Category Archives: poverty

Wake up!

From Evening Prayer, Friday Week 3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To the individual who used my information to open a Belk Account

Since you tried to steal my identity, I’m here to reclaim it.  My name is John Hathaway.
You obviously know my address as well as SSN because the card was sent to my home.  If you want my identity, I think you should know what goes along with it.

You’ll probably never see this, but hopefully it will go viral.

I have Marfan syndrome 
(Regular readers should know this)
If you want my name and my “credit,” would you like the dissected and twice-grafted aorta that goes with it?  How about the brain aneurysm? The scarred lung? The leaking heart valves?  The bleeding and bruising from Coumadin?  The joint and rib pain?  Would you like to share in those?
Would you like to share in wondering any  time you have a sharp pain if it will be your last, in genuinely being aware–every day of your life–that you have no idea when you will die?  Many people live that way, of course.  Maybe you do, but most do because of the threat of violence from people who care more about $200 watches than they do about other human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am Catholic
I have a deep love for Jesus Christ, and the Church He established, particularly His Mother and His Saints in Heaven.  If you want to share in my “identity,” I invite you to share in the love of Christ.
I wish I could afford to be as generous as the Bishop in Les Miserables.
But I do forgive you, and I do call you my brother.

You need to know that your action has violated three of God’s Ten Commandments,

The seventh, eighth, and tenth, specifically.
7.  You have obviously stolen my legal “identity,” and you have stolen two expensive watches from Belk.
8.  You have also born false witness against me by performing an act in my name that I never would have done.
10. You have done this out of covetousness.

For my part, I forgive you, and God is willing to forgive you, too.  If you are not baptized, please seek out any Christian, but ideally a Catholic priest or deacon, and request to be baptized.  If you are baptized, please find a priest and confess your sins and sin no more.

You need to know that your action has done in my name something that I find morally repugnant

I can’t remember the last time I bought anything at Belk.  I don’t even wear a watch, and if I did it would be the least expensive, most practical watch I could find.  I think it’s wrong to pay more than $30 for shoes without a good medical reason or more than $30 for a watch for the same.  The most expensive items of clothing I have ever bought myself were the blazer for my wedding, which I still wear; the overcoat I bought at Penney’s in 2005 to wear over my blazers when I worked outside the home; and a few other blazers for when I worked, which I gave away to charity because I believe and do a very poor job of practicing the teaching of St. John the Baptist that anyone with two coats should share with the one who has none.

My family spends way more than we should, but most of that is on fast food.  With six people with various physical impairments and on the autism spectrum, we have  a lot of medical appointments.  Other than that, our incomes goes to housing, utilities, food, and a bit of technology.  We enjoy way too many luxuries yet far less than most Americans.

I would never spend $200 for a watch, much less $400 for 2!  And these days I’d buy a $30 cell phone rather
We don’t even have enough to regularly donate to the Church.  Usually, when we do plan to give something to the Church, we find some person in urgent need first.  I don’t say this to brag, but to make an appeal to you not to be materialistic and greedy, and to think about others.

I once dropped a credit card at a gas station.  The person who found it used it to buy gas someplace else.  While I disputed the charge, I also thought “At least they did something practical.”

We are just getting our credit up to where we might be able to get a loan to make repairs on our home without appealing to charities for help in making them.

It is cosmically unjust that if I apply for credit at a store I actually shop at — and not because I need it but just to take advantage of one of those offers and then pay it off — I get denied, but you, my brother, have managed to get credit at a store that I rarely even enter to buy products that I not only would never buy but whose very existence I consider mortally sinful per the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

For those reasons this hurts me deeply, but I seek the grace in my pain.  I pray that, like St. Stephen and St. Paul, my prayers will inspire your conversion and we can be together in Heaven where we will both share the identity of Christ.

From the First Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians:
<blockquote>Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made, who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.</blockquote>

“Just believe in yourself”

“God just wants me to be happy,” says the contemporary Christian singer about her divorce and remarriage.

“Believe in yourself,” says the new age guru.

“The real Bruce Jenner,” say the headlines.

“Born that way,” says Lady Gaga.

Apparently, Jesus says “Affirm yourself, put down your cross, and follow your heart”?

Oh, no, wait.  That was, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”

“but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

A few years ago, we tried brick and mortar.  We had our girls in a pretty good Catholic school and our son in a pretty good public school.  At Christmas that year (kindergarten), he started talking about the (alleged) religious symbolism of the candy cane.  We asked if he’s heard it at CCD, Lord’s Brigade, or on EWTN.  He said, “No.  From [my teacher].”  Indeed, our town’s general homeschool community, which my wife follows on Facebook to keep up with events, Is largely made up of secularists who find the local public schools too religious!”

But, still, even if you set aside questions of the moral and psychological dangers, bullying, peer pressure, subversive agendas, disputes about curriculum or teaching models, ability of the school to accommodate learning or physical disabilities, and so forth, those  two years, and the continuing aftermath, have highlighted a dilemma that troubled me my whole life.

My children’s generous uncles and aunts, starting with the Wii that I expected to be a one-time capitulation, have given them a steady stream of video game systems, so each of them now has at least one DS-whatever, and they’re constantly talking about the next thing they want.  I recall when I was laying in the hospital two years ago, watching my daughter play her DS, and thinking–whether I was actually hearing this or hallucinating, I may never know–the nurses, the hospital patieht rep, and others complaining about my kids having so many video games when we always say we’re struggling financially.  We are, and we’ve purchased very few of the games they have, and of course games have horrible resale value.  The point is that they’ve been roped into a materialistic cycle I’d always wanted to avoid.

My son’s hand me down DS broke over Thanksgiving.  His uncle sent him a hand me down Of what .i thought was the latest middle for first communion.  

Today, I took the kids to the park to fly a kite we bought at a dollar store.  We were having a good, old fashioned, inexpensive, fun time, but while I assembled the kite, I heard him talking about how he wants to save up for the latest model, which apparently is literally the “new 3DSXL.”  Within what I thought was reasonable for his fragile psyche, I lost it a bit and got a bit preachy.  We had a moment, hugged it out, but when I tried to talk about living in the moment, he said how at school they always talked about preparing for the future and planning for emergencies.  In his mind, having a second DS in case one breaks qualified as an emergency.   I’d been enjoying those 6 months when he carried around a box of Legos.

But how do you teach your child to be humble, to have poverty of spirit, to put others first, etc., when schools, and ironically Catholic schools especially, teach pride, ambition, and competitiveness?

The Jesuits have always been controversial for their accommodation of local cultures, and for their frequent interference in politics,  but I do not understand how an Order which rarely produces bishops or cardinals and has taken 500 years to produce a Pope because it teaches against pursuing advancement has contributed so much to the competitive approach to education we find in modernity.

When a dress code is not just about teaching modesty and obedience but wearing a “blue blazer with brass buttons,” is that teaching children to follow the examples of John the Baptist, Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, or Pier Giorgio?  Even the Monarchs who’ve been canonized generally dressed below their stations.  

When a school advertises its “high academic standards,” makes students compete for titles like “valedictorian” even to the point of destroying friendships, gives awards for “perfect attendance,” etc., his is that teaching children to live the Beatitudes?   Help that homeless person you pass on the way to school, get a few minutes late, lose perfect attendance and lost the edge on being “#1.”  Besides, helping the homeless is dangerous, might be illegal, and you need to direct them to proper charities.  Is that a message that teaches kids to be Saints..

I know I could do a lot better as a parent, but I also know that what Ai consider better is the opposite of the World.

That’s why I homeschool.

Is it “the Little” Way because it’s Easy or Narrow?

Jen Fitz posted a great reflection on the Feast of St. Therese, entitled, “If it doesn’t cost you everything, you’re not on the little way.” The title pretty much sums up the profound observation. My honorary “name in Carmel” is “John of the Little Way of St. Therese.” There’s a reason for that much deeper than a pious devotion to the Little Flower or even the spiritual connection that the past 18+ years of my life have in a very real way belonged to her.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face knows that, within ten years of her death at 24, before she was even Venerated, much less Canonized, the future St. Pius X declared her “the greatest saint of modern times.” When Pope St. John Paul II declared her the third official female Doctor of the Church, he said that this girl who had very little formal education but wrote one of the greatest spiritual classics of all time “gave the Church a new doctrine” in her “Little Way.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who was baptized Agnes but took her name in religion from the Little Flower, got her motto “small things with great love” from Therese, though the latter was really just following teachings found throughout the Discalced Carmelite tradition, through Brother Lawrence’s _Practice of the Presence of God_ all the way back to the “great” Teresa of Jesus of Avila, our Holy Mother.
The message of Fatima is very similar to the Little Way: offer up “small” sacrifices. This can often be trivialized a bit, and a deeper understanding of Therese’s life and journey tell us that there’s a difference between “offering it up” in little things and enduring without comment the despair of, for example, being so emaciated by TB that her bones were protruding from her skin (a fact I just learned the other day).
Some make a big deal of Therese’s struggles with the Office and Rosary, which are certainly encouraging to anyone genuinely trying and struggling, but when she said that saying the Rosary was a “penance,,” we must remember that, in the Little Way, and the Way, period, penances are a good thing. Part of the reason the Rosary was a penance was the famous example of the Sister whose relatively noisy manner of praying was very distracting to Therese, who first dreaded that nun’s presence in chapel but so practiced patience in her regard that she eventually looked forward to seeing her–the same with another Sister who treated her badly, but, as the sister says in the Leonardo de Filipis movie _Therese_, “Every time I see you, you smile!”
In short, when we say, “Small things with great love” we all, myself included, tend to emphasize the first part and not think about what the latter means. It means putting as much love as we possibly can into putting up with that unpleasant person or situation.

Will the real Fatima.please stand up?

It dawned on that, everywhere I look, I see people who need Fatima’s message, yet even most who “promote” it get it wrong.
For many, Fatima is “about Vatican II,” when, if anything, Vatican II was about Fatima.
For many, it was and is about a magical formula for the “consecration of Russia” that will lead to the magical “conversion of Russia,” and in turn to an “era of Peace.” Those prophecies are open to interpretation until they can be seen through the lens of history. Sr. Lucia said St. John Paul fulfilled it. If he didn’t, it’s too late, anyway.
Russia’s errors have spread through the world: not just the Communism that is encroaching on the US thanks to so many money-hungry “Catholics” voting for Obama, but also abortion (the USSR was the first country to legalize it).
The reason we have not seen mass conversions and world peace is not because the Pope failed to say the right words at the right place and time with the right bishops. It’s because laity, priests and religious fail to answer Our Lady’s call to conversion of heart:
sacrifices (in the manner of the Little Way);
true contrition and monthly (at least) Confession;
Frequent, sincere and meditative praying of the Rosary;
Devotion to and respect for the holy Eucharist
Wearing the Scapular or Miraculous Medal.
How many people do these practices at all, much less with the depth and sincerity Our Lady called for.
Francisco didn’t see her the first few times. He was below the age of reason and yet she still said he was guilty of too many sins and needed to say many Rosaries to see her and to avoid Purgatory. Yet we presume we’ll all be instant Saints.
She showed them souls falling into Hell like snowflakes, yet we hold to a watered-down universalism.
She said souls go to Hell mostly for sins of the flesh, which are as disgusting to the Devil as they are to God, and that, “Fashions will be introduced that will offend my Son greatly.” Yet we fall right into the filth with the rest of the Culture of Death.

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A funny thing happened on the way to Confession . . .

I had made a point of trying to get my family to Confession in the midst of other Saturday plans.
Then I was in bed with chest pain, so we were running late but got there around 4:45. The Confessional was dark; no sign of a priest. I noticed my wife hadn’t followed us in, and we were leaving anyway, when I found her standing by the van, the rear gate still open. There was oily fluid all over the ground, and she showed me how the fluid streamed out when she opened and closed the wheelchair lift:
Hydraulic fluid, leaking out of the pistons.
Great.
We’d “just” had them replaced, four years ago. Seems like just yesterday but forever. That was right after the second engine (for us, third for it) in our handicapped adapted 2000 Chevy Express 3500. Turns out, 4 years is about as long as those pistons last. Now I know, but while we have started budgeting for repairs, we just put a bunch of money into “regular” repairs, and she’s had to pay cash for some graduate courses. We were just starting to work on tightening the budget a bit more to save for emergencies and hopefully a down payment on a house in a year or two. We’d like to finally live in a house big enough for 4 kids sometime before they’re adults.

So, here we are, looking at another repair that could reach into the thousands. We tried Modest Needs 4 or 5 years ago, but that’s “All or Nothing.” This time, we went with GoFundMe, which takes a fee but sends the money as it’s donated.

Since Saturday night when I set it up, we’ve already raised about $470. In the morning, I will take it to a repair place and get a more exact estimate. Please pray, donate or at least share the link.
my GoFundMe Campaign

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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.

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)

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?

The Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: Welcoming Valjean

The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. “You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew.” The man opened his eyes in astonishment. “Really? You knew what I was called?” “Yes,” replied the Bishop, “you are called my brother.”

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 67). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: Carmelite Spirituality

He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah’s mantle; he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events; he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him. This humble soul loved, and that was all. That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts, Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 54). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Wisdom of Bishop Myriel: The role of a bishop

The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid.

Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 53). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

The Healing of a Boy with a Demon.

14 When they came to the crowd a man approached, knelt down before him,
15and said, “Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
17 Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.”
18 Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured.
19 Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”
20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

(Matthew 9, New American Bible)

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand: TBN sues itself, and shows how it compares negatively to EWTN

Paul and Jan Crouch, founders of Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), are being sued by their own granddaughter for financial misdeeds. The granddaughter, in turn, is being sued by them on the allegation that *she* is the one who embezzled. What strikes me most about the article is learning the network’s operating budget, given that it’s already known how the Crouches live an extravagant lifestyle, and how it’s very clear they’ve never read the Gospel (a spokesman cites some verse about not owing anyone anything, but I guess he missed the part about “Let him who has two coats share with the one who has none”).

People often compare EWTN to televangelism (in the negative sense) and TBN in particular, especially since they both claim, for different reasons, to be the largest religious broadcaster in the world. I think that TBN takes the cake on that one, and not in a good way. Even granting their claim that the “private jet, multiple mansions and $100,000 mobile home for their dogs” are truly about security and housing network facilities, EWTN manages to do the same thing with just a few modest facilities: and, until relatively recently, just one.

Some people have been trying to say that EWTN’s lay staff are “in it for the money,” reaping huge benefits from donors’ money, etc., because they collect middle class salaries, while the Crouches really *do* that, and it’s proven in the difference between their operating budgets. According to the original article I linked above, TBN’s maximum known budget one year was $170 million. EWTN has a budget of about $24 million a year. Both networks broadcast worldwide. What’s the difference?

The Cockroaches–I mean Crouches

Mother Angelica, criticized for wearing a habit.

Some people, of all backgrounds compare the superficial similarities of the sets. Yet the criicisms of EWTN’s sets and studios are inconsistent: on the one hand is the claim that they don’t deserve donors’ money, overspend, etc., and that their sets are opulent and gaudy; on the other is the more accurate claim that their studios are still like a local TV station from the 1980’s. A Facebook friend pointed out that she visited EWTN’s studio at the JPII Center in DC a few years ago, and the cameras were being held together with duct tape.

Mary with Marcus Grodi

Mary with Marcus Grodi

When we visited there in 2000, we saw all the shows, but only attended 2 tapings of _Mother Angelica Live_. Why? Because the sets are all on wheeled platforms like sets in a play. There are, as you can see from the live shows, just a few rows of seats. Compare that to the “Mega Church” stadium on TBN. I’m sure that TBN would attribute that to the “success” of their “prosperity Gospel,” and I’d say, “in a worldly sense, yes, that’s very sucessful,” but the claim that EWTN’s people are secretly like the Crouches (or even the Medjugorje visionaries, who also have their summer homes and private jets) is ludicrous at best and calumnious at worst.

Things I wonder about the Next Life

There are several questions I wonder about regarding the next Life:
1) Does the resurrection of the body occur immediately or at the end of the world? (Scripture and Aquinas indicate the end of the world, though Matthew refers to it happening immediately, and most people seem to talk that way).

2) Is there “socialization” in Heaven? Meaning, do the Saints in Heaven get to “hang out” with each other or just sing God’s praises eternally like the Seraphim, or is it a mixture of both?
3) Is the situation in “Heaven” different from what will happen in the New Earth at the end of time? So maybe, for example, the souls in Heaven, as pure spirits, function like angels, but there would be more interpersonal communication in the Resurrection?
4) If there are levels of glory in Heaven, does that mean segregation? And wouldn’t that be a kind of punishment? Like, does the guy who just slipped in with a “Lord have mercy” while dying have to stay at the “bottom” of Heaven and never meet any of the great saints?
I’d hope to be able to talk to all these people when I get to Heaven:

General213 Close up
. . . And so on, and so forth, and what have you.
5) And I’ve always figured that in Heaven you get to see things like parts of the world you always wanted to visit, which is why international travel has never particularly interested me. Then I got to wondering about things like watching over people, and how deeply I wish I’d known Mary all my life, and how maybe I’ll get to go back and watch her life like a TV show in Heaven?
6) And that gets to TV shows, literature, etc.–would all that stuff have to be totally purged, or contrary to St. John of the Cross, do the saints in Heaven get to have imaginations? If so, does the imagination in Heaven have some level of “reality” to it?

Maybe like a Holodeck?

For example, when I was a little kid, I had this very vivid, realistic dream where I lived in an amazing mansion on the top of a mountain, and I had a pet lamb, and the house had all these different rooms. I had a really big bedroom, and next that bedroom were a series of toy rooms. I had one room that was all Masters of the Universe toys, set up in an amazing diorama. Another room was all GI Joes. Another room was all Transformers. “. . . And so on, and so forth, and what have you. ”
Something like this:

That dream always stuck with me, and over time, I figured it might have been a dream about Heaven. As an adult, if I had a lot of money to spend, I could make that dream come true thanks to the revival of those brands, as many of my peers have done. I’ve even been tempted to and done a bit of adult collecting, though I re-donated most of my collections and gave the rest to my kids, save for a few toys I’ve kept to myself. So I saw pictures recently for the upcoming Castle Greyskull in the Masters of the Universe Classics (MOTUC) line,
http://www.he-man.org/assets/images/home_news/tumblr_mchai1zuxa1qfxwtoo2_1280_full.jpghttp://

and I thought, “WOW! I *want* that!” And I resisted the temptations to covetousness, and I thought, “Well, if it’s at all something I’m supposed to have, maybe I’ll get it–or something better–in Heaven.”

As I contemplate my upcoming aortic surgery, and its risks, and the fact that I may very well be in my last days, I battle the “bucket list” issue: trying to enjoy what of this life I can in the fear that it will be completely lost, versus trying to achieve detachment so I can *get* to Heaven, versus wondering if some of the enjoyments we have in this life are still there, but better, in Heaven (so for example, maybe we can still watch TV shows we missed in Heaven?)

The Pope’s Resignation: is it the End of the World?

Who knows? It’s certainly a time to pray and fast for the good of the Church and the World.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Jesus specifically warned against the equivalent of “stocking up canned goods” in Luke 12, saying to store up treasure in Heaven. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, is writing all about what *not* to do, and the oft-quoted “anyone who would not work should not eat” was referring to those who were doing the equivalent of “hiding out in a bunker” and waiting for the world to end. He who clings to his life will lose it; he who loses his life will find it forever.

In the Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” Larry Gates (later Guiding Light/s HB Lewis) plays Dr. Bill Stockton, a beloved family doctor who’s quite proud of the bomb shelter he’s built in his basement–with *just* enough room for him, his wife and his son, and stocked with just enough food (it is unclear whether he packed “just enough food” to last not only until *after* the fall-out of nuclear war but till after it was possible to *regrow* food). His friends and neighbors, gathered for his birthday, mock his paranoia–until reports come in that an actual nuclear war is on the verge of starting. Stockton hurries his family to the shelter, leaving the friends & neighbors behind. He locks them out. They come begging to be included. He says he doesn’t have any room–*maybe* one person if they insist. But he keeps screaming at them to leave and threatening to shoot them if they don’t. They fight among themselves viciously about who should be the one to survive with the Stockton family, and condemning each other’s real or perceived faults.

Then war *doesn’t* happen, and they’re all left with their relationships shattered by their selfishness.

When Jesus comes again, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker, and we have the assurance the world will not end until then. If it’s nuclear war, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker (interestingly, at Nagasaki, a Catholic Church was preserved from the destruction). If we’re going to experience a little turmoil that leads to the Era of Peace, then why fight it or fear it? If society collapses, stored goods will only last so long before you need more food, and refusing to share what you’ve stored with those in need will not win you points in Heaven.

And, if none of that stuff happens, and you wake up just as you did on December 22, 2012, or you come out of your bomb shelter like the Stocktons, and the world is still here, you look pretty silly. You might even, like the Stocktons, find yourself with shattered friendships.

And if you go to bed expecting the world doesn’t end, and your *life* ends, whether the world does or does not, you still make yourself liable to die and have the Lord say, “You fool! Did you not know that this very night your life would be demanded of you?! For I come like a thief in the night!”

1984 Came 30 Years Later. Welcome to the Brave New World.

I remember reading a couple commentators back in the 90s who suggested that Huxley was the most correct of the authors of early and mid-20th century dystopias, in terms of how our society had lost its moral center and become completely hedonistic, but now in terms of other aspects, Bradbury and Orwell look to have been right. Indeed, we seem to be increasingly speeding to the USA depicted by Ray Bradbury in _Fahrenheit 451_. I never read _1984_, but here is a website that compares Orwell’s predictions to our time (and many of them overlap with Bradbury’s). Some of the things Bradbury and Orwell got right:
1) Becoming a military state by convincing the populace it needs to fear THE ENEMY (“Terrorists”)
2) Planes flying overhead
3) A populace benumbed by wall-sized TVs
4) Reading becoming more and more rare, books abridged, etc. Bradbury predicted that mass censorship would not come top-down but bottom-up with the people demanding they be saved from the “burden” of reading. ”

Since we both read the novel in 2010, my wife has often commented on the very name of “Kindle” as suggestive of book burning. In theory the digitization of text should be a good thing. Every new technology seems to provide another way for increasing human knowledge. In Disney’s “Carousel of Progress,” the 1940s family talks of how wonderful TV will be for providing everyone a chance to watch the opera and study Latin. We all know how that turned out. Look at Christan Classics Ethereal Library or one of the various Great Books sites. In theory, you can fit a ton of information in pure TXT format into what is today a relatively small amount of space. Supposedly, the entire print collection of the Library of Congress would take up about 10 TB (about $500 worth of hard drives), but even in the 90s, a reasonable “Great Books” collection could fit on a CD in TXT or even PDF format. In theory, a person could fit a complete and quality education onto a single smart phone and carry it for life. So, in theory, digitalization of text should be preserving culture, but not if people aren’t reading it. Listen to ads for Kindle and Nook: the “e-readers” now advertise all the different fun things you can use them for *besides* reading.

“Where orthodoxy becomes optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” —Neuhaus’ Law

In “Lilies that Fester,” C. S. Lewis argues that when education becomes a means to a job, and government pays for it, then government becomes a means of brainwashing by the business managers and the government.

So, in the past 20 years, paleoconservatives/traditionalists have been pushed out of the education discussion in this country (and turned to homeschooling), while a conspiracy of liberal and neoconservative forces have promoted “common core standards of learning” in almost all states (then Gov. Bill Clinton was one of the first to jump on that bandwagon along with George HW Bush and Bill Bennett). The standards movement has proven to amount to exactly what C. S. Lewis warned about: especially because it’s not so much about what students are expected to *know* as what they are expected *not* to know. For in order to *teach* the “expected standards,” teachers must *not* teach other things. When I was growing up, you never could finish everything in the textbook in one year, and the teacher picked what you learned. This provided what one of my college professors described as one of the most important elements of an education, “to learn from as many lunatics as you can.” The teacher’s personality and interests are *supposed* to influence the education.

Not anymore.

Now, the teacher is told *exactly* what to teach, and all that material *must* be covered, and they provide far more material than can realistically be covered and learend in one year just so they can avoid teachers talking about what they *don’t* want. And it’s very clear, if one reads the high school standards of any given state, how the standards reflect political agendas for either party. For example, in South Carolina, students are NOT supposed to learn about official persecution of Catholics in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Now, they’re getting to where over 75% of “required reading” in high school English will be nonfiction.

This besides the abandonment of text, is one of Bradbury’s concerns: gradually, fiction itself is becoming forbidden in our culture. I’ve argued this for a few years regarding “reality TV.” Even though “reality TV” itself is often rigged, if not outright scripted, it provides simplistic entertainment while avoiding intellectual or imaginative stimulation. Best to have people numbing their minds to the shouting matches on CNN, MSNBC or FOX, and feeling “informed,” when they’re actually being brainwashed. If not, then watch _The Real World_ or _Jersey Shore_ or whatever the latest “hit reality show” is. And if people *insist* on entertaining themselves with fiction then make sure it’s obscene comedy, titillating sex, or abject violence, with as little plot as possible–and then make them *think* they’re “intelligent” for enjoying listening to someone spewing profanities.
Bradbury missed the violent video games, but he rightly imagined the “interactive” entertainment that makes people think they’re involved when they’re being brainwashed. He also predicted people having multiple abortions and multiple divorces.

A commenter in my article about _Les Miserables_ insisted that the movie should be banned for its “graphic” depictions of sexual activity. I first noted how the depictions are graphic in a slightly different way, but questioned how they are any worse than a lot of what’s on TV these days. I also noted how, while the scenes are meant to show the disgusting nature of prostitution–they’re not to titillate or to glorify but to make people see the disgusting, repulsive nature of prostitution. He said he failed to see the distinction. I suggested he read Flannery O’Connor but noted how he probably would be opposed to her, as well. He said that comment was rude. I asked if graphic depictions of homosexual rape are better than graphic depictions of prostitution. I’m wondering if he’ll respond.

O’Connor holds that the closer fiction is to real life experience, the more it must lead us to God. Of course, as some of us argue, real life experience can have many meanings. I read a joke on FB today: “I’ve noticed how shows that describe themselves as containing ‘adult situations’ rarely show people doing chores, going to work or paying bills.” Kevin O’Brien over at Theater of the Word is often using Hallmark movies as an example of bad film making. I’m often protesting when he says that. Certainly Hallmark Hall of Fame is a bit more quality than Hallmark Channel Original movies, though I enjoy both. And Hallmark Channel Original movies, I admit, are a nice kind of low-thought entertainment which Flannery O’Connor might herself criticize for being overly “nice” in a distorted way. However, in their own way they serve as a more authentic representation of human life than most of what Hollywood produces or certainly a lot of “reality” TV.

So, anyway, now the “standards of learning” are being used to NOT teach kids Homer or Shakespeare or O’Connor or Orwell or Hawthorne or Austen. Russell Kirk said, “deprive a boy of Homer, and he will turn to Mickey Spillaine or Ian Fleming, or worse.” Well, even Ian Fleming and Mickey Spillaine will soon be proscribed.

For over 100 years, people from across the disciplines and ideological spectra have seen something on the horizen in Western civilization, given each generation’s decreasing morality and increasing construction of technological terrors (to paraphrase Emperor Palpatine). Yet while Ray Bradbury said to prepare for it by reading and memorizing, while the mystics have said to prepare for it by turning our hearts to God in prayer and fasting, so many of those who actually pay attention are preparing by stockpiling food and guns.

Better start memorizing, folks.

“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.