Saturday, August 31, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 8

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 


Day Eight

The Underground Church



Yesterday we prayed the Nativity and the grace of Peace, and in keeping with our pattern, today we consider an opposing vice or resistance - and it's that cruddy complacency, the inertia that makes true Christians carry the cross, and that makes the birth of Christ happen literally underground, in a cave with smelly animals.

***

One of my actors is eager to convert to the Catholic Faith.  For about four years now this journey has been building.  He has been suffering resistance from every side - especially within his own family, some of whom are "Chick Tract" anti-Catholics.  I have never known of anyone who has suffered more for his desire to become Catholic.

Now that he's finally ready and he's made sure his wife won't leave him for making the jump, he has asked me to be his sponsor and guide him in.  But ... his territorial parish is a city parish, and like most city parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, has been co-opted by the "rainbow crowd'.  It's a "gay friendly" parish.  Of the two Catholic non-parish churches near him that are an option, one is filled with hateful bigots and the other gears their religious instruction to the illiterate homeless who live in the back alley, and they've told me it wouldn't be a good "fit" for my guy.  If this man goes to any other parish in the archdiocese, he can receive religious instruction, but most RCIA classes (as they are called) are utterly heterodox and also stupid and more like a nine-month episode of Oprah than anything an adult male who has suffered for Christ is willing to endure.  And even if he gets private instruction elsewhere, his territorial pastor, as I understand it, has to somehow sign off - and his territorial pastor is apparently a flaming heretic.

Is it any wonder Christ was born in a stable, in an underground hideout, and not in the multi-million dollar above ground Catholic hospital with full insurance coverage?  Is it any wonder that the New Evangelization is nothing the bishops seem to be able to handle, what with their love for bureaucracy and mediocrity, but is something that is happening "underground" at Chesterton clubs and men's groups and unofficially Catholic encounters all over the world?  Is it any wonder that a man who desperately wants to become Catholic for all the right reasons is stymied by the very Church he's drawn to?

The fact is that God draws us to Him - for he is Real.

He draws us out of the world - for the world is Unreal.

And the best way to keep our feet on the ground is to find ourselves hidden underneath it.

***

Let us reflect upon the way the world always pushes the Reality of God out of sight and makes it hard to find.

And let us pray ...


To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

I Found My Thrill After I Left Blueberry Hill

Reader Alice, who is praying our 50 Days of Prayer in preparation for the world-wide consecration to the Immaculate Heart, says something that has made me think.

My first consecration (Louis de Monfort) to Mary was one year ago, and I won't even go into what, mostly, a hash I've made of the past year; but I do believe Mary has brought me to your website, to let me know that whether I can see it or not, progress was made, and that just to breathe, means I have more chances to become what I am meant to be.

First, thank you, Alice, for such comments are great consolations for me.

But more than that, this subject Alice brings up has been on my mind recently.

Let me explain.

***

Rock and Roll legend Chuck Berry performing at Blueberry Hill
Today my wife Karen and I went to Blueberry Hill, the famous restaurant in St. Louis associated with Chuck Berry and filled with a ton of pop culture memorabilia.  Some of the items have been on display for over thirty years, which is about how long I've been going to Blueberry Hill.  In fact, in the old days I used to hang out there with my friends - who were a very different lot of friends from the kind I have today.

And that got Karen and me talking, and it got me wondering - and suddenly it struck me how different my life has been since becoming a Catholic.

***

You can watch my conversion story on one of my appearances as myself on The Journey Home, some clips of which are available on Grunky.  I'll give you the Reader's Digest version here.

In brief, I became an atheist at age nine (yes, age 9 - one of my Facebook friends thought that was a typo when I mentioned it a few days ago) and remained a vehement one until the age of 18, at which point my experiences acting on stage convinced me of the reality of the spiritual world.  I was "spiritual but not religious" for the next 18 years of my life, reading folks like Carl Jung and George Bernard Shaw and Eric Hoffer, along with psychologists like Fromm and May.

Then, a combination of factors began to usher me into the Church, not the least of which were the writings of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.  My wife and I were received into the Catholic Church on July 30, 2000 - a date I later learned was the 78th anniversary of Chesterton's reception into the Church.

I was 39 at the time.  And every friend I had then is no longer a friend today.  My friends were all quite anti-Catholic and my conversion was a watershed our friendships could not endure.

Somehow, over the course of the last 13 years, losing my friends was just the tip of the iceberg.  Somehow my life has become entirely different.

Like Alice, I feel as if I've made a real hash of the last year of my life, too.  And, like Alice, I feel God's grace still at work in me, despite how far I keep falling from the mark of letting Him transform me into the New Man He wants me to be.  Indeed, one of the great temptations of this past year (a year of profound temptation for me) has been the desire to despair - "It's not working out.  I'll never become the Christian I ought to be.  Look at all He's given me and look at the sins I keep committing!  What a hypocrite I am!  I might as well just give up.  I keep talking about God and yet I keep doing things that keep me from God - things that hurt myself and other people."

Well, Alice, and other readers who find yourselves in this same boat (more than one of you has communicated with me about this very sort of thing), here's at least one consolation.  In order to convey it properly, I'll have to talk a bit about my life, so please bear with me.

***

I was 24 or 25.  I was dating Karen.  She was in the passenger's seat.  I was at Grand and Gravois, or one of those South St. Louis intersections.  The light was red.  The sign said, "No Right Turn on Red".  I started to turn right.

"Kevin," she said, "the sign says NO RIGHT TURN ON RED."

"That's an optional no right on red," I replied.  "It doesn't apply to me."

I turned right.  I had failed to look in my rear-view mirror.  A cop was right behind me.  His lights came on; he pulled me over.

I had an outstanding bench warrant for a previously unpaid ticket.  He hauled me in to jail.  Karen had to get my sister and brother-in-law to come downtown and bail me out.

***

In those days, I honestly believed that the rules did not apply to me.  

That sounds stupid and arrogant, but I had read the entire collected works of psychologist C. G. Jung - 20 bound volumes or so - and that's the main lesson I had learned from Jung and the main lesson Jung had learned from life.  Jung taught me that so-called "conventional morality" applied to the moronic masses.  Those of us who were intelligent and sensitive and who had a greater sex drive than all those bourgeois monogamists could live outside of the rules - for the rules were merely the conventions of men, and could not be expected to have any bearing on those of us who were elite, who were a bit more than mere men.  Those of us who were in touch with the collective unconscious were not just slogging along from day to day.  We were in the process of individuation, of becoming unique individuals, and conventional morality could do nothing but hinder us.  Thus we were, in a sense, obligated to break the rules.

This I would later see clearly as the Gnostic hogwash that it is (which is why I have ever since had a keen nose for the Gnostic hogwash and recycled Jungianism that Christopher West and other "hipster Catholics" keep trotting out).

But this is how we lived, my friends and I.  I am not exaggerating.  This was our philosophy and this is how we lived.

One of my close friends, the serial philanderer that I have mentioned in these posts before, would visit Blueberry Hill with me in the 1980's and 1990's, and we would sit in a dimly lit booth and he would brag about his latest conquests.  This was a man who had slept with hundreds or thousands of women in his life.  This behavior cost him two marriages and his career, but even now in 2013 at the age of 78, it's still the main focus of his existence.

I was not quite at his level.  But I did live simply and solely for myself.  I had no intention of marrying Karen, for example.  We dated for almost nine years before I finally did marry her.  A family life?  A wife?  Kids?  A regular job?  Why would I want that, if I could get the only benefit my narcissistic personality saw in my relationship with her - sex and companionship without any sacrifice on my part?

And yet I wasn't totally self-centered.  I wasn't really all about pleasure, and I certainly had no desire to make money.  I was never really into mere materialistic hedonism.  For instance, I wanted to find out what this individuation was that Jung kept mentioning and somehow I wanted to achieve it, and I certainly had a sad and painful longing to do theater.  I loved acting and play writing so deeply it hurt.  I wanted only to make money doing what I loved - and I had picked the one career where accomplishing that was nearly impossible.

But I knew I hand't picked it.  I knew acting and drama for me wasn't a mere career.  I knew it was a vocation, a calling, though I didn't believe the "call" had come from a personal god.  I knew, however, that this was indeed one of the rules I had to live by, and I learned it the hard way - like going to jail for making a right turn on red.  I had somehow to give my life to the art of show business - difficult as that was - or else I would be miserable.

But, aside from my love for drama and for art and literature, my existence was very mean, which is to say petty and small-minded, sordid and selfish.

I had another close friend who was not a philanderer and who was a bit into reading like I was, but in many ways his life was just as narrow and narcissistic as that of my Blueberry Hill buddy.  He was a lapsed Catholic and he married a liberal Jew and had one - and deliberately only one - child between them.  And the two of them were more like Episcopalians than anything else - filled with what I call the Anglican Ennui, the sadness of the sophisticated.  "This is all there is to life and we might as well make the best of it, but we're a sorry lot, we humans, and we are teetering on the edge of depression, and we need our illusions, and the best we can do is find a set of illusions that are sophisticated and erudite and aesthetic.  We are, sad to say, all alcoholics but we really owe it to ourselves to drink the best gin."  Such is the Anglican Eunni.

"So what was I living for back then?" I asked Karen tonight as we sat in the dimly lit interior of Blueberry Hill, in a booth I had sat in hundreds of times over the years.

The answer is this: I was living for nothing beyond myself - or at least for very little.

***

The first big change came when I got married.  I suddenly realized how lonely I had been in comparison, all those years, all the while congratulating myself for being so clever and avoiding the lot of most men.

The next big change came when our kids were born.  The moment I saw our firstborn, Colin, I knew a love that I had never imagined I could feel.  Here was someone I would die for in a heartbeat, without asking a question or hesitating for a moment.  I felt the same, of course, for our daughter Kerry when she was born.

And the more my career came together, the less of a misfit I felt, for I somehow knew that my other great love - my love for the dramatic arts - was not arbitrary, meaningless, or pointless.  It could pay off; it had a goal; it was not for naught.  I have supported this family for 20 years now acting and writing and producing and directing - all the while living in St. Louis, Missouri, of all places.  And I have had the great honor to lose most of the money I've made from show biz over the years on Theater of the Word Incorporated, evenagelizing through drama and being persecuted for it.

And somehow, sitting with my wife Karen in Blueberry Hill on a hot summer night in 2013, I look back on all those years and on the huge change my imperfect love for Jesus Christ has made.

For while I am (like Alice and like most of my readers) far from the Perfect Christian, I have changed orbits.  I am in a different solar system.

I now orbit the Holy Trinity.  My life is no longer centered on my self, or even on the things that are "mine" like my family or my career.  My life, instead, has become a continual struggle to cooperate with God's grace and to leave the old orbit behind.  My center of gravity is now totally different.

Do I get it right?  Hardly ever.

But, Alice (and Readers), as St. Francis de Sales says,

Perfection does not consist in being perfect or in acting perfectly. It is the striving for perfection that is important. 

By "perfection" he means holiness, a life of love lived for God and neighbor.

My devotion to that, to which I committed myself officially 13 years ago, has cost me all of my friends from those days - the Philanderer, Mr. & Mrs. Anglican Ennui - many that I haven't mentioned - all of them but Karen.

***

Yes, we can make a hash of things.  But the eggs, the corned beef, the potatoes - the ingredients of that wonderful hash all come from God.  For this much we can say ...

To try to live for God and to fall shy of doing so is nonetheless a great blessing.  

To try to live for yourself and to succeed at it is a damn shame.



Friday, August 30, 2013

Chesterton and Hollywood

A great article on Breitbart about Theater of the Word actor Kaiser Johnson (recent winner of Spellmageddon on ABC Family).  I get a passing mention in it as well ... but the article is really about our 300 pound cigar smoking saint, G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton in Hollywood, no less.

Be sure to read it!

Kaiser and his father-in-law, my buddy Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society.

50 Days of Prayer - Day 7

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 


Day Seven

The Nativity


They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. (Jer. 6:14)

We live in a very broken world.  Perpetual war, rule by a plutocracy, usury and taxes that crush the common folk, pornography, a culture in free fall, attacks on the family, abortion - and on and on.

But most folks, even in the Church, keep blithely saying, "Peace!  Peace!" when there is no peace.  Or worse yet, "Why can't we all just get along?" - as if the things that make for turmoil are insignificant and the problem is with those who suffer and complain about it.

There is no peace today and there was no peace for the Holy Family.  Christmas came in a panic - an untimely and precipitous delivery when there was no room at the inn, and was followed by a flight into Egypt to avoid the bloodthirsty brutality of Herod - Herod the icon of "Pro-choice" leaders, hungering after the slaughter of innocents.

And yet somehow every Christmas - or at least once during Advent - there comes that indescribable moment - that moment of stillness, silence and peace.  "Silent Night", "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and other beautiful hymns touch upon this holy awe.

Everyone has felt it - atheists, Jews, Buddhists.  There is a magical stillness and a pure calm, a still and steady light burning in the darkness, even in the midst of the secular orgy of commercialism and rushing about we call Christmas the Holidays.  It's there.  It's a foretaste of the Peace of Christ that we receive only fully in the Kingdom, and it is not anything like the false peace of this world.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. - (John 14:27

God grants us this grace at some unexpected moment every Advent or Christmas - He grants it even to those who most despise Him.  It is the enduring gift of the Nativity, of the entry into the world of our sinless Savior, the child who shall lead us (Is. 11:6), and, though quiet and easy to miss, it is very real.

Let us pray a decade of the Rosary, meditating upon the Nativity of Our Lord.

And let us pray ...


To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

A Litany to St. Jeanne Jugan

Today is the feast of St. Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the subject of our Theater of the Word play Little Saint of the Poor, which we performed at about 20 Little Sisters homes across the U.S. the year she was canonized.

Jeanne Jugan is a remarkable woman, and my actress Maria Romine has written a beautiful litany to her.



Litany of Saint Jeanne Jugan

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Jeanne Jugan, faithful believer, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, patient listener of God's call, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, selfless worker for God, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, comforter of the poor, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, beggar for God's poor, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, humble servant of the Lord, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, grateful receiver of God's blessings, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, trusting dependent of God's Providence, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, willing instrument in God's hands, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, joyful witness of Christ's love, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, great lover of Jesus, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, foundress of God's home for the elderly poor, pray for us.
Jeanne Jugan, little sister, pray for us.

Let us pray: O Lord, grant me the patience that your servant Jeanne Jugan displayed in waiting and listening for your still small voice.  Help me to remember that any work that I do for your glory is Your work not mine.  Should the work that I love and find joy in doing for your sake be taken away from me give me the strength that Jeanne demonstrated in embracing her cross and following you-tirelessly and without complaint.  Help me to be a gracious receiver of your blessings and Providence.  And Lord,  help me to see you in my fellow man as Jeanne always did.


St. Jeanne Jugan, pray for us!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 6

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 


Day Six

Isolation


What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.

                    Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing.
          - T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot - local St. Louis boy makes good.

Every other day so far we've been praying a decade of the Rosary and focusing on a virtue or a grace.  

On the First Day of our Fifty Days of Prayer, we prayed the Immaculate Conception and reflected on the need to have an undivided heart, a pure heart; which, when seeking God in prayer conceives new life (Day 3, the Annunciation).  This new life, even when hidden within us, touches something deep in our neighbors and brings to them a strange flutter of joy (Day 5, the Visitation).

And in the intervening days, we've been reflecting on the vices and the resistance within us that oppose these graces.  

An Immaculate Heart of Purity is shattered by our tendency to Live the Lie (Day 2).  The new life we would naturally receive as a gift from God in prayer we push away in our ongoing battle Against Nature (Day 4).  We laugh at virgins having babies and demand just the opposite:  that every woman should be a whore and never get pregnant.  

Today I want to continue this pattern and reflect upon what is, in a sense, the opposite of the Visitation.  

And that is isolation.

We live in an isolated age.  And strangely, this is by choice.

Long ago, the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Micah and cursed those who turn from Him, saying ...

You will eat but not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty. You will store up but save nothing, because what you save I will give to the sword. You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil on yourselves, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine.  (Micah 6:14-15)

Think of how we live today.


  • We eat high calorie junk food, but we are never filled.  Even our sweeteners are artificial and deliberately devoid of nutrition.
  • We work two jobs to make lots of money, but that "credit" Capitol One offers makes us poorer still.  The more we have, the more we owe, and usury, car payments and mortgages make us slaves in the suburbs.
  • We sacrifice to educate our children, who grow up to reject their faith and who flaunt the ignorance the schools we've paid have drummed into their heads.  The more we educate, the dumber they get.
  • We have lots and lots and lots of sex, and no children, no grandchildren, nothing but our own selfish selves, and each new orgasm reminds us more and more that we are Onan, isolated and disconnected from any lover, indeed from any other person.
  • We have developed the greatest transportation system known to man and we spend our time going nowhere.
  • We work out and have excellent health care, and we are depressed and suicidal.
  • We have the greatest works of literature and art and music available electronically at our fingertips, and we look at porn and kittens.
  • We are the most affluent people that have ever lived, and we suffer from an incredible poverty of mind and soul - and more and more from a deep seated cruelty in our hearts.

There will come a time when the Isolation will be complete, a time when we will not be able to reach out, when one hidden life will no longer touch another hidden life, as at the Visitation, a time when we will not be able to be reached.

The Isolation will be complete.  We will eat and not be satisfied.  We will save but we will owe.  We will pour out or seed and have nothing to show for it.  Nothing will lead to nothing.  The prophecy will be fulfilled.

And we will be in hell.


Let us pray.


To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

"The Catholic Thing" my Butt!

A Facebook friend sends this to me.

Warning: there's a bit of offensive language.  And a LOT of offensive argumentation.  If you can call it that.  Keep in mind this wiener writes for "The Catholic Thing".

Ladies and gentlemen, Brad Miner of :The Catholic Thing" on "Why I'd Bomb Damascus."
****
On Syria: In H.P. Willmot’s history of WWII, THE GREAT CRUSADE, he makes the point that Allied failure to act – enforcing treaties with China – to defend Manchuria against the Japanese invasion (1931) was an incitement to global war. Hitler saw that Manchuria was left to twist in the wind, and was emboldened to move on the Sudetenland. In all, 60,000,000 (conservatively) would die in the next fifteen years of slaughter. There was talk in the lead up to the Gulf War (1991) that it was all about oil. I argued at the time – at a National Review gathering (under questioning by WFB) – that, as in the Thirties, we needed to consider that what may seem but a single ember floating on a breeze may drop upon tall, dry grass and ignite a spreading conflagration. And this is the problem we face in Syria. Inaction (as Buddha famously put it) IS an action. Yet if the 20th century teaches anything it’s that (to paraphrase Richard Weaver) action has (unintended) consequences. So: bombing WMD stores in Syria could end up being another Nagasaki or Dresden. But: the Japanese and Germans are now among America’s closest allies. And: the Arab and Muslim nations might unleash hell on Israel. But: Israel isn’t Czechoslovakia. Maybe: Mr. Obama would rather have Israel clean up this mess. But: An attack on Damascus by the U.S. could, as Assad has promised, lead to retaliation against American targets. Or: Assad is taken out in an attack and the rebels succeed, and the rebels are Al Qaeda. If: You toss any sort of incendiary into this situation, you can’t possibly know how it will play out. Still: Failure to act makes the U.S. look like a paper tiger (as Mao used to say). Meanwhile: Any targeted attack on Assad would seem to be in violation of Jimmy Carter’s (Executive Order 12036) prohibition of assassination. (Confirmed by Reagan – EO 12333.) But: The very best result would be a coordinated effort of bombing and spec ops in which among the casualties is Bashar al-Assad. It’s not right; it’s against the law; it solves part of the problem. But: Then what? Quoting those noted political philosophers, The Who, what if: “Meet the new boss/same as the old boss.” Adding: Except worse. Years before my time at National Review, James Burnham used to listen to this sort of dialectic and say: “If there’s no solution, there’s no problem.” If I were president, I’d unleash hell from the sky and mop up all the identifiable bad guys – if that were possible. I’d call Bibi and say: “That’s it, my brother. But we’ll be with you at Meggido if the shit really hits the fan.”

Why Teens Can Not "Consent"

"Me 14" is the caption of this picture, posted at the article I link to.

About a year ago, Fr. Groeschel made his ill-advised comments that amounted to, "A victim of sexual abuse is not always a victim."

When I pointed out how wrong he was, the furor that erupted on this blog surprised and distressed me.  As I explained to a friend on Facebook ...

A very large percentage of "conservative" Catholics are adamant that the age of consent is based on positive law only and not on natural law to some degree. I kept claiming that the age of consent, like all legal boundaries, must be somewhat arbitrary, but that it was based on a simple fact: the capacity to consent to sex is not present until fairly late in adolescence. No one wanted to hear that. One of the guys who was most critical of this and who most pushed the agenda of "a 15-year old wants it" had a profile that linked to anime sites. It was really distressing to me. 

And let me add the usual caveats.  Yes, teenaged girls can be very provocative - and I know personally how easy it is for a "grown ass married dude" (as Matt Walsh calls us) to be tempted in this way.

But read this article - The Myth of the Teenage Temptress: Or Why A Young Girl Can Not Consent to Sex With An Adult Man.  Be advised that some graphic language is used and at one point a sexual encounter is described in detail.  But the article speaks the truth - the truth many of my readers don't want to hear.


What Hath Relativism Wrought? or Why Miley is Not Really the Problem

The Dictatorship of Obama is achieving its goals without opposition from his party, the media or Congress, leading us into yet another theater in the never-ending war.

The Dictatorship of Relativism is achieving its primary goal, which is and always has been the Abolition of Nature, recently displaying itself on the theater of television as Miley Cyrus managed to destroy everything sexy about sex with music that had nothing musical about it.

The other day I talked about Miley, pornography, Disney, "gay marriage" and Capitalism.

Matt Walsh has hit upon the other side of this debacle by, quite rightly, pointing the finger at Miley's partner in crime for this spectacle.

I’m no feminist. Miley Cyrus is an adult and should be held responsible for her actions. But where are the men in all of this? Have we so completely given up on chivalry that we don’t even see what’s troubling about a GROWN ASS MARRIED DUDE singing a song about sexual domination while dry humping a young woman on national TV? Men in this culture need to stand up and be leaders. I don’t want to talk about the Miley Cyruses of the world. Enough is said about them. I want to talk about the legions of cowardly, amoral adult men who graduate college and still carry on like frat boys well into their 60′s. The girls that behave like Miley Cyrus do so because they want to attract men. And it works.
It shouldn’t.

Well, speaking as a grown-ass married dude who, if left to his own devices, would carry on like a frat boy well into his sixties, and who is as vulnerable to "feminine wiles" as the next grown ass married dude - even when those wiles are utterly transparent to anyone with a brain and really not that appealing beyond flattering our vanities - speaking as such, I totally concur with Walsh.  Women behave like this because men fall for it, and corporations get behind this because it sells.

But that's not my point.

My point is we can no longer even point to the sky and say, "It's blue".  That's my point.

We can no longer point to the fact that the music was idiotic and the performance vulgar and offensive.  The Dictatorship of Relativism rejects reality.  Facts do not exist, only opinions.

And so, one of the first of hundreds of comments on Walsh's article says ...

So let me get this straight. You rant for a few paragraphs, judging and condemning the actions of others, who you know are not practicing believers of any religion, against your beliefs.

This commenter then goes on to slam the Bible and religion in general.

I wanted to post a picture of Miley and her grown-ass married dude dance partner, but I really can't find any suitable for this blog.


***

Now I used to be an atheist.  From age 9 to age 18, I was a full-fledged card carrying atheist - an evangelizing atheist, the kind who would get in your face and tell you how stupid you were for buying into an illusion.  And this was back in the day when atheism was not a fad - in a small town in the country, where God was as much a part of our lives as guns and football and to question one was to question the others.  But I was ahead of the curve.  I was a trend setter before the trend set in.  And it took a bit of courage - a fair amount of stupidity and a dose of courage.

So I have a kind of sympathy with atheists.  I get it.  In fact, I get it so much that I know what a cop out this new atheism is and how far it's fallen from the old mark we used to hit.

In the old days, atheists were searching for truth.  We were adamant that the Christian Faith had nohing to do with truth, and that's why we were so upset.  Yes, we had issues - a kind of anger and psychological rebellion against authority that fueled much of what we did - but we also had a certain integrity: devotion to truth at all costs, even if it meant giving up the 2,000 year old lie.

Today's Fad Atheists will insist that there is no truth.  Even though this is a contradiction in itself (you can't claim the statement "there is no truth" is true if there is no truth), still why worry?  Hilaire Belloc addresses this foolhardy disdain for self-contradiction.

That great Modern Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone. There you have the Modern Attack in its main character, materialist, and atheist; and, being atheist, it is necessarily indifferent to truth. For God is Truth.

And if you are willing to pay the price of giving up Truth in order to jettison God (for God is Truth), then you are left with this: there is no Beauty or Goodness either, for all three form a kind of trinity.  And so you can claim and claim with a fair amount of self-righteous indignation that ...


  • Miley's performance was not ugly.  Nothing is ugly, because nothing is beautiful - not a sunset, not a tree, not the moon at night, not a baby sleeping in a crib.  Our sense of beauty is just our hormones and neurons firing randomly for the sake of evolution.
  • Miley's performance was not morally wrong.  Dry humping a married man and pretending to have sex with a styrofoam finger on national TV (with children in the audience) is not morally bad because nothing is morally good.  It's just your illusion vs. my illusion - pick a morality and stick with it.  Or don't.  It's all subjective, there is no truth and everything is relative.

***

St. Paul wrote a blog post about this years ago ... 

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.  (1 Tim. 4:1-2)

Indeed, our consciences have been "seared" - seared with the hot iron of Relativism that kills all compunction, seals off all regret, buries any sense of shame - and with it any ability to see and recognize that which is true, that which is beautiful, and that which is good - killing as well our capacity to be grateful for any of those things.

Paul goes on to talk about the priorities of those devoted to the lie whose consciences are seared.  The first priority he lists is an attack upon marriage.

So the more things change the more they stay the same.

And at least they didn't have comment boxes in the days St. Paul was blogging.




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 5

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 

Day Five

The Visitation



Yesterday I wrote about Mary receiving the Word with a pure heart, without a contraceptive barrier, without aborting away the new life she conceived from God, a life welcomed and nourished by her undivided Immaculate Heart.

Immediately Mary goes forth to visit her kinswoman Elisabeth, who is in need.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Luke 1:41)

This is what art is all about.  This is what acting is all about.  This is what friendship is all about.  The life that is in us touches the life that is in you, hidden but waiting, receptive, ready to leap at the approach of the Unseen Lord.  This is what we hope and pray will happen every time we step on stage, we actors; whether we're performing a broad comedy or a devout and literary drama.  We want the life in us to make the slumbering life in our audience jump for joy.

This is what happens at the Visitation when Mary's heart speaks unto Elisabeth's heart, and the heart of the unborn Jesus speaks unto the heart of the unborn John the Baptist.  Cor ad cor loquitur.  Heart speaks unto heart.

Life breeds new life.  That is as true in the spirit as it is in the flesh.

Let us pray a decade of the Rosary meditating upon the Visitation.

And let us pray ...

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Disney, Pornography, Gay Marriage, Capitalism

On the one hand, the Beast has been let out of its cage.
Miley Cyrus being attractive.

On the other, the Banker is holding the chain.

***


I have taken to viewing the “Disney sweetheart” phenomenon as a trap: a role-model time bomb, set on purpose to go off for maximum impact, maximum headlines, and to sell maximum copies of the first semi-nude photo shoot. In this model, the sweet-innocent-girl-next-door is an image carefully crafted and curated to ensnare as many hits as possible. The sweeter and more innocent the better, because then the more sensational the headline when she Goes Wild.
There is, as you know, a thriving and only partly underground market in the images of young women who appear to be anywhere from twenty-one down to about sixteen. When a young woman who was recently well-known as an underage star comes of age and hits the centerfolds, there is a valuable association — “Is she even old enough for that?!” — that her handlers must rush to exploit before it expires.
In other words: The Disney-Channel sweet and childlike girl next door is merely Phase I of “Hot, Wild, and Barely Legal.” These girls are not going off the deep end on their own. They are being groomed to go off the deep end, because a lot of people stand to make money when they “discover” the next Britney, the next Lindsay, the next Miley.
***

Those of us who are still in the mainstream and who (by the grace of God) stay away from porn have no idea how pornographic our culture has become.  Rod Dreher links to a very disturbing piece by a female journalist who attended a porn shoot in San Francisco, to which the general public was invited; invited to watch and to participate as a willing young blonde was bound and beaten and sexually molested in a variety of brutal ways.  The journalist, a promiscuous but rather bored young intellectual, unmarried and mildly unhappy, ultimately sees nothing wrong with this and finds it all a new way of exploring our humanity.  But, for some reason, she turns her head away from the internet video clip of the degradation she witnessed in public.

My 15-year-old tutoring student brags about Gifyo, an internet site for teens to post short "gifs" or mini-movies on, each about four seconds in length.  At least one in ten of these "gifs" appear to be pornographic, and the other nine disturbingly inappropriate.

And keep in mind that probably 98% of the cute and silly teen girls at my daughter's all-girls Catholic high school adamantly support "gay marriage" - which is nothing but forcing everyone to approve of and to celebrate acts of such depravity that civilized people wouldn't even mention them in public thirty years ago.

And when I post this on Facebook yesterday ...

Are we really so foolish these days to think that we can unharness such a beast as sexual desire and not have it wreak havoc in society? To take the marital act, which is an expression of intimacy open to the possibility of procreation between a husband and a wife, and to make it just copulation or sodomy or mutual masturbation or what have you between whomever or whatever or where ever ... this will lead to untold human misery. Can't we see that?

... I get dozens of comments, many of which are disagreeing with me, and one of which is a Christian friend who boldly and indignantly announces she's "de-friending" me over this.

And my Facebook friends are mostly conservative Catholics!

***

But the great irony of it is that while there's more and more sex, things are less and less sexy.

Miley Cyrus' performance at the Video Music Awards was simply repulsive.  There was nothing at all provocative about it, but it was "provocative" from start to finish.  It was vulgar and offensive, but here's a girl with plenty of charm who is usually fun to look at - but not in that performance.

And so we have a great explosion of pornography and near-pornography in our culture, and yet who benefits?

The "porn industry".  And Disney Corporation.

And girls in college are pressured into Lesbianism and "polyamory" and anal sex as a kind of rite of passage, thinking they're being rebellious and counter-cultural, when it's all a lie that's lining someone's pockets.

The beast is out of the cage, but the banker is holding the chain.

***

And why oh why oh why is it impossible to point this out?  Why is participating in the public bondage and abuse of a willing victim "exploring our humanity"?  Why are teen girls cheering on the Forced Institutionalized Celebration of sodomy?

And why is sex suddenly brutal, suddenly devoid of all charm and appeal?

Chesterton answered this question long ago ...

There are two human relations which modern rulers are everywhere disposed to resolve. And they are the only two relations which ordinary people are so naturally constituted as to desire. A man can desire woman as a thing of beauty or woman can desire a baby as a thing of beauty. These two relations, that of a man and wife and that of a mother and child, are the only two recognized combinations founded on this natural satisfaction of a thing in itself – these are also the only two recognized combinations in a capitalist civilization which that system has set out to destroy. It is essential to note that no other relation is really being attacked.

The devil hates the family, hates love-making and babies, loves pornography and the abuse of women, is ecstatic over the loss of a child's innocence.

And the capitalist is making money off it all.


50 Days of Prayer - Day 4

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 

Day Four

Against Nature




Many people are offended at the concept of the Virgin Mary conceiving and giving birth to Jesus without any kind of sex.  People today would much rather have sex without babies than babies without sex.

And while the Annunciation is indeed a miracle, the miracle affirms a real truth of the spiritual realm - purity procreates.  A pure heart is far from barren; a pure heart is receptive to God, and hence always conceives and brings forth.

As God tells us in Isaiah ...

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  (Is 55:10-11)

God has designed Nature to be productive.  But we cherish a cult - the cult of the Unproductive.  Our culture is as much a Culture of Sterility as it is a Culture of Death.  This is one of the reasons the Homosexual is the icon of our age - he or she represents The Abolition of Nature, man triumphant over all of the boundaries God has built into reality, even at the price of sterility and narcissism.

But every one of us is guilty of something like this.  Every time we sin, we enter into a whirlwind of activity designed to keep up the Lie.  Living the Lie demands constant effort - lying to ourselves, lying to others, propping things up and gaming them so that the Unreality we've built does not fall flat on its face.

In other words, it's much harder to fight against our higher nature - to sin - than to cooperate with it.  If we cooperate with it, God does the rest.  The earth will "bud and flourish", and good soil will bear much fruit - if once we let the seed of God in (See Luke 8:1-15).

Mary received the Seed with a pure heart.  She did not put up a contraceptive barrier.  She did not abort the new life once it began to grow in her.  She cultivated it, rejoiced, and immediately went forth.

But more on that tomorrow.

Let us pray.

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

Monday, August 26, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 3

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!] 


Day Three

The Annunciation




There is one thing common in almost every artistic depiction of the Annunciation.

Mary is praying.  Or meditating.  Or reading Scripture.  She is alone indoors, communing with God, and God responds; God comes to her.  The initiative is not all on God's part; Mary invites Him in, and in He comes.  He does not come while she is cooking or cleaning or mending.  He comes while she is praying.

***

Once, when my kids were both going to a bad Catholic school, the assignment in my son's class was to write an exercise answering the question, "If you could say anything to God, what would you say?"  

In other words, "If prayer were possible, how would you go about it?"  

Well, prayer is not only possible, it is, really, the "one thing necessary" (Luke 10:42).  It is, apart from God's grace, the sine qua non of our spiritual life.

I think that most of us assume that the special graces granted Mary, and the unique moment of the Annunciation, when God offers, Mary accepts, and Christ is suddenly Incarnate on Earth - we tend to think of this as being so far out of our league that nothing we poor sinners can do can compare with it.

But all prayer is a recapitulation of the Annunciation.

Let me repeat that.  All prayer is a recapitulation of the Annunciation.  We invite, God responds; God offers, we accept.  And new life begins to grow within us.  Prayer is a dialogue - a personal dialogue with the Creator of the Universe, who for some reason, takes an intense personal interest in every single one of us.

And as with all dialogue, there is a give and take, some talking and some listening.  All prayer is the penetration of the natural by the supernatural - all prayer is God becoming miraculously active on earth.  And all prayer is a relationship, a living and creative thing.

C. S. Lewis' masterpiece Letters to Malcom is all about prayer, and Malcom is a fictional figure.  We get to read the narrator's letters, but we never get to read Malcom's replies.  We only see how the narrator responds to Malcom's replies.  This is analogous to prayer itself.  We know what our letters to God are, but we can't always clearly discern the replies God sends back to us.  And yet a change is wrought in us, all the same.

God answers all prayer - usually not with words, but with feelings, events, blessings and crosses in our lives.  If you pray to Him devoutly with an undivided heart, He will always answer you - you just have to get used to learning how to listen for the various ways in which He answers.  You have to learn how to read His letters.

So pray a decade of the Rosary focusing on the Annunciation.  And do so in the spirit of the Psalmist ...

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water ...
... On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.  (from Psalm 63)

Let us pray.

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

Oscar Wilde - Modern Theologian

Speaking as a sinner - that is, with some authority - I can tell you that one of the great barricades to repentance is an unwillingness to feel shame for our sins.  Shame is such an ugly, unpleasant thing.  It is that great sense of inner conviction that we're awfully rotten people after all.  And so we keep ourselves from shame, even if it means clutching onto a kind of secret pride for the very worst things we do.  We really don't want to let go of the Ring; we really delight in the very thing that brings us to death.  And we say of our sins, "We know they're wrong, but somehow they have been useful at least, if not good.  Becoming fuel for repentance makes them good in a sense, doesn't it?  We can sin our way to salvation, can't we?"

And so we see Oscar Wilde (about whom I spoke here and here) writing from the depths, from prison, experiencing much in the way of genuine repentance, but still unwilling to go all the way.  He makes, as I said, suffering into a kind of grand aesthetic, and turns Christ into the Perfect Poet.  The Jesus Oscar Wilde describes could very well end up in prison along with Wilde, as Wilde assigns to Him a trajectory that is devoted to fine feeling and fine feeling alone - to a kind of art for art's sake or salvation for the sake of how pretty it looks - a trajectory that is, at its core, rather self-indulgent and doomed not to end well.

But this bad theology of Wilde's - this creation by Wilde of a god made in his own image - runs side by side with moments of great grace and true confrontation with pain and guilt; indeed with moments of profound Christian insight.  So the work as a whole (De Profundis) is a strange mix.

However, I would like to focus here on the core of Wilde's error.  I wrote earlier about certain deeply Christian teachings we would never hear from the pulpit these days.  Oscar Wilde's theological blunders are, by contrast, the sort things we hear from the pulpit all the time.

For starters, his Christ is all hippie and no Son of God.  Wilde's Christ is anything but wild.  He isn't even a reformer - neither a social reformer nor a reformer of souls.  He's just a galavanting poet with a keen sense of beauty who gets people mad at him because he lives outside the narrow social conventions of his day.  He is a Christ of "luv" and not of "love", of a VW van painted with psychedelic peace signs and not of that awful thing called the Cross - which Wilde bore for years in prison, but which, even at his lowest, he could not squarely face.

Not only that, The Oscar-Wilde-Jesus is really rather OK with sin.  Wilde writes ...

The conversion of a publican into a Pharisee would not have seemed to him a great achievement. But in a manner not yet understood of the world he regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy things and modes of perfection.  

That is well said - said in a captivating and lilting way - but it is very wrong.

The conversion worked by Christ was never - and is never - the conversion of a publican into a Pharisee (which would be a step backwards), but a conversion of a publican into a St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist; a conversion of a Pharisee into a St. Paul, Martyr for Christ.

And what does Wilde mean when he says that Jesus "regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy things and modes of perfection"?

What he does NOT mean is that sin and suffering become good if they serve as material for repentance.  What he means is they are good in themselves as being the ultimate and highly aesthetic expressions of the Lot of Mankind.  Earlier, Wilde says that suffering is the one experience that is not composed of other experiences; it is a simple thing, not compound.  It is a thing not hiding another - suffering has a kind of purity and simplicity; it is close to the essence of human life.  That's almost right, for suffering at least strips away our masks and our pretense.  Wilde makes that clear when he talks about how the loss of his children finally brings him to an encounter with his own soul, stripped of all varnish and affectation.

But it's wrong in that it fails to acknowledge the purpose of suffering, the teleology of it - which is to join us with Christ and make us holy.  Suffering does a lot for Oscar Wilde, but it only goes so far.  It stops at a kind of sensation and goes no further.  It is not redemptive.  It's just another oh-so delicate experience - albeit rather horrible.

Likewise, sin for this aesthete is just another experience.  It tells us more about the Human Lot, for it is such a common thing, and it brings about suffering, which is the purest of feelings.  But it's on par with every other experience.  It is nothing to be rejected and repented of.  It is not a mar on human nature, it's just a part of human nature, no better or worse than anything else - in fact a bit better, for it brings us to the great delicacy of pain.

And, facing the Prodigal Son square on (but not quite the Son of Man), Oscar pontificates ...

Christ, had he been asked, would have said — I feel quite certain about it — that the moment the prodigal son fell on his knees and wept, he made his having wasted his substance with harlots, his swine-herding and hungering for the husks they ate, beautiful and holy moments in his life. It is difficult for most people to grasp the idea. I dare say one has to go to prison to under stand it. If so, it may be worth while going to prison.

Well, listening to Wilde miss the mark is not quite the same as going to prison.  It's a lot more like going to a suburban Mass on a Sunday.

Oscar, there was one beautiful moment in the life of the Prodigal Son.  It was not the squandering of his father's money.  It was not the squandering of his seed with hookers.  It was not his wallowing in the mire with the pigs, hungering for their husks.  These moments were not beautiful at the time and they did not become beautiful in retrospect, once the son knelt down and wept over them.  Tears alone fog the eyes and make such things seem pretty to one who likes gauze and blur; it is only Blood that redeems.

No, these moments of sin were not beautiful and holy, and repentance did not make them so.

The one beautiful and holy moment in the Prodigal's life was when he came to himself and said, "It is enough."  It was when he said, "I am returning to my father, a worthless sinner; and I will let him treat me as he may."  It was when he finally "manned up" and faced his folly.

It was when he finally felt the most human emotion, the one emotion Oscar Wilde refused to sample.  All his life long Wilde sipped of the fine and fruity wine, telling himself that all flavors were one, and that eating every fruit, including the forbidden fruit, would bring not death and despair but sophistication and finesse.

The one emotion, though, that this connoisseur refused to sample - the one chalice that he refused to drink to its dregs - was the cup of shame.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 2

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!]

Day Two

Living the Lie



[NOTE: My plan is to offer 25 days of Scripture quotations matched with the Mysteries of the Rosary, alternating with 25 days of reflections upon these mysteries as they relate to our practical life of faith.  Thus, yesterday we had a mystery.  Today we have a reflection.  Read the reflections if they're helpful; skip them if they're not.  In either case, please meditate upon the Scriptures and pray.]

***

Yesterday we prayed a decade of the Rosary, meditating upon the Immaculate Conception.  In that post, I focused upon the Immaculate Conception as an image of an undivided heart, an immaculate heart living with full integrity.

Even our secular neighbors and our atheist readers can relate to this.  Living without integrity is a shameful thing - this is why we tie ourselves in knots to rationalize our bad behavior, so that we can convince ourselves (at least) that we have personal integrity - though our friends and family generally know better.

What is integrity?  It is integration as opposed to disintegration, living as a man or woman whose actions and beliefs are integrated, made one.  When the things we do don't match the things we profess, we have no integrity.  We become hypocrites.

Integrity, then, is nothing other than living in accord with the Truth.  

Sin, by contrast, is Living the Lie.  When we sin, we deny the built in borders of reality (such as the nature of love and sex) and assert in its place our own Unrealities (such as sodomy, contraception and adultery), turning from the truth and serving the Lie, turning from "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6) to the wayward, the false and the death.

For we are torn.  We are double-minded and thus unstable in all our ways (James 1:8).  St. Paul says it best ...

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  (Rom. 7:18-19)

... which leads him to conclude ...

In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Rom. 7:22-23)

In other words, our hearts are divided.  The right ventricle is at war with the left.  Inside our deepest selves is a kind of schizophrenia.  We delight in God's law - in what is True, Beautiful and Good - but we also reject it and trample on it.

***

Thus we begin our fifty days praying for Singleness of Heart, for Undivided Hearts, for hearts made pure, true hearts of flesh, not false hearts of stone.

Lord, make us of one mind and of one heart - may we not be double-minded, double-hearted, double-tongued (speaking out of both sides of our mouth and lying), but integrated - fully serving You, the God of Truth.  May our hearts be molded unto Mary's, and thereby molded unto Yours.


Let us pray.

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

Oscar Wilde's Breakthrough

I bore up against everything with some stubbornness of will and much rebellion of nature, till I had absolutely nothing left in the world but one thing. I had lost my name, my position, my happiness, my freedom, my wealth. I was a prisoner and a pauper. But I still had my children left. Suddenly they were taken away from me by the law. It was a blow so appalling that I did not know what to do, so I flung myself on my knees, and bowed my head, and wept, and said, ' The body of a child is as the body of the Lord : I am not worthy of either.' That moment seemed to save me. I saw then that the only thing for me was to accept everything. Since then — curious as it will no doubt sound — I have been happier. It was of course my soul in its ultimate essence that I had reached. In many ways I had been its enemy, but I found it waiting for me as a friend. When one comes in contact with the soul it makes one simple as a child, as Christ said one should be. - Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

There is, in De Profundis, an odd mixture of great humility and repentance, along with a touch of pride and a hefty dose of the strange aestheticism that brought Wilde to prison in the first place.

In prison, Wilde finds humility and recognizes love and suffering as central to life - but he tends to make of suffering another sensation, the greatest and most honest of aesthetic experiences, but something somehow to be savored for its own sake.  And yet suffering for suffering's sake makes no more sense than art for art's sake.

Still, when one thinks of how far he came - from an effete dandy, full of himself, having abandoned his family for his boyfriend, having believed his press clippings and his own cynical wit; having come from that to the man who finally finds his soul in a moment that is simply a collapse under the weight of his cross - one can see a great grace at work; and it is a grace whose outline Wilde recognizes as Christ, though Christ for him is more poet than savior.

And yet, even the best of us would, in a moment of great purgation, still retain a bit of our old and mistaken selves.  Wilde, then, is much like all of us.

And may we each have such a moment of great truth in our own lives - even at the cost of great suffering.


Two Things You Would Never Hear in a Homily

Frank Weathers today quotes from his favorite Desert Father, St. Macarius of Egypt.

Macarius tells his listeners ...

The world of Christians, and their way of life, and their mind, and discourse, and practice, is one thing; and that of the men of this world, another. And the difference between them is very wide. For the children of this world are tossed to and fro by unsettled seasonings, by earthly desires, and a variety of gross imaginations, whereby Satan is continually sifting the whole sinful race of men.

So there's One thing you'd never hear in a homily these days.  "Christians - do not be worldly, and thereby you will find peace."  He's saying even more than that.  He's saying Christians are not worldly, and that is one of their defining characteristics.  Perhaps this is no longer said because it no longer can be.

Here's number Two ...

For that which the soul has treasured up within, in this present life, shall then be made manifest outwardly in the body.

What St. Marcarius is saying here is the development of our spiritual life on earth will bear fruit in a physical way, in our new bodies, in the eternal life to come.

 Here, then, we have a preacher telling his congregation


  1. Set your mind on heaven, not on this passing world, which is tempest tossed.
  2. If we sow to the Spirit here, the harvest will be so real that it will last forever, even in a tangible physical way, in the world to come.

Both of these things are central to Christian doctrine.  Marcarius was preaching them in the Fourth Century.  

They are simply ignored in the 21st.

And yet it is a great consolation to read them.  

We are not of this world.  Our true life is but a seed here and blossoms forth elsewhere.  We carry within us God's grace, eternal life already begun, and in so far as we cultivate that life within us now, to that extent will we find happiness and peace even today, and a blessedness that will be fully incarnate and corporeal in the world to come.

  

Paradox and Perversion

There is a striking line by Oscar Wilde in De Profundis, written in prison, reflecting with great grief upon his
devotion to sodomy, the acts which ruined his life and landed him behind bars ...

What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion.

He's not talking about the kind of paradox in which G. K. Chesterton found delight.  He's talking about the cynical paradox of irony and distance, the cold blooded playing with a thing in our minds just to see how badly we can twist it.  Thus we can see the connection between deliberate perversity of thought and deliberate perversity of action.

Today we are a culture that lauds all irony.  Nothing is said without a kind of smirk, especially if it's a statement about normal and healthy things - family, God, country, love - we sneer at such concepts.

Is it any wonder, then, that the most perverse acts are now being hailed as the greatest virtues?  Anal sex and mutual masturbation - the deliberate and proud sabotage of the most creative gift we have been given - these are the new icons of our age, these the very things that represent what we most value and what we now worship.

What irony and sneering and sarcasm and cynicism have been to us in the sphere of thought, "gay marriage" has become in the public square.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day One

[To go to a specific day's post in our 50 Days of Prayer, click on one of the days listed to the right. For an explanation of what the 50 Days of Prayer is about, click here. If you've missed some days, just jump in and join us anyway!]


Day One


The Immaculate Conception



The first of the Hidden Mysteries of the Rosary is the Immaculate Conception of Mary, an event that was utterly hidden from the world.  It's a teaching that is very misunderstood even among Catholics, who confuse it with the Annunciation - which is the conception of Jesus.  Protestants object to the Immaculate Conception because there is no clear biblical warrant for the dogma, and even if true, it appears to them to be irrelevant to Christian life.

Well, it's certainly not irrelevant to Christian life.  We are, after all, praying these fifty days in preparation for the worldwide consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13.  And Mary's immaculate heart is the result of both her Immaculate Conception (she is the only woman since Eve to have been spared the effects of Original Sin), as well as her lifelong cooperation with God's grace, which kept her heart pure and undivided.

Indeed, what we strive for is such an Immaculate Heart as hers.  "Give to our hearts the dimensions of yours" we pray in our daily Genesian prayer to the Immaculate Heart, for an undivided heart of purity is both the result and the source of sanctification - of holiness.  From such a heart true love springs unstained by sin and selfishness - in this sense an immaculate heart is the source of holiness; and allowing God to purify our hearts and make them immaculate is our lifelong goal - in this sense an immaculate heart is the result of holiness.

And so as we pray today a decade of the Rosary meditating upon the mystery of the Immaculate Conception (an event in which God prepared for His Incarnation by granting Mary in advance the graces her Son would later earn for us all on the cross), let us keep in mind what the Holy Spirit tells us about the necessity of having undivided hearts of integrity, hearts circumcised for His sake.


  • Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. - Prov. 4:23
  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:8
  • And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. - Acts 2:46
  • I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. - Ez. 11:19
  • As for God, his way is immaculate, the word of the Lord is tried by fire: he is the shield of all that trust in him. - 2 Sam. 22:31

Let us pray.  

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.   Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.