Thursday, May 28, 2015

free people, free markets...and free religion (!?!?!)

At one of National Review's many blogs Kevin Williamson weighs in on Vermont senator, and now presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders' recent musing.  Born in Brooklyn but a Vermont state resident for decades, Sanders is a well-known socialist.  No, seriously--he is a card-carrying socialist and has been since he served as Burlington's mayor in the late 1980s.  In launching his campaign to win the Democratic nomination, Sanders opined that the nation needs fewer personal cosmetic products (deodorants, tennis shoes) and more poverty-relief programs.  He made this claim sequentially, in that reducing the former (commercially available shoes and cosmetics) would lead to the latter (poverty relief).  Williamson thus goes off:

This is a very old and thoroughly discredited idea, one that dates back to Karl Marx and to the anti-capitalists who preceded him. It is a facet of the belief that free markets are irrational, and that if reason could be imposed on markets — which is to say, if reason could be imposed on free human beings — then enlightened planners could ensure that resources are directed toward their best use. This line of thinking historically has led to concentration camps, gulags, firing squads, purges, and the like, for a few reasons...

Read it all here.

Gut reaction:  good for Williamson.  The candidacy of Sanders and his fringe-leaning Republican counterparts like Rand Paul demonstrate the health of American politics.  (Are there signs of dis-ease and/or problems in the same?  Absolutely!  but that's a topic for another blog post....)  Especially in President Obama's second term it seems a sign of life--albeit one with which I disagree strenuously--that a candidate like Sanders can advocate an even more progressive agenda than Obama himself.  That being said, part of our American public life is criticism.  Ideas--all of them--get discussed, lauded, dismissed, and resurrected in the public square.  Therefore, just as it's a good sign that Sanders is campaigning, it's an equally good sign that somebody like Williamson comes along to deflate him.  In the free market of ideas individuals and communities freely accept and reject what they will--and this process itself is good.  As Williamson himself notes, facts remain facts--so it is not guaranteed that one's "right" views will win out over the wrong ones.  All we can do keep pressing our side of the argument, even as we recognize salient points of the opposition. (And this recognition often stands as an indicator of the exchange's humanity.  Seeking to win an argument through ridicule and peer pressure exhibits a stubborn adolescent preference best called comedy porn--and that's not good.)  So a spirited criticism--especially one that sees a campaign like Sanders replicating previous patterns of oppression and impoverishment--is exactly what we need...but might not always like.

Principium et Finis: Blessed Margaret Pole: Martyred For The Church And...

Principium et Finis: Blessed Margaret Pole: Martyred For The Church And...: Blessed Margaret Pole Martyr of England.

" I have often heard Blessed Margaret’s younger and much better known contemporary, St. Thomas More, proposed as a Patron Saint for our times because of his martyrdom in defense of the Church and Marriage. Like him, Blessed Margaret's firm reliance on Christ's loving care gave her the strength to stand fast in face of mortal threats, and the serenity not to be swallowed up in bitterness against her persecutors.  We would do well to invoke Blessed Margaret Pole along with St. Thomas More, and to pray for her intercession against the ravenous spirit of Henry VIII that yet again threatens both Faith and Family."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Everybody gets the blues...

ain't that the truth, so before we go any further....

Now, with the mood properly set, how about the always difficult task of sustaining religious enthusiasm?  Don't worry, we all drop the ball, just like we all get the blues. Even those under religious vows find it difficult.  Tony G. at All Things Catholic writes:

How often do all of us start something “in joy” and then get to the tough part and fall away? 

We all know this:  playing an instrument, trying to get that home improvement project done, losing weight (see below), or praying (see also below), etc.  What starts with a bang often ends with a whimper...if even that!  More:

 The spiritual life is exactly like this. How many times have you come home from a youth conference all set to conquer the world and live out your faith? And how long does that last? Many times it will last a few weeks, maybe less, and then you realize again that the world is a big place and being Catholic is hard. You may just give up and stop trying to live your faith, until the next conference comes around.

"...being Catholic is hard" -- NO KIDDING. That and a lot of other

Pauca Verba: Introducing Saint Fiacre of Meaux

Pauca Verba: Introducing Saint Fiacre of Meaux: Fiacre at the forests edge The Feast of Saint Fiacre of Meaux.  His feast is celebrated on August 30 in Ireland and France...

"And around his little oratory Fiacre grew medicinal herbs which caused folks to recognize him as a healer. Healing: what a gift to give people. And don't we need healing today, especially of the interior kind? Heal our sadness, loneliness, weariness, bitterness, emotional pain..."

Fallow Fields {A Catholic Lady Sowing Seeds and Pulling Weeds}: MARIAN MONDAY~THE SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE MARTYR...

Fallow Fields {A Catholic Lady Sowing Seeds and Pulling Weeds}: MARIAN MONDAY~THE SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE MARTYR...: The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs was founded in 1885 by the Reverend Joseph Loyzance S.J. and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary...

A great review of the nearby (to Albany, NY) Shrine of the North American Martyrs.  Great place, great photos.  Especially recommended--the hike through the ravine (where St. Isaac Jogues and two others were martyred) to Christ's Sepulchre.  Worth it!

Joanne McPortland on the Call to Self-Destruction

Joanne McPortland on the Call to Self-Destruction  via Thomas McDonald.  A helpful reminder given the seemingly unceasing stream of bad news.  Keep calm and pray on.  We are meant to live.

And remember, holding back the river makes a great song but lousy spirituality.  Keep praying.

Friday, May 22, 2015

immodest reconstruction of Catholic higher education

Ah, Catholic higher education (CHE).  It's why I'm here, meaning my teaching career, and it's why, well, lots of things.  Twenty-something years ago, back in my grad school days, a spate of books and articles about CHE appeared.  St. John Paul II had released Ex Corde Ecclesiae  in 1990, and basically American Catholics spent the rest of the decade trying to get their heads around what it meant.  Thus the publications came forth.  These were produced by players, laywomen and men as well as priests and religious who had experience in CHE.  They had taught, graded, and administrated Catholic colleges and universities, and thus they knew the issues and what was at stake.

What they produced was a conventional wisdom that ran something like this:

Catholic higher education maintains Catholic identity through a) Catholic theology courses; b) visible Catholic spaces (chapels, churches, basilicas, shrines); c) Catholic accoutrements & material culture--crucifixes in classrooms, statuary, even meatless Fridays during Lent in the dining facilities; and d) tradition--a sort of tautological "it's Catholic because it's always been Catholic" idea.  This CHE conventional wisdom worked well in both cities and rural/suburban areas. 


Yeah, what if I told you that this narrative missed about half--if not more--of the fuller history of CHE?  The entire narrative structure above presumes one unexamined presupposition:  "Catholic higher education" means institutions founded by men's orders.  Y'know--Notre Dame, Fordham, Boston College, Marquette, Catholic University, all the Loyolas, St. Bonaventure, St. John's (in NY or MN), etc.  The conventional wisdom distinguished between all these using religious order charism, e.g., part of Providence College's uniqueness stems from its being the only Dominican-founded college in the US.

Here's the problem:  all of the Catholic universities granting doctoral degrees in....just  about everything (humanities, sciences, education, and, yes, theology) were institutions founded by men's orders.  So when it comes to this core issue of who and what is "American Catholic higher education" the apples did not fall far from the trees. 

coercions both external and internal

Not about to wade into or in any attempt to settle the gay marriage debate.  This does not mean I am not concerned about it.  If not it itself then the ramifications of its legalization look to be the religious freedom debates we will have for the coming years.  This time will not pass easily nor gracefully.  Prayers for all are needed.

That being said, somebody who IS wading into the fray, Rod Dreher the omnipresent one on this blog, posts this:

You understand, of course, that this is not about getting equal treatment. The lesbian couple received that. This is about demonizing a point of view, and driving those who hold it out of the public square. Just so we’re clear about that.

Why the stridency?  As is implied above, a lesbian couple in Canada asked a jeweler to make them wedding rings.  The jeweler, who actually opposes same-sex marriage, made the rings.  OK, so far, so good.  This jeweler sounds like the other, less-vocal side of the "Would Jesus bake the cake?" debate.  Christians are called to convert the culture and here's a guy doing his level-best at his job, which is making jewelry.  For whom it matters not;  God is glorified by the jeweler's honest work.  I could also see Escriva-ian/Opus Dei and St. John Paul II angles to this, too.  Work in the world is the arena God gives us to return our gratitude and love to God.  Real work humanizes us, giving us myriad opportunities to develop in faith, hope, and charity our unique skills. Work need not draw attention from the world;  by working well quietly God is praised.

But once the lesbian couple discovered the jeweler's true feelings about same-sex marriage, they returned the rings, and demanded a full refund which the jeweler, again perhaps exemplifying a quiet but very real current throughout Christian spirituality, did.

Thus Dreher:

I’m sorry that <<the jeweler>> gave in to this intimidation, but I suppose if you are a small businessman, you have no choice once the mob turns on you. It does indicate, though, the next phase in the March of Progress. You must not only bake the cake, or arrange the flowers, or make the ring, you must hold the correct opinion when you do it.

Read it all here

Right--coercions and conversions now seek both internal and external transformation.  You must submit thoroughly and completely or you will be punished.  This attitude represents a secular, totalitarian inversion--for surely the Stalinists, Maoists, and Nazis sought the same level of complete assimilation--of the Christian ethic.  St. Paul's delicate balance of love as the new law of the Christian Church, illuminated by the Resurrection, requires more than faith or works (I Cor 13).  One must act and live with love, for that alone does not fail.  This new ethic, though, replaces love with acceptance and affirmation--which is not the same thing.  And truth be told, the emerging powers know this and request it anyway...because they can.  This abuse of power--of which, yes, the Church is surely guilty--indicates that the "love" animating the ethic is of the self and not God.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Catholic Church as the Second Heaven

The Catholic Church as the Second Heaven

From last month, Andrew Kim tells of a Korean butcher who has converted:

"Moreover, the butcher did not have a formal theological education
like the priest did, so, with a shrug of his shoulders the butcher
addressed the room: “I think the Catholic Church must be the second
Heaven, the Heaven on earth, because it is the only place where I have
ever been treated like a human being.”

Kim concludes: "I believe that this is what the Catholic Church is supposed to be. As stated in Gaudium et Spes,
the Church is called to form the human race into a single family of
God. A family is a place where everyone can enjoy the freedom and
comfort of belonging despite their differences. The Church should be a
refuge from the divisive, degrading, and dehumaizing structures that
beset the modern condition.

God’s Other People

God’s Other People

With Pentecost approaching, Andrew Kim reminds us that God is God of all.

Marriage Ministry as a Moment for Evangelization

My SJCME colleague Carmina Chapp's webinar from the Catholic Apostolate Center--great stuff as always.

line of demarcation

...because sometimes enough is enough.

Here's a recent Rod Dreher post at The American Conservative. Dreher's reading audience must number in the thousands for it surely displays a wide diversity of perspectives. Thus many of Dreher's posts involve letters/emails from his readers.  This involves a woman explaining her re-conversion to Roman Catholicism.  The light begins to shine when she confronts the unavoidable ridiculousness that characterizes much of modern thought regarding gender. 

At that moment my lifelong assumption of a culture of shared Logos was shattered. I wish I had said something obvious, but I was mute -– it felt as if we were suddenly all thrust into a bizarre alternate reality where even one’s identity as a male or female was subject to erasure by a ham-fisted cultural elite.

I thought about this incident for days. I was shocked to the core that a well-educated person of some importance in academia could say something that, at least on the face of it, appeared not only nonsensical, but deeply threatening to human dignity and freedom.
Thus, one either succumbs to the madness, or returns to church to take a stand.

At the end Dreher's reader concludes:

Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism contain a vast profusion of ideas over a span of two thousand years – ideas of God, Heaven and Hell, the purpose of life, art, beauty, social good, and human exceptionalism, excellence, and nobility.

Orthodox Christianity is a vast room filled to overflowing with a profusion of inexhaustible gifts. Protestantism appeals more, perhaps, to the need of Americans for a simplified approach, a streamlined emphasis on the Gospel as opposed to history, art, and the whole mysterious drama of the saints depicted within the walls of cathedrals.

 Usually Dreher contributes his own copious, insightful commentary. Readers know how much I appreciate Rod's writing and arguments, so it's interesting to see him here grant the entire space to his contributor.  As usual there is much to contemplate there:  the recognized regret of failed action, realized new convictions, appreciation for the broader traditions around us, and rediscovering a spiritual home that stands ready to welcome us all home...even if we might be newcomers (as Dreher and I are). Read it all here.

Reading this post made me think not of rants against American academic foibles, nor accelerating cultural/spiritual rot, nor more rhapsodic reminders that "beauty will save the world" (although it will--never doubt that).  Oh no.  This reminded me immediately of my beloved Wabash College.

Wabash archivist Beth Swift provides the full story here.  Back in the Victorian days as the American college experience as we know it in the 20th and 21st centuries emerged, the Wabash student body--which was and remains proudly all-male--gathered to discuss the College's sports teams.  One student suggested heliotrope:

At this point--much like Dreher's contributor above wished she had done--another student hopped up and shouted: "Heliotrope, hell! We want blood! So, Scarlet it is." 

Like all great narrative traditions--and don't be mistaken, attending a college is participation in a narrative tradition...our place, our teams, our rituals, etc--Wabash has celebrated this ever since.  Perhaps wisely Bill Placher did not mention this when gently guiding a bunch of 19-year-old boys/men through Alice Walker's The Color Purple in 1989.  Furthermore, given what has transpired in gender and sexual politics, one can scarcely imagine what Wabash would be like today if it remained all-male with its sports teams decked out in heliotrope.    Thank God a few years later, inspired by the scarlet-clad teams, two Wabash graduates penned Dear Old Wabash, the nation's longest college fight song.  A musical and lyrical challenge, the song celebrates scarlet, the "gorgeous dye of the color we love so well."

It's not merely "red," just as heliotrope isn't merely "purple."  The song, like the story that gave rise to it, also represents a choice--and a choice that's decisive, celebratory, and inspiring.  Are there other teams and schools that wear red, even scarlet?  Of course, but in this story it is ours.  This identification, this line demarcating 'us,' resonates behind Dreher and his contributor who confronted the spiritual and intellectual abyss that modern academic life seems content to throw itself into.  Pulling us back from the line is the apostolic Christian tradition--Catholic and Orthodox--whose multivalent resources offer so many points of contact.  True, Americans might prefer, at least initially, the simpler explanations of evangelical Protestantism, but too much simple sugar can very easily lead to type II diabetes...and simplistic spirituality and/or unwitting intellectual pride can often lead to spiritual diabetes.

Smaller Manhattans: Summapalooza 2015 Class 3

Smaller Manhattans: Summapalooza 2015 Class 3: The 7 Arks of Salvation History  by blogger and catechist Christian LeBlanc--good stuff!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Radical Catholic: Are We Witnessing a Marian Miracle?

An interesting post...

The Radical Catholic: Are We Witnessing a Marian Miracle?: Our Lady of Kibeho, who called the people of Rwanda to repentance and prayer of the rosary, saying that God's punishment was imminent....

With a great Pius IX meme:

Monday, May 4, 2015

blog snack--keeping it healthy

Much to blog about but it's final week hence grading.  Until that's concluded, consider this post--both bracingly honest yet hopeful--from Katrina Fernandez "the Crescat" blogging at Patheos. This is the sort of spiritual-dietary-economic-cultural mix (call it gumbo, stew, mish-mash, whatever) that this blog Spiritual Diabetes seeks to address, too.  The Crescat does it with more humor--and certainly more frequency--than I manage here.  And she is just one of many legions contributing to the Catholic blogosphere.  So much good being done in so many ways--the New Catholic Renaissance is growing, folks.

Friday, May 1, 2015

prestidigitation, y'all...

Shot:  in 2004 Donald Sensing made a strong argument:  that acceptance of the birth-control pill rendered inevitable acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Chaser #1:  Anthony Esolen expands a version of this argument:  the Sexual Revolution insisted that freedom, love, and free love would solve all...and exactly the opposite has happened.  More sex has actually enslaved us further:  wrecked homes, marriages, and generations now thinking that only material well-being and sensual satisfaction provide the only markers of happiness. He doesn't use this meme, but this is what Esolen's arguing:

Chaser #2: Austin Ruse hits the same riff, too:  the Sexual Revolution is killing us.

It is a wonder to see sexual revolutionaries, just like the communists before them, insist that all we need is just a little bit more. At least the communists thought the breaking of a few eggs might be regrettable but in the long run was beneficial to the omelet. The sexual revolutionaries deny the eggs.

The litany of broken eggs is tedious, certainly, but we must continue to recite it and in the recitation lay it all at the doorstep of the revolutionaries: more than 50 million dead babies in this country alone; almost one million deaths due to AIDS; 19 million new cases of STDs every single year in the United States; millions addicted to pornography; sex trafficking; galloping pedophilia; forty percent of children born without a father in the home. Your mother never heard of chlamydia. Now teen girls get shots to prevent it.

Ruse draws attention to the work of Jennifer Roback Morse who direct the Ruth Institute.  Ruse on JMR:

Roback Morse thinks we are fighting the symptoms—abortion, gay marriage—and not the disease. She proposes something of an Inchon landing. The sexual revolutionaries have been attacking from the front for going on 50 years, their victims strewn out behind them. She proposes a landing behind their front lines, striking at the heart of their movement, counting on the victims of contraception, divorce, abortion, pornography, and promiscuity to assist us.
She is not suggesting that the individual battles cease, only that we open a new front.

As we wait, the body count rises ever higher and all the while the revolutionaries insist the revolution hasn’t really been tried, not yet anyway. All we need is a little bit more: more orgasms, more pills, more sex-ed, more abortion, more freedom man, and then you’ll see the beautiful things we can do for humanity.

Just ignore all those bodies. there's an image:  an Inchon Landing.  Instead of attacking headfirst into the same old battlefields (ala World War I), try something different:  hit where they are not.  This, though, means recognizing the dignity and rights of some folks who, in earlier generations, were often shunned:  the teenage mothers, those who sought and helped others seek abortions, the dead-beat boyfriends and husbands, the porn-stars, and those who watched them.  This raises an Inchon-related question:  will the reception be favorable when the rescuing force arrives?

This isn't the Theology of the Body so much as a rescue mission for those whose misfortunes and pain demonstrate the TotB's validity through inversion.  The TotB makes sense because, as Ruse and Esolen note, we see the body count--and it's just as high as Soviet Communism.  That at least faltered and failed. Chinese communism, much like the Sexual Revolution persists today--but does so, we now know, only through coercion and material corruption.  Here again is a place where Pope Francis' recently announced Jubilee year of Mercy might pay extraordinary dividends.  

First one St. Joseph's Day post now another

Over at Dominicana Br. John Dominic Bouck, OP writes about St. Joseph, work, and the ho-hum of Christian life. 

If there is a need to protest unjust employment, then just work is a prerequisite for that protest. It provides the foundation for protesting injustice. If the protesters themselves are not just, they won’t have the credibility to effect justice in their workplace.

Indeed, Christians are called to work honestly and excellently. In the book of Genesis, one of the punishments of Adam was to have to work by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17). But Jesus, true God and true working man, redeemed that curse by himself working by the sweat of his brow. Thus when we work as Christians, we don’t work in the mold of the cursed Adam but in the mold of the redeemer Jesus Christ.

Daily work is plain old work, yes, but through the redemption of Christ, it is transformed into a part of his saving mission. And this doesn’t just involve manual labor. White-collar workers, students, teachers, stay-at-home moms—all are called to work excellently, and their work has dignity in itself, even in monotony. In turn, this work becomes evangelization, and it helps to spread the Gospel to co-workers, family members, and outside observers.

Bouck uses Father Walter Ciszek as an example.  Imprisoned over two decades in the Soviet gulag, Ciszek worked harder, not less, at his assigned labor...and for no apparent, immediate reward.

Often despair so easily takes control.  Bad news seems to dominate, but even just a momentarily deeper look reveals so much more.  There is so much good at work in the world today.  The breadth and depth of Catholic social media presence(s) astonishes;  the bloggers' creativity, faith, and yes joy spring forth.  There really is a new Catholic renaissance afoot--online as well as in real life.   The Dominicans--so long traditional defenders of the Faith--are right there in the midst, too.  Read more about it here.

Καθολικός διάκονος: "The time to rise has been engaged"

Deacon Scott Dodge of Utah just keeps the hits coming.  This one, though, wow, sets the bar pretty high:  Catholic social justice, St. Joseph, Dorothy Day & the Catholic Worker....and R.E.M.?  wow...

Καθολικός διάκονος: "The time to rise has been engaged": 1 May is International Workers' Day. For Roman Catholics, at least since 1955, 1 May is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. It was in 195...