Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s 8 PM: do you know where your conscience is?

A daily examination of conscience is something everyone should do.   It helps us to prepare for weekly or biweekly confession and on a daily basis to know what to work on.  The Devil’s greatest deception, they say, is not “convincing the world he doesn’t exist” but convincing the world “there’s plenty of time to get right with God” or, worse, “There’s no need to get right with God.”   People say, “God loves you unconditionally,” when we should ask ourselves whether we love *God* unconditionally.

St. Ignatius recommends keeping a journal of one’s daily examins–using coded symbols if one prefers–and checking off the number of times a particular sin was committed that day.  While we should obviously keep note of all serious sins to confess as soon as possible, we should also try to focus on a particular bad habit.

The USCCB has a page with various forms of Examination of Conscience.

Here is a PDF of a basic 10 Commandments based approach.




Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross

I. Jesus is condemned to death.
Pontius Pilate dares to condemn the all-holy Savior to death. No, not Pilate; but my sins have condemned Jesus to be crucified. O Jesus, have mercy on me and remember Thou didst choose to die that I may have eternal life. Let me so live that when I come to die I may find Thee a most merciful Judge, an all-loving Redeemer.

II. Jesus takes up His Cross.
Most willingly Jesus accepts and patiently bears His Cross for my sake. Will I refuse to bear my cross for His sake? No, my loving Redeemer, I will no longer seek to evade my cross, but with the Help of Thy Grace I will bear it with Christian patience and resignation and follow Thee always.

III. Jesus falls the first time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath His Cross. Alas! More truly was He crushed to earth by the number and enormity of my sins! Good Master, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I love Thee, infinite Goodness! Help me to hate sin as the only real evil.

IV. Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother.
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, meets Mary, the Queen of Martyrs. Oceans of grief deluge their Hearts as they face each other. They suffer thus for my sins. O Jesus, O Mary, bathe my sinful soul in a sea of true sorrow for my past offences. In all temptation I will say: `Jesus, Mary, help me!’

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
Although Jesus seems about to expire, He does not need — yet accepts — the help of Simon, since He wills to die on the Cross. Thus does He teach me charity and perseverance. O Jesus, I too will carry my cross patiently to the end and strive to lighten the cross of my fellow-men.

VI. Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus.
Jesus accepts and returns the towel to Veronica. Upon it is left the impress of His adorable Face. Alas! My sins have disfigured Thy holy Countenance. O Jesus, grant me efficacious sorrow that all sin may be erased from my soul and that Thy Grace and Thy divine Image may be stamped upon it forever.

VII. Jesus falls a second time.
My feeble resolutions, my oft-repeated sins have crushed Jesus to earth a second time. Such is the malice of habitual sin. O Jesus, grant me true repentance. Let me die a thousand times rather than have the misfortune to fall again into mortal sin! Help me to hate all sin.

VIII. Jesus meet the Women of Jerusalem.
The Savior teaches teh women not to weep for Him, but for their own sins and the sins of their children. How generous is He! O Jesus, grant that I may understand the true meaning of Thy Passion and be so inflamed with love for Thee that I may shed tears of blood over my past transgressions.

IX. Jesus falls the third time.
Consternation fills my soul when I behold the Savior fall a third time beneath the Cross. What is the cause? The incredible obstinacy of sinners who refuse to amend their lives. O Jesus, grant that I may be truly converted and suffer every evil rather than be numbered among such ungrateful sinners.

X. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
What a pitiable spectacle is this shameful stripping of Jesus! Ghastly wounds are re-opened. Blood flows afresh. What shame would be mine if the veil were torn from my soul and the world saw my hidden sins! O Jesus, help me to know all my sins and confess them with deep sorrow and true humility.

XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
How can I behold the Savior shamefully nailed to the Cross and seek only comfort, wealth, and honors… and even indulge in unlawful pleasures? Jesus Crucified, help me to esteem and practice true Christian mortification that I may love only Thee and renounce the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

XII. Jesus dies on the Cross.
Jesus, my God, dies on the Cross for me. I have done nothing for Him. I too must die! O my Crucified Savior, grant that I may so live in the future that I may have no cause to fear a sudden and unprovided death. Jesus, for Thee I live. Jesus, for Thee I die!

XIII. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
The lifeless Body of Jesus now rests in the arms of Mary. What anguish is hers as she thinks of the many souls for whom her Son shed His Precious Blood in vain! What joy to know that so many are redeemed! O my Savior, preserve me from Hell. O sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.

XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Like Jesus, I too must lie in the grave. But Jesus rises in triumph on the third day. My buried Jesus, grant eternal rest to all who sleep in death. Have mercy on me and grant me the grace to rise to a new spiritual life, that dying to myself now, I may rise gloriously with Thee on the Last Day.
Having finished the Way of the Cross, it is commendable pray for our Holy Father, the Pope.

I have no plans to see _Noah_ in the theater

Or _Son of God_, for that matter, or _God isn’t Dead_.  Or _Muppets Most Wanted_.

At least not till one is at the Masters Cinema (Oh, man!  Masters’ week is coming up!)

In all the back and forth about whether Noah is or is not appropriate for Catholics, from Barbara Niccolosi’s negative review that’s so popular it’s apparently crashed Patheos, to Steven Greydanus’s praise, all of which is probably more interesting than the movie itself, the debates all stem on whether a movie is worth seeing in the theater.  Catholic critics never seem to address the difference between “in the theater” and “at all.”

With a few exceptions, I’ve always been the “one or two movies a year” type, following my parents–indeed, my Mom hadn’t seen a movie in the cinema between the original X-Files movie in 1998 and Les Miserables in 2012.  That week, she ended up seeing three (The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey and something else) and had to close her eyes during the latter two.  My wife and I have only been to the movies by ourselves a few times, and the last one we walked out of.  We had a “date night” and a certificate for *that* movie theater, and of the ones currently playing, it looked the best.  It was so horrible we walked out and would have demanded our money back if it hadn’t been free.  The last one we went to together at all was Les Mis, and that was with her siblings.

Our rule for the kids is usually that we have to prescreen films, or watch them with them, and taking 4 kids to the vies gets pretty expensive unless it’s $1 a ticket or a good sale.

Plus, in addition to the disappointment so bad that I don’t even want to mention its name, the first time I’d ever gone to a movie just for the sake of seeing one, most of the other movies I’ve gone to recently have been disappointments: the entire Transformers franchise (after eagerly awaiting the first two, I saw the third on home video), for example.  Before Les Miserablesthe last truly enjoyable experience I had in the movie theater was The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall.

And in spite of all that, even if I were to go by myself, as I used to do for anticipated franchise movies, I still wouldn’t be able to sit through a movie.  I know the intensity would get to me–it gets to me on TV–and I can’t sit anywhere for very long these days without needing to lay down.

So, between cost, quality, family logistics and health, I have no desire to see any movie in the theater, and it really surprises me that in “this economy,” people have the money to do so.  I’m glad that the last one I did see is, as far as I’m concerned, the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it just doesn’t seem worth it to spend upwards of $10 per person for anything, no matter how worthy, when even if one desires the “experience,” one can wait a few months and watch it at home in HD for a fraction of the cost, using the TV and service(s) justified as saving money on trips to the movie theater (or the regular theater).

I just don’t understand why reviewers don’t write reviews with that under consideration.  If you think a movie is a waste of $10 a person, is it also a waste of $1 or less a person?   That’s the kind of a review I’d like to read.

My Favorite Series Finales

It’s conventional wisdom that a series finale can be a delicate matter.  Obviously, relatively short-lived series rarely get the opportunity to wrap things up.  Long running shows lose viewers over time, and with the phenomena of “shark jumping” and “Cousin Oliver’s” coming into play, they often go out with a whimper.  Resolve too much, and it seems forced.  Resolve too little, and the fans are unsatisfied.  What if there’s a last-minute decision by the network to keep the show on another year, or some of the people involved want to keep going?

A couple years ago, I came across one of the few Murder, She Wrote episodes I’d never seen, the Season 7, spring 1991, finale “The Skinny According to Nick Cullhane.”  The episode had the feel of a series finale–including bringing Jerry Orbach’s Harry McGraw of eponymous short-lived spin off fame to Cabot Cove.  I did some digging online and found where it had, in fact, been planned as a finale and written a year or two before it aired.   Lansbury, as happened several times in the course of the show, was tired.  The show was always teetering because of its high ratings but being week in the “coveted 18-49 demographic” that advertisers look for.   So they thought Season 7 would be the last and produced the episode.  As it happened, the following fall, Orbach left for New York City on Law & Order and the fictional Jessica Fletcher moved to NYC as well, extending the show’s life for another 5 years.

On the other hand, there’s the infamously week ending of The X-Files that seemed remarkably forced and rushed for a show that had dragged on for 9 years with many opportunities to wrap up its stories more neatly.

The writing has been on the wall for USA’s Psych for a couple years.  Renewals had been slower in coming as ratings dropped each season–a couple years ago almost an entire calendar year went by before the new season started–but it was the oldest show on the network, the last from the Monk-era glory days.  Few of its newer series have managed to take off, so USA kept it going perhaps a bit too long.  Many story lines were resolved with last season’s finale.  What little happened this season could have been condensed into a single episode, the rest seeming to drag on.  Even Monk seemed to lose a lot of its quality in the final season.

In the case of Psych, the stories this season have been inconsistent.  Often the attempt at overarching “final season” stories indicate only a few days, at most, have passed between episodes, yet Lassiter’s wife discovers her pregnancy and gives birth within the space of a few episodes?   We get two “Cousin Oliver” characters: Anthony Michael Hall’s Harris Trout, the hugely unpopular new chief, and then Mira Sorvino’s Det. Betsy Brannigan, a much more interesting new character whose main role, however, is to render Shawn obsolete leading up to the finale.
The finale was written and filmed before much of the rest of the season, though some parts were filmed after everything else (I read that a big surprise cameo, the revelation of off-screen Det. Dobson, was the last scene filmed).   The title, “The Break Up”, given the situation, was ominous.  It was originally 8 of 8.  Then USA ordered 15 episodes.  USA increased the order to 13 but only 10 were produced.  They saved the official announcement until late January or early February, but most people knew it was coming.  Then they did their best to make everyone think it was an unexpected cancellation.  The promo for the finale said something like, “Next week: a life-shattering revelation; a marriage proposal; a career ruined. . . . OK, none of that’s going to happen. . . . ”
But it did, sort of.  I never understood how they could “resolve” the show without something like the end of Season 7, with everyone getting fired, minimally, but they did it–quite amazingly well.  And, like a good finale, it was a new beginning, almost a pilot for a new show, and has fans wanting to know what comes next, though nothing will).

So, in no particular order, I thought I’d reflect on some of my favorites:

Nicely done!  As I said, I didn’t think it could end on a positive note, but it did.  Storylines were resolved.  Characters literally got to say their good-byes.  I have read many reviews that speak highly of the finale, and there’s no need to rehash their praise.  My favorite moments were Henry saying he helped because Shawn finally called him; Lassiter refusing to hear Shawn’s confession and destroying it instead; Chief Vick, now Chief of Detectives in San Francisco, saying “We already have a guy–he’s alphabetizing the condiments in the kitchen” (Shawn replies, “Do you think that guy’s better than we are?” and fans across the Internet are saying, “Crossover movie!”); and the very beginning with its fourth wall breaking self-referential introduction where Shawn talks about leaving his job for the woman he loves, which in some sense James Roday was doing at the time (Maggie Lawson having left the show, and moved to LA, for the short-lived Back in the Game; she has another pilot next fall).

Speaking of “the other guy,” it had to be one of the most moving finales I’ve ever seen (obviously, it’s on the list).  Seeing everything come together: Adrian finally getting to be happy (realistically not “cured” but functional); Trudy’s murder solved; a sort of step daughter to have in his life; Randy getting a sheriff job in NJ and marrying Sharona; it all fit.  And the poignance for me of thinking how, when the show had started, my eldest was a baby; how for a few years in VA it was the weekly ritual for me to go hang out with my father in law and watch Monk together: those memories added to the poignancy of the event, but the story was so well resolved.

– Dallas
I was on the fence about whether to list this as an example of a badly done finale or well done.  In 1991, Dallas ended after 13 years with its weird inverted It’s a Wonderful Life episode.  Miss Ellie has left Southfork for good, tired of all the feuding, and has turned the Ranch over to Bobby (the full deed, retconned to a trust in the revival series).   Cliff Barnes owns Ewing Oil.  Sue Ellen has been in England for a few years with her new husband.  John Ross has decided he wants to live with his mother, and Christopher is going along till he gets adjusted.  J.R.’s illegitimate son James has moved away with his grandson.  His second wife Callie has left and given birth to a son, and JR decides to let them live in piece.  Really, the penultimate episode had resolved all the storylines.  Everyone knew the show was on its last legs, although they wanted to leave room for a possible 15th season.
Alone at Southfork while Bobby drives the boys to the airport, J.R. gets drunk and contemplates suicide, and a mysterious man appears and shows him how different everyone’s lives would be if he’d never been born, almost always for the better.   When he tries to convince J.R. to shoot himself, J.R. says, “What kind of angel are you?” “Who said I was an angel?” Then his eyes turn red and he starts laughing.  Bobby comes home to a gunshot and runs into J.R.’s room, with a look of horror on his face.  Did J.R. shoot himself?
6 years later, J.R. Returns attempted to answer the question with a TV movie intended as a pilot about the next generation–the series had, often through the voice of their Grandma–hinted at a third generation (the story of Jock and Jason Ewing and Digger Barnes having been told in the miniseries Dallas: the Early Years), though the sensitive, soft-hearted John Ross always seemed destined to be the future “good guy,” while the often brooding, mischievous Christopher seemed destined to be the future “bad guy.”
Fans didn’t respond to the show, and the younger characters were still too young for it to be anything but a 90210 kind of show.  However, it managed to resolve a plot or two, and ended with J.R. in charge of WestStar and Bobby in charge of Ewing Oil, J.R. saying, “Bobby, it’s our town again.”  War of the Ewings focused more on the elder characters and resolved a few more storylines.  Growing demand on the internet and internationally to see a new series might have seen it happen but for two things: the Hollywood trend towards adaptation of TV shows and the Enron scandal.  David Jacobs pitched to rights-holding Warner the notion of doing a big screen reboot of Dallas as a metaphor for the Enron scandal.  This languished in pre-production for 10 years, and was finally scrapped in favor of TNT’s new series, which also ignores the reunion movies.

-30 Rock
Last year’s finale of 30 Rock definitely ranks, with its parody of the notorious St. Elsewhere finale.  In other news, you may have heard of the Tommy Westphall Universe Theory, a tongue-in-cheek “fandom” theory that points out all the cross-overs connected to St. Elsewhere, such that arguably the only “true” events in the history of most TV shows were those last few minutes.  It’s kind of like “Six Degrees of Separation”.  For example, St. ElsewhereHomicide-Law & Order-X-Files-Millennium.

Then there’s Newhart’s famous finale parodying Dallas’s 1986 “It was all a dream” resolution that brought Bobby back from the dead after he flatlined on screen a year before.

-The Office
The producers of The Office said they’d planned several scenarios for ending the show, so they just put them all together as a bunch of mini-finales, and they did a great job of it.

-Star Trek the Next Generation
“All Good Things . . . ” is a fantastic wrap-up, but has the dilemma, like some of the others I’ve mentioned, of being written with more in mind.  Its time-travelling events were immediately contradicted by Generations which came along just a few months later.  Really, the farewell to the NCC-1701-D Enterprise crew was in the lackluster Nemesiswith Riker & Troi’s wedding, Riker’s new ship and Data’s “death.”

-Star Trek Deep Space Nine
“What You Leave Behind” left me as emotionally moved as Monk, for a similar reason.  As dramatic series go, I’d still say it’s my all-time favorite.  It wraps up the stories and, like I say, has that feeling of being as much a pilot as a finale–a feeling followed up by a series of engaging novels that I started reading years ago and never continued with.

Again, this isn’t meant to be in any way scientific, just some thoughts on what I think makes a good series finale and some of the ones that come to mind when I think of good ones, out of shows I’m familiar enough with to say.

Lenten Reminder: He comes like a thief in the night

Reminder: whatever you do, Keep in mind you could be dead tomorrow.

People say, “What would Jesus do?”

They should really ask, “What would Jesus think?”

When you make a decision, consider that “Nothing that is hidden will remain hidden” (Lk 8:17) .  It’s a scary thought that everything that has ever happened will one day be known by everyone who has ever lived.

Remember the man to whom the Lord said, “You fool!  Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”(Lk 12:20)  People like to prepare so much for the “future” when the “future” that seems so looming is nothing compared to the true Future that awaits after “death.”  We prepare for “retirement,” and we even prepare “funeral expenses,” but do we really prepare ourselves for Death and Judgement?  Or do we presume on God’s mercy? I know I do far too much of the latter.

One of the Devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time.

Yet we’re told, by the voices of advertising that taunt us to break the 9th and 10th Commandments, that we have lots of time and need to “prepare” (not to store up treasure in Heaven), or that we have no time at all.

Fukushima; ever-impending nuclear war with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China or whomever; Climate change; bee depopulation; GMOs and various -icides: the media, new and old, are constantly telling us of the things that are going to kill us all before we know it, to create panic and get us to but stuff, not to get us to get right with God.  In the meantime, every one of us is a blood pressure spike or clot away from death–some of us are just more keenly aware of that fact.

Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!

Nuns on the Pill: Habitless Nuns who Support Obamacare

“Sister” Donna Quinn, head of some group called National Coalition of American Nuns, is outraged that Notre Dame and other institutions are starting to act Catholic:
“It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women”
What kind of demonic filth is this, coming from someone professed to perpetual continence?
What is “autonomy,” much less “reproductive autonomy”?
And the comments (from which mine, asking the questions, was apparently deleted) are so absolutely blasphemous (and devolve into the usual “Whether Jesus even existed” garbage you see on any secular liberal site) –suggesting that Jesus was the product of “In Vitro Fertilization,” etc.

St. Scholastica, pray for us.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
St. Gianna Molla, pray for us.

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the malice and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power, cast into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Catholics suddenly realize they should boycott anti-Catholic beer company

This is old news by now, but Guinness and several other beer companies boycotted this year’s New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the longstanding fight about allowing “GLBTQ” people to march in the parade *as GLBTQ* proponents, and as if they don’t have enough events and parades to participate in.

This debate, especially with the addition of the beer controversy gets to the heart of “St. Patrick’s Day.”  As I say every year, half-serious/half-joking, “I oppose the secularization of St. Patrick’s Day.”

The problem is that St. Patrick’s Day has become a festival of “Irishness” and nothing at all about sanctity.  We celebrate a Saint who is credited with driving the “snakes” (demons, and while many point out that snakes are not indigenous to Ireland, snake-worship was part of the Druidic religion) out of Ireland by promoting leprechauns.  We celebrate a Saint who taught the trinity using the example of a three-leaf shamrocks by promoting four-leaf clovers.  We use the “luck of the Irish,” a term originally meant ironically like “Murphy’s Law” as actual “luck.”

Leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day should be like “Krampuses” and similar European traditions on St. Nicholas Day: reminders that demons are slaves to Jesus and the Saints, and they only have power over us if we let them.

Now we have Guinness Beer, a company long associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it’s Irish, a company that started the eponymous Book of World Records to provide trivia for guys to argue about in bars, and a company that was founded by a bloody Protestant!!!

We rarely buy beer, usually only for visiting in-laws or for cooking, and before she found out she was allergic to wheat, the only beer my wife ever drank was Killian’s.  A year ago, before we left for my surgery in Charleston, I bought a box of Killian’s for my father-in-law, and it’s still sitting in our laundry room unopened.  However, we refused to ever buy anything from Guinness about 10 years ago when we saw an ad on TV where they depicted St. Patrick getting drunk in a bar and flirting with scantily-clad women on his knee.

Then there was the year in Columbia when we were trying to go to St. Joseph’s Day Mass at St. Joseph’s Church but were late for Mass because traffic was diverted for a city St. Patrick’s Parade, and parade-goers were using the church’s parking lot! People complain about children’s candy on Easter and All Saint’s Eve (“Halloween”), or candy and presents on Christmas.  But the debauchery associated with St. Patrick’s Day, especially as it usually falls in the middle of Great Fast, has long been a scandal to me.  Feasting and celebrating is one thing.  Getting drunk and acting lewd (or worse) is another.

Things would improve in our culture if Catholics went back to celebrating Feasts with actual Eucharistic Processions and gave up on these secular parades altogether.  Maybe if we gave half the attention to praying the Office and attending Mass that we do to planning and fighting over secular parades, Christmas trees, etc., we would both have a more fulfilling celebration of holidays and see genuine improvement in society.

Check this out

David Alexander, aka “The Man with the Black Hat,” has done me the honor of quoting me in his piece on the first anniversary of His Holiness Pope Francis.  When he asked me if he could quote a reply I made to one of hsi Facebook posts (basically a summary of my entire “take” on Francis), I agreed, assuming he was assembling a bunch of quotes from different people.  I was honored when he quoted me as extensively as he did and as basically the only such quotation he used.  Please return the favor by reading his piece, but basically I was saying, which David elaborates on, that people either criticize or praise Francis for supposedly not being as academic as his immediate predecessors, but the problem, to my mind, is the opposite: when I read Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I feel like I’m reading teachers–really smart teachers who use big words, but teachers nonetheless–when I read Francis, I feel like I’m reading a scholar: someone who knows his stuff and assumes you do, too.  Put another way, as people like to treat them like The Only Three  Popes Who Have Ever Existed, and find “common themes,” and using Francis’s “field hospital” metaphor, JPII was our Bachelor’s advisor; B16 was our doctoral advisor; Francis is the hospital director managing our residency.  He expects us, rightly or wrongly, to know everything the others tried to teach us and is talking about application.

What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?

A powerful speech.  Even if you don’t usually watch videos online, you really should listen to this one.  It speaks for itself, especially regarding judging others.  It’s a talk by genetics pioneer, Down syndrome researcher and outspoken pro-life leader Dr. Jerome Lejeune, whose Cause is being initiated, telling a powerful story about the dangers of judging based upon appearances, and the problem of eugenics:

One of the best analyses of the “Disney Issue” I’ve ever read

This review of Frozen by one Brian Brown is one of the best articles on the topic of children’s movie themes in general I’ve ever read.

Brown talks about people’s obsession over superficial things like magic (even G. K. Chesterton addressed Christians who censored superficial stuff) and yet disregarded the more substantive themes of Disney movies, like the New Agey “follow your heart,” “believe in yourself” nonsense, which Frozen completely undermines.  Says Brown:

The cumulative effect is a story with moral complexity and truth that destroys anything Disney has ever done, but is very much in the Pixar tradition (if, even there, above average). There are people out there (though they don’t seem to be writing reviews) who let the film speak for itself outside of the context of an anti-Disney bias—and I suspect they saw something like what I saw: a film that made them think, for 100 glorious minutes, that maybe great fairy tales aren’t dead.

So often people get worried about the epiphenomena and not the underlying subtext. As kids go, it can of course work both ways. Sometimes, adults wrongly assume that subtext goes above kids’ heads, and sometimes wrongly expect them to see it: it all depends upon the kid and the material in question, which is why our basic rule is usually that anything new has to be watched with us or by us first. In this case, we made a huge exception to that rule. I had seen enough positive reviews of Frozen that I felt it was OK to let my kids go to it with their uncles and aunt after Christmas.

When they became addicted to “Let it Go,” I read the lyrics and began to worry. However, they all, from 6 to 12, did a fantastic job of articulating why the song was not talking about morality per se and was, in the context, about superficial rules.

Indeed, since the movie does not explain where Elsa’s powers come from–the Troll King asks and her father says she was born with them–it could be seen as an allegory for genetic disorders.  As it is, I kept thinking of “corporate synergy” not in terms of Disney-Pixar but Disney-Marvel.  Elsa could be seen as almost a cognate to Loki, a Jotun raised in Asgard or Rogue, the “X-Men” mutant who kills people (and in some cases, steals their superpowers) if she touches them.  Barring fictional superpowers, the rift between Elsa and Anna, caused by Elsa’s “genetic disorder,” if you will, being a risk to Anna, could be easily inverted.  Take, for example, someone with ostogenesis imperfecta or hemophilia being raised in a totally protected environment and cut off from others for her or his own protection.  Or consider someone with a mental or neurological disorder who can’t control his rage or who has violent seizures.

This, by the way, gets to the problem with some who have tried to see the movie as having “homosexual subtext” because of its rejection of the sheltered princess falls in love with the first guy she sees” archetype, Elsa’s enforced celibacy and the behavior of the living snowmen in the movie.  The homosexualist movement has pushed the notion that gays have a monopoly on “being oppressed” to such an extent that anyone depicted as “different” in Hollywood “must” be “gay.”  This is true on both sides.  Christians only play into their argument when they assume that a genderless snow monster named “Marshmallow” is “gay” because of a credits-shot showing it dancing in a tiara–or, in real life, when they freak out about a boy having a My Little Pony lunchbox.

Apparently, Walt Disney himself began trying to develop Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” in the 1940s.  One of the big issues was how to approach the title character, who is arguably either morally neutral (literally a force of nature) or evil in Andersen’s story (usually even in most adaptations I’ve seen).  What made _Frozen_ was the notion of taking out Andersen’s boy character Kai and making his story elements part of Elsa and Anna.

If, as in the works of Whedon, Rice, Carpenter, and others who use vampirism and witchcraft as symbols of homosexuality, or as in previous Disney movies like _Pocahontas_ and _The Hunchback of Notre Dame_, the “bad guys” in the movie were ostensibly Christian, I could maybe see the argument, but here, all the superficial signs are that the characters are themselves Christian:

1.  Unlike “Aurora,” “Belle,” “Ariel,” “Prince Charming,” etc., the characters  have saints’ names: Elsa (Elizabeth), Anna, Kristoff, Hans (short for “Johann”), Sven (Stephen), and even the snowman Olaf (Patron Saint of Norway, probably most commonly known today because of The Golden Girls).
2.  Early in the film, when we’re seeing the girls grow up on separate sides of the castle, Elsa refers to her only friends being the paintings, and she says, to a painting of St. Joan of Arc, “Hang in there, Joan.”
3.  Many have commented on the choral music in the film, which is based upon a Norwegian hymn:

Sweet is the earth,
glorious is God’s heaven,
Beautiful is the souls’ pilgrim song!
Through the fair
kingdoms of Earth
We go to paradise with song.

Pope Francis and Fred Phelps

Pope Francis holding a Monstrance at Eucharistic Adoration

One of these days, I’ll get around to updating my banner

This week, “Who am I to judge” was back in the headlines as Pope Francis gave a homily on Luke 6:36-38:

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.

More recently, however, His Holiness showed another example of what he does *not* mean when he warned the Mafia that they’re in danger of Hell.
Meanwhile, in an example of what “judge not lest ye be judged” most definitely *does* mean, poor Fred Phelps, Sr.. Phelps’s story is a tragic example of the path of heresy: starting out with zeal for the Lord but losing the love he had at first (Rev 2:4). He started as a reknowned civil rights activist known for participation in the _Brown v. Board of Education_ case and moved on to peace activism but somehow, while apparently retaining those positions became known for a strong “anti-gay” polemic (that is to say, “anti-homosexual,” rather than “anti-homosexuality”). His “congregation” Westboro Baptist became known for protesting various funerals, ranging from soldiers (see anti-war, above) to prominent homosexuals to children, with their notorious “God hates [sinners]” signs.

It was hard to find a pic that did not feature one of his repulsive signs.

So, what of Fred Phelps?

Objectively speaking:

1. He promoted hate, making a career (both as a disbarred lawyer and as a “minister” without any ties to any “denomination” or “hierarchy”) out of attacking various individual and social evils with straight-on hate rather than authentic zeal or love. He “lived by the sword” and by “judging others,” to the extent that his own family will not have a funeral for him because they don’t “worship [or pray for] the dead.” Again, most certainly if someone lived the opposite of “judge not, lest ye be judged,” it was Fred Phelps.
2. He was anti-Catholic, attacked the Church Jesus founded, and presumably, as someone who claimed to know the Bible, read and ignored John 20:23 and James 5:16 (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”) How can one who is Baptized and claims to know the Bible be forgiven of mortal sin without the Sacrament of Reconciliation? He not only preached that pretty much everyone was damned to Hell but also helped keep people away from that powerful Sacrament, and he discouraged praying for the poor souls in Purgatory.
3. Oddly united just about everyone in hating him back or pitying him. From atheist and “gay rights” leaders to conservative Christians, many people outside his own congregation have called for treating his death with compassion and forgiveness, while others are calling for counter protests like, “God hates Fred.” Already, cartoons and memes are appearing joking about him potentially being in Hell.

Certainly, if there’s anyone we can say with certainty is in Hell, it’s Fred Phelps, right?


We can’t do that.

I always imagine personal judgement as the personal encounter described by St. Teresa of Avila and by St. Faustina, Jesus coming to the person and the person reacting either with love or with fear and loathing–or perhaps C. S. Lewis’s version where the person is greeted by the person they would least want to see in Heaven who is there (_The Great Divorce_ is a must-read).

I look at the life of Fred Phelps and wonder how it’s possible, objectively *or* subjectively, for him to face personal judgement and embrace the love and forgiveness of Christ? I imagine rather the response of Javert, the response of Judas after the Last Supper in the 1973 _Jesus Christ Superstar_ movie, where Jesus tries to give him a blanket, even after he has publicly denounced Jesus and left the company of Apostles, and Judas recoils.

Nevertheless, I also have to hope that his reaction is different. I have to hope that he repented even in those split seconds of death and was snatched from the Devil’s grasp, because otherwise, what hope to I have? What hope do any of us have? Fred Phelps may have been greeted by the souls of every saved person whose funeral he picketed, and how did he react? What if he reacted by asking forgiveness?

So what if, when you or I have our time, we find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus–and with Fred Phelps, or Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Someone we were absolutely convinced was beyond asking God’s forgiveness yet wasn’t? How would we react? Would we ask, “How could You forgive *HIM* and not me??”

One final point: if he did repent of his mortal sins, he definitely had a lot of Purgatory in store to clear away his attachments.  Pray for him, since by his own doing he has taught his family and friends not to.

For further reading, an older post I often link at times like this:
“Absalom and the Prodigal Son”

Discussion: is Jesus a “Saint”?

When I ask questions like this, I usually get responses that are sarcastic, condescending, etc., assuming I’m being rhetorical or sarcastic or that I’m expressing ignorance about basic catechesis.

I’m asking philosophically.

What is a “Saint”?

I was thinking of this in terms of patronage: there are some particular causes for which Jesus (or His Holy Face, Wounds, Sacred Heart, manifestation as an Infant, etc.) is listed as “patron,” which doesn’t make sense to me. Then there’s what we say about Litanies embodying the difference between Jesus and Saints: “have mercy on us” or “hear our prayer” versus “pray for us.” Yet there are traditional devotions, particularly in the East, which address Our Lady by asking her to “Hear us” or “save us”, and we know there are some “prayers” in which saints can directly assist us without having to technically “pray to God for us.”

Then there’s the title of “Saint” itself: the angels, for example, are “saints” in that “saint” means “holy one,” a citizen of Heaven. We usually use “saint” to distinguish humans in Heaven from Angels. Yet Jesus is eternally the God-Man.
So, while it would obviously be redundant to call Him such, I wonder if, in a theological sense, Jesus could be counted as a “Saint”?

Of all the stupid examples of “Common Core” I’ve seen

This has to be the dumbest:

The correct answer is simple: “There is not enough information.” The very first word problems I ever remember were focused on simply knowing how to read the problem and whether there was enough information, not enough information, or too much information. It’s on every standardized test: “D. There is not enough information to solve this problem.”

I’m as pro-homeschooling/”parents are the primary educators of their children”/subsidiarity anti-educational bureaucracy as the next paleocon. I’ve seen some legitimate complaints about “Common Core,” besides the complete destruction of local authority and academic freedom, such as math problems where the solution is “the most correct,” rather than simply “correct.” One of the first such examples was something like 357 + 249 =
Students were asked to use multiple methods of estimation to show that the answer could be estimated at 500, or estimated at 600, but the “most correct” response was 606-or whatever the particular numbers were in the example. Recognizing the importance of estimation as a step, I still think it’s stupid to confuse the issue by using “multiple answers” in one problem, and saying that the “correct” answer is “the most correct.” After all, if math is subjective, then everything is, and if that’s how accountants and bureaucrats do math, that explains both our government and corporate America.

Nonetheless, many examples of how bad “common core” supposedly is seem to say more about the people presenting them. If I see a hand-written example of a “Common Core Assignment,” and the person can’t spell properly, it kind of diminishes their credibility. It would be nice to see the original assignment photocopied, as presumably in this case.

Many of the “Common Core” math strategies that get criticized are the same strategies that have been used successfully for years by private tutoring services and charter schools–the same ones that NCLB-type (neo)conservatives advocate as being so much more effective than “failed” public schools.
Similarly, (neo)conservatives complain about how we’re failing to “compete” with schools in other countries, or how kids in the US were expected to know far more by the time they finished 8th grade 100 years ago than they’re required to know today, how to get into college 100 years ago you needed Latin and Greek but now people graduate college without basic English, etc., yet suddenly it’s “Why is my kid being required to know this in elementary school when I didn’t learn it until middle school or high school?”
Those kinds of self-contradictory arguments only serve to undermine our cause, especially when they come from homeschoolers.
People get so reflexively angry about “Common Core” that they want to search out any fault they can find and then shoot the messenger when told that the fault they’re finding isn’t in the problem.

As the saying goes, “There are three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”
I’d say it’s more like, good at math, good at elementary math but not higher, good at higher but not lower, and just not good at math. I’m in the third category. My brain isn’t wired for memorization, partly because I want to understand how things work. Common Core seems to be targeted at explaining processes, so kids are better prepared for higher level math, but it doesn’t work for those whose brains are wired for memorization, and that is the real problem with “Common Core,” No Child Left Behind, and everything in between: you can’t standardize education because you can’t standardize people.

“Share this and Your Prayers Will Be Answered”

While there is something to be said for accompanying our prayers with promotion of devotion, we must also be careful of turning prayer to superstition. Even, and especially, if they refer to “God,” “Angels,” or Saints (Therese seems to be particularly a victim of this), emails/memes/etc. that make “promises” if you share them and/or, worse, threats if you don’t constitute violations of the First Commandment, per the Catechism:


2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41

. . .
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.


2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.49 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”50 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.51

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.52

Lenten spirituality: Gluttony and Wedding Cakes

Some quotations from saints about gluttony:

1. “Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity
Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
Ardenter – eating too eagerly.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

2. ‘It is often thus, that when we begin with good intentions in the eyes of God, a secret tagalong yen for the praise of our fellow men comes along, taking hold of our intentions from the side of the road. We take food, for example, out of necessity, but while we are eating, a gluttonous spirit creeps in and we begin to take delight in the eating for its own sake; so often it happens that what began as nourishment to protect our health ends by becoming a pretext for our pleasures.’ ~ Pope St. Gregory the Great

3. ‘It is so natural for people to seek pleasure in eating and drinking that Saint Paul, teaching early Christians to perform all their actions for the love and glory of God, is obliged to mention eating and drinking specifically, for it is difficult to eat without offending God. Most people eat like animals to satisfy their appetite.’ ~ St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

The debate about “wedding industry services” and “same sex marriage” has raised a very important issue: should Christians be involved in the so-called “Wedding industry” at all? Doesn’t the “wedding industry” promote inherently un-Christian values of greed and gluttony and vanity? Doesn’t the glorification of “weddings,” as Maggie Gallagher argues in _The Abolition of Marriage_, lead to an inverse de-emphasis on preparation for marriage and a false standard of “happily ever after”?

When my wife and I were preparing for our wedding, we went to Wal-Mart, rather than a baker (I know, I know, “localism,” but that’s a separate issue). We were kind of impressed with some of the sheet cake possibilities, intended for “showers.” We asked what the difference was between a $200+ wedding cake and a $20 sheet cake. “Tiers.” “Just tiers?” “Yes.” “It isn’t a different kind of frosting?” “No.” “Same cake?” “Yes.” “Does it feed more people?” “No, probably less.”

So we went with the $20 sheet cake and not only fed the wedding party but the congregation after Saturday evening Mass.

Responding to “one of those” friend requests

About once a day, I get a “friend request” and/or private message “from a young lady”. I’m sure many men get them, and some of my female Facebook friends have complained of them as well. Indeed, the usual kind is the stuff of classic “Nigerian prince” spam/phishing: “hi, I wanna be friends! Email me at [insert email address here] to see pics.” No thanks, I think, and mark as Spam.

Every now and then, a more “legitimate” looking request comes along, usually with few “friends”, some of them mutual, and almost all men. A brief viewing if the point lady’s page will indicate she is either an aspiring “model” or else looking for a boyfriend. Since I think it should be pretty clear from my own profile that I have no gold to dig, I don’t know why they bother. I am never sure whether to accept the requests and hide the person from my feed so I can witness or else delete and block to avoid giving others the wrong impression.

Coincidentally, a former student of mine who is a Facebook friend posted on Friday about how young people today seem to have no respect for marriage, how a young woman was flirting with him and, when he said he has been happily married for ten years, she said, in shock, “You mean you never fool around?”

Thus, I was bemused by a combination friend request and PM from a woman who was obviously real, and from South Carolina, saying she was a Christian who believed in being Godly in her personal relationships and felt the Holy Spirit was telling her to contact me. Taking her at her word, which seemed to conflict with her profile pic and timeline “cover photo”, I prayed and drafted the following. I offer it as a template for others facing these situations, choosing between just ignoring the request and missing an opportunity for evangelization.

Hello, I had read your profile-I normally do when evaluating friend requests. Given that you took the time to write a message and that your profile shows you’re a “real person,” I’ve been trying to figure out how best to phrase this. If I have the wrong impression, forgive me, but I was under the impression you are “looking for a [romantic] relationship,” which, if you read my profile, you would know
I am not. If you are simply seeking Christian fellowship, and I was mistaken, I wanted to make sure I replied wisely, as your profile picture and timeline banner suggest otherwise. We live in a society that has little regard for the Ninth Commandment and Our Lord’s corresponding teaching in Matthew 5:28. Perhaps the objectification of women in our culture is a side effect of the truncating of the last two commandments into one and expansion of the first into two: reducing women to property and thus into idols. In any case, modesty indicates both that you respect yourself and your Creator. If you are looking for a relationship, I suggest presenting yourself in a manner that will attract men who respect women. Likewise, if you are looking for Christian fellowship, it would be wise to present the same image. I take CS Lewis’s view that modesty is relative to context, but in this particular context, you may want to rethink your choice of public images. If you are seeking fellowship, and accept my advice in the charity with which it is intended, I will accept your friendship on Facebook.

Lenten Spirituality: Why do We Fast?

Jesus in the Desert

Jesus fasted completely for 40 Days, and we complain about fasting for 2 and giving up meat on Fridays?

Often, we hear pragmatic explanations of fasting, to try and make it more acceptable to a modern “consciousness,” such as “we fast to save money to give more to the poor.”  While that certainly has some grounding in Tradition, it is not the principle reason for fasting.  Fasting and self-denial are about recognizing that this is not our true home.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

It is about recognizing that we are, ultimately, immortal, and  that we must not become attached to temporary things like electric lighting and seek reward in this life.

[1] Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. [2] Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. [4] That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. [5] And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:1-5, Douay-Rheims).

We deny ourselves to imitate Jesus,

[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, Douay-Rheims)

To imitate Jesus, we must so empty ourselves and take the form of slaves:

[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. [23] Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. [25] And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:21-25, Douay).

This is why prayer is more effective when accompanied by fasting, as Our Lord teaches:

[19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.[20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:19-20, Douay)

Lenten spirituality tip: Offering it up

It should be kindergarten level spirituality, but we all bear reminding now and then to offer *everything* up.  I’ve been making an extra effort the past day or so to do it, and it has been rather amazing, at least for my own piece of mind.  Every time something comes up that’s worrisome, or I think of someone (at all, for any reason), I try to say a quick prayer for that person or intention: a simple “St. [Insert patron here], pray for us,” or “Jesus, I trust in You!”  will do.  I find “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!” and “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!”  to be particularly effective.
Of course, there are always the Pater, the Ave, the Creed, the St. Michael Prayer or the Guardian Angel Prayer, but the simple “one liners” are both more practical for praying about *everything*, and also better about helping us to surrender.  lvfatima

Considering a Light Switch

A Light Switch

The other day, I was contemplating a light switch. It’s an ordinary thing: something we take for granted. We walk into a room, flip it, and the lights go on. We walk out of a room, flip it, and they go off.
Sometimes, we buy ones that look different or have colors to match our decor. Sometimes, when there are two switches to the same circuit, or multiple switches on a panel, we try to make them “match up.” Light switches are what many of us in the First and Second Worlds consider to be a basic necessity.
However, slightly more than 1 in 8 people worldwide lack electricity. The first electric switch was invented in 1884, while the first humans lived approximately 2.5 million years ago. Current estimates are that Earth is 4.54 billion years old, and the universe itself 13.8 billion years old. I read recently that if you reduced the history of the world to a day, the entirety of human history would be less than a minute after 11:59 PM. At the same ratio, the history of the electric light switch would be about .002 seconds of that final minute: an infinitessimal fraction of the total existence of the universe as we understand it, and even of human history.
Then think about how the existence of this universe is a literally nothing compared to sempiternity.  Kind of puts the things we consider “important” in perspective, doesn’t it?

Pray for Peace in the Ukraine and in the World

If you’re reading this, and you’re not doing something that absolutely prevents it (which you likely aren’t if you’re reading Facebook or blogs; if so, do it when you’re free), drop everything else and take 15 minutes, at least, to pray together for the Ukraine. Preferably say the Rosary, or the Jesus Rosary, and/or the following Psalms (first number is Septuagint/Second is the Masoretic/common English numbering): 29/30, 111/112, 131/132, 132/133, 140/141, 143/144

Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom the winning fleet at Lepanto was dedicated.