Monday, July 30, 2007

The Free Market Speaks!

Ayn Rand on the Pro-Life movement:

"I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object...Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life."

— Ayn Rand

This is a pretty crass analysis by Rand, but it shows that it is Capitalism, not Socialism, that is ontologically materialistic. Perhaps the most treacherous false path that mankind has ever gone down is belief in the notion that Socialism can be successful as a materialist philosophy. A materialist world outlook will undermine any form of Socialism from within, just as surely as Capitalism ultimately forces a materialist world-view and undermines the spirituality of any society that embraces it philosophically.

The task before us is plain: take Socialism away from Marx and give it back to Jesus!

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Absolutely Stunning Admission

There are no homosexual people, only homosexual acts.
— Gore Vidal

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We All Worship the Same God?

You know, I always wondered how to answer people who said “It doesn’t matter what religion you are — we all worship the same God.” And then I heard this parable:

One day a man went into Macy’s and tried to buy some sox with a bogus twenty dollar bill. The salesgirl spotted that the money was counterfeit immediately and notified her manager, who then notified the police. When the police came and searched the man they found $50,000 in counterfeit twenties, so they clapped the cuffs on him and began to march him off to the station. But on the way out he began to point at another customer buying sox and asked, “Aren’t you going to arrest him?”

“Why should be arrest him,” the policeman asked, “He’s using real money?”

“But it’s the same sox!” the counterfeiter insisted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Simple Miracles Of A Guileless Age

Upon hearing the wonderful news that my friend was soon to be heavy with child, I was moved to take action by selecting a saint known to patronize the enceinte and asking for his special attention. Going through a list in my Catholic Encyclopedia I soon enough found a boon companion for her: Saint Ulrich of Augsburg, a simple and unprepossessing abbot and bishop from the dark, early days of the Western resurgence that began with Saint Carlos Magnus.

Ulrich fit a pattern of the day. An educated man of the gentry, pious from early youth, who wished no more than to withdraw to a monastery and live in contemplation of the divine, instead called to lead and protect his people until finally, overcome by eld, he is allowed to live out his wish and retire from the world. Showing early talent, he became both abbot of the cathedral cannons and Bishop of Augsburg. As bishop, he was conscientious in the carrying out of his duties. Each day he visited the hospital, washed the feet of a dozen paupers, distributed alms. As an important bishop he could not help but be involved in the affairs of the state and here too he was a peace-maker, brokering the reconciliation between the Emperor Otto and his estranged son Duke Ludolf of Swabia. When Augsburg was besieged by the Magyars in AD 955 he rallied the people to hold out against the heathen enemy, which they did, and when, during the siege, his cathedral burnt to the ground, he immediately caused a new structure to be built from scraps of lumber such that not a single day might pass without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being said. Years later, when he felt death to be near, he had the monks of the Benedictine Abbey where he had retired sprinkle ashes upon the ground in the shape of a cross and sing the Psalms.
Whereupon, he laid down upon this cross and waited for death.

This is a good and pious life, but what really intrigued me was one particular miracle associated with him. One night a weary traveler came to the abbey of Augsburg where he was met by the abbot himself, Ulrich, who promptly gave him a leg of mutton to eat and sent him off to a monk’s cell to rest. Immediately, the exhausted traveler fell asleep. Upon awakening, the traveler cursed his luck, for it was now Friday morning and he was forbidden by Church law to eat the mutton. Miraculously, however, he found that the leg of mutton had turned into a fish during the night which he promptly consumed.

[As a footnote, it is unrecorded that the mint jelly accompanying the mutton turned into tartar sauce, but my faith is sufficient not to doubt that this corollary miracle also occurred!]

W hat a terrific miracle!
Sure, sometimes doctors can cure cancer, and we did put a man on the moon, but no doctor or rocket scientist can turn a leg of mutton into a fish! Ever!

Of course, this is the kind of miracle that moderns scoff at. My son (of little faith!) suggests that someone substituted a perfectly ordinary river trout for the leg of mutton sometime before 11:59 on the night in question and then consumed the leg himself. Others might say that with all the suffering abroad in the difficult tenth century of the Christian Era, the good saint might have put his miracle working to something more beneficial such as curing typhus, mending the lame, or ameliorating the frequent crop failures. Protestants are quick to point out that the prohibition of consuming meat on Fridays is mere “superstition” and that the good abbot could just as easily have given the famished traveler a dispensation to gorge himself on flesh despite it being the weekly remembrance of Our Lord’s crucifixion and death.

But these objections point up why I love this particular miracle. People of that benighted age were reconciled to the travails of the flesh, to the inevitability of disease, eld, death, and routine invasions by barbarians. Women were expected to die in childbirth, children were counted as lucky if the lived to adulthood, men accepted it as their lot to be exhausted and broken by constant toil. They offered these sufferings up to God, confident that he had suffered as much for them. But they expected their saints to show heroic virtue. And it is wonderful that Saint Ulric’s hospitality should not only be heroic, but be miraculous! The good saint not only took in the stranger, fed him, and gave him shelter — he insured that the food would remain good even on a day of abstinence from flesh! Can you imagine the talk in Augsburg that day? How the people must have marveled and rejoiced at the hospitality, how reassuring was their satisfaction of having so saintly a bishop, the wonderful frisson of humor at the marvel of flesh turned into fish. Who but an asshole would have scoffed at such a miraculous jape? (I challenge you: name a brighter spot in the tenth century!)

The miracles of the much maligned “Middle Ages” are almost always practical, fleshy, even carnally satisfying. Our Lady was not content to give the scheme of the Rosary to Saint Dominic in a vision — NO! she came down to present both Dominic and Saint Hyacinth with Rosaries of their own to keep. Saint Catherine of Sienna was not merely given the curse of Stigmata and the insight of cardiognosis (which is denied to the Angels), she was also permitted to nurse at the very breast of Mary Immaculate. Saint Carlos Magnus was not merely given the Charism of Saint Ambrose, he was given such modesty that he though there to be nothing extraordinary about this extra ordinary ability. And when a drunken lout known as “Noddo” publicly doubted the chastity of Saint Arnulf of Metzhis pants caught fire!

The mediæval saints are wildly colorful in a way that our modern saints are not. A sense of humor has always been a mark of sainthood. Think of the last words of Saint Lawrence who, while being roasted on a gridiron, said to the Roman soldiers, “I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat.” Despite hearing from Bishop Kane, who chanced to have lunch with her once, that Mother Theresa of Calcutta was the “funniest woman he’d ever met,” our saints of today are never thought even to smile. Our image (and undoubtedly this is false) of Pius X, Maximillian Kolbe, and yes, Mother Theresa, is one of a dourly heroic virtue. This is not the popular image of saints in the mediæval era with their mystical ecstasies, nonchalant miracles, and perverse eccentricities. Even modern conversion stories are lack-luster when compared to the sinful savoire vivre and subsequent abject piety of Augustine, Hubert, and Arnulf.

I submit for your consideration this wonderful exposition of the life of Saint Charles de Blois (AD 1319 - 1364) by Johan Huizinga in his insightful study, “The Autumn of the Middle Ages” (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1996). [Fair disclosure: Charles, Count of Blois, Duke of Brittany, known as “the Happy,” is my seventh cousin twenty times removed.]

The princely circles managed a few times to produce a saint. One of these is Charles de Blois. On his mother’s side he sprung from the house of Valois and, through his marriage with the heir of the Bretagne Jeanne de Penthièvre, became involved in a dispute about succession that took the greater part of his life. Under the terms of his marriage contract, he was obliged to adopt the coat of arms and battle cry of the dukedom. He found himself confronted by another pretender, Jean de Montfort, and the ensuing conflict over the Bretagne coincided with the beginning of the Hundred Years War. The defence of Monfort’s claim was one of the complications that prompted Edward III to come to France. The count of Blois accepted battle like a true knight and fought as well as the best leaders of this time. Taken prisoner in 1347, just prior to the siege of Calais, he was held in England until 1356. He resumed the fight for the dukedom in 1362 and was killed in 1364 near Aurai while fighting bravely at the side of Bertrand du Guesclin and Breaumanoir.

This war hero, whose life differed in none of its external features from those of so many princely pretenders and leaders of his time, had led a life of strict austerity since the days of his youth. When he was a boy, his father had kept him away from edifying books because such books would be inappropriate for someone of his calling. He slept on straw on the ground next to the bed of his wife, and a hair shirt was found under his armor at the time of his death in battle. He took confession each evening before going to bed, because, as he said, no Christian should go to sleep with his sins unforgiven'. During his captivity in London, he was wont to visit cemeteries and, on his knees, recite the De profundis [i.e. Psalm 130]. The Breton page whom he asked to recite the responses refused, arguing that these locations were the burial grounds of the those who had killed his parents and friends and had burned their houses.

After his liberation, he intends to walk barefoot from La Roche-Derrien, where he began his imprisonment, to Tréguier, the site of the shrine of Saint Ives, the patron of Bretagne, whose biography he had written while a captive. The people hear about his plans and strew the path with straw and blankets. The count of Blois, however, takes a different route and ends up with feet so sore that he cannot walk for fifteen weeks. Immediately following his death, his princely relatives, among them his brother-in-law, Louis of Anjou, attempt to have him canonized. The proceedings, which resulted in beatification, took place in Angers in the year 1371.

The strange thing, if we can rely on Froissart, is that this same Charles de Blois had a bastard.
“There was killed in good style the aforesaid Lord Charles of Blois, with his face to the enemy, and a bastard son of his called Jehans de Blois, and several other knights and squires of Brittany.”
Are we to reject this as and an evident falsehood? Or should we assume that the combination of piety and sensuality that was present in figures such as Louis d’Orléans and Philip the Good was even more noticeably present in the count de Blois?

Think of what we moderns would make of such a man? He might easily be institutionalized for his unrelenting mortifications of the flesh. He would certainly be denounced as a "hypocrite" for his carnality (as opposed to being understood as an ordinary sinner). He would never be considered "saint material." Yet there he is, warts and all, a saint in heaven, able to catch God's ear and put in a good word for us.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Good news!

I have just found out that my good friend Maggie Baran expects to be delivered of a son in September.

This will be her first child and the fulfilment of her long ambition to live out her vocation as a wife and mother. She is a sweet and wonderful person and my joy at this good news touches me deeply.

Lets all ask Saint Ulrich of Augsburg to watch over her and keep her baby safe!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I Love This Pope!

Pope Benedict XVI reasserts other Christian denominations are not true churches

By Nicole Winfield — ASSOCIATED PRESS
12:55 p.m. July 10, 2007, LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation...

It was the second time in a week that Benedict has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-1965 meetings that modernized the church. On Saturday, Benedict revived the old Latin Mass – a move cheered by Catholic traditionalists but criticized by more liberal ones as a step backward from Vatican II.

Among the council's key developments were its ecumenical outreach and the development of the New Mass in the vernacular, which essentially replaced the old Latin Mass...

“Christ 'established here on earth' only one church,” said the document released as the pope vacations at a villa in Lorenzago di Cadore, in Italy's Dolomite mountains.

The other communities “cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession – the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles – and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid, it said...

This ought to piss-off all the right people!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Parish

Sun Times Article

Holocaust Bunkum or Godwin's Law In Action

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell her “Bourgeois Liberal Holocaust Story.” It went something like this:

Bourgeois Liberal Holocaust Story

When the Nazis took over Denmark, Hitler ordered that all the Jews wear arm-bands with a yellow Star of David on it, so that the Nazis could tell who they were and, later, round them up. Well, as soon as this was announced, the King of Denmark put on an arm-band with a yellow Star of David on it, and so the next day, most Danes put on an arm-band with a yellow Star of David on it, and pretty soon everyone in Denmark was wearing an arm-band with a yellow Star of David on it, and the Nazis couldn’t tell who was a Jew and who was a Christian, and so all of the Danish Jews were saved.

Gosh, what a triumph for good-hearted bourgeois liberalism!

Well, anyway, when I was about sixteen or so I found out that the story was apocryphal and that Denmark’s Jews were largely evacuated to Sweden. But, like all apocryphal stories, it was created to convey a “truth.” In this case that (I guess) we’re all really just people and if we all just stick together then we can all get along like brothers (cue string music), or some mushy bourgeois liberal thing like that.

So last week I wasn’t surprised when I came across this “Conservative Christian Holocaust Story"

Sing A Little Louder

After a speech, Pro-Life activist Penny Lea was approached by an old man. Weeping, he told her the following story:

"I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?

“A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!

“Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we'd just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.

"Their screams tormented us . . . If some of their screams reached our ears we'd just sing a little louder."

Unlike the “Bourgeois Liberal Holocaust Story,” the “Conservative Christian Holocaust Story” is very explicit in its meaning. The writer of the flyer I got it from goes right on in the next paragraph: “This story was related by a speaker on behalf of the tens of millions of unborn children that have been killed by abortion in this country, as a wake-up call to do something and not just sit by waiting for someone else to act.” Do a Google search and you can find dozens of sites with this story, some of them specifying that the story comes from “Penny Lea,” all of them anti-abortion sites! You can even get T-shirts with the "SING A LITTLE LOUDER" logo on them to help spread the pro-life message!

So what's my point here?

1] The "Sing A Little Louder" story has all the markings of being an out-and-out fabrication. It comes from an unspecified date, in a vague location, and is told by a "weeping old man." And where did the singing take place? Again, no location. And can you think of a church built next to rail-road tracks? Can you think of a freight train so silent that you could hear screams coming from inside of box-cars? And of course there is no confirmation from another source. Penny was the only one who heard the old man. Evidently no one else in the village came forward to confirm the story. Obviously — it's bunk, and the pro-life movement only discredits itself by passing off so transparent an urban legend as fact.

2] The pro-life is also mis-guided in comparing legal abortion to the Holocaust. Such a comparison not only offends Jews and other Holocaust victim groups, but it fails to address the central issue of when life begins. To the pro-abort, comparing abortion to the Holocaust makes about as much sense as comparing rates of plastic surgery to the Holocaust. If you don't think that life begins at conception, this analogy is not about to change your mind.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why Marriage is the Path to Heaven

Several years ago a friend sent me an e-mail asking me to put down my thoughts on the virtues of marriage. This is what I wrote:

Why Marriage is the Path to Heaven

1] While it is easy to live alone, it is hard to perfect yourself living alone. It is easy to think only of yourself, have everything your own way, consider only yourself, but this lets no air into the soul. Living with someone, caring for them, being forced to consider them with each of life smallest decisions, is the very life breath of the soul. In a real, vital love relationship one simply cannot fall into depression, self indulgence, or boredom because one is always faced with the consequence of how this will affect one’s beloved. Left to themselves, people are prone to do the easy thing; knowing that all one does will be seen by one’s beloved, one feels compelled to do the right thing.

2] Men and women are different and benefit from this difference. Men are creatures of habit while women are creatures of intuition, men are reliable while women are accessible, men are disciplined while women are spontaneous — and these are all virtues. What man cannot learn empathy from a woman? What woman would not benefit from the stolidity in crisis of a man? Men without women are brutal, just as women without men are capricious. Without the tempering and correcting companionship of a mate, one has little hope of become a really whole person.

3] Sex without creative love feeds upon itself. Sex is a heady mixture of pleasure that can be taken, given, reciprocal, or mutual. Pleasure that is taken is mere self-indulgence and coarsens the heart, closing it to real love. Pleasure that is given is the very lever of power, used to dominate, and this too has no part of love. Reciprocal pleasure is merely a crass bargain whose value erodes with each use. All of these things either dull us to love or make us slaves to carnality. Only by giving freely of ones self, through real devotion, can the pleasure of sex become mutual. Only when our lover’s happiness pleases us more than our own can we be free of lust and achieve the genuinely intimate union that God intended.

4] Only by taking a mate, someone with whom we wish to have children, can we transcend the narcissism of romantic love. Only by accepting this full creative partnership with the beloved can we transform infatuation into complete acceptance of the beloved irrevocably as a whole person. Only through this understanding can we transform our awe and infatuation with God into a submission to Him and a love of His Divine Will.

5] Ultimately, to know God, we must participate in his creativity by having children and loving them as He loves us. No earthly love, be it filial, fraternal, or amorous, begins to approach the natural love of parents for their children. Only by having and loving children can we begin to understand real piety, can we make sacrifices without any regret, can we honestly care for someone more than we love life itself. Only a living saint could understand by themselves the kind of devotion every loving parent feels in their breast. The easiest, surest way to Metanoia (the death of the desires of the self) is through the love of children.

6] The sure knowledge that there is only one person on Earth who loves your children as you do is an unparalleled unitive factor. The love of mutual children reïnforces and re-doubles the love that mates have for one another and thus further brings them into communion with the Divine.

There are other ways to get to Heaven, but this is the surest.