Thursday, December 31, 2009

God Rest His Soul

I'll be heading to the Midwest tomorrow for the express purpose of saying goodbye to my father, Cecil, who died today at the age of 90.

He was married at seventeen; a father at eighteen. He went to college full-time, worked simultaneously to support his growing family, and heard the call to the ordained ministry. Ordained an Evangelical United Brethren pastor, he became an United Methodist pastor when the two denominations merged in 1968.

He dutifully and lovingly brought up my sisters and brothers as Bible-believing Christians to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves. We memorized the names of the books of the (Protestant) Bible and scores of scripture passages, so that our cognizant minds were littered and haunted by Sacred Scripture. All five of us strayed, but all returned to faith in Jesus as Our Lord.

His devotion to God's Kingdom was unflagging; his willingness to preach the Gospel in season and out embarrassingly steadfast; his disagreement with my conversion to Catholicism tolerating and loving, if comprehending not. If anything, the virtues became more and more evident in his life the older and feebler he became.

He took us to cool places on camping vacations, like Yellowstone's Old Faithful (cf. photo above). He never earned more than $20,000 a year in all of his years, yet we never went without, never felt we were poor. He never was in debt.

He was part of what Brokaw called "the greatest generation." We will not see the likes of them - or him - again.

My Father + Requiescat in pace

Saturday Night Devotions - Right After Bath Time

I would appreciate your prayers for the repose of my father, Cecil. He lived to see the birth of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

Getting Real

For the Record: Representative Sue Myrick's Beyond Terrorism – The Whole Story.

Too: What Would Israel Do?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jacoby - Snooze Button Warning

Kudos to Gil Bailie for tipping me off to Jeff Jacoby's insights:
  • Terrorism isn't caused by poverty and ignorance. Abdulmutallab came from a wealthy and privileged family, and had studied at one of Britain's top universities. He wasn't trying to kill hundreds of Americans out of socioeconomic despair. Like the 9/11 hijackers and countless other jihadists, Abdulmutallab was motivated by ideological and religious fanaticism. The teachings of militant Islam may seem monstrous to outsiders, but that is no reason to doubt that their adherents genuinely believe them, or that by giving their lives for jihad they hope to change the world.
  • The global jihad is real. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was widely derided for initially insisting that Flight 253 wasn't blown up in mid-air because "the system worked" and "the whole process went very smoothly." Far more troubling, however, was her effort to downplay the suggestion that Abdulmutallab's attempted attack was "part of anything larger" -- this even after he had terrorist acknowledged his ties to al-Qaeda. Of course Abdulmutallab is part of something larger: He is part of the global jihad -- the relentless assault by Islamist radicals whose deadly serious goal is the submission of America and the West to Islamic law. If government officials like Napolitano cannot bring themselves to speak plainly about the jihadists' ambitions, how will they ever succeed in crushing them?
  • Terrorists can always adapt to new restrictions. After 9/11, knives and sharp metal objects were banned from carry-on luggage, so Richard Reid attempted to detonate a shoe bomb. Thereafter everyone's shoes were checked, so the 2006 Heathrow plotters planned to use liquid-based explosives. Now liquids are strictly limited, so Abdulmutallab smuggled PETN, an explosive powder, in his underwear. There is no physical constraint that determined jihadists cannot find a way to circumvent. Yet US airport security remains obstinately reactive -- focused on intercepting dangerous things, instead of intercepting dangerous people. Unwilling to incorporate ethnic and religious profiling in our air-travel security procedures, we have saddled ourselves with a mediocre security system that inconveniences everyone while protecting no one.
  • The Patriot Act was not a reckless overreaction. Security in a post 9/11 world has not come from pressing a "reset button," sending Guantanamo inmates off to Yemen, or refusing to use terms like "war on terrorism." It has come from stepped-up surveillance and stronger intelligence-gathering tools, and from working to pre-empt terror attacks in advance, rather than prosecuting them after the fact. Congress was not out of its mind when it enacted the Patriot Act in 2001, and the Bush administration was not trampling the Constitution when it deployed the expanded powers the law gave it: They were trying to prevent another 9/11 -- and they succeeded. President Obama has repeatedly and ostentatiously criticized his predecessor's approach. Perhaps it is not just a coincidence that Obama's first year in office has also seen an unprecedented surge in terrorist threats on US soil..MORE>>

St. Egwin

You say you’re not familiar with today’s saint? Chances are you aren’t—unless you’re especially informed about Benedictine bishops who established monasteries in medieval England.

Born of royal blood in the 7th century, Egwin entered a monastery and was enthusiastically received by royalty, clergy and the people as the bishop of Worcester, England. As a bishop he was known as a protector of orphans and the widowed and a fair judge. Who could argue with that?

His popularity didn’t hold up among members of the clergy, however. They saw him as overly strict, while he felt he was simply trying to correct abuses and impose appropriate disciplines. Bitter resentments arose, and Egwin made his way to Rome to present his case to Pope Constantine. The case against Egwin was examined and annulled.

Upon his return to England, he founded Evesham Abbey (dissolved by Henry VIII in1540), which became one of the great Benedictine houses of medieval England. It was dedicated to Mary, who had reportedly made it known to Egwin just where a church should be built in her honor.

He died at the abbey on December 30, in the year 717. Following his burial many miracles were attributed to him: The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the sick were healed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

6th Day of Christmas

27th Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage, 2009 - See more photos here

To the untrained eye, the world of humanity is divided into two groups. Group (1) is comprised of those who look back with nostalgia and attempt to conserve what is salvageable. They generally do not trust human judgment, even their own. These are called reactionary by group (2). The other group, group (2), are those who spurn the past and look forward with great hope in the power of humans to change things for the better. They are ready to jettison tradition and believe that if they can get group (1) out of the way, the world will soon take a turn for the better. They are usually called hubris-filled by group (1).

Group (1) will often take great nostalgic pride in country, land, and other human institutions (monarchy, democracy, etc.). Group (2), if one scratches deeply enough, will often be seen taking part in to be what René Girard calls "negative imitation;" that is, what one might sum up in the converse of the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side." In this case, group (2) thinks that whatever group (1) says, believes, thinks is wrong, bad, worthy of contempt and, therefore, must be stifled, suppressed, stymied and/or destroyed.

After a while, group (1) begins to imitate this belief of group (2), and the model/rival swirl of contempt becomes a hideous dance of death.

All of this is a shallow explanation of what René Girard correctly calls the problem of the doubles, or double bind. It is obvious when one isn't caught in such a doubling rivalry, but when one
IS - and every single one of us is susceptible to it at one time or another - there is not any extreme one will not go to prove, logically, coherently, incontrovertibly, that one's side is "right" and the other group "wrong". The most powerful PhDs occupy both sides of this dance of death, and use their considerable powers of ratiocination in the service of their side.

You have pegged the usual suspects here, haven't you? Of course you have. Group (1)'s nostalgia for past greatness and group (2)'s hope for the future in human community are not bad in and of themselves. However, both are hopeless and doomed to failure without help from outside, beyond, mere human torpitude .

The good news? I say this not as an immortal being who is above such human funny business, but as one who found his way to an Alternative (or, more mysteriously,
got found and was graciously hoisted toward the Alternative).

The Alternative is not made up of infallible individuals, but fallen persons like those comprising groups (1) and (2). There is "one, holy ... and apostolic" Body
not of human origin that continues to stride through human funny business and history worthy of all of our allegiance and honor and praise.

It and It alone produced all that we love most about the past. And if we look to times before Its founding (ancient Greece, etc.), we can be certain that Its Founder was sowing seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty there too.
Yes, I speak of the Catholic Church. If you love England, it is the noblest and most honorable of the "old religion" that made what you love possible (cf. Hilaire Belloc's works, as well as those, more recently, of Eamon Duffy). If you love the great holy days of the calendar, know that these, too, would not exist without the vibrant liturgy and sacramental grace of Mother Church's magisterium.

Everything else is downstream.
There is abundant life beyond the futility of group (1) and group (2). Christ our Lord has made It possible. And everything that you love most that those two sad try and fail to deliver already IS in the Church that Our Lord has promised to sustain until He comes again.

"Put not your trust in princes..."

Cusack - Chartres Pilgrimage

Young Andrew Cusack provides commentary and a photomontage of the 2009 Paris-Chartres pilgrimage back at Pentecost. I find it rousing to see so many young people taking part in this event. Enjoy.

5th Day of Christmas - Becket

Lighting Candles

One at a time.
You could call it something of a religious trifecta for Marjana Mair.

The soldier from Albany was among seven service members with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade who just six days before Christmas were confirmed as Catholics while serving in Iraq. 1st Lt. Mair was also baptized and received her first communion.

She was a Muslim for many years but wanted to become Catholic after studying the faith.

"I grew up (Muslim) for 18 years, but when I started studying (Catholicism) I found I related to it ... there was something beautiful about it and I wanted to be part of it," Mair said.

Welcome home.

Now, Try to Close It

"They should have seen this coming," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who had opposed extending benefits to gays. "It's a Pandora's box."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents

4th Day of Christmas

I don't ask you to watch this very long. It is embarrassing. It is akin to Genesis 11 and what happens to those proudly building the Tower of Babel, or the Belbury crew in That Hideous Strength. Discern for yourself.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family

The Holy Family (1506) - Michelangelo

Reflection for Feast of Holy Family Year C

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, DEC. 22, 2009 ( In the afterglow of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, inviting the faithful to reflect on the gift and mystery of life, and in particular the blessing of family.

[ ... ]

The words of Pope Paul VI spoken in Nazareth on Jan. 5, 1964, are a beautiful reflection on the mystery of Nazareth and of the Holy Family. His words inspire all of us to imitate God's family in their beautiful values of silence, family life and work.

He said: "Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ's life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God's Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning.

"And gradually we may even learn to imitate him. Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. [...]

"First we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset, as we are, by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God's inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God..More>>

3rd Day of Christmas

O Lady Fair the best of our race,
You among women were closest to Him
Who chose You His mother to be,
We cannot gainsay Your fullness of grace
Whose unholy desires must look to You grim
Yet hornéd and bestial You draw unto Thee