Category Archives: G. K. Chesterton

On Cult and Culture

The problem with “Culture Wars” is we don’t know what culture *is*.  If we truly want to win back souls to God and the Natural Law, we must do it through redeeming the culture itself.

Chesterton says that the history of Western civilization is a conflict between three worldviews: the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian and atheistic-nihilistic. He illustrates this with a parable of a people on an island who worship the sun. They build a round, mathematically perfect, temple. Over time, they come to understand God as transcendent of Nature and nature as corrupt, dangerous and not quite so perfect as they previously thought. So they add a spire to their temple, pointing to the sky, and gargoyles to the outside to show that the world is dark and scary but there is hope in Heaven. Over time, they lose their faith in God completely and create a temple of complete grotesque to demonstrate it: they take away the spire and replace all the gods and saints with more gargoyles.

Chesterton saw 100 years ago what the Twentieth Century was producing and has produced in spades since.

These threads can be seen in smaller amounts in each major historical period and each particular Western civilization’s history.  Generally, though, the Greeks and Romans produced art and literature which saw both nature and the gods as orderly and beautiful.  Their dramas reflected the need to return to order when civil order was disrupted.

The so-called “Dark Ages” produced literature, art, music and architecture focused entirely on God, and human beings who were flawed in an immoral world.  This was the period of Gothic architecture: terrifying and imposing on the outside; uplifting and glorious inside.

The Renaissance saw a general return to the classical worldview.  The visual arts became less stylized by the rules of iconography and more stylized by a desire to reflect human perfection as understood by the ancients.  Music was made a bit more complicated than the simple, utilitarian chant of the Middle Ages, reflecting the Classical understanding of music as a form of mathematics.  Architecture was not directly classical per se but some Greek aspects were returned to architecture.  The greatest Renaissance writers drew from classical mythology or the rules of classical drama.

Then the 17th century brought a Puritan flair to the visual arts, while music focused on God.  Thus, Bach could say everything he wrote was a prayer–because even instrumental music was understood to express a code that, like a Gothic cathedral, raised the soul up towards God.

The 18th century saw the period we call “classical” or neo-Classical: architecture that was mathematical and balanced, per Greek principles as then understood.  The visual arts, like those of the Renaissance, evoked classical norms.  Pagan imagery began to be revisited.  Music was more strongly mathematical and less otherworldly.

Then came the period we call Romantic.  Interestingly, C. S. Lewis considered Jane Austen as the last truly Western author.   The Romantic (i.e., “of Rome”) period in Protestant Europe involved a quest for the “past,” but it was a blend of the “Past” of paganism as well as the “past” as well as a fascination with Catholicism and the purported tendency of people in “Romance” (i.e., Latinate) countries to engage in lots of adultery and fornication, lending to the terms “Romance” and “Romantic” becoming associated with affairs of the heart rather than a group of cultures.  Interestingly, this is the same time the term “Latin America” was coined as a way to unite French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies against the new United States and the remaining British colonies.
Literature evoked the beauty of nature as well as the quest for God.  It also evoked a fascination with the creepy old buildings, the mysterious Catholic past (now thoroughly ensconced in the Protestant imagination as a form of pagan witchcraft, masquerading as “Christianity”) and thus gave us the term “Gothic” as no longer meaning a style of religious art and architecture coming from Germany but now a form of “Romance” focusing on the grotesque and even macabre.

After the Romantic period there was a general shift towards nihilism, which is what Lewis gets at in “De Descriptione Temporum” when he says the above about Austen.  Someone once said that “music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

Romanticism gave way to “Realism,” which still had a bit of the Gothic hope in its negative portrayal of life, but that quickly gave way to the gargoyles of “Naturalism” in art and literature.  Music came to be atonal and discordant.

This is why simple worldliness of much “contemporary” music, like that of modern art and architecture, is ill-fitting the grandeur of God.  Though the attempt to redeem the modern world has its place, slapping “God” and “morality” onto otherwise postmodern literature and music is like Chesterton’s islanders, after burying their temple in gargoyles, saints and angels on top of the gargoyles rather than getting rid of the gargoyles.

The Time I got a Letter from Bill Donohue (sort of)

I maintain, therefore, that the common sociological method is quite useless: that of first dissecting abject poverty or cataloguing prostitution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it might be another business if we began to discuss independent and dignified poverty. We all disapprove of prostitution; but we do not all approve of purity. The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity? I have called this book “What Is Wrong with the World?” and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.

– GK Chesterton

Back in 1998, when the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights was still that, and not the sounding board for every personal opinion of Dr. Bill Donohue, I got a survey that they sent out to people on their mailing list, asking my opinions on various matters of anti-Catholicism.  Instead of filling out the survey, I wrote a letter.  I explained how I really supported their work, but I felt that sometimes they emphasized the negative.  While some things need to be called out, criticized, boycotted or whatever (Nothing Sacred), sometimes they seemed to give undue attention to bad stuff that nobody would notice, and that was done purely to raise anger to begin with (a crucifix in a jar of urine).  On the other hand, they never seemed to draw attention to what was right, and I gave some examples of positive portrayals of Christianity or Catholicism in popular culture that ought to get some attention.
A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail.  “Dear Mr. Hathaway, I am Dr. Donohue’s personal secretary.  He was very impressed that you took the time to write a response to our survey, and he wanted me to write and thank you, and say how he’s going to try to do what you suggest,” or something to that effect.
A few days after that, Dr. Donohue wrote a glowing review of The Prince of Egypt.  

As Mother Angelica says in one of the opening sequences that have been merged into one in the reruns of the past 13 years, “The essence of evangelization is to tell everybody ‘Jesus loves you.'”  There is a reason why people who hate Christianity think we’re all the same as Westboro Baptist: because sometimes we act like that.  When all we say is what’s wrong with the world, and I know I have often come off that way, to my shame, we look like we’re hiding an inner thought that “God hates everybody”–and maybe we are.

Someone was recently listing the Cardinal Newman Society with “Church Militant TV” (aka “Real Catholic TV,” aka Michael Voris).  The difference is that a) the Newman Society is an actual organization and not just one podcaster with a professional studio, and b) the Newman Society doesn’t just go around attacking Catholic colleges that aren’t living up to the faith.  It also helps students, provides campus ministry support, and praises colleges that are doing it right.

That’s what Vatican II was trying to say, and really what we’ve been reminded over and over, from the Gospel itself to Pope Francis, including by St. Francis de Sales, who is credited with coining the proverb “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

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.

Do Liberals Always Think We’re Angry Because *They’re* So Angry?

In his short-lived sitcom Bob, Bob Newhart played a cartoonist who had been a popular comic book writer a generation before and was hired by a comic book firm to work with a hip young writer on reviving the superhero he created with a “gritty,” 90s approach. In the show’s most memorable scene, often used in ads, the younger writer encourages Bob to express his anger in his work.
“But I don’t have any anger,” says Bob.
“Show me your anger, Bob!” shouts the other guy.
“I don’t have any anger.”
They go back and forth a few times, until “SHOW ME YOUR ANGER, BOB!”
Until Bob finally screams, angrily, “I DON’T HAVE ANY ANGER!!!”

One of the surest ways to incite someone to anger is to claim they’re angry when they’re not, and a favorite debate tactic of liberals is to accuse conservatives of being angry, especially when we’re giving impassioned defenses of causes like the Right to Life. Ever since those early 1990s, the racist, sexist expression “Angry white males” has been used to dismiss conservatives.

So, the other day, after what I’ll admit became a bit of an angry Facebook discussion with a self-proclaimed daily Mass attending Catholic who supports gay marriage and opposes the Church’s right and obligation to tell the State what to do in matters of Natural Law, I posted a reflection on how we often speak of “poorly catechized” Catholics, but there are actually a lot of *badly* catechized Catholics. Some woman who, from what I can discern from her blog isn’t Catholic but likes to post a lot of anti-Catholic stuff, posted an extremely condescending comment with three points:

1) She claimed that my mission statement is a lie because I oppose Obama. Apparently, she thinks that abortion and eugenics constitute support of children and disabled people.
2) She approved of my interlocutor’s disrespect for the Pope, made condescending comments about how she presumed I must have been “dismissive” in my tone, and how people have to be nicer to each other when debating vital moral truths, and how I ought to be capable of seeing some good in my interlocutor’s demonic positions in support of government-endorsed sin.
3) She said she sensed a lot of “anger” in my post.

Hmm, that’s funny, since I thought in the post in question I was being fairly neutral, if not expressing dismay and sorrow that so many Catholics have been misled about what Catholicism is. I sometimes confuse Ven. Fulton Sheen’s observation that not 1 person hates the Catholic Church but millions hate what they think the Catholic Church is with GK Chesterton’s observation that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and not tried. It is also Fulton Sheen who said, after the infamous Land of Lakes convention that fomented dissent against Humanae Vitae in Catholic universities, that the worst thing a Catholic parent can do is send their child to a Catholic college.

Ironically, as I noted in my previous post, I had baited my “Catholic” interlocutor at one point the other night with a charge that he had been brainwashed by a secular education, expecting him to say he had a Catholic education–since usually when I encounter someone who thinks they way he does, that person has been to 12 years of Catholic school, and probably has an MA in theology from one of several universities.

The first time I was suspiciously dismissed from a teaching job was at the first Catholic college I taught for online, when I had been careful to do everything they said, and had even done a great deal of work, unpaid, because I had been verbally offered classes several quarters in advance, only to be told at the last minute that my classes were assigned to someone else. “Did I do something wrong?” “No. We just had to give your classes to someone we hired after you.”

Later, I applied for a job with the online program of another university. My training went well, though I was uncomfortable with the notion they wanted me to do a semester of “training” unpaid. The very last training assignment was an essay on “diversity.” I was puzzled. I had never had to talk about “diversity” at any of the public or secular for-profit universities I’d worked for, so why at a Catholic school? Then I did a more careful perusal of the school’s main site to find they had an active “LGBT” program, including a Gay Rights Week on campus. So I wrote my essay on how great it was to finally teach at a Catholic institution and be able to incorporate my faith in the classroom, and I never heard from them again.

Anyway, I’m getting off track from this post’s intent.

Another time I was directly fired from a teaching job, this time at a for-profit college, it was nominally for cause (they always emphasized how gradebook and attendance errors could be grounds for immediate dismissal, and I had a couple due to entering the information in the computer the wrong way), I felt that the firing was not due to that. I had a couple openly homosexual students, and I found myself put on the spot at one point, and in the following class session, I was being observed again, when I had just had an observation a few weeks before, and a week after that I was called in to the dean’s office and fired. I was vindicated, however, when I saw the campus advertising for a dean and assistant dean later that quarter.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, has said that he expects to die in bed, but he expects his successor to die in prison and his successor’s successor to be publicly executed. Archbishop Chaput has made very similar statements. As I’ve noted many times since last January, the Holy Father himself, addressing the US bishops at their ad limina visit, said the “gay rights movement” and the present administration pose an unprecedented threat to religious freedom in our country, particularly the freedom of the Catholic Church. The UK this year passed a “gay marriage” law that specifically requires churches to participate if they provide weddings to non-members. My interlocutor the other night kept insisting that legalizing gay marriage isn’t a threat to the church, even after I listed the number of ways that it is a threat to the Church and to heterosexual couples (for example: various government forms are now changing to say “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2”, rather than “husband and wife”), including the stated goal of many homosexual activists–and many of my students whose papers I graded over the years–that they want to see the day when the Catholic Church, specifically, is forced to endorse gay marriage.

When Archbishop Levada was appointed prefect of the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI, a lot of people were concerned because of his compromise on San Francisco’s law requiring employers to provide benefits to gay couples. After unsuccessfully suing the city, Archbishop Levada said he was going to allow employees of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to name any adults who lived with them without paying rent to be “dependents”–thus not creating a special right for homosexuals but also providing a needed benefit for adult relatives who live together, etc. In a discussion with some other Catholics who were concerned about whether this made Levada a “liberal,” some of whom were from Canada, I asked what the justification was for the “gay marriage” movement in Canada. Here in the US they make impassioned arguments about legal property rights and insurance coverage, when Canada has socialized medicine. One fellow said, “They don’t make any pretense about it. They openly say their goal is to force the Catholic Church to recognize gay marriage.”

If I say that gay marriage creates a situation where it’s harder to protect my children from sin, that means I’m a “hater.” If I say that it’s frustrating to see so many openly gay characters on television, and how gay couples are becoming more and more prominent on TV, that somehow extrapolates (as my interlocutors the other night directly accused me of saying) that I want to kill gay people or something. No, it just means the same thing as why I try not to let my children see programs involving cohabitation. They still think of the Sixth Commandment as the _Veggietales_ “Dance with who brung ya,” and they think it’s gross when people who aren’t married kiss each other.

Canada is now saying that homeschooling families can’t teach Christian morals to their kids. Canada is saying that it’s “bullying” and “hate speech” to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. Members of the “Christian Left” will respond that we are all sinners, and that’s perfectly true. The other night, one of the guys I was arguing with (there were two, but one was more active than the other) pointed out that the only New Testament passages that explicitly mention homosexuality group it with drunkenness, theft and slander. I responded that I try not to let my children get exposed to drunks, thieves and slanderers, either, and that if someone started a movement to legalize drunk driving, theft and/or slander, people would object to that. That didn’t go over well, and I was accused of confusing bigotry with reason.

Again, angry liberals like to accuse conservatives of being angry when they don’t have a leg to stand on in their arguments.

Then there’s the famous, “It’s biological,” which I’ve addressed many times. My body’s propensity to have its arteries blow up is also biological. Just because I am, as “Lady Gaga” tells her followers, “Born that way,” doesn’t mean it’s God’s intention: the Church has that covered in the doctrine of Original Sin. Sociopaths, manic-depressives, addicts and schizophrenics are all, in some extent, born that way. That doesn’t mean we allow them to *stay* that way. My autistic children are “born that way,” and autism actually has a lot of redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t mean they should be permitted to throw self-destructive fits.

If there’s a biological basis for homosexuality, that doesn’t mean God intends it or it’s something good. I often mention the “study” a few years back where some geneticists got together and debated homosexuality: normally, a favorable genetic trait leads to individual health and procreation, and if something doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a genetic defect. Homosexual behavior doesn’t lead to procreation, and it leads to all sorts of health problems. A logical conclusion would be that it’s a genetic defect, but these geniuses decided to redefine the standard for an advantageous evolutionary trait and say that homosexuality is a natural tool for population control! So much for survival of the fittest!

But, again, that’s hate. That’s anger. That’s bigotry.

When an unmarried woman gets up in front of Congress and claims that college students like herself have to spend close to $1000 a year on birth control, and someone calls her a “slut,” that’s dismissed as anger and bigotry.

I call it the little boy pointing out that the emperor’s naked.

“The Poor Will Always Be With You”

One point I have always made on the topic of “Social Justice,” particularly when arguing against liberals, is that Jesus Himself said, “The poor will always be with you” (Mark 14:7), a point echoed in Catechism 676, which says the spirit of Anti-Christ is found in any political movement which promises to solve humanity’s problems through secular means. Thus, while so many “Christians” on the political “Left” insist that Christ would want us to vote for people who want to “end poverty,” Jesus Himself says we will never end poverty, and the Church says that any promise of ending poverty is actually the spirit of Anti-Christ. Indeed, as the recent election has given particular heat to debates among Catholics about the economic applications of Catholic Social Teaching, Leo XIII, the very pope who originated modern Catholic “Social Justice” teaching explicitly condemned the approach of the “Left”.

Of course, as I often note, Dietrich von Hildebrand says it is wrong to try and force either capitalism or socialism into conformity with Catholicism because both economic systems are based upon wrong notions of the human person, and Bl. Fulton Sheen often taught very similar notions (he often liked to say that capitalists want Christ without the Cross, while Communists want the Cross without Christ).

The Compendium on Social Doctrine makes it perfectly clear that governments must provide a basic “safety net” for the poor, and that some sort of redistribution of wealth is appropriate–in particular the Compendium, pulling together the teachings of Leo XIII and subsequent Popes through to John Paul II, advocates redistribution of land, *precisely* because every person has a fundamental right to personal property (a policy which GK Chesterton named “distributism”).

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post, it is individual charity Christ cares about most, because charity is supposed to represent love. Voting for a politician who wants to tax some people to supposedly help others (while that politician and his cronies, and a bunch of bureaucrats in between, get most of the benefits and the poor still get the scraps) doesn’t satisfy the demands of love. Giving a few bucks to a foundation is helpful but still isn’t necessarily an act of Caritas. Giving a homeless person a peanut bar and a Powerade, with a kind word to boot, can be an act of infinitely greater merit than donating a fortune anonymously to a food bank (though both are necessary).

But what baffles me most about liberals’ insistence that Jesus wants us to end poverty is that Jesus *praises* poverty: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He praises the poor widow who gives her last coin to the Temple.

Jesus wants us to SACRIFICE. I’m often told when I say this that it doesn’t apply to everyone, that it’s wrong to say that we are all called to follow the Counsel of Poverty, but nowhere does Jesus say that. He is constantly saying to give up everything for the kingdom. “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21).

My objection to both capitalism and socialism is that they are both materialistic. The following passage from Flannery O’Connor’s _Habit of Being_, in a letter from 1959, circulated Facebook recently in the form of a scanned page:

The Church’s stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice in the day when they say: This is right, whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or prepare for crowding…

When Catholics on both “sides” talk about economics, they always emphasize which economic philosophy will bring greater “prosperity” to individuals and to the nation as a whole (of course ignoring that there are more than two economic philosophies available), yet they never stop to consider the question of why people who are supposed to be focused on the next life are obsessing about prosperity in *this* life!

“But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. ” (Mt 6:20). “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30).

Yes, in this passage, Our Lord promises material reward in this present age, but His whole point is that we are to live on Providence. He promises that if we give up everything for the Kingdom, He will give us what we need in this life and eternal life in the next. So that verse can hardly be used to justify either a capitalist or socialist attitude. Jesus calls us to *sacrifice*, not to “save.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. 30Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ” (Mt 10:29-31). “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!m 25Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? 26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.n 28If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. (Luke 12:22-31)

Where, in these teachings, do people get the idea that God wants people to engage in accumulation of money, on the one hand, or that God wants us to obsess about taxing the rich to “end poverty,” on the other?

But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.* (Luke 12:20-21).

No servant can serve two masters.* He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees, who loved money,* heard all these things and sneered at him. (Luke 16:13-14).

When I hear a Unionist say, “We were mad that the bosses got a raise, so we went on strike,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a capitalist say, “I earned my money, and I have a right to keep the money I earned,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a liberal talk about taxation, I hear someone serving money.

Then there’s this key teaching:

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” 17So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:15-17)

Caesar makes money in his own image. God made *us* in His own image. That’s what Jesus means: WE belong to God. Money doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of Caesar’s imagination. We are real. If God can raise up descendants to Abraham from the stones (Luke 3:8), then Jesus can produce money from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:27).

In vain is your earlier rising,
your going later to rest,
you who toil for the bread you eat,
when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. (Psalm 127:2).

Stop looking to Wall Street for your salvation. Stop looking to Washington for your salvation. God does not want us to cure poverty, and He does not want us to be “prosperous.” Indeed, the Bible shows time and again that God does NOT want us to be prosperous, either individually or as a society, because whenever people are prosperous, they forget God (Genesis 11:1-9).

He wants us to love one another and provide each other with basic dignity and justice, but “prosperity” is a lie with the face of Caesar stamped on it. That’s why I reject both dominant political/economic philosophies of the world. That’s why I do not understand how the “Christian Left” can justify itself.

Economic Theories Explained, via Fishing

Liberal: Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day
Capitalist: Teach a man to fish, then charge him for the use of your lake and someone else’s fishing pole, or hire him to fish for Fishing Incorporated and make enough money to buy himself a quarter of a fish when all is said and done.
Socialist: Teach a man to fish, then tell him he can fish for “free” at The People’s Lake, using the People’s Fishing Pole, and that he has to give back 50% of anything he makes to “the People.”
Distributist: Teach a Man to fish, then give him rod and a piece of land by the lake and designate an area of the lake that his exclusive area to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

Why I am a conservative: The Fine Arts and the LCWR

There are two reasons I am a conservative.

The first reason is abortion.

The second reason might seem more trivial but is just as important and perhaps moreso: Beauty.

Both reasons tie to the fact that what I rejected were liberal or progressive Catholics.

For Russell Kirk, conservatism is primarily about what he, following T. S. Eliot, calls the “Permanent Things,” or what Mortimer Adler would call “The Great Ideas.” In 1986, Kirk added a chapter to his magnum opus _The Conservative Mind_, officially about T. S. Eliot but also dealing with Robert Frost, talking about how it is impossible to have a truly liberal poet (he notes Shelley as a possible exception) because poets are all about the Permanent Things. C. S. Lewis, in his inaugural address as chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, _De Descriptione Temporum_, says that there are only three true historical periods. Today, we might call these the pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian eras. Lewis argues that only 2 true changes ever occurred in history: the arrival of Christ, and the arrival of Modernity. He suggests that he sees Western Civilization as a continuum, with the Greeks at one end and Jane Austen at the other. While he thinks that the West has tapered off, he sees Jane Austen as the last solid example of a “Truly Western writer.”

Indeed, one of the reasons I went into English was to write a thesis on Lewis’s fascination with Jane Austen, though my thesis got redirected by my committee. We can further compare Lewis’s analysis of Western culture to G. K. Chesterton, who said that Western civilization is a back-and-forth of the Greco-Roman view (i.e., Renaissance, Neo-Classical) with the Judeo-Christian view (i.e., Medieval, Baroque, Romantic/Gothic). With the rise of artistic and intellectual modernism in the late 19th Century, something new happened. The Greeks and Romans saw the world as essentially divinely-given mathematical order. The Judeo-Christian view saw the world as a miserable place infused with divine beauty from which we reach out for God.

Modernism was the first widely accepted worldview, and the first artistic movement, based upon rejection of a notion of God. As one of the music critics in the old print _Crisis Magazine_ once put it, “Music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

One of the only times I had the opportunity to teach literature, as opposed to writing, was in the 2007-2008 academic year. I avoided being overt about revealing my political or religious views, but I *did* talk about these figures and guide my teaching of literature according to explaining the back and forth of those trends in culture. This led at least one of my students to raise her hand and ask if she was correct in guessing that I supported Mike Huckabee in that year’s primary (I did).

While I read most of Lewis’s work when I was 13 and 14, I didn’t read Kirk or Chesterton till college, though _The Conservative Mind_ was one of those books that, when I read it, I put it down and said, “THIS is what I believe”!

But I was conservative before I read any of them. I wasn’t conservative from my upbringing, other than the fact that my parents were staunchly pro-life. My parents started off as “Reagan Democrats.” My father was union activist in Pennsylvania, and I despise labor unions as institutions. I was born in Erie, PA, the hometown of “Sr.” Joan Chittister and PAX Christi USA. The bishop of Erie, when I was a child, was Michael Murphy, who infamously wanted to tear out seats in St. Peter’s Cathedral to make room for a stage for liturgical dance. His successor, Donald Trautman, is known for his courageous stance against pro-choice Catholic politicians . . . named Republican Tom Ridge.

Trautman is also known for spearheading liberalism in both liturgy and Scripture. He headed the committees that created the atrocious, and Vatican-Rejected, “revised Psalms” of the NAB. He has headed the USCCB’s liturgy committee numerous times, even beyond conventional term limits. Over a decade ago, he wrote a piece on liturgy in _America_ that elicited a response from some Vatican bishops, who wrote in the letters page of _America_ that Trautman’s article was essentially calling for a schism. Trautman single-handedly stonewalled implementation of the New Translation in the US, starting with his immediate reaction to, and rejection of, _Liturgiam Authenticam_ when it was issued and his insistence over the last 10 years that Americans are too dumb to know what words like “chalice” and “consubstantial” mean.

Somehow, in spite of that wide Catholic environment, in my early childhood I managed to pick up the beauty of Catholicism that Murphy and Trautman’s generations tried to strip away so meticulously, part in thanks to my parents’ guidance (though many others from similar backgrounds wouldn’t have gotten the same result). I was as bored at Mass as many children are, and clueless about what was going on or what the Readings or homilies said. I was awed by the stained glass windows, statues, the gothic architecture, the pipe organ, the choir, and the vestments and processions.

I read my Fr. Daniel Lord _Miniature Lives of the Saints_ I got for First Communion and was impressed by the piety of the saints. I read my “Children’s First Mass Books” I got for First Communion and was moved by the beauty of the prayers in it.

It was Beauty that called to me in the liturgy and in popular devotions before I understood anything.

I thought it was so cool that monks and nuns got to stand out by wearing their habits to show their love for Jesus.

Then we moved to the South, and while the South tends to be “conservative,” generally, and maybe southern Catholics are more actively pro-life, southern Catholics, especially the ones who are not transplants, tend to be rather liberal about their faith, because of the whole, “We have to avoid getting persecuted” mentality. When they’re conservative, they tend to be the racist kind of conservatives. So I spent the second half of my formative years surrounded by charismatics and progressives, and carrying the stigma that conservative=racist, and the only people who seemed to be externally following the Church’s teachings generally seemed to be stuck-up.

Yet, in spite of all that, I was drawn to Tradition.

I had plainclothes nuns and priests telling me that everything I found attractive about Catholicism was done away with by Vatican II.

While what drew me to the faith was its *difference* from the world, I was told that to be “relevant” and “attract the youth,” the Church had to embrace the world’s “pop culture,” that organs and traditional hymns had to be set aside for guitars and folksongs (nevermind that I had not yet really understood the great patrimony of traditional Catholic music; I was just working from congregational hymns). Stained glass windows (at least those depicting saints and biblical events) and statues had to be stripped away for colorful banners and potted plants. We’d have a big day for “Thanksgiving,” when Protestant Orange would be draped over the sacred altar and the vestments of the priest.

It made no sense to me that the religion of Aloysius Gonzaga, who walked on his own to daily Mass at age 3, or Stanislas Kostka who miraculously received Communion from an angel, was to be replaced by balloon Masses and “Glory and Praise for Kids,” that the faith which so many martyrs died for *PRECISELY* because they didn’t want to participate in the evils of their own cultures was now to be spread by embracing the evils of our contemporary culture.

John Paul II coined the term “Culture of Death” in _Evangelium Vitae_. Yes, the term has been used and abused since, and become a cliche, but if you actually read the encyclical, the context of the term might make even the most avid Ron Paul supporter blush (especially those who think the Pope is *in* on “the New World Order”), for His Holiness speaks of a vast worldwide conspiracy against Life and against the Catholic Church. If we’re going to speak of a “Culture of Death,” then we have to acknowledge that concept includes “culture,” that the Culture of Postmodernism is itself part-and-parcel of the Culture of Death. The culture of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia is also the culture of sex, drugs and Rock&Roll. If a worldwide conspiracy against the Catholic Church is trying to promote abortion, contraception, divorce and so many other evils, then one must also acknowledge that such a conspiracy is involved with the government pays for crucifixes in urine or feces on images of the Blessed Mother. If we’re fighting against these evils attacking human life and the family, then we must also attack the culture which encourages people to participate in immorality, so they feel the “need” for abortion, contraception and divorce as “protection” against their own immorality that the culture has taught them is inevitable.

Those same nuns were all about “helping the poor”–which is laudable, but not when it’s politically subordinated to abortion (a position refuted by Bl. John Paul II in _Evangelium Vitae_) or worse when it’s subordinated to spirituality. In that sense, it was not so much abortion that made me conservative as “Catholicism is about serving the poor, not all that prayer stuff. You shouldn’t be doing Eucharistic Adoration. The Eucharist is supposed to be about going out and serving the poor, not staying around and worshipping it. Marian devotion was done away with by Vatican II, and it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re supposed to be serving the poor.” And to a disabled kid, whose parents were basically teetering on poverty as it was, being told that the only “true” way to serve Christ was by helping the poor, came off as essentially telling me I was damned (if their worldview was true), and it seemed hypocritical of them to be so worried about poor people who *weren’t* Catholic but not about those in their own parish, to go out and do habitat for humanity but not be bothered to help a parishioner who was likely going to die before age 20.

So *that* is why I’m a conservative. Now, as an adult, I’ve seen the faults of many who call themselves conservative, but take solace in that most of them are more neocons, anyway, but the fundamental issues still remain.

Now, I knew my understanding of Catholicism was validated by JPII, sort of, and I knew it was validated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (which is why I spent most of my life till 2005 waiting for him to be Pope, and literally hit the ceiling when he did), and by Cardinal Arinze, and Mother Angelica, and so many saints. I knew my view of Catholicism was validated by Kirk, and Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand, etc.

However, the struggle against the habitless nuns and their cronies has raged on. It is amazing how there are so many people out there who consider themselves devout and practicing Catholics, whose worldviews are so completely different, who totally embrace “Vatican II” (or rather the “Spirit of Vatican II,” since the Council itself never said or advocated most of what they claim it did), who think that Joan Chittister and Rembert Weakland (even in spite of the latter’s disgrace) embody the “true” faith, it can be quite disheartening. Look at _Commonweal_, _America_, _US Catholic_, _St. Anthony Messenger_, or _Maryknoll_. Look at the “we’re not liberal” Catholics at Vox Nova and “Catholics United for the Common Good.” Look at so many “Catholic” colleges and institutions, like Georgetown, which invited Kathleen Sebelius to be its commencement speaker, even in the current crisis. While many of these people are intentional agents of Communism and Freemasonry, many of them really *are* well-meaning, but totally brainwashed, and think they’re following the Church. And they insist that their “view of Catholicism” is at least a perfectly valid one, if not the only valid one, and the Pope and “the Bishops” (even though many of the bishops in the US agree with them) are “out of touch.”

So, with all that said, the second great gratification came seven years after the installation of Pope Benedict XVI, when the Vatican issued its “smackdown” of the Leadership Council of Women Religious a few weeks ago. Finally, the Vatican has confirmed that all those habitless nuns are way off-base, regarding their subordination of both moral issues and personal spirituality to social justice (which is a perfectly valid concern in its proper context). Finally, they’re being told to put their habits back on.

Why Religious Pluralism is Stupid

I have been taken to task by some commentors on this blog and elsewhere for my assertion that atheists are stupid. I wish to recant that statement. Referring to my post on Invincible Ignorance, anyone who isn’t Catholic or Orthodox is stupid–and it’s just a question of whether it’s invincible ignorance or just lack of education.

If a person insists on saying that the earth is flat, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on saying the Sun revolves around the earth, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on a literal interpretation of the creation stories in Genesis, in spite of both the scientific evidence to the contrary, and in spite of the fact that the Early Church Fathers didn’t interpret all aspects of the Old Testament literally, we rightly call that person stupid.

Yet if a person refuses to recognize that life begins at conception, in spite of the scientific evidence, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person insists that same sex attraction is normal, in spite of the fact that it is biologically impossible for people of the same sex to have sexual intercourse, and in spite of the fact that a genetically favorable trait should favor reproduction, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that there is one God, despite the fact that logic dictates the existence of one God (see Augustine, Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, etc.), we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the one true God revealed Himself to Israel through numerous miracles that are historically documented, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the Divine Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, revealing Himself by numerous well-documented miracles, culminating in His own resurrection from the dead, we say that person has a right to his own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that Jesus Christ established seven sacraments, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, or that He established His Church through the Apostles and their Successors, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.

The truths of the Catholic faith are as objectively true and as well-proven as any scientific fact or theory. The Church employs thorough methods to document miracles, and there is plenty of scientific observation and evidence to validate numerous miracles, from the sun dancing at Fatima to St. Pio’s stigmata to the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Guadalupe.

That people refuse to accept the truth of these miracles is pure ignorance, or a refusal to accept plain fact as obstinate as the refusal to accept that the earth is round.

I’m sick to death of pussy-footing around the issue. When we, as Catholics, refuse to assert the absolute truth of our faith and concede it to be one option among a plurality of opinions, we do a disservice.

Now, no one should be killed for refusing to accept the Faith, just as no one should be killed for refusing to accept Darwinian evolution. It should not be a criminal offense to be ignorant of or refuse to accept the Truth. However, it *should* be a criminal offense to refuse to *teach* the truth. Just as schools are required to teach certain curricula about history and science, and just as parents are required to get their children educated about the basics of math, language, history and science, so too must children be educated in the historical and scientific truths of the Catholic faith, simply because they are true.

When God says, “Shut up so I can talk”: 20 years of Prayer in 2200 words.

Recently, I’ve experienced the second great sea change in my prayer life.  Now, I’ve had a number of conversion experiences, major theological realizations, etc., over the years, as well as periods where I’ve been better about praying than others.  But, in essence, my prayer life has remained the same since I was a teenager.

I’ve always figured this meant I was either quite advanced or else hopelessly lost.  Every time I’ve read the Interior Castle, I’ve figured I’m stuck in Room 1.  At the same time, I have my bad habits and sinful tendencies that I’ve likewise figured were either hindering my prayer life or else were the proverbial “thorn in the side” God was using to keep me humble (fat lot of good that did).  So, I trudged along, just waiting for God to do what He needed to do.

In fact, I didn’t think there was anything “wrong” with my prayer life, because in my study of the writings of the Saints, it seemed like I was doing OK.  I recognized the experiences they described, to tell me I was doing things “right,” and I just figured it was a matter of time before I’d reach contemplation, or else I was already there and didn’t know it.

Christmas 1996, after my aortic root replacement, was our first Christmas with the Internet and Amazon.com.  I had made my mom a list of books I wanted, and categorized them into novels, philosophy, spirituality, etc., so she could pick a book or two out of each category.  Instead, she gave me the *whole* list.  Among these were many Saints whose writings I always wanted to read.  After my formal studies began as a Carmelite, I picked up several Carmelites I hadn’t read yet.

Prior to that, I’d read a lot *about* saints, but not a lot *by* saints.  I do remember reading the Life of HM Teresa of Avila when I was in high school, from the Catholic high school library, but I don’t remember when, exactly, or if I read any of her other books.  I just remember that that, like my various attempts to read her works over the years prior to 2008, left me feeling like I hadn’t gotten anything out of her.  She kind of tends to dance around things, and it wasn’t until I’d studied a other things, particularly Ignatian spirituality.  One of HM Teresa’s great mentors was St. Francis Borgia, the great Jesuit (yes, those Borgias–the infamous Pope Alexander VI was his great-grandfather; Francis was a wealthy Spanish prince who married and had children, then had a conversion experience after his wife’s death, signed over his title and fortune to his eldest son and became what we now call a second career vocation) .   Another great mentor in her life was St. Peter of Alacantara, the Franciscan.  So I had to get a deeper understanding of Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality in order to get a better foundation for reading Teresa.

Anyway, I know I read her in high school, and I know that, relatively early in life, I developed an understanding of the female mystics.

Again, I certainly read *about* them.  Even the Miniature Stories of the Saints by Fr. Daniel Lord, SJ, gave me a pretty profound insight into how Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Catherine of Siena, and Clare of Assisi saw their relationships with God.  Between them and the great Virgin Martyrs, all of whom seemed more interesting to me than the male saints, I often joke that I grew up wanting to start an order for “men who want to be nuns.”

Probably the only male saint who really spoke to me was John of the Cross, and I never *read* him because I allowed myself to be hindered by all the people who say not to read John of the Cross because he’s too “advanced”–HA!  When I finally *read* John of the Cross for the first time last year, other than quotations and short passages, I was like, “Nothing could be simpler than this!”

But God let me understand what He needed me to understand to steer me to the right vocation, and somehow my understanding of the female mystics led me to intuit the Theology of the Body and realize God was calling me to marriage, and, as Chesterton describes, when I began reading the “hard stuff” after that Christmas in 1996, I felt like I was reading stuff I already understood.

Now, maybe that high school reading of St. Teresa of Avila was right after I started high school–that much I don’t recall, Senator–but by Christmas 1990 I had developed an understanding of the importance of tears.  Teresa of Avila says that, out of all “consolations” one might receive in prayer, holy tears are the most important.  Other consolations are like God patting you on the back and saying “Good job.”  Tears–which most people don’t even think of as a spiritual experience–tell us we’re really appreciating what Jesus did for us, and short of spiritual or physical stigmata, are a sign that we’re fully understanding the Passion.

So the first of the two major “breakthroughs” was the first time I experienced Tears.  I’m pretty sure it was during my annual Infant of Prague novena in 1990.  My grandma sent me an Infant Jesus of Prague book in 1989, and I began making a Novena every year from the 16th to 25th of December (technically, two overlapping Novenas).  During those years, I’d dedicate an hour or more to prayer, saying not only all the prayers in the Infant of Prague book, but also the Rosary and other prayers.

I remember the experience, but I don’t remember whether I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries or the Stations, but one day in prayer–again, I’m pretty sure it was during my pre-Christmas Novena–I was hit by the realization of the Passion, and I began crying.  I knew this was an important spiritual gift, and I got very excited, and told my brother, who thought I was weird.

And I know it was no later than 1991 because my brother was living at home at the time.

So, for 20 years (WOW), I’ve basically stayed at the same level in my prayer life, which I knew to be a fairly “advanced” level but wasn’t sure why I’ve stagnated.  On the one hand, gauged against the “average person,” there’s always a tendency to be like the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and say, “Well, I’m much more advanced than they are.’  However, gauged against the Saints, I knew I was on the right track but missing something, and thought it was just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, in my formal studies as a Carmelite, I’ve struggled with understanding certain aspects of Carmelite prayer.  Again, I thought I was “doing it right” by my reading of the Saints, but I have heard many different things from living people about it, and it’s really been a puzzle to me.

The OCDS Constitutions and Statutes (formerly the Rule of Life and Statutes) require a half an hour of  “mental prayer.”  I knew that all prayer is supposed to be “mental prayer,” and the “prayer of quiet” is supposed to be more of a gift from God.  I knew I *was* practicing mental prayer, particularly because of the experience of tears 20 years ago, but I was never sure if I’d achieved “prayer of quiet” or “contemplation,” but again some experiences I have fairly regularly in prayer match Our Holy Mother’s description of “contemplation.”  The one I like best is in _Way of Perfection_ where she calls it a “spiritual swoon.”

So my question started as a legalistic one: I always figured that as long as I was practicing “mental prayer,” which I was, I was on the right track and just had to wait for God.  Yet most Carmelites insist that the requirement in the Constitutions is for “mental prayer,” not “prayer of quiet,” that even though they’re separate terms, in Carmelite spirituality they’re basically the same thing.

So I had to hammer out some conversations with some of my most knowledgeable Carmelite friends, in person and online, and I kind of figured it out.

I don’t want to get into all the confusing details of the various issues I was trying to work through, but a few things were questions related to psychology and educational theory, a few had to do with terminology.  Some had to do with those “Catholic reflexes” about avoiding any practices in prayer that sound “too Protestant” or “too Buddhist.”

My President described Prayer of Quiet as being a state where one is in such deep meditation that it’s like sleep.  Now, he’s good about explaining the differences between authentic Christian prayer and Quietism or Buddhism, but his description of the method sounded very Buddhist to me, and I was confused a bit there.  Then a very good Internet friend explained how she sees it, and I said, “Sometimes, I just sit and hold a Crucifix in my hands and just adore Jesus.”  Her response was the online equivalent of Lucy van Pelt yelling, “THAT’S IT!”

So those observations helped me, and, a few Sundays ago (either First Sunday of Advent or Christ the King), I began saying a Rosary on our way to CCD.  I used the method which I find to be the most effective for meditation, where you break up the Hail Mary’s with reflections on the Mysteries (i.e., “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you as Gabriel said.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners to obey His Will, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”)

I was praying as slowly as I could.  It took me about an hour and a half to say 5 decades.  Plus, I was holding in my hands a rosary as well as a big crucifix I sometimes carry with me in the aforementioned method of prayer.

During Mass, I got hit by the experience I recognize as the “Prayer of Quiet,” but, because of the various “Cradle Catholic Reflexes,” I always insisted on responding to with “vocal prayer.”  I always thought prayer needs “content” to be Catholic.  I also realized that a big misunderstanding in my Carmelite spirituality was that I’d confused “don’t be attached to consolations” with “avoid consolations,” so I was pushing consolations out of my mind–both my friends I was consulting said, “Heck, no.  John and Teresa teach that if you *have* a consolation, you should run with it.”  The third reason I would insist on “praying back” in that experience was just out of joy and Thanksgiving, like Peter saying “Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Let’s built 3 tents!,” “because he didn’t know what else to say.”

So, this time, I just shut up and let it happen, and I experienced Contemplation.

Now, this answered a major question about my prayer life I’ve posed from time to time but generally took for granted.  I’ve always found that, when I pray a certain amount, I hit what I call a “wall,” where my brain can’t think of the words any more.  I start to get a headache if I “try” to pray.

I always thought that experience was the Devil trying to stop me from praying, or else it was physical fatigue, so I’d either try all the harder with “vocal prayers” because I was trying to fight the Devil or fight the Fatigue.

Now, I realize that that “block” is God putting up His hand and saying, “Shut up.  It’s My turn to speak.”

So, tonight, Mary and I went to a Penance Service.  We got there after the “service” part and stood in line for 45 minutes.  We got in what appeared to be the shortest line but actually took the longest.  We weren’t sure if it was short because the priest was “fast” or because people were avoiding the priest.  Apparently, people were avoiding the priest, but depriving themselves of a great gift.  We both said it was the best Confession we’d had in years, and we experienced what Confession should be, Christ speaking to us through the priest.  Mary’s even pretty sure he addressed her by name even though she didn’t tell him her name.

In line for Confession, I prayed Vespers according to the Roman Rite, the Byzantine Rite and the Coptic Rite on my phone, plus the Confiteor in Latin, the Seven Pentitential Psalms, and just whatever daily prayers I could think of.   I planned to say a Divine Mercy Chaplet after I got out of Confession.

I could feel the “prayer of quiet” coming on even before I went into the Confessional and “shut up” in my prayers when that happened.  Then I had this profound Confession experience.  I began saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I said the Our Father and Hail Mary that were my penance, anyway, and then I started the Creed, but tried to be slow and deliberate about.

Then I found that “block” happening in my head.  I couldn’t remember the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  So I’d just stop.  I’d feel the prayer of quiet for a few minutes.  Then I’d pray another decade of the chaplet, feel God’s metaphorical hand go up, and stop and go quiet for another several minutes.

And all I can say is, “WOW.”

G. K. Chesterton on Catholic Pride

G. K. Chesterton, speaking of Protestant-Catholic relations but also speaking prophetically of the state of the Church today, what with all the “spirit of Vatican II” progressives:

I do not want the crucifix to be a compromise, or a concession to the weaker brethren, or a makeweight or a by-product. I want it to be a blazon and a boast. I want there to be no more doubt about our all glorying in it than there would have been in any body of old Crusaders pitting the Cross against the Crescent. And if anyone wants to know my feelings about a point on which I touch rarely and with reluctance: the relation of the Church I left to the Church I joined, there is the answer as compact and concrete as a stone image. I do not want to be in a religion in which I am allowed to have a crucifix. I feel the same about the much more controversial question of the honour paid to the Blessed Virgin. If people do not like that cult, they are quite right not to be Catholics. But in people who are Catholics, or call themselves Catholics, I want the idea not only liked but loved and loved ardently, and above all proudly proclaimed. I want it to be what the Protestants are perfectly right in calling it; the badge and sign of a Papist. I want to be allowed to be enthusiastic about the existence of the enthusiasm; not to have my chief enthusiasm coldly tolerated as an eccentricity of myself.

–G. K. Chesterton, Autobiography, Chapter XI

G. K. Chesterton on Suicide versus Martyrdom

About the same time I read a solemn flippancy by some free thinker: he said that a suicide was only the same as a martyr. The open fallacy of this helped to clear the question. Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end. In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because (however he renounces the world or execrates all humanity) he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe.

G. K. Chesterton on women.

The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else. Women who are utter mystics in their creed are utter cynics in their criticism.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 5., emphasis added

G. K. Chesterton on supernatural versus natural love

We say there must be a primal loyalty to life: the only question is, shall it be a natural or a supernatural loyalty? If you like to put it so, shall it be a reasonable or an unreasonable loyalty? Now, the extraordinary thing is that the bad optimism (the whitewashing, the weak defence of everything) comes in with the reasonable optimism. Rational optimism leads to stagnation: it is irrational optimism that leads to reform. Let me explain by using once more the parallel of patriotism. The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason. If a man loves some feature of Pimlico (which seems unlikely), he may find himself defending that feature against Pimlico itself. But if he simply loves Pimlico itself, he may lay it waste and turn it into the New Jerusalem. I do not deny that reform may be excessive; I only say that it is the mystic patriot who reforms. Mere jingo self-contentment is commonest among those who have some pedantic reason for their patriotism. The worst jingoes do not love England, but a theory of England. If we love England for being an empire, we may overrate the success with which we rule the Hindoos. But if we love it only for being a nation, we can face all events: for it would be a nation even if the Hindoos ruled us. Thus also only those will permit their patriotism to falsify history whose patriotism depends on history. A man who loves England for being English will not mind how she arose. But a man who loves England for being Anglo-Saxon may go against all facts for his fancy. He may end (like Carlyle and Freeman) by maintaining that the Norman Conquest was a Saxon Conquest. He may end in utter unreason — because he has a reason. A man who loves France for being military will palliate the army of 1870. But a man who loves France for being France will improve the army of 1870. This is exactly what the French have done, and France is a good instance of the working paradox. Nowhere else is patriotism more purely abstract and arbitrary; and nowhere else is reform more drastic and sweeping. The more transcendental is your patriotism, the more practical are your politics.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 5.

G. K. Chesterton on scary books, patriotism and “This life is a night in a bad hotel room.”

The reader may, if he likes, put down the next stage to that bellicose and even jingo literature which commonly comes next in the history of a boy. We all owe much sound morality to the penny dreadfuls. Whatever the reason, it seemed and still seems to me that our attitude towards life can be better expressed in terms of a kind of military loyalty than in terms of criticism and approval. My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot. . . . Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 5.

G. K. Chesterton on the Transience of Worldly Happiness

[T]here enters the second great principle of the fairy philosophy.

Any one can see it who will simply read “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” . . . For the pleasure of pedantry I will call it the Doctrine of Conditional Joy. Touchstone talked of much virtue in an “if”; according to elfin ethics all virtue is in an “if.” The note of the fairy utterance always is, “You may live in a palace of gold and sapphire, if you do not say the word `cow”‘; or “You may live happily with the King’s daughter, if you do not show her an onion.” The vision always hangs upon a veto. All the dizzy and colossal things conceded depend upon one small thing withheld. . . . Fairy godmothers seem at least as strict as other godmothers. Cinderella received a coach out of Wonderland and a coachman out of nowhere, but she received a command — which might have come out of Brixton — that she should be back by twelve. Also, she had a glass slipper; and it cannot be a coincidence that glass is so common a substance in folk-lore. This princess lives in a glass castle, that princess on a glass hill; this one sees all things in a mirror; they may all live in glass houses if they will not throw stones. For this thin glitter of glass everywhere is the expression of the fact that the happiness is bright but brittle, like the substance most easily smashed by a housemaid or a cat. And this fairy-tale sentiment also sank into me and became my sentiment towards the whole world. I felt and feel that life itself is as bright as the diamond, but as brittle as the window-pane; and when the heavens were compared to the terrible crystal I can remember a shudder. I was afraid that God would drop the cosmos with a crash.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.

G. K. Chesterton on Astonishment

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.

G. K. Chesterton on how Imagination does not Stifle Realism

There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.

G. K. Chesterton on Teleology and the Argument from Desire

I felt in my bones; first, that world does not explain itself. It may be miracle with a supernatural explanation; it may be a conjuring trick, with a natural explanation. But the explanation of the conjuring trick, if it is to satisfy me, will have to be better than the natural explanations I have heard. The thing is magic, true or false. Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art; whatever it meant it meant violently. Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons. Fourth, that the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them. We owed, also, an obedience to whatever made us. And last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck. All this I felt and the age gave me no encouragement to feel it. And all this time I had not even thought of Christian theology.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.

G. K. Chesterton on how Cinderella is like Our Lady

There is the lesson of “Cinderella,” which is the same as that of the Magnificat — exaltavit humiles.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.

G. K. Chesterton on the Importance of Fairy Tales

My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland, but elfland that criticised the earth. I knew the magic beanstalk before I had tasted beans; I was sure of the Man in the Moon before I was certain of the moon. This was at one with all popular tradition. Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about the bush or the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of brook and bush. That is what the moderns mean when they say that the ancients did not “appreciate Nature,” because they said that Nature was divine. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 4.