Tuesday, December 27, 2005

True, True, True #5

[Source below...]

Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God'’s word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him. Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness -– a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way. That is what is important for God.


From a humble Christmas homily. God, I love this guy!

Friday, December 23, 2005

True, True, True #4

From today's saint: John of Kanty, Poland:

"Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause. "

Good advise for an angry ex-Protestant like me.

Thank God for mercy!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Not-So-Sudden Scandal

News reports this morning indicate that some scholars of religion are suddenly having doubts about the virgin conception & birth of Jesus.

Um, wait... isn't that lack of belief as old as this (v.19)?

We are, indeed, under constant attack by the doubters. Really, the question about Mary's perpetual virginity comes down to this: either you believe, or you don't. Either the Church is right, or it's wrong. You either accept it, or you reject it.

Stop trying to convince me to reject what I've accepted!

There are many, many reasons to believe it. One could quote the early Christians Bartholomew (circa 71 AD), or Zeno of Verona (died c. 372 AD), or St. Ambrose (c. 390 AD). We have to advance forward in history another 1200 years before the Protestant Reformation began to suggest that Mary wasn't a virgin. Also worth pointing out is another quote from cpats.org:

The early Fathers all argue:
  • Her virginity was implied by her answer to the Angel Gabriel ' how can this be since I know not a man (Luke 1:34).
  • If Mary had other children why is Jesus emphatically called 'son of Mary (Mark 6:3) noting especially there is no mention of Joseph. In the same manner, Mary is NEVER referred to as Mother of the mother of the brethren of Jesus.
  • The Gospel texts imply the 'brethren' were all older than Jesus since they tried to give him advice, they were jealous of his popularity and they tried to 'hold ' him suggesting he was mad.
  • If Mary had other children, then Jesus when he was dying on the Cross would not have entrusted Mary to the care of St John.
And aside from all the apologetics, all of Church teaching should be accepted by the faithful on the mere fact of the Church's sole teaching authority.

With all these reasons to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, why would someone actively try not to believe it?

The only reason to reject anything the Church proclaims as truth is plain: one is hardened to the full acceptance of truth. The hardest thing (and yet the simplest) I had to do as a converting Protestant was allow my mind to submit to Rome's authority.

No regrets, by the way.

I recently read this, written by Blessed Isaac of Stella, who wrote in the 12th century (I recommend checking out the whole text):

In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary, and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification.


That one simple paragraph gave me a whole new respect for Our Lady. If indeed she is analogous to the Church, which was elevated to a whole new level of authority for me when I journeyed to Rome, then should she not be thusly elevated as well? There is no idolatry in that; the whole point of her life can be summed up from John 2:5: ""Do whatever he tells you."

Not only does she issue the order, but she also supplies the response (v.38): "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Critical Demographics

I read recently in Discover Magazine that societies under intense persecution or threat of extinction have been shown to produce more female offspring. They suggested it was some sort of evolutionary effect that kicks in to ensure the long-term survival of the group.

My wife and I, as Catholics, are part of a societal group that is constantly subjected (praise God!) to quiet scorn, subtle disdain, and occasional outright contempt.

We have three children so far, all girls.

I foresee at least one of them becoming a nun. We definitely want to encourage any sort of inquiry to religious life that they manifest. I'm reminded of St. Lucy of Syracuse, who dearly wanted to take religious vows, so much so that she actively delayed her arranged marriage. She also prayed that her mother would accept her desire, and as a sign from God, her mother was cured of a chronic hemorrhaging. She then consented.

Her scorned fiance ratted her out as a Christian, and St. Lucy went on to die a horrible death at the hands of the governor of Sicily in the year 283.

That, odd as it may sound, is what I would love one (or more!) of my daughters to experience. For when we think of St. Lucy, we do not think of a murder victim, but rather of a cohort in the great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on in our race (Heb. 12:1). We think instead of the saint who could not be dragged to her sentence in the red-light district even by a team of oxen; we think of the saint whose faith prevented the wood around her stake from burning; we think of the saint whose eyesight was restored after her eyes were gouged out.

But why would any father want his little girl put through such torture? The forge of martyrdom is a fierce one, true, but Pope John Paul II knew that we need saints more than ever in this era of impending doom - that's why he recognized the holiness of more than 500 saints by canonizing them.

The Communion of Saints is one of my favorite themes in the Church. You'll note I link to an "Exhaustive Calendar of Saints" on the sidebar of my blog. Every day I look at the saints associated with that day to see who is there and why.

These are the type of people we need to breed nowadays. To think that my daughter(s) could someday be on a similar list is quite a joyful prospect for me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Good Example of a Bad Candidate

This morning on the radio I overheard a brief speech by a Liberal candidate in our federal election campaign talking about the "democratic deficit" in the House of Commons.

He said that in his utopian parliament, we would follow the model he used in his private boys' school (ah, so nice to know he's a sample of the general public).

In that school, they had a student parliament, with a government side and an opposition side. If any opposition member proposed something that was a universally good idea, the rule was that it would be accepted by all parliamentarians. If a member of the government side rejected the proposal for partisan reasons, the other government members would beat him. Yes, I'll repeat that - he said they would beat him.

Then he said, "That's what I'd like to see in the House of Commons."

You know what... me too. I'd love to see the CPAC coverage of that.
They DO Exist!

Just when it seems all we hear about is bishops who seem way out of touch with true orthodoxy, comes this interview with Canada's own Bishop Frederick Henry of Alberta. I've waited for years to hear these kind of comments come out of any see in the western world. Delight in select snippets of this rich fare below:

A constant challenge is to determine whether our faith shapes our culture and our politics, or is it the other way around? I'm afraid that too many Catholics have become too complacent and too tolerant. We are not nearly countercultural enough or prophetic enough.


...taking our inspiration from the pedagogy of the Incarnation, we will have to walk with Christ beside men and women of today, supporting them in their difficult search for the truth and making them in some way feel the presence of the Redeemer in everyday life.


We do not have to fear or shield ourselves against others who have different views and beliefs. As we walk, we have the opportunity to tell who we are, what we support, what we believe in and what we oppose.


Within the Catholic community we have to do even more to strengthen our marriage preparation and marriage enrichment courses, our accompaniment of the separated and divorced and the bereaved who have lost spouses, and our celebration of marriage and the beauty of human sexuality in God's plan.


The truth regarding the human person and obligations to uphold this truth do not change when a politician leaves the security of the home and ventures into the secular or political sphere.


All Catholic politicians would do well to imitate the example of St. Thomas More, who by his life and death taught that man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality. In him, there was no sign of a split between faith and culture, between timeless principles and daily life, but rather a convergence of political commitment. While serving all, More knew well how to serve his king, that is the state, but above all wanted to serve God: "The king's good servant, but God's first."


Wow. That's the kind of Truth that goes well with A1 sauce. I encourage all my readers to send that interview link to their bishops.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Idiot's Un-suffrage

Those of you attuned to Canadianica will know that we're in the process of selecting a new government.

I love political campaigns: it's absolutely amazing to watch how the different parties unfold their strategies and bounce off each other like a bunch of Superballs in a washing machine set to spin. Pun intended.

I also love listening to talk radio during campaigns, and it was on a CBC call-in show that I heard a guy opine with disdain, "Why should I vote?"

I'll tell you why. I'll give you just one reason, although there are hundreds of thousands.

You should vote because 61 years and 6 months ago today, a soldier stormed France's Juno Beach in the wee hours of the morning and was promptly thanked for his efforts with a random bullet to the gut. He collapsed on the sand and waited for a medic, but eventually bled out and died.

During his painful, prolonged journey away from life, his thoughts were trained on his newly pregnant wife who he had left home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and on the fact that his son or daughter would never know him. He prayed to God for his wife and child, which was a remarkable thing for him, as he never really considered himself a devout man.

The pain was unbearable, and it seemed to go on forever. "Hurry up and die," he ordered his uncooperative body, but it still dragged on. The assault was still raging around him; nobody had noticed his fallen form among the thousands on the beach.

It did not occur to him that he was dying for a greater good; the last thoughts on his mind were not focused on the ethics of his sacrifice, but on his wife. He imagined her soft hand caressing his cheek. He recalled their rushed wedding with warmth. He thought of the cognac he had sipped with her father when he asked permission to take her hand before he shipped out.

I don't know this man's name. I don't even know if the details I describe here are accurate. Frankly, aside from the D-Day reference, I made the whole thing up. Odds are, though, that I hit pretty close to the mark. We lost a lot of soldiers over there. And they fought to defend freedom, even if they didn't acknowledge it. Such things are often only obvious in retrospect. There is no doubt that Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito wanted to keep going. North America was the only intact place left in their tightening vice. We can say their defeat was inevitable, but only fools say that events already cemented in time were going to happen anyway.

This man's sacrifice meant something. It helped. It worked.

That, you idiot, is why you should vote. Because a dead man says so.

If you don't like that, I hear China's a nice place to live.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Definitions

Locally, our transit authority has been pushing to increase bus fares from $1.85 to $2.00. This would be the price riders pay in cash and would apply to all riders: young, old, healthy, frail.

Currently senior citizens get a discounted cash fare. Under the proposed increase, if they purchase bus tickets at the local 7-11 or lottery booth, they will still get a discounted rate. Only cash fares have to pay the toonie.

I'm not commenting so much on whether or not this is a good idea - I'm rather indifferent, as I'm a driver, having put my time in as a bus rider.

What irked me about this whole issue was a line uttered by one of its opponents, speaking out on behalf of disabled people who will also have to pay the full $2.00 cash. She said, "This discriminates against disabled people."

I'm no proponent of making the disabled pay full fare; don't mistake my criticism of her comment.

What bothers me is that confounded word "discriminate." If a group of people is treated the same as all other groups, how is that group discriminated against? Especially when you consider that "discriminate" is a synonym of "choose." You can say that the policy is biased against somebody, or that it exposes a lack of sympathy, and I won't disagree. But "discriminate" is such a freakin' buzzword these days that it drives me wonky. It implies hate, disdain, ignorance, and a sunburned neck.

This is just one example of a word that is mis-defined in the modern lexicon. The rabid anti-discrimination mantra reveals a subculture of idiocy in society, and not just for those who misuse it, but for those who buy into it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Marriage Is Easy

You may balk at that comment. I stand by it - because by saying it, I don't mean that being married is easy - it's clearly not - I mean that getting married is easy.

I really like what the state of Louisiana did a few years back when they implemented Covenant Marriage. They were followed by Arizona and Arkansas, and a lot of other states are exploring it as well.

Legally, it means that the couple getting married waives the "right" to no-fault divorce.

Socially, it means that the couple has consciously recognized that giving up in marriage because the romance dies or they lose interest in each other is not allowed.

Morally, it means that the couple is committed to embark on the marriage journey to its full potential as a mystical symbol of the fruitful union between Christ and his Church - even if they don't actively acknowledge that they're doing so.

This can only be a good thing. Marriage, because of its ease of entry and exit (and thus its abuse), has become scorned in our civilized society - much like a public washroom. "I'll use it if I have to, but ewwwww!"

So what does Canada do? Offers to extend "marriage" with the state's blessing to couples that... how can I put this... don't have the intrinsic ability to serve as a mystical symbol of the fruitful union between Christ and his Church. Congratulations Canada! You've moved the public washroom out onto the street, and forgotten some of the walls in the process.

That's how society is harmed - when marriage is redefined to make it looser, sacramental marriage is less present in society, and the grace obtained in the unseen realms by the daily struggles of those who do view their marriages as covenants is diluted.

Grace matters. Grace saves us; it fills us with faith, hope, and love. We get grace through the sacraments. It's simple math folks, there's no paradox here: more grace is better than less. Thus more sacramental marriages have a positive impact on society as a whole.

Some may reject the basic premise I base this argument on. Ok. Still doesn't mean it's untrue. Like Chesterton said, "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

Monday, November 28, 2005

God: Wakey, Wakey!

During most of the liturgical seasons, I feel called to meditate on a certain theme and to implement it in my life. I usually journal to record any insights I gather. This should be a bit easier now that I've finally got my home office in some semblance of order and workability.

The theme I've been picking up on this Advent is one of wakefulness. Yesterday's homily and readings attested to it, my wife keeps insisting on it in the morning, and Fr. Cantalamessa from the Vatican has also expounded on it. He writes, "This is what the Word of God that we hear so often during Advent is determined to do, cry out so that we wake up! "

Thus I've got my theme.

What to do? I still try to make a habit of morning Mass before droning on into work, but what if I were to get up an hour earlier and add Matins?

What if I were to ensure breakfast is waiting for my wife and kids so their hectic morning
sans daddy is somewhat easier?

What if I were to - gulp - go to bed earlier so my morning sacrifice will be of my self and not of my health?

Yikes. A challenge from above.

If truly I am in a state of sleep and need to wake up, what will the new day bring? A mystery, an adventure, an encounter with Christ is what I hope for.

Bring it on. Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

True, True, True #3

Usually, when one finds a good quote in an author's work, it resides somewhere in its depths and must be pried out by a patient mind. Today, however, I found a glaring exception to this rule.

David Warren's recent column opens with what would be, if it were in audio, a superb sound byte: "The idea that Church and State should never mix has always been popular among those who think churches should not exist."

This is indeed a remarkable truth; I am reminded of what British political historian Edward Jenks wrote in The State and the Nation. He noted that the concept of separation of Church and State "was by no means always urged from the side of the State; it must never be forgotten that the first movement towards separation between Church and State in Western Europe came from the vigorous and successful efforts of Pope Hildebrand and his successors down to Innocent III in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries." These efforts were made to stop politicians from trying to appoint bishops and popes. The Church had had enough of political interference, and was trying to make it stop.

Nowadays, individuals who cite the necessity of the separation between these two ancient institutions always do so with the notion that the state is supreme and must not be interfered with by any biased party. Yet history leaves no doubt as to which side has more often imposed its will on the other: the state is the chronic oppressor of the church. One could say that government, history's consistent butcher, has become the sacred cow.

This is not to deny that many people have used religion for political purposes, but it has been centuries since (Christian) people have used politics for religious purposes. The enemies of orthodox religion consciously ignore this fact and stage petty witch hunts to purge the cultural impact of widespread religion from political institutions, in violation of the principle of representative government.

Yay! They hate us! (Matt 5:10-12)


Monday, November 21, 2005

Now That You've Compromised With Me, Shut Up

From the mysteriously nomenclated Diogenes:

Traditional practices are assailed, not directly, but by non-stop pleas for dialogue. The engines of dialogue are designed to favor the innovator -- no one, after all, says "I think we should begin a conversation about why things should stay as they are" -- whence dialogue begets diversity begets innovation, and presto! the need for dialogue vanishes. "I wish we could stop talking about this."

This is his commentary on the appeal for no-more-dialogue from Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson. Robinson, you may recall, is the recently ordained homosexual Anglican cleric, who now that he's safely in his post and accepted by his community, wants people to stop talking about the whole deal.

That's a classic liberal tactic: cut your gains. Pressing forward once they've gained a little ground in the battle for the definition of morality would be self-destructive, as their real intentions would quickly become apparent.

Instead, they gain a tiny victory here, a minor court ruling there, a subtle shift in public opinion by not discouraging a certain behaviour here, and on and on the River Iniquity slowly yet thoroughly erodes our society's foundations. We don't notice, because the changes are all so minor, and any quibbling over minor changes is seen by neutral bystanders as petty and juvenile.

Meanwhile, the Church can't properly focus her efforts on changing the downward spiral of our world because she's worried about micromanaging against all these little changes. It can be very discouraging.

Yet I'm reminded of the words of St. Paul - "For our struggle is not with flesh and blood..." (Ephesians 6:12). If this were an earthly kingdom, we would have already lost it.

So I say, let them have their little victories. Don't fight against courts, against the media, against the politicians. Instead, recognize that our fight is "...with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens."

We need to pray. When he was mortally wounded, King Arthur said to the panicking Sir Bedivere (in Tennyson's Idylls of the King) "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

No other victory matters. No other strategy wins. No other weapon frightens our real enemy - especially this one, described by Pope Adrian VI in the early 1500's as "the scourge of the devil."
Indeed gentlemen, now that we've compromised so much away, shut up - and start your beads.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

BabelWeb

From Genesis 11 (note that Genesis 10 finishes the account of the Flood):

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words. While men were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, "Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire." They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth. The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built. Then the LORD said: "If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do. Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says." Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.
Now read this:

"It would seem that science fiction is slowly turning into science fact in an 'Internet of Things' based on ubiquitous network connectivity," the report [entitled "Internet of Things" by the International Telecommunication Union] said Thursday, saying objects would take on human characteristics thanks to technological innovation.

"Today, in the 2000s, we are heading into a new era of ubiquity, where the 'users' of the Internet will be counted in billions and where humans may become the minority as generators and receivers of traffic," it added.

Currently there are about 875 million Internet users worldwide, a number that may simply double if humans remain the primary users of the future.

But experts are counting on tens of billions of human and inanimate "users" in future decades. They would be tied into an all pervasive network where there would be no need to power up a computer to connect -- "anytime, anywhere, by anyone and anything", the report said.

I happened to find some entries from a blogger circa 4000 B.C:

So my uncle's on the Committee for Development and Technology, and he was telling me about this new building material they're designing called brick. He says that when you make buildings by sticking a bunch of these bricks together with a substance they're calling mortar, running water won't break up the buildings...

...There was a big buzz around camp today. Some guys came up with an idea to build houses for everybody out of brick and mortar, and to build a huge tower in the middle of them. Sounds like a good plan to me. The tales passed down by our ancestors indicate that they all knew people who didn't survive the Great Flood because they couldn't reach a high enough hill. The plan is to make enough bricks to build a tower higher than any mountain, so if another flood happens we'll all have a place to climb to. It'll be nice to be able to rely on ourselves instead of putting blind trust in some faceless god...

...Tower's looking pretty sweet - been a lot of work going on. I've been putting in almost 20 hours a day at the brick factory, so I can't write too long - real tired.

You'll never guess who I just saw walk into town: God! That's right. Everybody's waiting to see what he wants...

...Nerflip begonk schpoom glerk? Na dhaja blinip skoho! Delfiq zhubaba glin wroxy blone. Se gluf....

After that it gets hard to understand.

My point is, this internet fad is getting dangerous. Not in or of itself; there is no intrinsic evil in the availability of data (unless the data is evil!). The danger of the internet is that it gives man a bloated sense of accomplishment and pride. It is a catalyst, hastening the corruption of man.

The internet's pretty neat, sure. But, like the Tower of Babel, it won't save us. When God says of the Babelites "If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do," he is not saying that man can defeat God. He's saying that man won't stop trying to defeat God even when he fails at it. He's saying that we don't learn. His act scattering us across the earth was an act of mercy.

But now, we are once again approaching global convergence. Man can now plot his own downfall in full unity, as before.

The internet is becoming BabelWeb.
How's it feel, huh? How's it feel?

I have very little sympathy for the Anglican/Episcopalian communion's threat of division.

After all, considering the grounds under which the Anglican Church was founded (a desire for a loosening of the divinely-inspired definition of marriage), can we really be surprised that the issue of homosexual unions would haunt them today?

To all those conflicted Anglicans who lose heart or are scandalized by this fight, I invite you to consider coming back to the source: Rome wants you.

I especially invite you to read this article by David Warren, a former Anglican who saw it coming. He writes, "The Anglican hierarchy had already been driving me up the wall; this [ordination of a gay bishop] pushed me right through the ceiling." Well worth the read.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lest We Forget

I've been lucky. No, check that - I've been blessed. I have never had to leave hearth and home to hop the pond and fight a foe I had no personal quarrel with.

I like to think that, were I born 80 years ago, I would have been one of the first on the boat. That was a time when Canada was worth dying for, and I do so love this country.

Now I'm more afraid of the enemies within our country than any external threat.

My grandfather served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII, but didn't go overseas. He served as an airframe mechanic at the training base near Estevan, Saskatchewan.

Nobody else in my family has been connected to any of the wars in the last century.

Yet I've always had a special sanctuary in my heart for our veterans. I think this is at least partially because there was so much emphasis placed on Remembrance Day in school. It distresses me that most schools have today off; this is the one day of the year that I want the government to get a social message through to my kids.

That message is: There are people who gave up their lives to save hypothetical future generations from tyranny. Remember their sacrifice. As a successful participant of one of those hypothetical future generations, I am eternally grateful, and I send my profound thanks through the ages to those who suppressed the oppressors. To those who are alive and remain, I can only stand in awe.

I recall a few years ago, when I lived in Ottawa, our nation's capital, I (and about 15 other people) participated in a protest outside the House of Commons to push for official veteran status for the merchant marines who served on the private ships that carried troops, equipment, and supplies to Europe. They were the ones the U-Boats wanted to sink, and thus it was much more dangerous to be a cook on a private freighter than to be a deck gunner on a Royal Canadian Navy frigate.

I was disappointed by the small turnout for this event, but even moreso was disappointed by a quick walk-by "hello" done by a young member of parliament. He seemed like he was in a hurry; maybe he was late for a committee meeting, or maybe he needed to use the washroom, I don't know. But he should have given those veterans a little more time and courtesy than he did.

Now he's a prominent member of our opposition party, and is poised for a cabinet post should our opposition ever take power. And he didn't have time for the merchant marines.

These young people, they got no respect anymore. They need somebody to teach them some manners.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Am I Really Just a Protesting Protestant?

I’ve been participating in my church’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) for the last few weeks. There’s a young lad I’m supporting while he explores more of what the Church can offer him, and I also wanted to contribute back to the program that taught me so much about the faith lo these seven years.

With the lessons we’ve gone over recently, and especially with some of the questions that have been posed to our group afterward, it’s becoming clearer that my understanding of the faith has been formed through a somewhat tinted lens.

I’ve always thought that I got what the Church was, and to an extent I still believe I do. But my knowledge isn’t as complete as I thought it was. Or rather, my action isn’t as connected to my knowledge as it should be.

When the Church was revealed to me in all her Veritatis Splendor, after so many years of being formed to be an anti-Catholic, I was angry. Quite angry, frankly. Many people I trusted had told me things that were – to be as charitable as possible – inaccurate. They had shot from the hip, had made wild conjectures, and, when stumbling across wisdom deeper than they were capable of appreciating, summarily discarded it so their own petty worldviews wouldn’t be shattered.

Harsh words, I know. Very uncharitable. But that’s how I felt. Betrayed, even. I would have nailed 95 theses on a door of a grand cathedral, or publicly rejected the authority of a central faith figure, if Protestantism had any such sacramentals to personify and thus deface.

So it was with a certain veil of animosity that I consumed all the Church had for me. Imagine a ravenously hungry man eating morsels and crumbs, being told there is no other food in the universe that won’t kill him dare he touch it. Then one day this man happens across a rich feast and takes a chance – and finds that not only is he not dead, but he is more alive than he has ever been before. Would he not look with some scorn on all the years of lost nourishment?

The man would be well within his rights, says common wisdom. Yet, “Let justice be your sacrifice, and hope in the Lord,” says Psalm 4:6. God often calls us to give up the things we think we’re entitled to for the greater glory of his name, whether it be property, esteem, or even justice.

So it is with great difficulty that I release my anger.

Now on with the task of growing in Christ.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Closets Have Doors for a Reason

I'm realizing more and more these days that most people go through life with a central theme, or a summarizing raison d'ĂȘtre which affects all they do. This theme doesn't always dictate a career path, but it remains present in the workplace in little things like your email signature or the toys on top of your monitor.

Take me, for example. The central theme of my life is my love for Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. I have several sub-themes as well, such as husband and father, sonnet lover, Star Trek devotee, and pun appreciator. But the single most defining aspect of my existence is that of a Catholic committed to absolute truth.

At times, when my curtain of pride parts for a moment, it dawns on me that I'm not as mature or fully developed as I should be. I don't claim for an instant to be the best example of a Catholic out there. That honour probably belongs to withered Chinese widow who pours all her time, money, and heart into catechizing the offspring of her fellow underground Catholics.

But I try, albeit imperfectly, and I strive for perfection.

Other people, by contrast, have quite different priorities. I once asked a co-worker in the oil mining industry what his ultimate goal was; what did he want to do with the time he was given before it expired? His response was, "I want to drink all the beer in the world."

Beer is morally neutral, of course, like a Ford Escort, or a sharp stick. But neutral things require very little effort to produce unfortunate results.

I also wish to mention homosexuality here. Most openly gay men and women live their orientation as their central theme.

A homosexual orientation is also a morally neutral thing. Having an inclination or desire (some may call it temptation) for sexual relations with somebody who shares the same genitalia is not a sin.

Acting on it is. Of course, calling an action a sin has little meaning for those who refuse to believe in sin. But I digress.

Sin can be forgiven. Christ, with the appropriate prompting, will forget one's sexual misdeeds as easily as he forgets murder or shoplifting. Consequences may still apply, but the sin can be forgotten by the Ultimate Judge - a remarkable thing.

Anytime somebody makes a statement like this, it can easily be misconstrued as intolerance. In Canada, having written what I just did, I could arrested and imprisoned under the Criminal Code of Canada's Hate Propaganda section.

But I have a secret immunity to this charge: I, too, have an inclination or desire (some may call it temptation) for sexual relations with somebody who shares the same genitalia.

That's right - I'm what some would call a homosexual. As with most sin, my temptations are not constant, and neither are they overwhelming. But they are there.

I have never committed a homosexual act. A few years ago, I confessed my little secret anonymously in an internet chat room that was debating something to do with homosexual rights. One of the chatters asked how I could be sure that I was (by worldly definitions) a homosexual, having had no "practical experience."

Simple answer: I know my mind and my heart.

I fully intend to remain married, and I plan to have more children with my wife. My temptation will not control my life. I proudly close the closet door and leave a sign on it saying "Skeleton within." And I'm not alone.

Some may wonder how I would feel about homosexuals who have given in to temptation. I can clearly state that I know exactly what drove them to it. I can identify, I can relate, I can understand. Even if I haven't done it. I can respond to them with the love of Christ, longing for any lost sheep to rejoin the fold.

From what I have experienced in my life to date, my message to them would be this: Life without Christ's truth is empty. If you deny yourself his love, you may be able to drown out your soul's pleading for him with a legion of devices. But you will eventually run out of ways to lie to yourself. Eventually you'll exhaust your legion. Even then, in the hour of panicked despair, know that he still longs for you; his patience is never-ending. The devil's most effective lie is that God eventually stops caring. It is a lie. And I will say the same to anybody caught up in sin of any kind.

You may note that when I have referred to what passes in the common lexicon as "gay" that I am always qualifying the descriptor with somewhat of a disclaimer. I heartily refuse to assume the title as my own. As Fr. Jim Lloyd notes on his site, he prefers to use the term "a managed SSA [Same Sex Attraction] quality. The distinction is essential. Gay is a life criterion. It is a lens through which all things are measured and is a form of political activism."

Scripture tells us that someday all secrets will be shouted from the rooftops (Luke 12:3). So I'm not afraid to let the internet know this. Hopefully it'll help somebody, somewhere, sometime.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fun and Seriousness

I recently applied for a managerial position at work and didn't make the cut. There were over 50 applicants, and I made it to the top 20 or so, but no further. That's fine - I'm not angry or anything; I know the competition was tough, and we've had a lot of sub-managers like me waiting for promotion opportunities for about a year.

I just came back from a meeting with one of the bigwigs who makes the decisions, in an attempt to get some feedback into what I can do to improve my chances the next time around. He said that I didn't do anything wrong in the interview process per se, and that there was nothing that I missed doing, but that there were so many qualified applicants that my own stellar light was eclipsed by some of the blue giants around me (my metaphor, not his).

The one point he made that stuck with me was that while I'm very approachable and easy to talk to (which he stressed is a good thing), that can sometimes come across as a guy who doesn't take things seriously enough.

In his book Heretics, G.K. Chesterton said "the two qualities of fun and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other, they are no more comparable than black and triangular." Meaning you can be both, and not in a state of contradiction.

I strive to be competent and easy-going - I get my work done, and smile while doing it. From what I'm learning about the professional world, that's a rare thing; most managers work inefficiently and grumble about it (not in my workplace, of course!). They are neither fun nor serious.

So the newest item on my "growth plan" is to continue working hard with a smile, but also to make the fruits of my labours obvious. This means taking on some more high-profile projects, and ensuring my direct managers are aware of my efforts.

I think that's a very Catholic approach to work; I have no problem telling my boss about the things I'm doing to improve the workplace. I don't see that as Pride, but rather Humility. A proud person misrepresents his place in the universe - either by too much or too little. A humble person knows exactly where he stands in relation to God, man, and nature, and has no qualms about proclaiming it or keeping it quiet.

For too long I've kept it quiet, which is both career-limiting, and a form of pride. From here on, I will be a very noticable black triangle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Uh-Oh

He changed his layout! Panic!

Oh, wait, nobody reads this.

Testing, 1-2-3... hello, internet? Hello?

How very proud of me, to think the internet cares about my humble blog.
Why Canada has had a Bad Year

In the past year, Canada has legitimized gay state-marriage. Our closest semblance to a conservative party was betrayed by a high-ranking member who crossed the floor to join the corrupt governing party, just in time to save it from a confidence vote that came down to a single member's swing vote. Our socialist party entered an unholy union with the minority government as well, in exchange for a socialist spending spree. And a conservative-minded independent member of Parliament voted with the government to save it from the confidence vote. Our government has been plagued with financial scandals and patronage appointments that, if we were a small African country, would have prompted the Americans to liberate us by now.

It's been a bad year for morality in Canada, and I think I know why.

We went for a whole year without hockey.

Seriously, I think I'm on to something here.

At all hockey games with Canadian teams participating, our national anthem is sung.

Part of the lyrics say, "God keep our land glorious and free." This is, technically, a prayer.

Normally, millions of Canadians, in the arenas and watching at home, will sing the anthem.

Millions of Canadians, last year, did not pray for God to protect Canada.

Thank God hockey's back!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dear Uncle Diogenes...

...from the Off the Record blog at CWNews.com has lamented that paganism is making a comeback in British prisons. An understandable lament.

And yet, my beloved Gilbert Keith Chesterton noted, with some excitement, "Neo-pagans have sometimes forgotten, when they set out to do everything the old pagans did, that the final thing the old pagans did was to get christened."

That excites me too. It's only a matter of time now folks; Western society is getting back on the historical track that led them to embrace Christianity in the first place.

Like I said before, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What kind of Catholic are you?

from an online quiz, link below...


You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

New Catholic


67%

Radical Catholic


67%

Traditional Catholic


62%

Neo-Conservative Catholic


48%

Evangelical Catholic


26%

Lukewarm Catholic


14%

Liberal Catholic


2%

What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm Growing Up

It's true. I'm growing up. I'm closer to my 31st birthday than my 30th, and am finding myself thrust by God into various positions of importance that require sober thought and a professional demeanor.

I'm on the school board, and have suddenly become the Chair of the Personnel Committee. Which means I decide what teachers to hire/not hire. And I decided last night between two very qualified candidates; making one's day (that was fun!), and crushing one's hopes (that wasn't fun.)

It seems that from here on, my path through life will abruptly and drastically affect the lives of those I have no direct connection to. The effect of a ripple caused by a new teacher dripping into the pond of school cannot be predicted.

So yes, I'm growing up. I have to assume accountability for big things now, not just the little things that are relatively easy to control like my soul and my family. Now my decisions affect large portions of society.

Still, as Christ said, "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones." (Luke 16:10) I've tried to be trustworthy and faithful in all I've been given charge of so far, and who am I to utter complaints about growth when Christ says, "Time for more!"

I'm an easygoing fella; I like to relax. I like my free time; I like to sit and stare at my wife in wonder, I like to play dolls with my little girls (as much as I'd prefer to play trucks!), I like to play games with my friends, I like to read and write. I like my comfort zone - it's quite... comfortable. But life happens, and I gotta keep up.

So as I heed this call to growth Lord, and embark on the boring stuff that adults have to do, give me the spiritual vitamins and minerals to make my bones and muscles strong.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"God, deliver me from sullen saints." - St. Theresa of Avila

Tomorrow we celebrate the life and death of this renowned Doctor of the Church. I don't pretend to be an expert on her or any of the saints, but she is one of my favorites.

I like her so much because of her humanity; when her food tasted good, she ate it with zeal, and was known to stand on her head and giggle at the upside-down world. At the same time, she was a profound mystic, prone to overwhelming illness and visions of glory.

My Protestant understanding of "saint" was just somebody who was saved. And I'll even continue to use the term in that sense, provided the "s" is lowercase.

But a Saint, to the Catholic understanding, is someone who the Church has determined beyond the shadow of a doubt is spending eternity in the presence of God. That's why the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael have the title.

That's not to say that everybody that clears the pearly gates is declared a saint; in the litany of saints we ask "all holy men and women" to (insert music here) pra-ay for us. We can't possibly canonize everybody, as we aren't always given the knowledge.

The cries of "Santo Subito!" in St. Peter's Square at John Paul II's funeral reflect the Church's faith/trust/hope in his holiness, which I don't dispute. But I recall hearing about a holy abbot who died: the monks in his abbey, considering his holiness, waived the traditional three masses said for his soul. He reportedly appeared to them and asked why they didn't have the masses said, as he was waiting for the help to get through Purgatory.

We can never know the inner secrets of the soul of another person. That's why God is our judge, and man can only judge his fellow man imperfectly.

Still, knowing my own faults and secrets so well, I hope to be a Saint someday. I long for the opportunity to intercede for my Christian brethren still bound to their mortal form. I don't really care if I'm officially canonized or not; it's not about the glory. Or at least, not about my glory.

I am not perfect. But I desire absolute holiness, and as I progress from vices to veniality to virtue through the choices in my life I am better able to perceive the fruit of that desire.

Lord, make me hungry for more!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Beauty of Natural Family Planning

My wife and I, as all Catholics ought, spurn manufactured methods of pregnancy prevention.

That means no condoms, no pill, no IUD, no etc, etc, etc.

We are very much disturbed by the negative perspective our society has developed towards generating embryonic life. Really - it bothers us a lot.

We have decided to embrace a difficult yet rewarding method of spacing our children (there are no pro-lifers who object to that!). The Church has approved this method, and before you put another word in there, it's not rhythm. What we follow, as the title of this post indicates, is Natural Family Planning.

NFP tracks the physical signs of a woman's fertility to calculate (down to almost the hour) when she is ovulating. That knowledge can be used to conceive or postpone conception. The science of it is taught in classes available around the world, and summarized quite nicely here, so I won't go into those details of it.

My parents (who are not yet Catholic) once told me that they were using birth control when they were first married, but felt a strong urge from the Lord that they weren't being open to his will in so doing. So they stopped. Then, somehow, their to-be first-born was conceived. My parents were stunned when this product of their very Catholic decision (me) decided to embrace the faith whose teachings encouraged his conception. In other words, I see a grand cosmic connection between my parents' decision to trust God's will for their family, and my tremendous sense of home in the Catholic Church.

Polls have shown that there is no discrepancy between Catholics and the general population in use of birth control. Here's my challenge to any Catholic out there who has never heard of this method: try it! It works better, it's better for your marriage, it's better for your soul. It's also quite nice not to have to fiddle with "equipment" when the passion kicks in. And any health nut will tell you how harmful it is to pump your body full of artificial chemicals.

What kind of man wants his wife to render herself infertile? Infertility, up until the last hundred years or so, was considered a curse and a burden. Now, people go through operations to obtain it. That's a sign of progress, I suppose.

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Meditate on the Meaning of the Rosary"

This was an instruction I received for a recent penance. Today is the Feast of our Lady of the Holy Rosary, so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to put something out there.

My first rosary was mailed to me by my girlfriend (now wife) shortly after I decided to become Catholic. It was one she had made with simple plastic beads and nylon string. It didn't survive the trip; my guess is Canada Post accidentally ran over the envelope with a steam roller.

From then on, my rosaries have come from many different sources. I received some from priests, bought some from Catholic stores, made a few, and my current one was made by a co-worker who makes them for the express purpose of giving them away. He doesn't scrimp on his quality either; he uses semi-precious material like hematite and mother-of-pearl. I put a crucifix on this one that has the Stations of the Cross on the back, and I keep it in my pocket in a rosary pouch (really just a sanctified change purse) to prevent tangling.

But what's the purpose of it? I know prayer is good, and I know it's good to meditate on the mysteries of our faith. But why?

We all know that Adam and Eve were created for perfect communion with God. But they rejected him for the lies of the wicked one, and were unable to face God without shame.

Jesus and Mary, by contrast, were created to be Adam and Eve 2.0, so to speak. The Bible calls Jesus the New Adam; the Church calls Mary the New Eve. Both were conceived without the stain of original sin (if you're a Protestant who objects to that, read this, this, and then submit to this).

And yet while they were created without sin, they could have fallen just as Adam and Eve did. Perfection is thus a fragile yet secure state; it can be easily shattered, but with due vigilance it can remain totally impregnable. Their free will was just as present as mine is. So while it seems on the surface that I, a sinner, could never relate to the lives of Jesus and Mary, they are in truth an absolutely perfect model to live by; an examplary, attainable standard.

What then, is the benefit of meditating on them? We are commanded by St. Paul (see verse 8) to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy. The definition of meditate means "to focus one's thoughts on."

So when I meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary, it requires focus. Focus is hard. My job doesn't allow me to focus on something; it requires "multi-tasking" which means that my mind has been trained to focus on a lot of things. But that's an oxymoron; if you're focusing on a lot of things, you're really focusing on none.

In fact, I think the last time I focused on anything was when I put a 1000 piece puzzle together a few months ago. Hobbies, when properly practiced, obtain all of your focus because they are activities that you are genuinely interested in... which implies that a lack of focus on my rosary is due to a lack of genuine interest in it.

That somewhat alarms me.

So how do I generate interest in it? I'm sure that keeping on praying it won't do it, although I don't plan to stop.

Maybe if I look at the things that I do think on, and then apply my problem-fixing-formula...

  1. Find the absolute... focus on the holy
  2. Where am I in relation to it?... focus is on about 10% holy, 85% neutral, 5% unholy
  3. Get to the absolute... I think I'll work on the unholy stuff first.
What is the source of my unholy meditation? TV, and my imagination. Specifically, improper utilization of the procreative gift. Someone once told me the best way to remove bad imagery from your mind is to memorize Scripture; it's seriously the only thing that's been demonstrated to erase the part of the brain that records pornography.

Been a while since I've memorized some Scripture.

It's true what they say about Catholics vs. Protestants: Catholics don't read the Bible near as much. It's partly because Holy Scripture isn't the core "meat and potatoes" of the faith; that's the Sacraments. But meat and potatoes are no good without some veggies... and I'm a big believer in consuming all the spiritual food groups.

So it's settled... to help me delve more eagerly into the Rosary, I will memorize more Scripture.

Who have thought I'd ever utter words like that?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Very Special Day

Today, October 5th, is important to me for a lot of reasons.

First of all, it's my mother's birthday - happy birthday Mom! I love you!

Second, it's the day that hockey returns! Go Sens Go! Let me just say right now, at the beginning of the season, that I've been an Ottawa Senators fan every since I started liking hockey, and I've stuck with them through all their rough years and playoff choking. This is our year, baby. Leafs fans, get out your Kleenex!

Ahem. Calming down now...

Third, we celebrate St. Luigi Scrosoppi today. Check out this snippet on his canonization from the archives at Zenit.org:

Doctors in 1996 had given up hope for Peter Changu Shitima, an AIDS patient from Zambia.

The young catechist was suffering from neuritis, an inflammation of the nerves. He often felt cold and exhausted and had troubling hearing and seeing.

HIV-positive, his prospects were not good. "We believed he was in the terminal phase," Dr. Pete du Toit later testified.

But Changu did not give up hope. He and the Catholic community of Oudtshoorn, South Africa, where he lived, started praying for the intercession of Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi, of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. Changu was a student with the Oratory in Oudtshoorn.

The prayers worked: Changu had what his doctors called a miraculous recovery.

... Father John Newton Johnson, the Oratory's superior, later wrote in the minutes of the canonization process, the domain of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, that Changu "began to feel faint and complained that he was tired. I thought it was simply exhaustion. Then we thought it might be a severe cold or influenza. Then the process accelerated. Dr. Pete du Toit told us that we should take him to the hospital."

Du Toit, a South African, declared for the process of canonization that "daily Dr. Johannes Le Roux, my assistant, and I, took care of Peter Changu Shitima when he entered hospital on June 8, until August 14, 1996. This can be verified by the hospital notes. ... We believed he was in the terminal phase and, given the opinion that there was nothing to be done medically to cure him, I consulted Dr. Foster, who examined him once and concluded that he was a terminal patient."

"Then we all agreed to send him to Zambia so that he could spend his last days with his family," du Toit's testimony continues. "He understood that he was about to die."

Changu, who by now could scarcely lift his legs and had developed a serious form of peripheral neuritis, recalled: "Before going into hospital, I did not take it seriously, I thought I would recover. Then, once in hospital, I felt the impact."

"When the doctor told me what I had, I was destroyed," he said. "But I thought the only thing I could do was to pray and ask God for strength. I prayed to Luigi Scrosoppi and I told him that I would either die or be cured through his intercession, if it was the Lord's will."

The Catholic community of Oudtshoorn, near Capetown, also began to pray to Blessed Scrosoppi [1804-1884] on Changu's behalf.

On the night of Oct. 9, 1996, Changu went to bed as normal. During the night he dreamed of Scrosoppi. The next morning Changu woke up feeling extraordinarily well.

"I got up and went to work immediately in the parish," he later said during the canonization process. "I was hungry, and I walked until I arrived in a village that was quite far away."

Hoping to return as soon as possible to Oudtshoorn, Changu sent a letter to Father Johnson, the superior at the Oratory, to tell him he was cured.

The doctors Le Roux and du Toit, both non-Catholics who had extensive experience in cases of AIDS patients, did not hesitate to use the term "miracle" in describing Changu's recovery.

Le Roux said: "He was a terminal patient and, in a couple of months, he was cured. If there was another reason, totally different from neuritis, then a person could be cured. However, not only did he have neuritis, he had lost some 22 kilos, suffered from fever and other dysfunctions. The blood analysis shows that he is still positive with the HIV virus, but, in my opinion, it is a miracle. We thought he was going to die and, to be honest, he is very well now."

Du Toit made this statement: "Months later, someone told me Changu was better. I told myself this was impossible. I was astounded. I thought it was a mistake. When he returned, I asked him to come for examinations. I made blood analyses again in February and March after his return. I was astounded. Changu had been cured of the disease, of the neuritis that was killing him, because of AIDS. I cannot explain this scientifically."

The doctor concluded: "Changu is an authentic example of a miraculous cure."

I believe in the communion of saints - that great cloud of witnesses - what company to be in!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quality vs. Quantity

More and more I'm hearing journalists "concerned" about diminishing numbers of priests in Catholic churches throughout the First World.

Examples:
  • MSNBC, Apr/05: "Still, despite [Pope John Paul II's] widespread appeal, he could not ease one of the church's most urgent problems: the shortage of priests."
  • USA Today, Nov/04: "Today there are fewer parishes and fewer priests than in 1990 and fewer of the nation's 65 million Catholics in those pews. And there's no sign of return."
  • NCR, Oct/03: "..by 2010 the number of active diocesan clergy (just over 15,000) will be less than [America's] 19,000 parishes."
  • CNN.com, Jun/00: "In 1999, more U.S. priests died than were ordained."
And then there are comments such as this, from an email (originating from a bishop) regarding the then-impending ban on accepting homosexuals into seminary [obtained by blogger Diogenes at Catholic World News - but I have no idea how...]:

"MY intention would be simply to ask the question what he intends doing with those priests, bishops (possibly 'like me') and cardinals (and I might as well put in popes) who are gay."

I've quoted one of the more polite snippets from the bishop's comments. He is responding here to an email from a priest, who had commented on the coming document:

"
...surprise, surprise, it bans homosexuals from entry into religious life or the taking of Orders - what other horrors they contemplate against about 75% of the clergy I shudder to contemplate."

It breaks my heart to think that there are any priests, bishops, or cardinals who openly flaunt the teachings of the Church in this manner. It also breaks my heart to know that there are priests and upwards who think that three-quarters of their clerical brethren are just as depraved as they are.

I know my priest is a good one - he's Polish, and was confirmed, taught, and ordained by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow - perhaps you've heard of him?

And I've met plenty of incredible priests; particularly those associated with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa, where I fully embraced Catholicism.

Companions of the Cross Logo

It's the emergence of communities like this one that reassure me that God hasn't given up on his Church. Each year, the Companions have to turn away applicants to the seminary due to lack of space.

What a problem to have, eh?

It's gonna take a while to replace our clergy who have been ensnared in their liberation, and I can wait. The good news with our "priest shortage" is that we also seem to have a "faithful shortage" - since most people who associate themselves with the Catholic Church are completely ignorant of all the theology that distinguishes us from Honest Joe's Used Evangelical Church down the street.

In all humility, I'll now quote a thought that came into my head during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament one night many years ago:

This body, this blood, it is the heart of this church. When the wind and waves whip away all that does not matter, you will see this sacred heart clung to with fervor and peace by a faithful few.

And I'm also comforted by the words of our beloved Benedict, taken from the homily of the Mass which opened the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme of the Eucharist: "God waits for us. He wants us to love Him: Should not such a call touch our hearts? Precisely in this hour, in which we celebrate the Eucharist, in which we open the Synod on the Eucharist, He comes to meet us, He comes to meet me. Will he find a response?"

I pray that he does.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Need a Revival

Did you ever get those moments when you can really feel the work of God in your life? When the new springtime of the Church is sprouting up life abundantly, and you are filled with a sublime peace despite all the world's woe?

I have.

But it's been a while.

Traditionally, these dry spells in one's walk are what I have heard referred to as "the desert." There isn't much in the way of life around, and the air itself seems parched with thirst.

About a month ago, we moved (a mere 5 min drive from our previous house, to be closer to school), and since that bit of turmoil, our prayer life has diminished significantly.

We used to do a daily Rosary, my wife and I, but I think we've fingered the beads about 3 times under the new roof. We used to do the Liturgy of the Hours Evening Prayers (or at least Night Prayers) with our children at bedtime, in addition to their "kid prayers." But that's been relatively rare recently too. I had just gotten into the habit of starting the day off with Morning Prayers too, but I don't think I've done that at all in the new place.

Yeah, the move tired us out, and yeah, we had the additional stress of our eldest starting school, and yeah, there are a million excuses. None of which, I'm sure, would carry any weight before the Judge.

Inasmuch as I do need to revive my prayer life and get reconnected to Christ, I'm under no illusion about using emotions as a spiritual litmus test. I went through a phase, as do most Christians during their maturation process, where I believed if I didn't feel a tingle in my spine that the Holy Spirit wasn't really working in me. There was a time when I believed that when I wasn't happy, that God wasn't happy with me.

How arrogant was that! To think that God's mood was dependent on mine!

So while I acknowledge that I'm in a desert, that doesn't mean that there can be no fruit here. Even the cactus flowers. So I apply my problem solving technique: find the absolute (profound communion with Christ), evaluate where I am in relation to it (somewhat lacking), and change where I am (the hard part).

I'll be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation via my priest this weekend, and traditionally his advice has been to pray: somewhat of a cliche, but true nonetheless. So in anticipation of his penance, I will pray starting now.

A long time ago, back in my Protestant days, someone told me the best prayer you can make for yourself or for somebody else is to petition for an increased hunger for God. So in the off chance that God should happen to read my blog (hey, who put my tongue in my cheek?), that is my prayer, Lord - cause my hunger for you to grow.

Monday, September 26, 2005

True, True, True #2

A review of Edward Green's book "Rethinking AIDS Prevention" on Zenit.org reveals the following interesting tidbit:

"...the African countries with the highest condom user rates and numbers of condoms available, Zimbabwe and Botswana, also rank at the top of the list for rates of HIV infection."

As Spock said, "Fascinating." Who would have thought that a disease spread mostly through easy sex is more abundant in regions that promote easy sex? The shallow logic that "condoms prevent AIDS" can't see that far into the moral equation.

Check out the whole review, and if possible, read the book... I plan on hunting it down.

This is an issue near and dear to my heart; I spent a lot of time promoting chastity and marital fidelity with my Challenge Team tours. We didn't promote condom use, or any other articifical method of preventing pregnancy or disease transmission.

Our message, derived in large part from the message of the Church, was simple: if you want the best guarantee to a safe & pleasant sexual experience, save it for marriage.

I recall an article on AIDS in Africa that I read in Scientific American a few years ago, in which the author used the word "condom" some 40 times, and mentioned the concept of chastity only twice.

The ultimate problem with AIDS transmission in Africa, and elsewhere, is that there is a culture of disrespect for sexuality in general, and for women in particular. What better way to stem that than to promote an alteration of lifestyle towards the absolute standard of Purity?

That idea is an overlooked element to most attempts at problem solving in today's world: find the absolute, evaluate where you are in relation to it, and change where you are. In the fight against AIDS, that means encouraging proper use of sexuality.

Kudos to Uganda for reducing the AIDS epidemic by encouraging chastity among its populace... something the amoral man can only understand as "partner reduction." But if I decided to eat only healthy food and somebody said that I had implemented "unhealthy food reduction," would you really think I had stopped eating unhealthy food? As Rush Limbaugh's Undeniable Truth #34 says: Words mean things.
A Parent's Worst Nightmare

This morning my wife woke me, saying she couldn't find our eldest daughter (5 years old) anywhere in the house.

I won't keep you in suspense: we found her, eventually.

Until we did, we looked everywhere - under beds, in closets, in the basement, in the attic, outside. We checked all the windows for signs of forced entry, and began to mildly panic. We even called the police.

After about 30 min, our second daughter (3 years old) announced she found her. She was curled up in a relatively small wicker basket in the corner of our living room where we keep some cozy blankets for couch-snuggling, and had covered herself with one of the blankets.

When I lifted it off her, she had a mischievous smile on her face; I thanked the police dispatch lady and hung up.

Wow. Did she ever get a lecture!

What a scary situation that could have been... You try not to imagine what some sicko could be doing to your kid, but that's not easy to do.

I literally thank God I don't have to live that nightmare out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I Believe in the Resurrection but This is Ridiculous

From Zenit.org: "Benedict XIV, at the end of the general audience Sept. 14, encouraged..."

A few days ago I saw another site refer to "Pope Benedict XV."

Attention all reporters & editors confused by Roman numerals: visit here for a refresher.

Benedicts 14 and 15, to my knowledge, have yet to be resurrected.
Posted IX-XXIII-MMV

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For Ryan

Ryan, a cow-orker (*) asked me to write about him. Everybody wants their name in lights these days. :)

He said that I could say that I'm working on converting him, because he's full of sin and evil.

True, I am working on showing him the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church. True, he is full of sin and evil.

So am I though - I'm under no illusions about my own fallen state.

But God loved me enough to woo me in, and his love for Ryan is no less.

That's the main reason I keep this blog: I want other Protestants out there to know that I have found a deeper truth. I was no lukewarm Christian, either. I prayed and read the Bible every day, I tithed at church, I went to Bible College, I evangelized my peers, I walked the walk and talked the talk.

I felt enormously cheated when I found out that I had been living an incomplete variation on an ancient faith. This variation was historically recent and blind in one eye, with a passively aggressive attitude towards Rome. We "protest," after all. We must be angry about something.

Not that the criticisms of the Reformation era were invalid, but the devil sure ran with them to chop up the Church.

And so I blog on - for Ryan, and anybody else who is directed to this site through the workings of Google or the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I Missed my Calling as a Greeting Card Writer...

...because I can come up with something like this in 5 seconds:

Fun should never be a goal... [open the card] ...merely an unavoidable byproduct of real friendship. [cute graphic of two teddy bears on a swingset]

In real life, I'm not actually that sappy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

True, True, True #1

Brian Saint-Paul scribes some heavy truth in Explaining Away the Young (that's from September; if the link doesn't take you to that article, look under More Columns at the bottom), specifically about the "magnetic quality of truth."

In summary, he says that the reason that young people are being drawn to orthodox Catholicism and are rejecting the aging liberal movement is because truth matters to them. They have seen the previous generation decay with lax spirituality, and have decided that's not for them.

I couldn't agree more. That's why I converted. The appeal of absolute truth is, not ironically, absolute.

The Free Methodist church I grew up in, back in Estevan, Saskatchewan, went through a pretty rough period when I was about 10. Many families in the church left for other places of worship to escape the turmoil, and in like manner, I recall visiting some other evangelical-type churches in town with my family. After one service at the Alliance Church, my folks asked what we thought of it. I remember expressing frustration at the concept of even looking for a different church. "When I get bigger," I said, "I'm going to become a pastor and start my own church. Everybody can come there and all believe the same things, and I'll call it the... United Church."

My dad looked at me with a sort of sadness in his eyes, and said, "Son, somebody already tried that."

It was another 10 years or so before the concept of the real United Church - the Universal Church - the Catholic Church, made itself known to me.

Just like the parable (Matt. 13:44,45) of the man who found a treasure buried in a field and sold everything to buy the field, I had no trouble making my decision. I was willing to accept the metaphorical mud, weeds, and snakes that had crept into the Roman Catholic Field for the treasure of absolute truth.

Who am I to interpret truth? "Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth." (Job 40:4) Am I holier or wiser than the saints and scholars who have lived the Catholic faith for 2000 years? Can I do better at embracing and expounding the Truth than they did? Will the Holy Spirit lead me into truth more than he did them, or can his leadership be perceived as submitting to their authority? Did Christ leave us a Church as a group of people to have potluck suppers with, or as a sanctuary of trust for the Holy Banquet of the Eucharist?

My answer to those questions lies in my choice to become Catholic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Best Movie of All Time is...

...or at least, one of my top ten favorites... Mystery Men! It won't surprise me if you haven't heard of it.



Hollywood has been less and less able to satisfy my appetite for quality entertainment, usually because they have to throw in at least one scene of tawdry debauchery.

Sadly, this movie has one or two such scenes, but it's of such ample quality otherwise, that the missing morality doesn't detract from it sufficiently to move it off my list.

This movie slipped under a lot of radars, despite its star power: Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, Geoffrey Rush. Never thought you'd see a cast like that, eh?

I won't spoil it, but I'll give a basic plot overview: Greg Kinnear plays Captain Amazing, who is the Superman/Batman/Captain America type superhero of Champion City. He's getting a little too old, and is quite full of himself, and has already defeated and locked up every supervillian he has faced. So, in an attempt to return to his glory days, he secures the release of one of them, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), who turns out to be a little more than Captain Amazing can handle this time.

The Mystery Men - the quintessential wannabees who have some superpowers, albeit rather narrow ones - attempt to organize a rescue mission.

The great thing about this movie is that it doesn't make fun of itself; despite its absurd pretense - that people can have superpowers - it presents itself as a regular movie. There is some poking fun at the superhero mythos (in the same way Shrek pokes fun at the fairy tale mythos), but the movie doesn't try to come across as fake. The Mystery Men don't sit around in a fortress watching a crisis monitor; they have regular jobs and problems with their families.

And there's a real moral to the story too, which I also won't spoil.

And I'm not the only one who had an opinion on it...

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 61%!
Ebert & Roeper gave it one thumb up!
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (a great site for reviewing movies from a faith perspective!) said it was "Dopey... kooky... chaotic... toilet humor..."

Well, not everyone shares my taste.

Some of my other favorite movies:

Tears of the Sun
About Schmidt
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Life Is Beautiful
Anything with "Star Trek" in the title
Story Of Us

As I think of/see more, I may add to this list.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Good Stuff

(Today is The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

After viewing the ads that Google AdSense has put on my site, it occurs to me that in constantly decrying what is false and speaking against what I don't believe in, I'm defining my worldview by what it is not.

So to balance that, I wish to post some of my perspectives on life to give a more positive picture.

I am a conservative. In Canada, our two main political parties title themselves by their ideologies, which should make things easier, but in reality the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party agree on most issues which normally divide conservative voters from liberal ones (public health care, not running a deficit, social spending up the wazoo, etc). So true conservatives in Canada have no real place to call home, insofar as party membership is concerned. I'm one of those rare Canadians with a fridge magnet that says "Proud to be a Republican" (courtesy of a friend who moved to the States to work for Crisis).

G.K. Chesterton commented that "all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution." To conserve something requires therefore an active effort; the status quo will never remain as the default. The universe and its components, by their elemental nature, move from a state of order to disorder; from calm to chaos. This applies to the physical and sociological world.

But Christ is the ultimate renewer. He is the source of life and the fountain of goodness, and by his eternal (meaning "present-in-every-moment") sacrifice on the cross, he brings all things to the Father in himself. He is the supreme conservative, the supreme conserver.

Did you ever notice that world history runs in cycles? Every empire rises and falls, every movement starts and ends, every philosophy is accepted then rejected, every discovery heralded then deplored. And then it all happens again. As I often meditate while showering, "Shampoo, rinse, repeat." There is no end to the cycle. Ecclesiastes 1:9 - "What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun."
But Christ is not a cycle: he is a constant; he is the constant. Jesus remains, and he provides life to his Church.

That's why I live my life with the standards I do: because God cares.

The other day I withdrew $300 from my bank account, but the machine gave me $320. You wouldn't believe the amazed look on the teller's face when I came in to give it back. I'm not trying to brag about my honesty; it just baffles me that most people wouldn't return the extra money. That $20 wasn't mine; I didn't earn it, and the bank didn't owe me anything (although I had to wait 10 minutes to see the teller!). The bank lady said that if I were simply to have taken it, they would have had no way of knowing who it went to. I replied, "But I would." Sure I was raised well, but a bad upbringing is no excuse for unholiness.

I strive for holiness so I can be near to God; purity is a prerequisite for proximity to the Creator. His presence itself is a purging flame, and only those who have been redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the cross can withstand it, and they rejoice - a.k.a. Heaven. The Catholic understanding of Purgatory is simply a drawing near to him, enduring the searing pain of separation from worldly attachments, with the inevitable destination being Heaven. Even Hell itself won't be a physical separation from God, but rather having to abide his universal presence, with no place to hide, while in an unredeemable state; what will make Hell hell is the agony of being unable to exult in his glorious presence.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Magic Amulet Around My Neck

When I was attending Aldersgate College, our Church History class took a field trip to St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan. This little abbey has about 30 monks who live by the Rule of St. Benedict, and there is a beautiful old wooden church nearby that has paintings that rival the cathedrals in old Europe (in all things but scale). Of course, as a Free Methodist, I didn't really get a sense of what was happening there, but it was a memorable experience.

After my conversion years later, when I lived in Ottawa, I discovered that my roommate was also from Saskatchewan, and his uncle happened to be the abbot of that very abbey. You know how life has these moments where something happens and suddenly you can see the circle of God's plan that brought you to that point?

This was one of those moments that solidified my conviction that God really wanted me to be a Catholic, and that he had been dropping hints all my life.

My roommate obtained for me a St. Benedict medal that he got his uncle to bless. It's a good solid one, larger than a quarter, and it doesn't feel like pressed tinfoil like some of the cheap medals out there.



I wear this medal around my neck and always keep it outside my clothing, unlike my crucifix and Miraculous Medal. Among the many uses of the St. Benedict medal are exorcism and resistance to temptation - so I figure if the "evil spirits that wander now throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls" are scared of this thing, I might as well show it to them. Usually it keeps them at bay.

But if one of the fallen ones gets brave enough to toss a bad idea my way, I find it's a great help to grasp the medal and whisper the translation of the Latin prayer abbreviated on it: "Begone, Satan! Suggest not to me thy vain things! The cup thou profferest me is evil. Drink thou thy poison!" [Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!]

Check out this site for more info on the medal.