Friday, May 30, 2008

Brilliant essay on Culture of Death!

The following was excerpted from Jovan Radakovich's blog!

Auto-genocidal/Post-modern culture treats children as an expensive and peculiar hobby, something like a curious fashion statement. Children are, after all, expensive, messy, and they interfere with an active dating life. And if children are seen as a mere fashion accessory or an emotional indulgence, then one will do just as well as two (and much better than three or four). This attitude reveals itself in the demographic statistics of all societies that have adopted post-modernism. Across the Western world (and some unfortunate parts of Asia), there has been a catastrophic collapse in birthrates. Over the next few decades, parts of Europe may see their populations fall in half.

Organic culture views children in a radically different fashion, which was summed up brilliantly by Oswald Spengler in his seminal The Hour of Decision:

A woman of [tribe] does not desire to be a "companion" or a "lover," but a mother; and not the mother of one child, to serve as a toy and distraction, but of many: the instinct of a strong tribe speaks in the pride that large families inspire, in the feeling that barrenness is the hardest curse that can befall a woman and through her, the tribe. Out of this instinct arises the primitive jealousy, which leads one woman to take away from another the man whom she covets as the father of her children. The more intellectual jealousy of the great cities, which is little more than erotic appetite and looks upon the other party as a means of pleasure, and even the mere fact of considering the desired or dreaded number of children who are to be born, betrays the waning of the tribal urge to permanence; and that instinct for permanence cannot be reawakened by speeches and writing. Primitive marriage...was anything but sentimental. A man wants stout sons who will perpetuate his name and his deeds beyond his death into the future and enhance them, just as he has done himself through feeling himself heir to the calling and works of his ancestors.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thoughts on Prayer

Having grown up in a secular home, I was never taught to pray and only came to this habit after becoming Catholic when I was twenty-three. So, largely because of being self-taught, I have had to think about prayer, learn how it works, develop my own ways and habits. This process has, perhaps, given me a different perspective on prayer than those who have grown up with the habit. These are some things I have learned about prayer:

• Pray every day.
When I received my instruction in the faith from Father Frank Kane he told me that Catholics are obliged to pray every day. He told me that Saint Augustine thought that the faithful were minimally required to say two Our Fathers and two Hail Marys every day. So that was where I began.

• Pray when all else has failed.
Once, when I was working in a print-shop downtown, I was having a tough time running a really old press, a Multi 1250. On my lunch break I went to the bookstore run by the Daughters of Saint Paul to pick up a book I had ordered. When I got there, one of the sisters asked me why I looked so down. When I told her that I was having trouble running a press, she asked what kind of press, and it turned out that she had also run the very same press for the Daughters’ print shop at their mother house. She then went through the possible causes of my problem (worn in-feed rollers, inadequate buckle, incorrect stop-finger timing, etc.). When, at last, we had gone over everything that could have been out of adjustment and ruled them out as the cause of my problems, she shook her head and said, “That’s when I try a prayer to Saint Paul!” And you know what? She was absolutely right! By the simple act of turning your problems over to Our Heavenly Father, you will find yourself more clear-headed, more at-ease, once again ready to face your travail.

• Pray for your own causes.
One day I found a pamphlet on an empty seat on the #36/Broadway bus. It showed an ordinary man in silhouette next to the headline: “REMEMBER ... This Unknown Communist has a SOUL” It urged you to wear the Green Scapular and pray for the conversion of Godless Communists the world around. It occurred to me then, that once I had been that Unknown Communist, and that whoever had left that flyer on the seat had been praying for me. I resolved then to pray each day for the conversion of Godless Communists each day. You should take up a cause as well! I suppose there is nothing wrong with taking up a big one, (like an end to abortion, or the conversion of the Jews, or the souls in Purgatory) but you should give consideration to a group that needs God’s grace and is pretty much neglected. Praying for the conversion of Godless Communists probably peaked-out in 1953 and I might just be the last one left Is anyone praying for the conversion of the Tuvinians? Start praying for them and you might just be the only one!

• Pray because no one else will.
I used to see a guy where he worked downtown. (Let’s call him “Will.”) He was always very good at his job and, since he was more helpful than anyone else there, I always went to him. After using him for about fifteen years, I saw him on the street. Will told me that he had taken early retirement from his job (he was in his early fifties) and moving to a different city in order to get away from his crack dealer. It turned out that he had been addicted to crack cocaine for eleven years! I wished him the best of luck, gave him my e-mail address, and told him that I would pray for him. He told me that he was an atheist, and didn’t believe in prayer, but he thanked me for it anyway. I haven’t heard from him since. Recently I asked one of his co-workers if any of them knew how Will was doing. She was very cagey until she realized that I knew Will’s secret, but then she admitted that no one had heard from him since he had left town. “That’s a shame,” I said, “I pray for him every day, you know.”

The woman was astonished, “You do? I had no idea that you were such good friends with him.”

“I’m not,” I admitted, “But if I don’t pray for him, who will?”


• Pray because people ask you to.
I was at work one day when I got a package of Green Scapulars in the mail. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning when something comes for me in the mail, so I opened it right away. One of my clients was there and, when he saw the scapulars, he asked what they were. I explained that wearing a scapular was like wearing a prayer, that the Green Scapular was like a prayer for conversion, and that I often gave Green Scapulars to people needing conversion. He then asked, “If I took one, would you pray for me?”

“Sure!” I gave him a scapular, but immediately I regretted it. You see — I didn’t much care for the fellow. In fact, without breaking into a sweat, I could probably make a list of 500 people who I would rather see in Heaven than this fellow. I agonized over it for days. I really did not want to pray for him, but I also couldn’t see how I could refuse. It became clear to me that, as a Christian, I was obliged to pray for anyone who asked me to if their request was reasonable.

Now, from time-to-time, that fellow will ask me if I still pray for him. I’m proud to be able to tell him that I haven’t missed a day.

• Prayer must be a real conversation with God or it’s pointless.
If you’re saying the same thing day after day, then you’re doing something wrong. You should be thinking about what you are saying and open to the thoughts that God will put upon your heart. You need to ask yourself constantly if you really want what you are praying for or if you are just going through the motions. You need to ask yourself if there are things you should be doing in addition to prayer to address a certain situation. Perhaps you have neglected to thank God for some particular grace that has come your way? Your prayers should not be a laundry list!

• The saints are your friends, treat them that way.
They are people just like you, with their own concerns and interests. Do you think if you just pick the name of a saint out of a hat, that he will be any more interested in your problems than some name you pick out of the phone book? When a saint is made “patron” of a particular thing, this is just a rough guide. Both Dymphna and Drogo are patrons of mental health, but Dymphna’s concern seems to be with people who are genuinely disordered, whereas Drogo is more concerned with emotional distress. Read the lives of the saints and make friends with them.

• Wear your prayers.
Praying for conversions? Get that Green Scapular! Worried about your kids? Wear that Saint Joseph medal. Find yourself tempted by vice? A Saint Benedict medal will be a constant reminder that you need not face temptation alone.

• Let your kids see you pray.
I start the day each morning by ironing a shirt and saying my prayers. I expect anyone in the room with me to join me when I say a Hail Mary or Our Father. My kids hear me run through the list of those whose conversions I am praying for and my son often joins me at the end saying “... and Godless Communists the world around. May the love of Jesus enter into their hearts.” My youngest daughter loved to have her toes played with when she was an infant, so I began saying my after-dinner Rosary on her toes. She loved it, and the others saw that praying was an ordinary part of life, not something apart from life.

• Do not neglect the Rosary.
Marshal Foch said it all:
“I think that I did not miss a single day in reciting [the Rosary], including the most terrible times of battle when I had no rest night or day. How often did I see her manifest intercession in the decisions which I made in choosing a precise tactic. Take, then, the advice of an old soldier seasoned by experience: Do not neglect the recitation of the Rosary for any reason.

• Pray for the unknown intentions of others.
I say three Hail Marys every morning for the intentions of the Pope and an Our Father for the intentions of the Catholic Dads!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Lesson in Forgiveness

I have to work with someone who is unforgiving, literally. (I’ll call him Scarpia, after the evil police chief in Puccini’s opera Tosca.) If you make a mistake around Scarpia, and apologize, then he will snap at you: “What good does it do to apologize when you’re just going to do it again!” Of course, if you don’t apologize, then Scarpia will chastise you by saying, “I can’t believe you did that and then didn’t even apologize!” So — either way, you won’t be forgiven.

Now, forgiveness is just about the toughest vocation that Christians are called to and no one ever gets particularly good at it. I know I’m not. My parents were secular and, even though they were basically decent people, their attitude was that forgiving people was simply part of good manners, not a Christian duty, and so there was a limit to it. Christians know otherwise: forgiveness is a duty at all times.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about forgiveness:

• The best way to learn about forgiveness is to have a few kids. Having children almost instantly makes you a better person. You become more loving, more responsible, less self-centered and you learn that forgiveness is a part of everyday life. Each and every day your kids will do something wrong: spill a glass full of juice, leave every light on in the house, waste toilet paper, torment the dog, poke each other’s eyes out — all that kid stuff. And you know that they didn’t mean it. That they’re just kids who might know better but still don’t have the self-control to do better. So you have to forgive them. And guess what? It’s kind of easy. You just love them to death and you can’t bring yourself to think ill of them, so forgiving them becomes pretty natural. The trick is to learn to forgive everyone that way!

• Corollary to lesson one: God forgives you just like you forgive your kids. Once you have kids, and feel how easy it is to forgive them, you come to understand that God is our Father in Heaven and he forgives us just as freely. Once you feel this in your bones it is a profound spiritual comfort.

• You can’t forgive someone unless they are sorry. If they’re not sorry, then you are just pushing on a string. In fact, I would even say it is false piety to say that you have forgiven someone who isn’t sorry. The best you can do is to forget about it.

• “You hate me because you still love me!” Believe it or not, that brilliant insight comes from one other than Mussolini. (Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.) He’s really got the nut of the problem to: you can only hate someone you care about. So, if you find that you are beginning to hate someone that you love, you really should do something about it. Either tap into the love you still have for them and use that to forgive them, or resolve not to care. Don’t let this second option scare you, because this is exactly what Jesus meant when he told us to turn the other cheek. If you can’t love someone, then don’t let yourself be eaten up with hated for them, teach yourself not to care.

• A final lesson.

For the last seven years first my son and I, and now my little girl too, have been supernumeraries at the Lyric Opera. Supernumerary is just Italian for “extra” and that’s what we are. We don’t sing, we don’t speak, sometimes we dance, but usually we just do the mundane things on stage like carry the Pharaoh in on a sedan chair in Aïda, throw Falstaff out the window, and fill up the grand ball room in Eugene Onegin. My son is opera-crazy, I like opera fine, and my little girl just likes doing things with Daddy. And it’s a great experience. They pay us $15- a night, we get free tickets to the dress rehearsals, you get to be on stage with world class singers, and the back stage camaraderie is wonderful.

Everyone at Lyric is simply the best in the business, so there isn’t the usual tension and politics arising from having to put up with incompetents and, as a result, everyone is as friendly and helpful as can be — that is, everyone except for someone I’ll call Eugene (from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin). Eugene was an old hand when we started working at Lyric some seven years ago (he’s been in more than 500 performances) and he pretty much kept to the other veterans, snubbing newcomers dead. He wouldn’t talk to either my son, or me even after we’d been there for four seasons until, one day, he commented on my thermos full of tea, “Tea — how nice.” I thought this might be an opening so, starting with the next performance, I brought along an extra mug, poured a cup of tea, and left it at his station in the dressing room. At the end of the evening he would unfailingly bring me back the up, nicely cleaned, and thank me. But, just the same, he was still rather diffident and never engaged me in conversation. At this point, my son HATED Eugene and kept asking why I went out of my way to be nice to him. I told him it was the Christian thing to do.

Then, one day when we were getting into costume for a performance of Carmen, Eugene came over to me, stuck a finger into a hole in my very old T-shirt, and said, “Are you really so poor that you have to wear such shabby underwear?” Then he ripped his finger down and tore a huge gash in the shirt.

Well, I just lost it. I began to scream, at the top of my lungs something along these lines: “Eugene, you have treated me like shit and snubbed me dead for five f***ing years, but I always did the Christian thing and treated you nicely. I turned the other cheek and even made you tea for every damn performance this year! But now you have gone too far! You might just have reached into my pocket and taken my money! Yes — I am so poor that I have to wear T-shirts until they wear out and now you’ve gone and ruined one of them!” Then I turned around and got dressed. I was told later that EVERYONE in the room thought I was going to start hitting Eugene, and that four young guys were lined up around the corner to break it up if they had to.

I was as mad as I’ve ever been in my life and I started to think about what I would do if Eugene tried to apologize. And I worked it out perfectly! I decided that if he tried to apologize without replacing the shirt, then I could snub him because I was still out for the shirt. But if he did try to replace the shirt, I was going to reject him and say, “Eugene, you can’t buy back my friendship! It’s not for sale.” Did I have all the angles covered, or what? No matter what he did, I could go on hating him!

But when I got home and told my son about what had happened, he wanted to know what I was going to do about it. At that point I had to face up to the fact that I was a Christian, and had to state my terms for forgiveness up front, so that the poor schlub would have some kind of chance at being forgiven. “Okay —“ I said, “If he apologizes and replaces the T-shirt, then I’ll have to forgive him.”

“Wouldn’t it be more fun just to hate him? I mean — he really is a stuck-up jerk.”

Of course, my son was right, I really did just want to hate Eugene forever, but I had stated my terms and intended to stick to them. When I went back in three days for the next performance, there, at my space in the dressing room, was a very nicely wrapped package with an envelope on top. I walked over and spent two or three minutes just staring down at the envelope. I didn’t want to open it, but at last I did. Inside was a nice card with a simple hand-written apology, “It was all my fault.” The package contained not one, but three new T-shirts. At that point there was only one thing to do, so I went over to Eugene and said, “Thank you.”

“Really, it was all my fault and I’m sorry.”

I nodded, “It’s done, now let’s forget about it.”

Over the course of that evening’s performance, probably half-a-dozen guys came up to me and said that accepting Eugene’s apology was mighty big of me. Since then, Eugene has been a lot nicer, not just to me, but to everyone else around the opera house. But mostly, I felt a lot better not having to carry all of that hate around with me.

So the lesson is this: Forgive people because it will make YOU feel better.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Michelle Shocked

It wouldn't be a cross if it wasnt to bear!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ferdinand Foch,Marshal of France, on the Holy Rosary

“I think that I did not miss a single day in reciting [the Rosary], including the most terrible times of battle when I had no rest night or day. How often did I see her manifest intercession in the decisions which I made in choosing a precise tactic. Take, then, the advice of an old soldier seasoned by experience: Do not neglect the recitation of the Rosary for any reason.”

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Two Friends: a lesson in humility.

Though he would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956, in the early 1940’s Juan Ramón Jiménez was a refugee. A poet, who had fled Spain during the Civil War, he settled in Washington, D.C. where he worked as a professor of literature. He was an obscure and lonely man, until one day he chanced upon a man working in his garden. The man, Henry by name, described by Jiménez as “timid yet firm at the same time,” struck up a conversation with Jiménez.

“Of all my acquaintances in this country,” Jiménez recalled, “none have I come to understand better or more quickly.” The two men spoke the same language, the language of God and the growth of the soil, democracy, and an abiding faith in the people. Often they spoke in Spanish. Jiménez often read Spanish poems, his own and others, to his friend Henry, who in turn often spoke of his deepest spiritual convictions. Jiménez was later to write:

There can be no doubt tat this man is a mystic, made of the same stuff as the greatest of the Spanish mystics, Saint Teresa de Jesus, John of the Cross, Louis de Leon. He is as militant in his faith as they were ... Saint Terese’s “God Can be Found in a Well Watched Kettle” means to him “God can be found in a dairyman’s milk-pail and in a farmer’s corn-crib ... he is convinced of an enduring and just principle of ancestry — every man is the son of his own words and work.

Months after meeting Henry, Jiménez mentioned his friend to some colleagues who then made a shocking revelation about Jiménez’s friend. “Was it possible?” Jiménez wondered. He ran all the way to Henry’s garden, where he found his friend working alone. “Señor Wallace, tell me the truth,” Jiménez asked breathlessly, “Are you the vice-president of the United States?”

“Si, Juan Ramón, lo soy. Look, aren’t my tomatoes magnificent? Take some along with you for lunch.”