Saturday, January 03, 2015

Random New Year Thoughts

This four-day weekend after a high-octane December seems a good opportunity to regale the world with my ruminations.

-- 2015 is my 20th year living in Idaho.  That is almost half my life.  But, while you can take the girl out of Southern California, you can't take Southern California out of the girl.  We simply did not have winter in SoCal, where 50 degrees is bundle-up weather.  Winter is therefore a great trial for me, even after all these years, many of which were in the Idaho Panhandle, where ice and snow are far more plentiful than in the Treasure Valley.

-- Given which, I would need a damn good reason to venture out in freezing weather for New Year's.  Which brings us to Boise's answer to the Times Square Ball Drop: the New Year's Eve Potato Drop. We do not have a Times Square or a ball.  What we have got is a giant foam potato hanging from a boom crane, lit by two or three blue and green laser lights; a guy in a potato suit; and, presumably, to gin up the applause, a bottomless supply of booze and perhaps other, less legal stimulants.  When I first saw a picture of the potato on the news, I was struck by its almost exact resemblance to the evidence in a prison contraband case I just handled.  Sorry, but this does not constitute a damn good reason sufficient to justify braving the cold on New Year's.

-- Challis, Idaho started out the new year with a 4.9 magnitude earthquake.  It was reportedly felt clear in the North End of Boise.  I live in Boise, but not in the North End.  I did not feel anything.  An earthquake, for those who have never been in one, is quite unmistakable, no matter how weak.  It is qualitatively different from, say, construction in the area or a heavy truck driving by.  If you're not sure whether you have ever felt an earthquake, you probably haven't.

-- My patroness for 2015 is St. Ann, mother of the Mother of God.  Although she is my namesake, I have neglected her most of my life.  I have been thinking about her lately, and at midnight adoration on New Year's I started a novena to her.  While preparing our New Year's Day dinner, one of my lay Dominican sisters showed me a little statue she acquired at a thrift store.  It was St. Ann instructing her immaculate daughter on Scripture.   A sign?

-- As we enter the new year, it is increasingly clear that the majority of priests and bishops in our time are hirelings.  Sorry, but there is no getting around this and it's time to face up to it.  These hirelings -- most of whom were ordained in the '60s, '70s and '80s -- bear the heavy responsibility for having spent the last half-century (a) trying to transform the Church into something entirely unrecognizable from what she had previously been, and (b) propagandizing the laity into thinking this is a good thing.  Like the process by which a tree trunk is transformed into a piece of stone by the gradual replacement of its organic components with minerals, this attempt to re-invent the Church has transformed the hearts of her members into stone by gradually replacing their Catholic faith with the minerals of socialism, pop psychology, materialism, narcissism and a host of other evils, until they no longer recognize their plight.  Fortunately, most of the current generations of hirelings have not got many more active years left; but, absent an intervention by the Holy Spirit -- which we are not close to deserving -- it will take a long time to undo their damage.

-- If you don't know how to recognize a hireling, here are just a few signs: (1) he can't stick to the Missal at Mass, or to the forms of other Sacraments, but must always interject his own comments and/or improvisations.  (2) He preaches errors from the pulpit.  (If you can't recognize errors preached from the pulpit, get yourself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and get busy.)  (3) He treats being a priest like an ordinary job.  (4) He devotes little time to prayer or actual ministry; he seldom darkens the door of a church or chapel, or makes himself available to administer the Sacraments.  The former deficiency will be harder for the laity to discern than the latter; but if he denigrates or makes fun of popular prayers and devotions like the Rosary, that is a clue.  (5) He has a great love of humanity in general, but little use for human beings in particular; therefore, he treats particular people with coldness and even rudeness.

-- In 2015, Benedict XVI will turn 88.  If he dies while Francis is still the reigning Pope, I fear what will happen to the liturgical reforms he began.

-- Shortly before the close of the old year, I started reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.  Of course, it is a pro-Confederate book, which is what makes it politically incorrect, since conventional "wisdom" has the Confederacy pegged as a bunch of racist neanderthals.  The book makes some good points and gives rise to some considerations that give one pause.  For one thing -- and despite embarrassing sentiments like the one articulated by Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens to the effect that the Confederate government was founded upon the "great truth" that the Negro is not equal to the White Man -- Dixie was not All About Slavery, any more than the North was All About Abolition.  Dixie, for all her faults, was also about a lot of things the world is much poorer for having less of: honor; chivalry; faith; subsidiarity; the worth of the individual and the family.  The North, on the other hand, was already imbued with the pragmatic utilitarianism that now dominates our own age -- thanks in large part to the North's conquest of the the South.  To this conquest we may also, I think, trace the destruction of the several states as buffers and defenses against an overreaching and domineering federal government, to whose influence no aspect of our lives is now immune.  And then there is the concept of total war, as put into practice by Union generals, most notably Grant, Sherman and Sheridan.  The evil, racist, backward, slave-holding South, on the other hand, did not practice total war.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee rejected the idea of deliberately making war on civilians.

-- It is worth noting, by the way, that in his celebrated and unabashedly pro-Union series on the Civil War, Ken Burns was careful to make clear the unpopularity in the North of abolition as a cause to fight for.  As for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (which did not in fact free the slaves), it was decried in the North, not merely by Jefferson Davis.

-- Speaking of Jefferson Davis, have you never been struck by his close physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln?

-- And speaking of Lincoln: recall that he said, in his Second Inaugural, that the Civil War was God's judgment on the entire country for the sin of slavery.  About 620,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War -- almost a quarter of a million more than died in World War II.  In this country, we enter the new year stained with the blood of nearly as many aborted babies as the total number of dead from all countries in World War II.  If it is true that 620,000 dead was the price we paid for the institution of slavery, what must be the punishment that awaits us for abortion? 

-- And then there are the micro-conflicts.  A small incident over the holidays got me to thinking about what it really means to win or to lose.  There are times when one wins by losing, and times when one loses by winning.  For example, if you engage in a contest of wills with someone who truly wants the best for you, you cannot win except by losing.  Of course, you must be able to recognize those persons who truly want the best for you; and the key is to know what it means for someone to want the best.  It does not mean what a lot of people think it means.  It means the opposite of what the world means.  Ultimately, it means that person wants you to be eternally happy in heaven, even at the expense of your temporal and transitory happiness on earth.

May your New Year be filled with the best, and may it lead you to eternal happiness.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

First Post of 2015...

...just to get it over with.  Not feeling especially inspired at 11:34 p.m.


Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Passing Scene: 2014


Another year, another retrospective, and thanks to Wikipedia for refreshing my recollection:


January


1: Marijuana stores open in Colorado.
3: A deadly winter storm hits the northeastern United States.
9: "Bridgegate": Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey apologizes for senior aides abusing their power by deliberately causing a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge in September of 2013.
25: Murder spree, Columbia, Maryland: three are killed and five wounded in a shopping mall by a gunman who was afterward found dead.
26: 33 same-sex couples are "married" at the 56th annual Grammy awards.
30: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that the death penalty will be sought against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Deaths: Jay Traynor (Jay and the Americans); Phil Everly (Everly Brothers); Ariel Sharon; Carmen Zapata; Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind); Pete Seeger; Stanford Tischler (producer of M*A*S*H); Ruth Duccini (Munchkin, The Wizard of Oz); Russell Johnson (the Professor in Gilligan's Island); Dave Madden (Reuben Kincaid in The Partridge Family); Margery Mason (ancient boo-er in The Princess Bride).


February

4: Scotland legalizes gay "marriage."
6: Jay Leno hosts The Tonight Show for the last time.
7: Opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  I personally couldn't care less.
9: The U.S. federal government recognizes gay "marriage."
13: Belgian makes it legal to euthanize persons under 18.  
15: Bangui, Central African Republic: a mass grave full of Christian dead is found in a neighborhood formerly occupied by Muslim rebels.  Also: a federal judge strikes down Virginia's ban on gay "marriage."
20: Murder spree, Alturas, California: 4 are killed and 2 more wounded in a gun and knife attack at the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office and Community Center before the murderer is taken into custody.
22: Pope Francis names 19 new cardinals.  Also: ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
28: Russia confirms that it has moved troops into the Crimea.

Deaths: Maximilian Schell; Philip Seymour Hoffman; Richard Bull (Nels Olsen on Little House on the Prairie); Shirley Temple Black; Sid Caesar; Ralph Waite (The Waltons); Bob Casale (Devo); Garrick Utley; Harold Ramis.


March

8: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappears over the South China Sea between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, carrying a crew of 12 and 227 passengers.
13: Over 100 rockets are fired from Gaza into southern Israel, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement taking responsibility.

21: Russia annexes Crimea.  Also: a federal district judge in Michigan throws out that state's ban on gay "marriage."
22: A mudslide engulfs a neighborhood in Oso, Washington, killing 43.
23: Two shooters invade a Christian church in Mombasa, Kenya, killing six and wounding more than a dozen.  There is reluctance to pin the attack on Islamists.
27: Barack Obama meets Pope Francis.
29: Same sex "marriage" commences in the U.K.


Deaths: Glenn McDuffie (the sailor in the famous Times Square V-J Day kiss photo); David BadEagle Yeagley (Comanche conservative writer); David Brenner; Fred Phelps (founder, Westboro Baptist "church"); James Rebhorn; Dane Witherspoon; Richard Black (artist, creator of Mr. Clean and Smokey the Bear); Charles Keating.


April

2: Murder spree, Fort Hood, Texas: shooter kills four and wounds 16 before turning the gun on himself.  Also: Australia's highest court recognizes a neuter "third" sex.
4: Beginning of the west Africa ebola outbreak.
9: A student stabs 20 people at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.
12: Armed protesters drive off BLM agents come to gather cattle in the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada.
13: Murder spree, Overland Park, Kansas: a 73-year-old shooter kills three at two Jewish community centers before being apprehended.
15: The Supreme Court of India recognizes transgender as a "third gender."
22: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of states to ban affirmative action under their state constitutions.
27: Pope Francis canonizes two of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  Also: a three-day tornado outbreak begins in the southern U.S., resulting in 36 deaths.
29: Convicted murderer Clayton Lockett dies of a heart attack after a botched attempt at execution by lethal injection.

Deaths: Mickey Rooney; Peaches Geldof; Reid Buckley.


May

5: The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the constitutionality of opening legislative sessions with prayers.
15: Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a pregnant Christian woman, is sentenced to death in Sudan for the crime of apostasy.  Also: The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is dedicated.
19: a judge throws out Oregon's ban on same-sex "marriage."
23: Murder spree, Isla Vista, California: a shooter travels around town killing six and wounding 13 before turning the gun on himself.
31: Bowe Bergdahl is freed by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Deaths: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.; Mary Stewart (novelist, author of the Merlin series); Jeb Stuart Magruder (Watergate scandal figure); Jerry Vale; Maya Angelou; Wojciech Jaruzelski; Mary Soames, Baroness Soames (daughter of Winston Churchill).


June

8: Murder spree, Las Vegas, Nevada: a married couple fatally shoots two police officers and one other person before themselves dying in a murder-suicide.
19: King Felipe VI ascends the Spanish throne.
30: Yosemite National Park celebrates its sesquicentennial.

Deaths: Ann B. Davis; Ruby Dee; Casey Kasem; Patsy Byrne (Martina the poisoner in I, Claudius); Eli Wallach; Meshach Taylor; Bob Hastings.


July

2: Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy is brought up on corruption charges.
4: The United Nations announces that it will recognize the same-sex "marriages" of its staff members.
8: Israel launches Operation Protective Edge, to stop the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
9: Murder spree, Spring, Texas: a shooter murders six and wounds one before being taken into custody after a stand-off.  The dead are the shooter's former in-laws and include four children.
15: Croatia recognizes same-sex life partnerships.
16: Typhoon Glenda hits the Philippines and will also strike in south China and Vietnam, killing 195 people.
17: Eric Garner dies after a confrontation with New York City police over his illegal sales of cigarettes, in which police use a headlock maneuver on him.

Deaths: David Greenglass (Soviet atomic spy, brother of Ethel Rosenberg); James Garner.


August

9:  NASCAR driver Tony Stewart runs over and kills another driver, Kevin Ward, Jr., during a race.
10: Rioting begins in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of Michael Brown, who had just robbed a convenience store
15: The centenary of the Panama Canal.
19: James Foley, kidnapped American journalist, is beheaded by ISIS.


Deaths: Robin Williams; Lauren Bacall; Arlene Martel (Spock's betrothed, T'Pring); Don Pardo; Richard Attenborough; Glenn Cornick (bassist, Jethro Tull); James Brady (Reagan's former press secretary, wounded in the assassination attempt on the President).


September

2: ISIS releases a video of the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
11: Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but will be convicted of a lesser charge.
18: Murder spree, Bell, Florida: shooter kills his daughter and six grandchildren, ages 10 years to six months, before turning the gun on himself.  
19: Results of September 18th referendum on Scottish independence: Scottish voters reject independence, 55.3% to 44.7%.
20: Pope Francis appoints Bishop Blase Cupich of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane to succeed Francis Cardinal George as head of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
24: A fired former employee of Vaughan Foods who had converted to Islam returns to the plant and beheads one female employee and stabs another before being shot and wounded by the plant's owner.
25: Eric Holder announces his resignation as Attorney General of the United States.

Deaths: Joan Rivers; Polly Bergen; Ian Paisley.


October

2: The United States relaxes a ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam.
8: Death of Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, the first documented ebola victim in the United States.
9: Estonia legalizes same-sex partnerships.
19: Closure of the disastrous Synod on the Family, and beatification of Pope Paul VI.
22: A gunman murders a guard on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, then runs into the parliament building, where he is taken out by Kevin Vickers, the Commons Sergeant at Arms.
24: Murder spree, Marysville, Washington: a freshman at Marysville Pilchuck High School fatally shoots five other students before turning the gun on himself.  Also: Murder spree, Sacramento County, California: a gunman kills two two sheriff's deputies, and wounding a third and a civilian, before being captured.
25: Unconstitutional government interference adds Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming to the number of states with gay "marriage."

Deaths: Fr. Benedict Groeschel; Paul Revere (Paul Revere and the Raiders); Jan Hooks; Oscar de la Renta; Marcia Strassman; Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.


November

1: Brittany Maynard, an activist for physician-assisted suicide who suffered from brain cancer, very publicly takes her own life.
3: Official opening of the new 1 World Trade Center.
4: The Republicans take Congress.  Meanwhile, citizens of Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
17: The Church of England adopts legislation in favor of female bishops.
19: The beginning of the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegation scandal.
21: The House of Representatives sues Barack Obama over executive orders in connection with the implementation of Obamacare.
24: A grand jury returns a no bill in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  More riots ensue in Ferguson, Missouri.  Also: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigns.
28: Finland legalizes same-sex "marriage."

Deaths: Jimmy Ruffin; Richard Schaal; S. Donald Stookey (inventor of CorningWare).


December

4: A grand jury returns a no bill in the death of Eric Garner.  Protests ensue.
15: Murder spree, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: a man travels around the county murdering his ex-wife and her family, then commits suicide.  Also:  The U.S. Supreme Court creates a good-faith legal mistake exception to the warrant requirement.
15-16: An Islamist held the employees and patrons of a Sydney, Australia chocolate cafe hostage until police raided the cafe.  Two hostages and the Islamist died.
16: Scotland legalizes same-sex "marriage."  Also: a federal district judge in Pennsylvania declares Obama's immigration executive order unconstitutional.
17: The United States and Cuba resume diplomatic relations.
20: Two New York City policemen are assassinated, supposedly in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by a shooter who later turns the gun on himself.  Moral microbes across the country applaud the murders.

Deaths: Joe Cocker; Mary Ann Mobley; Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley on The Addams Family); Queen Fabiola of Belgium; Edward Hermann.

May 2015 be an improvement over 2014.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Immaculate Conception

Yesterday was the 73d anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is the 73d anniversary of our declaration of war on Japan.  Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of these United States.  Have you ever thought about whether there is any significance in the fact that we entered the Second World War on our patronal feast?

This year it seems good to link to a couple of apologetics posts on the subject of the Immaculate Conception:

Mary, Conceived without Sin, You DID Know: why a certain popular song about Mary must never be sung in a Catholic Church

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remember Pearl Harbor


That awful December 7th, 73 years ago, was also a Sunday.  At a stroke, the lives of millions were turned upside down and changed forever.

A Japanese camera captured that stroke on the morning of December 7, 1941.  The images of Japanese planes, tiny yet unmistakable, can be seen passing over Ford Island.  The U.S.S. West Virginia and U.S.S. Oklahoma, on the far side of the island, have just sustained torpedo hits. 

One of the iconic images of the Pearl Harbor attack: the U.S.S. Arizona burns.  The explosion of the Arizona's forward magazines claimed 1,177 of the 2,403 American lives lost at Pearl Harbor.  The crew of the nearby U.S.S. Tennessee attempts to fend off burning oil with fire hoses.  


The first two American chaplains to die in World War II -- one Protestant minister, one Catholic priest -- died at Pearl Harbor.  Protestant chaplain of the Arizona, Capt. Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, sprang to action in sick bay as soon as the attacks commenced.  Sick bay was so near to the forward magazines that he was killed almost instantly in the great explosion while ministering to the wounded.  Chaplain Kirkpatrick still lies with his crewmates in their sunken ship at the bottom of the harbor.
Chaplain Kirkpatrick's clock was recovered from the wreck of the Arizona, the hands frozen at the moment the forward magazines exploded.  

The U.S.S. Oklahoma, capsized and burning.  429 men perished aboard the Oklahoma.

The total number of the Oklahoma's dead would have reached 441 if it were not for Fr. Aloysius Schmitt, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Acting Chaplain.

On December 7, 1941, the young priest from St. Lucas, Iowa, had only been ordained for six years, appointed a chaplain for two and a half years, and had celebrated his 32nd birthday only three days earlier.  Did he have any suspicion that that was to be his last birthday, and indeed almost his last day on earth?  Yet although death came to Fr. Schmitt suddenly, it did not find him unprepared, nor even without Viaticum: when the Japanese attack began, he had just finished celebrating Mass.  

When disaster struck, Fr. Schmitt went to sick bay to minister to the wounded and dying. Mission Capodanno gives the following moving account of what happened next:
When the Oklahoma was struck and water poured into her hold, the ship began to list and roll over. Many men were trapped. Schmitt found his way -- with other crew members -- to a compartment where only a small porthole provided enough space to escape.

Chaplain Schmitt helped other men, one by one, to crawl to safety. When it became his turn, the chaplain tried to get through the small opening. As he struggled to exit through the porthole, he became aware that others had come into the compartment from which he was trying to escape. As he realized that the water was rising rapidly and that escape would soon be impossible, he insisted on being pushed back through the hole so that he could help others who could get through the opening more easily. Accounts from eyewitnesses that have been published in the Arizona Memorial newsletter relate that the men protested, saying that he would never get out alive, but he insisted, "Please let go of me, and may God bless you all."

Fr. Schmitt, martyr of charity, was posthumously awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Medal for his selfless bravery, which saved the lives of twelve crewmen who otherwise would have been trapped in the sinking ship.

Remember Pearl Harbor, soon to pass from living memory.  Remember and do not forget.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

General Thoughts

Better thinkers and more diligent observers than I have already picked over and dissected the particulars of the Synod and its emanations.  Herewith some general thoughts about what is going on right now in the Church and the world:

-- I have said many times before, and continue to maintain, that the majority of Catholics simply do not have the Catholic faith.  This includes priests and bishops, as well as Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday.  Too many Catholics are so busy trying to make friends with the world that they no longer feel obliged to believe the content of the Deposit of Faith.  The most worrisome ones are those who still keep up the appearance and external observances of Catholicity.  They will be the most impervious to repentance.

-- The current corruption in the Church set in more than a century ago, though it is only in the last 50 years or so that it began to be obvious. I think the attempt to bury the traditional Mass was the lancing of the boil. The beauty of the liturgy had covered up the fact that we were worshiping with our lips and not with our hearts. Once that was taken away, the infection was set in front of our faces.  Yet this did not make us recoil in horror and repent. Instead, we rejoiced in the exhilaration of finally having our own way, as opposed to doing things God's way. Now, we are practically in a state of prostration, though there are still many who don't see this. But the reality is that evil is having its hour, both in the Church and in the world at large. We are so overwhelmed with evil that we try desperately to spin things that come out of Rome as harbingers of reform. We hail the tiniest victories as great successes and a sign that things are getting better. Yet these soon get swallowed up in the status quo ante, and before you know it, we are back to square one.  Proverbs 27:7: A soul that is full shall tread upon the honeycomb: and a soul that is hungry shall take even bitter for sweet.

-- This chastisement in which the Church finds herself was never going to play itself out until we got a Pope imbued with the "Spirit of Vatican II."  Let us face the fact that Francis is that Pope.  Francis can no more sink the Barque of Peter than could the most decadent and corrupt of the Borgia Popes; but he can -- and does -- give us a very rough ride.  That Pope Francis does not get the effects of what he does and says is frankly laughable.

-- The Pope Francis effect, incidentally, is an example of one disastrous consequence of the current spirit of experimentation born of self-will, namely, the cult of Personalities.   As long as doctrine and liturgy are givens, it doesn't matter nearly as much who occupies the Throne of Peter -- or, for that matter, who is bishop or pastor. But after half a century of tinkering with the liturgy, with doctrine also seeming to be "changeable" and "evolving," personalities take on an exaggerated importance. The same thing happens in secular society when the rule of law is undermined. That is how we get tyranny in secular society, and how we get chaos in the Church. When Liturgy ceases to be a given, the impression is created that Doctrine is also no longer a given; and when the givens disappear, so do vital checks on the behavior of those in authority.  Thus we find ourselves constantly on the edge of our seats, wondering what new shocks our superiors are going to administer to us, and hoping and praying for slightly less sadistic new shepherds.  We need to repent of our self-will and submit ourselves to the givens, and then personalities will shrink back down to their proper insignificance.

-- Meanwhile, the bishops, priests and laymen who are without the Catholic faith are openly declaring themselves, thinking -- wrongly -- that Pope Francis has sung a new church into being and ushered in the Age of Aquarius.  The great sifting of men is well underway. 

-- Bringing to mind the stanza from the Dies Irae, which our betters have tried so hard to bury along with the bodies over which it should always be sung:

Inter oves locum præsta.
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.


With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.

Things are so bad that only God can turn them around. We are long past the point of being able to rely solely on our own efforts. We must amend our lives, pray and do penance. Then, when the Holy Spirit does make His move, we will not need to wonder whether things are starting to turn around. There will be no doubt.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Still Alive

I am indeed still here.  The energy I spend at work, plus my preoccupation with other things going on in my life, have contributed to my silence since July, and the sparse postings for about the last year. 

I feel the need of more silence.  I am not sure how much good I do opening up my trap.  And there is something else going on, too.  Three months ago, Father Blake commented on the growing silence in the Catholic blogosphere, and raised some good points.  I will see what he has to say about the uncertainty of the times and raise him.  Evil is clearly having its hour right now.  The world and the Church are engulfed.  Despite the assurances of the false prophets proclaiming, "Peace, peace!", there is no peace.  The armies of darkness are on the move, both within and without the Church, and most of us in the Church who are not marching with evil are nevertheless in a state of prostration.  It seems clear from their conduct that most Catholics, even among those who attend Mass every Sunday, do not believe the content of the Catholic faith.  Many priests and bishops and even cardinals do not believe the content of the Catholic faith.  In my own diocese, the liturgy has been reduced to a bourgeois entertainment; people behave in church as if they were in their own living rooms; priests act as though the priesthood is just another job; and there have been no priestly ordinations for two years.  Let us not kid ourselves that there is no connection between Catholic laxity and the tidal wave of evil sweeping the earth.

What can one say in the midst of all this?  I feel that I am up against an immovable, implacable will.  Nobody is listening.  Nothing I say changes anything.

Perhaps I need to focus my energies on prayer, on setting and keeping my own house in order, and on fighting the small battles in my immediate sphere.  Or, perhaps I am just copping out.  Maybe I am yielding to selfishness and cowardice.  Maybe I am yielding to sloth, my besetting sin and predominant fault.  The ardor of my charity is cooling, like that of everyone else.  It was never all that it should be.

I can only pray for the grace to do and say what I ought to, when I ought to; for the grace to correspond to grace and not waste God's inspirations; and for forgiveness for all the times I have failed Him.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To Men in Holy Orders: A Cri de Coeur

Choosing the hard path: Athanasius contra mundum.
I know it's easy for me to say this.  I also know that what I am about to say will sound harsh.  But I am going to say it anyway.  Those of you to whom this does not apply know who you are, and know I am not talking to you.  If it does apply to you...you also know who you are.

I hear it often said that, despite the headline-making scoundrels in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, there are nevertheless many faithful bishops, priests and deacons.  

Where are they?

As I shade my eyes with my hand and scan the ecclesiastical landscape, straining my sight toward the horizon, I find it hard to make very many of them out.  As I cup my hand to my ear, listening with all my might for the rolling thunder of the Gospel, I hear an isolated voice here and there; but mostly, what I get is the chirping of crickets.

You orthodox men in Holy Orders, why are so many of you undetectable?  Why are you hiding?  What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid of being suspended?  Are you afraid of being called on the carpet by the bishop?  Are you afraid of trumped-up accusations?  Are you afraid the contributions will dry up?  Are you afraid of the powerful feminist crowd at the chancery?  Are you afraid of being transferred to a remote corner of the Dry Tortugas?

Of course, nobody wants to have to face any of these things.  But facing up to such was part of the deal you signed up for; and in the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders, you were given the supernatural assistance and the authority you need to do it.   Why don't you use these?  Can you really serve the Church from under your beds?  Are you really doing your flocks and the Church any good by neglecting the graces you were given, and allowing yourselves to be muzzled in order to avoid repercussions?

Redemption and salvation are founded upon suffering.  Does Christ not enjoin us to take up our crosses and follow Him?  St. Paul rejoiced in his sufferings, filling up those things that were wanting in the sufferings of Christ in his flesh, for His Body, which is the Church (Colossians 1:25).  And Tertullian is credited with the saying that martyrs are the seedbed of the Church.  Has the Church ever taken root in a mission field, from Rome to the Americas, that was not first consecrated by the suffering and even blood of Christians, especially priests?  What if these martyrs had refused suffering?

If you men in Holy Orders have to suffer for Christ's sake, do you honestly suppose God cannot make anything out of your sufferings?  Do you honestly suppose God will not support you in doing the right thing?  Do you honestly suppose He will not reward you for doing the right thing, either in this life or in the next?  Have you forgotten about the supernatural order, in which your sufferings draw down graces upon your flocks?  Put it another way:
Do you do your sheep more good by suffering unjustly; or by letting us see you stand around, mute and impotent, wringing your hands, while the wolves run riot amongst us?
I get that you have to pick your battles.  But many of you have gotten so used to passing up opportunities to fight in the name of "picking your battles" that now there is no battle you will fight.  Many of you have gotten so used to keeping your mouths shut that now silence is your default setting, even when you should speak up.  So the wolves do whatever they want, secure in the knowledge that there will be little or no push-back from the shepherds.

Let me ask you this: what if ALL the priests who labor under the rule of modernist bishops did the right thing?  If these bishops order you to suppress the Gospel you were ordained to preach, are you bound to obey them to that extent?  They can't send you ALL to the Dry Tortugas.  What if ALL faithful bishops did the right thing without fear or favor?  Even if they take ALL of you out, do you really think your courageous example will not inspire others to spring up to take your place?

We live in a time when charity has run cold and very many Catholics -- even many who attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days -- simply do not believe the content of the Catholic faith.  This is obvious from the way they conduct their lives.  Our enemies outside the gates do not fail to notice this, and to plan accordingly.  This is no time for you who are supposed to be shepherds to be shrinking violets.  By keeping your head down and your mouths shut, men in Holy Orders, you avoid repercussions -- for now.  But the repercussions that you avoid for yourselves fall on your sheep.  How do you expect to explain this to God, when you stand before Him in judgment?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Hell's Doorstep

Battlefield Mass: Korean War
When I saw For Greater Glory a couple of years ago, I was struck by the scenes showing the Cristeros at worship in their desert hideaways.  The priest at the altar was like a general leading his troops into battle -- onward and upward to Calvary, where the titanic battle for the salvation of the world was fought and won upon the Cross.  Reason number 454,823,231 to put an end to facing the priest toward the congregation at Mass.

Battlefield Mass: Iwo Jima
The Tridentine Mass on the field of battle, amid death and destruction, is simple, stark, masculine and beautiful.  Here, hell is crushed underfoot.  There is no room for the decadent displays that most of us are forced to settle for Sunday after Sunday, with their narcissistic accretions, beneath which the August Sacrifice is almost totally undetectable.

Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., the "Trench Priest" of the First World War, describes offering Mass in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme in October of 1916:
By cutting a piece out of the side of the trench, I was just able to stand in front of my tiny altar, a biscuit tin supported by two German bayonets. God's angels, no doubt, were hovering overhead, but so were the shells, hundreds of them, and I was a little afraid that when the earth shook with the crash of the guns, the chalice might be overturned. Round about me on every side was the biggest congregation I ever had: behind the altar, on either side, and in front, row after row, sometimes crowding one upon the other, but all quiet and silent, as if they were straining their ears to catch every syllable of that tremendous act of Sacrifice - but every man was dead! Some had lain there for a week and were foul and horrible to look at, with faces black and green. Others had only just fallen, and seemed rather sleeping than dead, but there they lay, for none had time to bury them, brave fellows, every one, friend and foe alike, while I held in my unworthy hands the God of Battles, their Creator and their Judge, and prayed to Him to give rest to their souls. Surely that Mass for the Dead, in the midst of, and surrounded by the dead, was an experience not easily to be forgotten.
What could be more fitting than Holy Mass on hell's very doorstep?  Did not St. Paul say that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more?  Where is the Blood of Christ more needed than those places lashed by the fury of demons?  There is nowhere that Blood has not penetrated.  Not even Hitler's death camps.

In 1941 Karl Leisner, a young deacon of the Diocese of Münster, was thrown into Dachau for his opposition to the Nazi regime.  Already tubercular, his health deteriorated further, until it seemed that he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a priest.  But Divine Providence had other plans.

Here indeed is a subject for meditation.  Picture the young deacon lying awake in his hard bunk, staring up into the darkness.  He imagines himself at the altar, holding his Eucharistic Lord in his hands; or in the confessional, freeing souls from the bondage of sin; or at a sickbed, bringing the comfort of Extreme Unction to the dying.  But now he himself is weak, and sinking toward death, and cut off from his bishop, and apt to be put to death as an unproductive prisoner at any moment.  It seems as though God does not want him for His priest after all.  

Then, one day, a group of French prisoners is brought to Dachau.  Among them is a bishop.  Here is a man who can confer the sacred priesthood on Karl!  But bishops cannot act without jurisdiction.  Permission from the local ordinary is needed.  With the aid of the other prisoners in his block, all clergy, and the intrepid Sister Imma Mack, who regularly visits the camp, Karl petitions the local cardinal for permission to receive ordination at the hands of his fellow prisoner.  Imagine Karl struggling to be patient as he awaits the cardinal's response.  Finally, the following week, it comes.  Not only does the cardinal grant his permission; he also sends along chrism, a stole, and the book containing the Rite of Ordination, all of which are to be returned after the ordination, along with credible documentation that it has taken place.  

Now the camp is abuzz with activity.  Secret preparations are afoot for the ordination that is to take place right in the heart of Hitler's extermination complex.  Imagine prisoners -- some Catholic, some not -- in various parts of the camp, risking their lives and sacrificing precious spare moments and hours of sleep in order to work on vestments for the bishop and for Karl.  The angels must have doubled their vigilance, for no hint of what is going on reaches the enemy.  At last, all is ready, and on Gaudete Sunday, December 17, 1944, Karl becomes Father Leisner.

A unique photo: Blessed Father Karl Leisner, moments after his ordination at Dachau.
Here was a thing unheard of inside a death camp and, so far as known, absolutely unique.  Imagine the bishop and the newly ordained priest in their simple yet lovingly-made purple vestments; the candle-lit faces of the other prisoners; the Litany of the Saints being sung; the smell of holy chrism pervading the air of Dachau itself.  Here, surely, is a little taste of what the Harrowing of Hell must have been like: when Christ descended into hell to liberate the souls of the Just; whereupon, in that moment, that part of hell ceased to be hell.  Now Christ stooped down to hell on earth to raise up a priest out of its depths.  

But Father Leisner's ministry would consist mainly in suffering.  His health would not permit him to offer his first and only Mass until December 26th -- fittingly enough, the feast of St. Stephen.  Meanwhile, the fortress of death where he was consecrated to God was doomed.  Only a few months later, on May 4, 1945, the Allies liberated Dachau.  On August 12, 1945, Father Leisner -- now Blessed Karl Leisner -- closed his eyes forever on this fallen world that had been his battlefield.

When we find ourselves wondering where God is in the midst of our trials and tribulations, perhaps it would pay to think about Holy Mass on the battlefield, and the priestly ordination at Dachau.  The God Who has never failed to make His presence known and felt on the very doorstep of hell is surely with us now in our own troubles.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Aeterne Rerum Omnium

Conversion of the Paravars of India

Prayer of St. Francis Xavier, Apostle to the Far East, for Unbelievers

Aeterne rerum omnium effector Deus, memento abs te animas infidelium procreatas, easque ad imaginem et similitudinem tuam conditas. Memento Iesum, Filium tuum, pro illorum salute atrocissimam subiisse necem. Noli, quaeso, Domine, ultra permittere, ut Filius tuus ab infidelibus contemnatur, sed precibus sanctorum virorum et Ecclesiae, sanctissimi Filii tui Sponsae, placatus, recordare misericordiae tuae et, oblitus idololatriae et infidelitatis eorum, effice ut ipsi quoque agnoscant aliquando quem misisti Dominum Iesum Christum, qui est salus, vita et resurrectio nostra, per quem salvati et liberati sumus, cui sit gloria per infinita saecula saeculorum. Amen.

O God, everlasting Creator of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers were made by Thee and formed in Thine own image and likeness. Remember that Jesus, Thy Son, endured a most bitter death for their salvation. Permit not, I beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy Son should be despised any longer by unbelievers, but do Thou graciously accept the prayers of holy men and of the Church, the Spouse of Thy most holy Son, and be mindful of Thy mercy. Forget their idolatry and unbelief and grant that they too may some day know Him Thou hast sent, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Life and Resurrection, by whom we have been saved and delivered, to whom be glory for endless ages. Amen.