “cutting in line” and free photos at the amusement parks, GKTW has characters representing the various parks almost every morning. There is some sort of party almost every evening, and the family gets copies of all photos taken by GKTW photographers, along with options in the going away package to get different albums, posters, etc. We have a nice poster hanging on our wall of our family with “Belle.”
"Tale as old as time . . ."

“Tale as old as time . . .”


The founder of GKTW, is Henri Landwirth, arguably one of the most amazing “unsung heroes” of the world. A Holocaust survivor, Landwirth got his US citizenship and was immediately drafted to the Korean War, later using the GI Bill to get a degree in hotel management. He worked his way up in the hotel field and got into the hotel business in Florida right when NASA and Disney World were getting started. He also made friends with some of the astronauts. Eventually, he started a number of charities, including an astronaut scholarship, a charity to provide clothes for homeless and abused children, and, of course, Give Kids the World. He had been involved with Make-a-Wish since the seventies, serving as one of the main providers of hotels for wish families. When he learned that a little girl passed away before her arrangements could be made, he started GKTW to expedite travel arrangements. Over the years, it grew from free hotel rooms to the villas to the full resort it is today.
We made ample use of the unlimited ice cream, stopping every day right before we left for the parks to get shakes and/or sundaes “to go,” and having “ice cream for breakfast” on our second to last day. However, we didn’t many pictures there.
Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

It’s not always a matter of what someone says but how he or she says it.

Years ago, one of my best friends discovered the “Most Holy Family Monastery” website, and, being the kind of person who keeps an open mind in order to shut it on something solid (and also the kind of person to come to people directly rather than third party), he called them up. He said a lady answered, identifying her as “Sister” whatever. He said to her, “I was watching some of your videos, and you raise some pretty strong criticisms of Pope John Paul II. I am inclined to agree with what you have to say, but I have a few questions. This is very important to me because I teach Theology of the Body at my parish, and I want to make sure I’m not teaching something wrong. You’ve done a good job explaining to me what you think is wrong, but what do you teach other than that other people are wrong? What is it that you have to say?”
The “Sister” called him a “Pope-olator” and hung up. So he called back. I forget how it went, exactly, but he was originally interested in an authentic discussion and was so ticked off by her rudeness that he just kept calling, and she kept ignoring his calls or picking up and hanging up. At one point, early in the process, he got hold of her and said her behavior was not becoming of a nun, hanging up on him and refusing to answer his question that he asked in charity. Eventually she said that if he didn’t stop calling, she’d report him for harassment!
There is a certain temptation, into which I fully admit to falling prey, to focus on the negative. Sometimes, that can be necessary, especially on a matter where it’s important to explain to people why a certain line of reasoning is wrong, but it’s also important to emphasize Truth in a positive matter. So, in some of these internecine squabbles among otherwise conservative, tradition-minded Catholics that boil down to style, you will hear both sides say, in defending themselves, “Can you point out anything I’ve said that goes against Church teaching?” And the answer is usually a roundabout “no,” because honestly both “sides” are acting within the relatively broad spectrum of ideas the Church allows (e.g., there are more approaches to philosophy and theology than Thomism). If there are disagreements over *ideas,* they’re usually about the philosophical argumentation than about the core ideas being presented, or else it’s a matter where the Church’s teaching leaves room for interpretation (just as an example, whether “Amazing Grace” is appropriate at Mass).
More often, it’s not the ideas themselves but *how* they’re presented, because the person tends to be, as Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS, puts it, “strident.”
A good example is the criticism of Pope Francis, which satirical Eye of the Tiber sends up in this post. Advocates of a “hermeneutic of rupture” are so eager to paint Francis as a “progressive” that the media are interpreting everything he says or does in as liberal a way possible (and thus contrasting him to Benedict, even though their differences are primarily stylistic), and the “traditionalists” are more than happy to comply with the media’s interpretation. So it gets to where, in some circles, *everything* His Holiness says or does gets nitpicked, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, if someone merely questions some of his prudential judgements, as I have done from time to time, we immediately get lumped in with the sedevacantists.
One of the greatest books on education and rhetoric in Western tradition is St. Augustine’s _On Christian Doctrine_ (the original Latin meaning of “doctrine” being “teaching”-in other words, “How to teach Christianity”). Augustine says, regarding the age old Platonic debate of philosophy versus rhetoric, that it doesn’t matter if something’s true if no one reads it. He says it in the sense of “nobody will read a boring science textbook,” but it also applies to this context as well. A “sinners in the hands of an angry God” approach only works if you’re preaching to a captive audience: the old “preaching to the choir” thing. An argument I’ve used in the past is that the “choir” needs encouragement, but that’s just it: the choir needs *encouragement*. Yes, there are badly Catechized Catholics who need to know that some of what they’ve been taught is wrong, or that they have *not* been instructed that some things are evil. However, they also need to be taught what’s *positive*. We’re supposed to be sharing the “Good News.” When all a person ever shares is the “Bad News,” even if that person is 100% orthodox, it’s going to turn people off.