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


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.