Sunday, June 30, 2013

Christian Unity - When Protestants are More Catholic than Catholics

What will bring unity to the Church of Christ?  Communion.  Communion with Christ who is the head of the Church, and thereby communion with one another.

For this true communion to begin, we must first admit, as Pope Francis recently did, that all good comes from God.  Period.  The good in our fellow Christians, and the good in our fellow unbelievers, is from God through Jesus.  That's simply the way the universe works.

Yesterday I struggled to write a post on "gay marriage" and how those who support it, while wrong, have a great hunger for the Good and are trying to do good in supporting it - that the source of the confusion lies in their limited understand of love and in their lack of belief in Nature.  And since the contours of Nature show us, to an extent, the shape of God, a denial of Nature and a denial of human nature is a denial of God; or at least a denial that God has any shape.  But I deleted the post, as I felt it was too confusingly articulated and might serve to bring more heat than light to the debate.  Perhaps I will revisit it.

Meanwhile, three things have happened.


  • A friend sent me a very thoughtful reflection on conversion and Christian unity, using figures from the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
  • Reader CK left an encouraging comment on one of my recent blog posts.
  • I discovered a very insightful post on a Protestant blog about how to overcome sin.

Let me, then address conversion and Christian unity in light of these things.

***

I will begin by making a broad generalization: as a rule, Christians are just like everybody else, only worse.

Atheists and secularists agitate for abortion, perversion, contraception and "gay marriage".  Self-professed Christians of both Protestant and Catholic persuasions (as a rule) offer them no meaningful alternative, no reason to turn from the World, the Flesh and the Devil toward something - towards what?  Something that seems very worldly, fleshy and way too bland to be demonic.  The non-believers in our midst are increasingly becoming cruel pagans immolating themselves on the altar of Mammon and their children on the altar of Moloch.  The believers in our midst are either just like the non-believers - or they practice a kind of quasi-faith that is utterly devoid of meaning, passion or anything but sappy sentimentalism.  The best are bland and uninspired; the worst are full of a passionate - and sometimes hatefully judgmental - intensity.

But hear ye the voice of the Combox!!!  Thus speaketh the Combox ... 


Yours is precisely my experience. I have told a few, very orthodox priests that we need to hear these teachings, but they are too afraid - of their people and their bishops, sad to say.

I do an RCIA talk where I talk about all these things using stories from my own experience and people laugh, cry, and practically carry me out of the room on their shoulders - and believe me that is not the reaction I expected the first time I gave the speech. The last time I did my RCIA talk my pastor attended and I figured (since he has very clearly expressed his unorthodoxy) that he would leap out of his seat, call me a liar, and throw me out bodily, but instead at the end he declared "What a wonderful witness!" and even e-mailed me again that night to say how much he liked it and how many RCIA candidates liked it. People want the Truth desperately. If given with clarity and charity, people gobble it up.

Perhaps, then, even our priests are as hungry for spiritual food - for the true Bread of Life - as we are.  Maybe they don't give it to us because they don't know where to find it themselves.

But we have the Eucharist.  We have the Bread of Life, Jesus present at every Mass, Jesus consumed by His followers at Communion.

And yet it is a bread we do not "discern" - as a rule.  As St. Paul warns us ...

For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Cor. 11:29) 

What a great irony this is.  We Catholics, we Christians who are in full communion with the Body of Christ (the Church) and who receive the Body of Christ (the host) literally at every Mass, we who have the Sacraments and who can rely on the actual physical transmission of God's spiritual grace by means of Communion, Confession. Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Anointing and even Holy Orders - we who are surrounded by God so much that we can actually touch Him and "gobble Him up" - what do we do?  We sing banal hymns and join in a spirit of faux-worship that is devoid of awe and the Cross, and we spend our time chatting with one another loudly in the sanctuary.  We cheat on our wives and vote for politicians who advocate honoring buggery as "marriage".  We cheat our children out of cohesive families by divorcing and remarrying, by ignoring them as we chase the almighty dollar, by contracepting and aborting their brothers and sisters out of existence.  We give ourselves to porn and drugs and suburban wastelands.  We look the other way when priests abuse children and bishops cover it up.  We take pride in Catholic Education that is typically neither Catholic nor Education.  We live as if the only reality were an existential abyss, and then we find ourselves shocked when our children dive headlong into it.

O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you? - Gal. 3:1

And yet ... there is hope.

Evangelical Protestant Ty Gibson runs a ministry called Light Bearers, a "full throttle Gospel ministry".

Last year he published a simple but quite profound, orthodox and biblically accurate post called Three Steps for Overcoming Every Sin.

According to Gibson, these three steps are simply

1. Call the sin by its proper name.  "Name it and claim it" as it were.  Don't fudge about it.  Adultery is adultery, not a love affair.  Greed is greed, not overwork.  Pornography is pornography, not a sexual diversion.  Name it, claim it and confess it.  We all are obligated to confess our sins, at least to God directly as the Protestants do.  Without confession, which includes an understanding of our sin and which must be preceded by listening to God's voice in our conscience, and which must include being sorry for our sin (contrition), sin cannot be overcome.
2. Repent.  It is not enough to feel bad and admit you've done wrong.  You must deliberately do a "spiritual 180".  You must willfully turn from sin and turn toward God.  Gibson doesn't say this, but you must turn from sin so completely that you are willing to avoid even "near occasions of sin", or things that lead you to sin, though these things themselves may not be sinful.
3. Rely upon God's grace to transform you.  Gibson doesn't call this "God's grace"; he calls it "God's love", but he means exactly what Catholics mean when we use the word grace.  Without this freely given and unearned gift of God, which is nothing less than God's Divine presence within you, without this gift whose purpose is to transform you and make you into another Christ, it is literally beyond our power to change.  

Ty Gibson, then, gives a fundamentally Catholic presentation of sin and how to repent from sin.  Note that grace in Gibson's theology is infused and sanctifying.  It is not merely a token or a "get out of jail free" card, as it was for classical Protestantism.  It abides within us, it is Divine, it changes us, and it leads to Everlasting Life.  It is the Spirit, the New Man, as opposed to the flesh and the Old Man.

This is all so completely Catholic and orthodox that one wonders why we never hear this in our Catholic parishes.  Some Protestants, it seems, have become more Catholic than we are.

Ty Gibson's three steps for overcoming sin is the most helpful thing I've read on the subject in 13 years in the Catholic Church.

And so we must say, Amen and Praise God, brother in Christ!

For it is this Communion with Christ - this taking in of his freely offered grace and cooperating with it so that it transforms and sanctifies us - that will make us true Christians and that will not only solve the problems of our day, but unify His Church and also bring in so many lost sheep, wandering and starving as they are, including the atheists and secularists among us.

***

I have mentioned, in this long post, CK's comment and Ty Gibson's clarity of vision.

I have not elaborated upon the reflection on the Prodigal Son that my friend sent me.  It contained a disturbing image - an image of certain Catholics playing the role of the Elder Son in the parable, angry and jealous that our younger brothers, who have sometimes been sinful Protestants or even fast-living secularists (some of whom have been having a blast with hookers and booze) - an image of us being angry that they should be invited in to share in the family with us, indeed that the fatted calf should be killed to welcome them home when they arrive fully and share fully the complete Communion that God wants for them.

We dare not be the Older Brother.  For he who is not against us is for us (Mark 9:40) and in some sense is already with us.  We face a common enemy - sin and its flower, death - and we have a common Father, from whom (and only from whom) all deliverance from sin and death comes.

One Father.  One Church, One Lord, One Savior, One Way, One Truth, One Life, One Baptism, One Family.  As the floods continue to rise, there is one ark and one ark alone that can save us.

May we be ready to dive in and bring our drowning neighbors aboard, even if, after we take the plunge, we see that some of them have been floating on very sturdy planks of the one ark all along, which we have shed on our stormy voyage and which need to be nailed back in lest we take on any more water.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Grunky!




 

Grunky - "a word which I invented at the age of five, to express my religious sentiments." - GK Chesterton

Announcing a new Catholic video network!

Grunky.com is the project of Kevin O'Brien, founder and artistic director of the Theater of the Word, Inc., with help from Dale Ahqluist of the American Chesterton Society and others.

Grunky will feature regular video releases - both funny and serious - from a Catholic perspective.

Shows include
... and more!

For more info, email info@grunky.com or go to www.grunky.com.  And check out our featured videos below!



This week's Featured Grunky Videos







     Stanford Nutting on Sharing with Stanford.

     Click here to watch!






Joseph Pearce on Beer and Books discusses the Catholic aspects of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  

Click here to watch!




Click here to Like Grunky on Facebook!






Thursday, June 27, 2013

We're a Whole Lot Smarter Than Jesus


There are some great ironies in the Bible.  One is when Pilate says, "What is truth?" to Him who is Truth itself.

Another is when the smart-aleck Sadducees try to prove there is no resurrection to Him who is the Resurrection itself.

Some Sadducees – who deny that there is a resurrection – came to him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a wife and then died leaving no children. The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same, and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died. Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’ - Mark 18:23 
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he die." - John 11:25

We are more like the Sadduccees than we would care to admit.  "What a fool!  Preaching resurrection from the dead!  Well, he's just a rube from Nazareth.  We can get one over on him.  Let's see if he can wiggle out of this."

Just this week in these comment boxes, a reader indignantly asserted that St. Paul was antisemitic - and he based that on Paul's epistle to the Romans, which contains Paul's greatest lament for his fellow Jews and their fate.

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, - Rom. 9:3

You see, Paul didn't mean this, my reader claims, because Paul was speaking hypothetically, "I could wish I would be damned for the sake of the Jews" but "I don't really wish I would be damned for the sake of the Jews".  Clear as a bell, you see?  Bingo.  He's antisemitic.

And on Facebook, a friend who boasts of being a product of "Catholic education" insists that Jesus told the Pharisees to kill their own children, that Jesus was anything but pro-life.  This he asserts based on an utter blindness both to the context and to the plain literal meaning of Mat. 15:4-7.

Such malicious deliberate perversions of Scripture leave one speechless.

And it's not so much the obvious stupidity that accompanies such deliberately wrong interpretations of the Word of God, but the smug attitude that goes with it.

Pilate denying truth in the face of Truth Himself.

The Sadducees denying the resurrection in the face of the Resurrection Himself.

And the rest of us, tricking our way through life in the face of Life Himself.


Sharing with Stanford

Stanford Nutting's latest ...




See more at Grunky.

What Jesus Really Said

Did you know that Jesus told the Pharisees to kill their own children?

That's what a Facebook friend insists Jesus said.

He proves it by quoting this from Matthew 15:4-7

"For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you."

See?  It's right there in black and white!

How could we have missed it all these years?

Well, I called him a moron for reading that into this passage and he told me I'm uncharitable and using ad hominems to avoid the argument.  I'm surprised he didn't tell me to go to confession and that he'd pray for me.

He also - I am not making this up- bragged about being a product of Catholic Education.

I replied, "No wonder you're a moron."


ADDENDUM

Apparently you just can't point it out when somebody says something insanely stupid.  You have to explain it.  Which I did on Facebook just now, though it will do absolutely no good.

You know what? I've decided to take a shot at it, not for Miguelito's case (for he seems not to be arguing in good faith), but for the rest of you who may be confused by what he's claiming.

Jesus is saying, if I may paraphrase, "You Pharisees claim to follow the Law to perfection, and yet, while sometimes keeping the letter of the Law you always ignore the spirit. The Law teaches that 'Honor thy father and mother' is so important that a child who curses his parents should be put to death. And yet you Pharisees allow someone to keep for himself money that should be used to support his aging parents, if he claims that money is 'dedicated to God'. You hypocrites!"

This passage is one of a long series of examples where Jesus intensified the spirit of the Law while showing what the purpose of the letter of the Law actually was. And in no way does the passage Miguelito quoted indicate that Jesus wants the Pharisees to kill their children. He wants them to stop being hypocrites and honor God.

And of course the Church has taught (since Peter and Paul) that the Law is fulfilled in Christ and therefore no longer applies to us in its Mosaic form, except as it is written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It's more complicated than that, but it's all in the Gospels and the Epistles, for those who care to read them. Or just take a quick gander at the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

That Miguelito did not learn this in his many years of Catholic education is no surprise. Catholic schools in this country are a joke.

And, Miguelito, if you go around telling people that Jesus wanted the Pharisees to kill their children, you are both parading your ignorance and coming close to blasphemy. At the very least, you have an obligation to read the Scriptures prayerfully and to open your heart to what they're actually saying, rather than forcing them into a pre-set agenda.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to Save the Family

Now that the Supreme Court has proven, as they did in Roe v. Wade, that they hold an utter contempt for reason and for democracy; and since the Culture of Death is swallowing everything in its path and devouring both marriage and the family, what is to be done?



This much.

I cannot save marriage.  I cannot save the family.  I cannot save the United States of America.

But I can be a good husband.  I can be a good father.  And I can be a good Catholic - which is the thing the United States of America is most in need of - though our fellow citizens resist the Culture of Life with all their might.  How can I save the family?  I can not commit adultery, I can stay married all my life for better or worse, I can put my children above money and prestige, I can refuse to use contraception.  I can love my wife as Christ loved His Church, giving His own life for her.  And so forth.  None of this is easy; but it's all within our reach.

It is within the scope of each of us to save the family - our own family.  The family has always required sacrifice - sometimes heroic sacrifice.  Just living as a husband, a wife, a son or daughter has shown us all that.

So as we enter the new Dark Ages, stand firm, dear readers.  Your bishops may not stand with you; your priests may not stand with you; your family and friends may not stand with you.

It will be a martyrdom unlike any bloody martyrdom of the past.

But it is the Sacrifice we are made for.  It is our cross and it is our privilege to bear it.

Save the Family.  Save your own.

Father Fessio, Cultural Decline and Prophecy

Fr. Joseph Fessio, one of the founders of the Theater of the Word Incorporated, has spoken on today's Supreme Court decisions.  Highlights are below (emphases mine) ...


"They are profoundly wrong and wrong-headed decisions," he stated in e-mail correspondence this morning. "And it is deeply depressing that in each decision a Catholic justice was the swing vote."

"There is a twofold problem that underlies both decisions," he wrote. "1) That issues of such fundamental significance for society should be decided by a single, unelected person. That’s what happens when there is a 5-4 decision. 2) That the judges of the Supreme Court who ought to be exemplary for their wisdom as well as their technical knowledge of the law can be completely blind to the obvious: this is not an issue of equality at all. Same sex unions are not in any way equivalent to marital unions."
 
Fr. Fessio specifically named Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority in the Court's ruling on DOMA ("United States v. Windsor"). "Justice Kennedy wrote, 'The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.' This is only slightly less outrageously self-contradictory than his famous 'mystery” utterance: 'At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.'"

That statement was written by Justice Kennedy (along with Justices Souter and O'Connor) in his opinion on the 1992 case, "Planned Parenthood v. Casey."

"If you can define your own concept of meaning," added Fr. Fessio, "well, I suppose you can play Alice in Wonderland with any concept you want, including marriage. So at least Justice Kennedy is consistent in his self-contradiction, and this decision is simply a consequence of the earlier principle. However, he even goes farther here and apparently can read hearts, since he claims that the 'purpose' is to 'disparage and to injure'. So one man sets himself against the wisdom of all recorded history which recognizes the obvious: a marital union can do what no other union can; further it is not only a benefit to the state, but the state cannot exist without it. Giving it special status and protection does not disparage or injure anyone; it simply recognizes an empirical fact that only the willfully blind can fail to see."

***

"People, myself included, lament the moral decline of America," reflected Fr. Fessio, "Without this stunning intellectual decline—where one can claim that an unborn baby is not a human person and that man-to-man copulation is equivalent to marital union—we could not have sunk so low. With this decision we are about to sink even lower. God help us." He said that he thinks it is clear that the rulings are "going to make it far more difficult for those who defend marriage."
Asked how the rulings will affect the Catholic Church in the United States, Fr. Fessio remarked that they "will call forth saints and scholars who will 'shine like the stars in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation'. They will also be humiliated and very likely, in time, persecuted. Welcome to the Brave New World." 

Reactions to the Supreme Court's Decisions

This is from the National Organization for Marriage.

This is from the USCCB.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Reminder - From Cave to Grave and Back Again

Tonight (Monday, June 24, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist), I will be presenting the first part of my reading and explication of G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man at Pauline Books & Media, 9804 Watson Rd. in Crestwood, MO.  The event is free of charge and lasts from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.  It takes place in the meeting room downstairs.

For those of you outside of St. Louis, we will be filming these segments for Gunky, our internet video network.  They will be archived for viewing later this summer.

But if you're in town, come by!

The Pope and Anti-Semitism

Deacon Kandra reports ...

Pope Francis says due to “our common roots” with the Jewish people, “a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!”

Now, I know we've tussled about this before, dear readers.  And I'm well aware that none of you is "anti-semitic", and you don't "hate Jews", but Jews are the problem and who can say what is a Jew anyway and how dare I defend the enemies of Christ and the Jews killed Kennedy and the Jews elected Obama and the Jews are hiding under our beds and the Jews ...

Well, due to our common roots (not to mention the universal commandment to love one another), a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic.

Exclamation point.

Read the Pope's full text here.

The Tease

We've heard from the Poet and the Sinner.

Today I received an email from the Tease.

Gosh!  I had no idea you would be reading this.  And look at what I'm wearing!
Kevin, we really want you to perform at our parish picnic fish fry fundraiser.  We really really do.  Can you send me a contract?
Oh, well, we can't pay you.  So it will have to be a free show.  And you'll have to pay your own way here, and we're at Fr. Corapi's Montana Ranch, so it's not cheap to get here.
Did I say cheap?  That's what the boys used to call me!  My!  Has my strap been down like that the whole time I've been talking to you?  
You are the most amazing man I've ever known.  I'm enclosing a link to photos of me reading your blog at a nudist colony in Saskatchewan.  I really want to hear back from you.
How dare you click on that link!   Stop stalking me!  I never want to hear from you again!  I am calling my lawyer!
Miss you.
The Tease 
 
 
 
 

Passion and Conviction


I'm a passionate guy.

I don't mean so much in the common "romantic" use of that term - "romantic passion".  I mean passionate in the sense of caring deeply - usually too deeply - about people and things (and, I'm sorry to say, sometimes about myself).

So I know of what I speak.

And I think one of the great errors of argumentation is our tendency to be smug about other people's passions.

All of us have sufficient fortitude to bear the misfortunes of others.

... so says La Rouchefoucauld, and that little witty observation can be extended to this ...

All of us can be sufficiently objective about a subject so as to think either charming, cute or ridiculous the passions of another who cares deeply about that same subject.

"Oh, your mother was killed in a horrible accident when a safe fell on her head from a 20-story window?  And so you don't like it that I argue for higher buildings?  That's so sweet and rather quaint, but you're an idiot."

The fact is that there is an awful light that is thrown by any fire, even a fire in the breast.  The truth that is revealed - even if a partial truth - by the flames of suffering or love or any kind of dearly held conviction is one that the passionate sees with a glaring and unforgettable awareness.

This is why com-passion is called com-passion - a word that literally means suffering with, empathy for the explosive and dreadful feelings of another, even if those feelings can cloud a more rational and comprehensive view of the subject at hand.

And perhaps the greatest challenge for Passionate Christians, in other words for those of us who care deeply about Jesus Christ and our Faith, is how to channel that passion, how to make sure we are true to our love and Our Lord even in the face of contempt, ridicule, and even in the face of the much more common tactic of our opponents when they smile smugly and sigh at our medieval beliefs, mocking our conviction, as they cooly and calmly butcher their babies and bugger their boyfriends.

To care about anything can drive a man mad.  But we don't care about just anything.  We care about something.

We care about some One.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Calvinism and Abortion

As I have written before, the pro-abortion crowd is more and more basing its support of abortion not on the claim that the fetus is not yet a human being (more advanced prenatal technology has given the lie to that), but on the uglier but more honest assertion that not all human beings have the right to live.

In 1855 Orestes Brownson explained how, since Calvinists teach the utter depravity of nature, from this follows the conclusion that only the elect have rights; those not in a state of grace can be dispossessed or treated with contempt - which is how all Calvinist societies have operated.

Calvinism begins by denying all natural rights, nullifying nature, and therefore all natural liberty, and asserts rights for the elect only.

... writes Brownson.

For the "elect" substitute "those in power" and you have the Calvinism of today.

Our modern nihilists are simply Calvinists in Calvin Klein jeans.

For the moderns, since life has no meaning, man has no dignity.  It is the Catholic Church that insists upon the dignity of man, made in the image and likeness of God, whether in the womb or out of it - and insists upon the meaning of life.

By contrast, the modern Calvinists - the narcissistic nihilists around us - see rights resulting from power only.  If you enough power to have a solid claim to life, you have a right to keep it; if you don't, or if you prove useless to someone who has more power than you, you have no rights.


Have You Ever Heard These Things in a Homily?

When The Sinner wrote yesterday that he had never heard a homily on adultery, it got me thinking.

I have been Catholic for almost 13 full years.  In that time I have heard nearly 700 Sunday homilies and quite a few Daily Mass homilies - probably 1,000 homilies in all.  And I've heard these homilies literally all over the world, as I travel quite a bit.  So I have here a solid sample.

I have NEVER heard a homily on the following sins, which are all very common sins among Catholics, and which all can potentially send us to hell ...

  • Adultery
  • Fornication
  • Sodomy
  • Masturbation
  • Defrauding the laborer of his wages
  • Receiving communion not in a state of grace
  • Envy
  • Pride
  • Stubborn resistance to any Catholic teaching
  • Sloth
  • Unbelief
  • Greed

... this is very strange, for these sins are not only common, but, it seems, rife within the Catholic Church.

Likewise, I have heard mentioned only very rarely (less than six times each) such issues as ...

  • Pornography
  • Contraception

And, really, the evil of abortion is mentioned perhaps three or four times a year, and almost as nothing more than a shibboleth.

And, even if we look at areas other than sin, there are quite a few major truths of the Catholic Faith that are hardly ever mentioned or are simply ignored, such as ...

  • The redemptive grace of suffering
  • Inner transformation
  • Mortification
  • The power of Christ's sacrifice as anything more than a model or a natural work to emulate
  • Hell
  • Heaven (except as a vague place of comfort where we all end up, like the air conditioned shopping mall)

What do we hear instead?  Help the poor, give to the parish fundraiser, Jesus was nice you be nice too, forgive others, don't judge, try to stand out from the crowd, gosh I'm glad you're here it shows that you care.

I think, after 13 years and 1000 homilies, something is wrong.

How does my experience compare with yours?  Answer in the comment section below.

Meanwhile, you might want to take a look at one of my early blog posts, A Guide to Bad Homilies, which takes a shot at a humorous look at this same subject.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Sinner Speaks

We've had many guest posts over the years from The Poet (who, frankly, gets on my nerves).  Today we hear from The Sinner.


I am dead.
Don't be so shocked at that.  It's really the default position.  Most things are dead.  
So when I woke up one day and found myself no longer alive (it had come as a thief in the night), I learned a few things - for much was illumined - lit up - in that awful day, as if by fire.
When I first became sick, it seemed like such an injustice.  You never appreciate health until you don't have it - just like money, just like love.  But the closer I came to the end, the more I realized how marvelous the whole thing is, the whole is is.   
Did I thank God for it?  Well, after a fashion.  I was certainly grateful when things went my way - which, unfortunately, was often.
You see, I made a really great case for Following Your Bliss - which for me meant doing exactly and only what I wanted to do ... to whomever I wanted to do it to.  
Speaking of which, let's be frank.  Only a dead man can say this.  Sex is not about sex.  It's about power.  And I loved me some power, and so I had me some sex.  And the girls enjoyed it because while I was using them, they were using me - and they found it thrilling that my wife never knew.  It gave them a greater sense of control.  At any rate, it was easy to rationalize.  I never ever ever ever heard a homily about adultery, and I went to Mass every Sunday and took communion - religiously.   Once a year we'd hear about abortion, and twice in my life I heard in a homily the word "contraception", but never once did I hear a homily on the evils of adultery.
Because, you know, I was fulfilling my destiny.  I was following my bliss - my blasted bliss.
But anyway, my point is - and again, only the dead can say this (or maybe only the most alive) - my point is you can't just say, "I reject sin."
I tried that a few times, when the guilt got to me, when it hit me with a ton of bricks.  But I'd do it again.  And again.  I always failed when I tried not to sin.  Perhaps you and I have that in common, Sinner.
Let me explain. 
You see, it's not about not sinning.  You can't get a positive with a double negative, at least not in the equations of the Spirit.  In truth, sinning is a negative.  Sinning means not being holy.  You can't "not sin", for that's simply not not being holy.  You have to be holy.  That's the only way of avoiding sin, and that comes only by the grace of God - God's presence in you.  Literally.   It would be like me saying, I want not to be dead.  Well, great, Sinner, but to do that you have to be alive, and that only comes from God and that means holiness - His holiness.  It means love.  It means losing your life to save it, not-having-your-way in order to get it.  
So it burns.  
I sweat and suffer and it burns away and my heart slowly thaws, and I see Him more and more clearly - or perhaps it is His shadow.  Someday maybe face to face.  Now that I am here, I know Him just a bit.  Then, I will know Him as He has always known me - but for now there is no now or no here, just pain, a pain I brought on myself.  But I see His form, and that means hope.
Will you join me here, Sinner?  Join me in death?  Or will you live and be free? 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The True Counter-Culture

No evil is removable, no good is attainable, as long as any earthly or merely natural end is held to be, for its own sake, a legitimate object of pursuit. There is and can be good for no one, here or hereafter, save in seeking, exclusively, the end for which Almighty God has intended us, and by the means and in the way he himself has appointed. Now this end is neither in this world nor of this world, neither in nature nor of nature, and therefore can be gained, can be promoted, by no natural effort, by no natural means,  neither by political changes nor by social changes, neither by political democracy nor by social democracy. These things have and can have no necessary connection with it. It is a mistake, then, to regard them, in themselves, as ever in any degree desirable. - Orestes Brownson (emphasis mine), "Socialism and the Church"

Back in January, I wrote a post that elicited a long and thoughtful discussion in the combox, in which Andrew Lomas and I went back and forth a bit over a now obscure 19th Century Frenchman, Felicite Robert de Lammenais, about whom I knew nothing other than how Bl. Dominic Barberi stood firm against him, despite Lammenais' rock star status.  Lamennais' teachings were eventually condemned by the Church and Lammenais himself renounced his Christian faith and died kind of the way most bloggers live - a raving crank.

Lomas, in the combox, was defending Lamennais and pointing out the political failures of the Counter-Reformation Church, which made its worldly and temporal decisions too much in reaction to the Protestant Revolt, erring on the side of monarchy and wealth, and alienating itself from the demos - the poor on the street.  Lammenais was primarily a social reformer, and was advocating things that the Church, in its social encyclicals, eventually affirmed, things that in the early 19th Century was not willing to hear, or so says Andrew Lomas.

However ...

Now that I am reading Orestes Brownson in earnest, I find Brownson likewise very critical of de Lammenais.  Brownson quotes Lammenais at length in the essay I linked to above, "Socialism and the Church".  Lammenais' words are stirring and thrilling, though he has about him the touch of the demagogue.

But the problem with Lammenais (I gather) is that he was a "liberation theologian".

What the Church condemns in liberation theology is not the regard for the poor or the need for the amelioration of their suffering, but the notion that Christian reform is something that takes place in this world and in this world only.  Christ was not the first socialist, nor were his reforms merely or even primarily temporal reforms.

Brownson again ...

Undoubtedly, Christianity requires us to remove all evil, and in seeking to remove evil we follow the Christian principle; but what the Socialists call evil, and the people in revolt are seeking to remove, is not evil. Nothing is evil but that which turns a man away from his end, or interposes a barrier to his advance towards it. Nothing but one's own sin can do that.

Now, dear reader, before you get all smug and angry at Obama and all those other damned socialists, realize that this mistake - this notion that Jesus is utilitarian, that His grace is meant for this world and this world only, that our Faith is useful only in as much as it brings justice and comfort to the oppressed - is a mistake that is rampant in the American Church.


  • How often do we hear homilies that remind us that our goal is the Kingdom of Heaven, and that this goal can only be achieved by the renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil and by the mortification of attachments to the pleasures of this life?
  • What is the common thread of the consequentialists who argue for Torture and Lying - or for Westian celebration of lust?  In both cases, it's victory in this world, the enjoyment of a benefit here and now, saving our necks or the necks of unborn babies - which, important though self-preservation and defending the innocent is, is hardly the primary or the sole goal of the Christian.
  • Do we really believe that the only thing that can harm us is sin?  That while poverty causes great suffering, that poverty in and of itself is not evil - that in fact poverty can be used as a means of bringing us closer to God?   

I'm sure I'll be misread here.  

I am not saying, and neither was Brownson, and neither is the Church, that temporal suffering and temporal injustice should be ignored.  Corporal works of mercy are one of the fruits of devotion to Christ.  A just Christian society - a Distributist society - is something every Christian should advocate.

But the heresy slips in when we make social reform - or political victory, or even victory over abortion - our one and only end.

For even in Utopia, even in the perfect City of Man, there's still the heart of man - there's still sin and pride and envy and lust and all the things that make us candidates for salvation.  For our end is not here but hereafter, and only if we seek first the Kingdom of God shall the questions "what shall we eat and what shall we wear" be answered for us (Mat. 6:31).

But this is the most counter-cultural message of the Church, and even most Catholics are very unwilling to hear it.  


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We Have a Winner

In my post Drinking, Debating and Drunk Dialing, I had said that if anyone would photo-shop in a tornado in my picture of Maria Romine as an overweight Dorothy standing along Main Street of Westervelt, Illinois (actually a Westervelt farm field), that person would win an invite to the next ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club gathering or the Ladies' Auxiliary, as the case may be.

Well, we have a winner!



Joe Grabowski is now officially the first member of the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club Ladies' Auxiliary!  Congratulations, Joe!


From Cave to Grave



I will be hosting an in-depth study of Chesterton's The Everlasting Man the last Monday of each month beginning next Monday, June 24 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm at Pauline Books and Media, 9804 Watson Rd. in Crestwood, MO.  I will read aloud from this, GKC's most brilliant book, stopping frequently to explain things and expound upon it and taking questions and comments from the "studio audience".

The sessions are open to the public, free of charge, and will be filmed and posted on Grunky, our internet video network, some time this summer.

Be sure to come!  Email me for more info - kevin @ thewordinc.org.

The Chesterton Conference

While not everybody gets an invite to the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club, everyone is invited to the 32nd Annual American Chesterton Society Conference ...


32nd Annual Chesterton Conference : Education, Economics, and Everything Else.
Come join the fun at our 32nd Annual Chesterton Conference which will be held at Assumption College from August 1st to the 3rd. Celebrating the wit and wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, speakers include Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Dr. William Fahey and a special keynote address by prolific author, Dr. Peter Kreeft.
One of the most quoted writers in the English language, yet one of the least studied, G.K. Chesterton foresaw and wrote about the issues we struggle with today: social injustice, the culture of death, the decline of the arts, assaults on religion, and attacks on the family and on the dignity of the human person. He said something about everything and he said it better than anybody else. If you have never attended a Chesterton conference, you will see why it is one of the most delightful gatherings on the planet.
You may register by going to www.chesterton.org or call toll free at 800-343-2425. Student discounts are available and clergy as well as seminarians may attend free of charge. Discounted room rates and meal packages are also available for conference attendees. Be sure to register by July 12th.
Event Date(s) - August 1 - 3, 2013
Event Time(s) - starting 7pm on the 1st and ending on the 3rd at 9pm
Event Location including physical address -
Assumption College
Hagan Campus Center
500 Salisbury Street
Worcester, Massachusetts, 01069

Event Contact (phone and/or email to the public to contact with questions)
They may contact the American Chesterton Society
Toll Free: 1-800-343-2425
Email: orders@chesterton.org

What's not mentioned here is that I will be there with my Theater of the Word actors performing our stage play Socrates Meets Jesus, based on the book by Peter Kreeft.

Be sure to come!




Drinking, Debating and Drunk-Dialing

As founder and artistic director of the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club, I am proud to note that Mark Shea blogged about our recent meeting, which happened last Friday, on Chesterton's feast day, in Springfield, Illinois.

The ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club.  I am center in the red Cardinals cap presiding over the Official Sean Dailey Chair.  The Sean Dailey Chair is sedevacant, as Sean Dailey stands beside it next to me.

What Shea does not tell you is that we drunk-dialed him at midnight Central Time.  Except we really weren't drunk - at least most of us.  Still, we had a fun chat and many of our members got to tell Mark Shea what they really think of him.

We also drunk-dialed Dale Ahqluist, but he was smart enough to let it go to voice mail.

Dale Ahlquist, nobody's fool when it comes to cell phones
These are the official rules of the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club, written by me, except for the last one.
1. No sharing.
2. We are trying to discover the truth.
3. Use reason if that faculty exists in you (i.e., women not allowed).
4. If a member says something stupid, the other members are free to correct said member using shame, ridicule, and excoriation.
5. General bitching will not be tolerated, but rational conversation and drunken rambling are encouraged.
6.  There is no rule six.
7. Say, very loudly, "Are you freaking kidding me!?" every time Kevin O'Brien tries to voice an opinion.

The only one all members keep religiously, for some reason, is Number Seven - the only rule I didn't write.

The ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club Rules have also been adopted for the annual Four Man Feast, in honor of Hilaire Belloc and his book The Four Men.  I don't recall who made this tablet of wood, though I suspect Mt. Sinai and Moses were somehow involved.  That's how most rules get to us, you know.

And things went well on Friday, with some members having come from as far away as Philadelphia, nearly 1,000 miles distant.

The only problem is the group was too homogenous.  We all pretty much agreed with one another (despite the drinking), except for one member, who proudly announced that we were fools when it came to Lying.
I don't see what the problem is.  All you've got to do is define what Lying is and then see if the actions of Lila Rose conform to it.
He said.

To which I responded,
That was the first thing we did two-and-a-half years ago when this all began, and people haven't dropped the fight since.
It's always fun to see the naive faith in man's use of reason display itself, when those of us on the internet have long known better.

***

After the CBDDC, I went to Confession and Mass at this beautiful church in rural Pana, Illinois.


And then onward to perform We're Off to Kill the Wizard with Dorothy (Maria Romine) in even more rural Westervelt, Illinois.

Dorothy on Main Street, Westervelt, Illinois

If anybody is willing to photo-shop a tornado in the background of this picture, you'll get an invite to the next meeting of the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club - or the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club Ladies' Auxiliary, as the case may be.

As founder and artistic director of both the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club and its Ladies' Auxiliary, I have plentipotentiary power and can therefore do whatever I like and people have to obey me.

It's kind of like being married.  (I wish).
 
 

The Indelible Imprint of the Cross

An anonymous commenter makes a good point in my post about the Anti-Culture.  The gist of his argument is that there never was a golden age in Christian Culture.  The Middle Ages, much vaunted by certain Catholics, were brutal and harsh in many ways.

Of course the flip side of this is that there's more good in the world today than we are wont to admit.  Yes, there's plenty of brutality and harshness, and a litany of anti-christian horrors, from abortion to wage slavery to the atrocities of warfare - but even in a culture where 95% of teen students in Catholic Schools support "gay marriage", one great thing remains.

Somehow we still understand love.

Somehow, even in our secular anti-christian Culture of Death, even in our popular culture where Hardee's and Jack-in-the-Box cannot sell hamburgers without cynicism and sex, even in our increasingly irrational and violent cities and suburbs, we all know what love is.

Love is not a feeling, not a desire, not the hormones that surge through our bodies and make us rut for anyone or anything.  It's not all the stuff we pretend it is.

Love is self-sacrifice for the good of another.  That we know and that we have always known since the first Good Friday, nearly 2,000 years ago.  Ever since that awful day, no one raised in anything resembling a Christian culture - or even in a deliberately anti-christian culture - can deny what love is. 

We know this even when we say that all is Nothing.  We know this when we claim there is no God and we can do whatever we want.  We know this when we excuse away our philandering, our drug abuse, our devotion to success at any cost.  We know this when we lie to one another and say that if we love Jesus, we'll get a new car.  We know this when we lie to one another and say that if we love Jesus, we'd applaud sodomy and celebrate sterility.  We know this, no matter how despicable and self-serving our lives become.  We know this when we sacrifice our children to Moloch.  We know this when we immolate ourselves before Mammon.  We know this when we spill our seed and deconstruct our families on a mere whim.  We know this when the lights are off at night and we lie for a few moments awake, listening to the still small voice that convicts or excuses us (see Rom. 2:15).

We know this great truth - we know that God is love and we know what love really is, and we can either live in accordance with this truth or in denial of it.

The Golden Age is therefore always just around the corner - and the grace is there for the asking.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Anti-Culture

A Facebook friend writes about various Catholic publications ...

Jeff is right about the Wanderer's brave stance in the abuse crisis and the "Lavender Mafia," but their reporting on immigration is so one-sided and anti-bishop, it's hard for me to respect.
My Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register are often fluffy... staying "orthodox," but only because they never print anything the least bit risky.
America and Commonweal are smart, but prone to sell out the Magisterium on social issues. Jesuits use these publications to defend all kinds of heterodox ideas that in another time would have promoted accusations of heresy.
Although I like much of their stuff, both Crisis and First Things have published some of the most dangerous positions I have ever read... just incredibly wrong-headed American civil religion nonsense. It is Catholicism as the "Republican party at prayer." Crisis did this at the most dangerous time possible---when Pope John Paul II was trying to stop the war in Iraq.
My favorite Catholic magazines are New Oxford Review, Communio, and Gilbert. Hard to go wrong with those. But even they fall short sometimes. 
The fact is Catholicism is big field... Many saints, many sinners, many unique charisms that we ought to learn to respect.

Note that the new Crisis Magazine is much better than the old Crisis Magazine, though our Facebook friend has apparently not discovered this yet.

***

But this all makes me realize something.

Our culture began to turn away from the Church deliberately with the Reformation, and is now officially and utterly anti-christian and nihilist - so much so that almost all of the Catholic bishops and the vast bulk of the laity have been co-opted by the culture-at-large, and the best we can muster is a lame fortnight for freedom belied by our own secret compromise on the very issues we yap about.  The reason we see such a strange and strained attempt by various media outlets to publish with a Catholic heart and mind is that it's never been harder to be Catholic - for a Catholic culture (a culture that would automatically and organically produce such things) has ceased to exist.

Those who attempt to write or create from a Catholic perspective have to carve out a forced and unnatural position, with no help from either the clergy or their fellow Catholics, as a rule.  Thus everything is a bit off-balanced.

Factor in the market and things get worse.  You can probably make money targeting liberalist pro-abortion Catholics or targeting right-wing libertarian-leaning Catholics, but you can't make money playing to the middle because the middle is muddled.  The middle are simply sane secularists who are no more serious about Christ and His Church than the average man-on-the-street, whose sons are nihilists and whose daughters are whores.  He believes mildly in a benign god but denies that there is such a thing as sin, and he is no more interested in partaking in a Catholic culture than he is in doing anything that seems to him unreal and contrived.  He has his sports and his big-screen TV and unlimited access to porn and other addictive diversions - and nothing in the world around him tells him that a life lived for Jesus Christ would be anything but fake and self-serving.

The only possible way to combat this is to do our best as individuals and in small groups (usually not parishes) to approach sanctity and to beg the Holy Spirit to make us holy and to conform us to life in Christ - though corporate life in Christ is not being modeled for us anywhere but in the past, generally speaking.  If we radically give ourselves to Jesus, He will radically transform us, and from that personal transformation a new culture (at first a counter-culture) will spring.  Absent such a commitment, we will at best be Catholic in a "safe" way or in an unbalanced and bizarre way - but perhaps that is all we can do under the circumstances.

Pea-Nutty


- by Dixon Diaz.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Swimming Against the Tide of the Times

Fellow Christians: we have a choice.

We either make a radical commitment to Christ, or we make a radical commitment to sin.

It doesn't seem that way.

It seems as if we can become Christians and simply feel good about ourselves, or even, with a secret thrill, feel better than everybody else.  The "prosperity gospel" is wrong, but Christ doesn't demand we give up our suburban houses and cars and streaming TV, does he?  Not everyone is called to become a hermit or a beggar or a priest or a nun.  And as the Masses and especially the music at St. Somewhere keep telling us, "Jesus was nice; you be nice, too."  Just show up on Sundays and be nice.  I'm OK, you're OK too.  That's all that's required, right?

It's easy to laugh at that, but I'm convinced this is how we live our faith if we only live it by default, which is to say if we only let the tide of the times float our boat.

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it. - G. K. Chesterton
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. - Jesus Christ (John 15:19)

The world will only hate us if we act as a witness against the world; and we will only act as a witness against the world if we radically abandon ourselves to Christ.

Because the choice is either Christ or Sin - Life or Death.

***

I talk every now and then about the great spiritual upheaval I have gone through, which began last August and which has led to hundreds of blog posts and to more - to the splitting open of my head like an egg; to the cracking of my heart and the pouring forth of all the demons that made it their dark and rotting home.  Yeah, really!  It's been that bad.  I've gone a little nuts - more so than usual!

Now, before this struggle, I was not actively evil, and I was probably more serious about my faith than the typical Christian.  Or so I thought.

But I, even as a "Devout Catholic" (tm) and "Serious Christian" (c), had made room for the world, the flesh and the devil.  (For the wisdom of doing that, of "making room for" or of "providing for" such things, St. Paul says, " ... make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts," for we are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" - see Rom. 13:14).  I compromised.  I kept in reserve stuff that my inner Old Man, my Petty Tyrant who wants-what-he-wants-when-he-wants-it cherished.  I buried my Lord's talent and kept it as my own (see Mat. 25:14-30). I was Smaug the dragon guarding a precious hoard.

I'll give myself to you, Jesus, mostly and by and large - but I'm keeping hold of this!

And God, in His Divine Mercy, said, OK.

And He let His judgment play out - His judgment which is, in this life, something like "karma" - the consequential, the bearing forth of the fruit of our actions.  And since I had sown to the flesh, I reaped corruption.  Had I sown to the Spirit, I would have brought forth everlasting life (see Gal. 6:8).

And so I speak from a kind of awful authority, having seen and experienced my doom in a small way.

And that authority is His authority, which says this:

Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. - (Deut. 30:15)
Believe me, friends, I've had a taste of that disaster.

***

The author at the falls.
To "follow your bliss" seems to mean to do whatever floats your boat, but your boat is being carried along by the tide of the times, which is rushing headlong to the falls.

To "follow His bliss" means to turn against that stream - specifically ...


But more than that.  

We are called not just to avoid sin (a negative) - for that's only a start.  

We are called to become holy, which is something positive, and which can only happen by the working of the Holy Spirit in us - can only come about through God's grace, which is typically communicated through the sacraments of His Church, and by means of our cooperation with it.  

Because you can't be a tentative Christian.  And you can't be a tentative sinner.  Christ will sweep you up with Him, radically and wholly, if you let Him; and sin will sweep you toward greater destruction and corruption than you can possibly imagine.  

We are ultimately radical Christians or radical Sinners; we are fooling ourselves to think we can go half-way down either path.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kevin O'Brien's Beautiful Mind

Here I am being interviewed on Beautiful Minds, a radio show on WPYR in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I talk about literature - specifically using drama to bring words to life.  Even Stanford Nutting makes a brief appearance.

From the websiteBeautiful Minds: Bringing you the Good, the True and the Beautiful through authors past and present.

(I was interviewed on the radio show Beautiful Minds because the TV show Gorgeous Faces wouldn't have me.)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Photos

Hawn State Park, Missouri Ozarks.  To the right is the path  through the woods, to the left, immediately along the path , is a large black snake that I noticed when I stepped right beside him.

Hawn State Park near Ste. Genevieve, MO

Our Lady Help of Christians, Weingarten, MO


Me with Dom Julian Stead of Portsmouth Abbey, well-known poet and member of the  "Junior Inklings" with Sheldon Vanauken, Thomas Howard and Peter Kreeft

The gazebo, Portsmouth Abbey, Rhode Island

Maria Romine and the mountains of West Virginia

St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas, West Virginia

Beneath the side alter is an effigy of Jesus in the tomb.  Fr. Grassi celebrated an Extraordinary Form  Mass for Maria and me at this altar.

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

A roadside moment.

Our Lady of the Pines, Horse Shoe Run, West Virginia

"Smallest Church in 48 States"

Cathedral State Park, West Virginia - ferns, my favorite plant.

Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

With Marcus Grodi on The Journey Home, that's me as Orestes Brownson.  The episode will air in August.