Mercy

Daily readings: 1 Romans 1: Through Jesus Christ, Paul and the disciples received the grace of apostleship, “to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God, called to be holy, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 98: “The Lord has made known his salvation.”                                                          Psalm 95: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Gospel of Luke 11: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. . . At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them…”
Signs. . .Who can read the signs of the times? Wait – maybe the question should be, who can see the signs of the future? Do we know where we are going? What will we see when we get there? Is that where we want to end our days? Is there someone we can trust to lead us to the path to happiness?

Let’s face it, we all, everyone of us needs a holy man in our lives. What woman among you has not thrilled in awe and wonder on receiving the merciful, soul-piercing glance from a priest? What man out there has not felt and feared the pull of holiness at hearing Divine mercy and grace in the voice of a priest?

Do we want mercy? Yes. Do we fear Divine Mercy? Yes. Mercy is an unknown element in our lives. It is not to be found in the acceptance of our personalities by our friends. Mercy is not to be heard in the voice of the boss. Divine mercy is not to be had in providing for the needs of our spouses. And in the end, we can only hope for future mercy from our children, who will have the power to procure our physician assisted suicides.

The good news is that we can see and hear mercy thru the priest. He gives us Christ’s ocean of mercy in which we learn to swim with fear of punishment even as we are washed clean from the evil that men do life.  Then we come ashore, subject to the grace and discipline of God. This is how we, who are not worthy, become sanctified.

We fear punishment for wrongs we have done, for rights we have not done. And so we pray, I confess to Almighty God that I have gravely sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, thru my fault, thru my fault, thru my most grievous fault. Therefore I ask the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God. Amen.

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Green is the new Gold, in Colorado

Plato wrote in his 8th Republic book (ca 380 B.C.), of Socrates theorizing moral character of a society’s relation to the nature of its political community, e.g. “Tyranny arises out of democracy when the desire for freedom to do what one wants becomes extreme.”

Alexis de Tocqueville described mores found in the American character in his Democracy of America (1835), as ‘habits of the heart.’ He wrote that the strong family life, religious traditions, and participation in local politics could create and sustain a wider community and ultimately support free institutions. But he also warned that an aspect of American individualism could undermine such unity and drive isolated American conditions of freedom.

By second half of the 20th Century, American freedom becomes a world in which moral ideals in conflict becomes the matter of technical problem processing and solving by the therapist and the manager. Thus the manager and the therapist define American culture, which is based on individual consumer capitalism. Manager and therapist do not address mores or morality, rather they offer standards of life with character ideals and the methods for attaining them according to individual criteria.

Bellah, Robert N. and Madsen, Richard et al., (1996). Habits of the Heart, Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Published by University of California Press. Berkeley

“If they want it, let them have it.” SCOTUS decision on civil marriage and Progressive Liberal’s Obama / Clinton Democratic Party Platform on abortion and legalized suicide. And now we have legalized marijuana to change the brains of future generations, those that survive the abortionist’s vacuum or Big Pharma’s chemical “cure”.

 

The Liberal Line

Darkness of looming civil war divided American politics between the reform liberalism of Abraham Lincoln and the utilitarian liberalism of Stephen Douglas. The 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates were over the question of extending slavery to western territories. Douglas saw society as the sum of individuals and their choices, He advocated popular sovereignty, ‘they want it, let them have it.’

Lincoln said slavery was wrong and should not be allowed even if it was wanted by the majority. His moral political view of society held that common good was beyond the sum of individual goods and led to his great speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln saw slavery as immoral and he held society accountable for its abolition.i

Bellah, Robert N. and Madsen, Richard et al., (1996). Habits of the Heart, Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Published by University of California Press. Berkeley

JULY 27, 2017 Is Traditional Courtship Really “Unrealistic” Today? ANTHONY ESOLEN IN Crisis Weekly Headlines, A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity

My imaginary sparring partner Mike has come back with some trepidation, because he never wanted to be maneuvered into saying that he wants to allow the killing of a weak and innocent human being. But now he speaks the language of “realism.”

I have learned, and sometimes to my chagrin, that the Church is almost too realistic for us ordinary sinners to bear. The Church notices that language is for sharing truth, and therefore she forbids not only lying, which most people can avoid, but also that indispensable pleasure of community life, detraction, whereby you tell the truth or a piece of the truth but not for the sake of truth; you tell it to hurt your neighbor. The Church notices that the love of parents for their children is natural and salutary, and therefore she abominates any attempt by a state to sever or to supplant that relationship, and has gone so far as to declare the obvious—for it takes courage in a mad time to declare the obvious. She says that parents are the first and supreme educators of their children. Then we hear from educational bureaucrats that that isn’t “realistic” either.

(How, if not in state institutions, will children learn to read Shakespeare, to understand the important movements and the crucial personages in the history of the world, to be familiar with the physical and human contours of the world’s nations, to grasp as a coherent and systematic whole the grammar of their mother tongue and that of at least one other, to be conversant with great men and women of letters, and to have a basic knowledge of flora and fauna, rock strata, planets and stars as they appear in the sky, and—never mind.)

But Mike has a different kind of realism in mind. It is not realism, but a worldly surrender to the common un-realism of man, who devises spider-web tangles of argument, special pleading, fantasy, and illogic to justify what he wants to do, or not to do.

“I think that it is unrealistic to teach abstinence before marriage,” he says. “So, when birth control fails, there should be a last resort available. I don’t like it, but I don’t see a way around it.”

“Mike, you are right not to like it. But I want to go back to that business about reality.”

“I wasn’t talking about reality, but about what human beings are going to do, even if they are being unreasonable.”

“I understand. May I ask you a blunt question? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want.”

“Go ahead.”

“When you first—I’m going to use the Church’s term, and I don’t want you to take it as criticism—when you first fornicated with a girl, what exactly were you thinking?”

He flushes a bit, smiles sadly, and looks at his hands.

“I wasn’t thinking.”

I let that stand for a moment or two. “That’s the easy answer, but I don’t believe it. I am guessing that you were thinking of a hundred things, and very fast, and that your feelings were a mad jumble of contradictions. Did you entirely want to do what you were about to do?”

“I have to be honest?”

“You have to be honest.”

“I was scared to death.”

“Because you were doing what married people do, what your own mother and father did.”

“That thought crossed my mind, but then other thoughts came in, too.”

“Thoughts about a child?”

“Not at first.” Mike starts to move uncomfortably in his chair. “At first I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to, you know.”

“You needn’t tell me the details. But what about that made you afraid? Were you afraid that she wouldn’t love you?”

“I wasn’t even sure she really liked me! But if I ducked out, who knows what she would think, or say about me. I was worried about my reputation.”

“Now that is strange,” I say. “It reminds me about how Augustine described his adolescence. He said that he boasted about shameful things that he had not done, because he was ashamed of not being as shameless as his fellows. Some reputation.”

“That’s the way things are, though.”

“Right. I’ll bet she was worried about that too. But if you were so unsure about whether she loved you, why did you begin to do the thing in the first place?”

“Who says that I was the one that started it?”

I raise my eyebrows involuntarily, but the moment of surprise passes. What he has said is entirely credible.

“Ah, and that explains why you were all the more hesitant to hesitate. You know what occurs to me? What we’re describing here is a perfect haze of uncertainty, untruth, evasion, suspicion, and longing. Would you say that you were happy?”

“I was excited.”

“Obviously. But that’s not what I asked.”

“No,” says Mike. “It was as I told you.  I was scared to death. Afterward,” he continues, thinking about it, “after it all I guess I can say that I was happy. Then we just got used to it.”

“Used to it. Not an enthusiastic endorsement of a way of life.”

“No,” he says. “I think that I learned to love her because of the sex.”

“Are you two still together?”

“No, we broke up last year.” He says this with some resignation and sadness, and looks to the window. I wait a few moments.

“You do realize that what you’re describing is utterly backwards.”

“It does seem so. But what was I supposed to do?”

“Do you know anything about what meth addicts feel, once they’ve broken the addiction? They can no longer take pleasure in the ordinary things of life. You might say that their brains are exhausted, all used up when it comes to pleasure. Can you guess where I’m going now?”

“Yes, and it’s not a happy thing to think about.”

“No, not happy at all. Have you ever known the pleasure of a chaste and innocent kiss?”

“Is there any pleasure in that?”

“Think. Let’s suppose that you are living in a time when people do not first take their clothes off and then ask one another their names.”

“That’s harsh!”

“Is it unheard of?”

“No, that happened to one of my roommates.”

“All right. Let’s suppose that everyone understands that sex is for marriage, period, but that boys and girls will naturally go through a period of many years, when they learn about one another, they flirt, they go to dances, they may go together to see a show, they talk, they meet the parents and the brothers and sisters—they may end up falling in love.”

“And they never touch each other?”

“How often do you see boys and girls these days holding hands, in public?”

“I never see it.”

“How often do you see them kissing each other, in public?”

“I never see it.”

“A strangely lonely thing, this life of hedonism. Why do you suppose they don’t hold hands, or kiss, in public?”

“I guess it’s because if they do that, then everyone will know that they are sleeping together.”

“Very strange. But there’s another reason, too. If you notice that people are not doing something rather simple and easy to do, you might well conclude that they simply don’t want to do that. They don’t enjoy it. Why would that be so?”

“Because it doesn’t give them much pleasure, I guess.”

“That could be it. But you see that the problem is not with the hands or the lips. The problem is with the experiences that have come before. The methamphetamine addict cannot really go outdoors and listen to the robins singing. It brings no pleasure anymore. Imagine instead a world that is clean, insofar as a world of fallen human beings is ever going to be so. Imagine then that a boy’s heart would beat a hundred times a minute just at the thought that he might hold the hand of the beautiful girl whom he admires so much—because she is kind and good and merry. Imagine that they have walked aside from a feast at their parish church, to watch the herons wading in the river to catch their fish, and the sun is deepening to orange in the west, and the sounds of children playing come to their ears from far away. Imagine that she too can hardly think of anything else but his presence, and that she is hoping that he will take her hand, though she is a little shy of it. Imagine that that they sit on a bench, and when they run out of things to say, he places his hand upon hers. And they sit like that for a long while.”

“That’s a different world.”

“Yes, it’s a different world. It is the way things used to be, in many places all over the world, and within living memory.”

“How do you know that for certain?”

“I talk to old people. I read things. I keep my eyes open. I knew some of that myself. But let me ask you a question. Wouldn’t that be a better world?”

“I don’t want to judge.”

“Judge the pleasure, then. That boy and girl I have described will remember that moment for the rest of their lives, whether or not they end up marrying one another. It will be a memory filled with the sweetness and the innocence and the promise of youth. It will be a moment without guilt, or shame, or, God forbid, the remembered fear that they might have made a child, one that they were not in the slightest bit ready to care for, and one whose life would be at grave danger as soon as he were conceived. They could stand before God and man without anything for which to apologize.”

“You are saying that they would have a life of greater joy, while we have a life of greater grief and confusion.”

“Did you expect anything different? Did you expect joy to come from hedonism? What hedonistic society in the history of the world was ever joyful?”

“I don’t know enough about history to answer that question.”

“Do you know enough about people at drinking parties to answer it?”

“Yes, I see.”

“There’s one thing sadder than people using alcohol—or drugs—to persuade themselves that they are happy and that they really care about the people they are with.”

“Go ahead, doc. Let me have it. Don’t spare me now.”

“People doing the child-making thing, pretending to love, but afraid to make a child. They are living in an unreal world.”

“They would say that they are living in the real world.”

“People will say anything, won’t they?”

 

July 7 Colorado Catholic Herald Commentary, Read more History

 Christina Capecchi reviews “The American Spirit” by David McCullough

“The American Spirit,” takes up a cause he has long championed, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by and large historically illiterate,” David McCullough writes. This book illuminates the footbridge from knowledge to character.

McCullough dedicates the book to his 19 grandchildren and doles out plenty of wholesome advice. Read widely. Be generous. Take an interest in people.

He also borrows Abigail Adams’ admonition to her son and directs it at modern-day history-illiterates: “How unpardonable it would be for us — with so much that we have been given, the advantages we have, all the continuing opportunities we have to enhance and increase our love of learning — to turn out blockheads.”

Read More History – Don’t be a Blockhead.

 

 

Miracles of Santo Fico

   The Miracles of Santo Fico, by D.L. Smith is a book of revelations that begins with a busload of English tourists forced to make a pit stop in the off-track, po-dunk village of Santo Fico, where even the plaza fountain water supply has dried up. There they find an inn whose owner, a widow with two daughters, serves them a delicious lunch while her one-time, in-the-distant-past boyfriend cons them into visiting the church to see a well-kept–secret painting by an unknown “great artist”, for a small donation – half of which he intends to pocket himself. The fresco of St. Francis blessing the fig tree, however, is real and amazing. The plan is successful, but then comes the earthquake. 

            In 356 pages, Smith draws us into a tale of twisted lives lost by following their good intentions as they work and worry under the hot, Italian summer sun in dusty, dry Santo Fico. And the first miracle of revelation comes with a busload of parched English tourists who appreciate beauty where they find it, or in this case, where they are led to it. No one thinks to question the veracity of their guide’s story as they drink in the truth of a beautifully illustrated Saint Francis blessing and blessed in the shade of a fruitful fig tree.

         The story unfolds as they hunt for long-lost water pipes, hidden romance is revealed, lost memories are restored, a bad girl is saved, a liar is redeemed, a priest realizes his failure at school was the miracle that led him to life serving lost souls in Santo Fico, and a blind girl sees the light of day for the first time, “Mama, “ Nina said, softly blinking, “is that the sun?”

            Seriously, I think some talented screenwriter out there should read this book and bring out the facts on screen that truth and beauty dwell with us – even as our twisted paths of life seem to lead toward hell, and yet miraculously lead us to salvation.  Who among writers can deny a real believe in miracles of salvation?

Smith, D.L. (2003). The Miracles of Santo Fico.

 To desire is human, to focus on what is desired above all things leads to the divine.

An American Conversion, by Deal W. Hudson (2003) recounts how one man sought the truth of beauty he found outside but not separated from the Scriptures. Religion, in particular, Catholicism found voice in art, music, literature, drama, and even in architecture long before science discovered ways to elevate mind over body. Hudson shares a few gems from authors whose sexual desires materialized in their body of works a in their longing for God. Authors who desired absolute truths, and opened their eyes to choices where truth and beauty can lead those of us longing for what lies beyond what we see with our eyes.

Hudson shares a few unexpected, but transformative experiences in his personal journey from preaching Scripture to living with the real presence of Christ in the Mass, a celebration of the Eucharist which is pretty much the same as it was 2,000 years ago.And the history of the Church appealed to Hudson’s senses.  He writes as did G.K. Chesterton: “The Church really is ‘the thing’ that Chesterton once called it, a reality that was established by the life and death of Christ and made present to all souls, regardless of their beliefs. The Church is always there, not so much behind the sin and dissent but in its very midst!”

James Hitchcock, a historian at St. Louis University, wrote in his letter to Deal Hudson: “ “When one becomes a Catholic, one in effect enters into unity with the Church in its widest sense – not only the geographical breadth that exists at present but also all the ages which have gone before…A certain historical-mindedness is a great advantage for a Catholic, hence being a scholar is also an advantage. However, for the religious clay one finds in one’s local community, one can always travel across the centuries to enter in unity with the great saints and theologians.”

To desire is human, to focus on what is desired above all things desireable on earth, leads Deal W. Hudson to the divine. There are many more gems in his tale of An American Conversion. Read, reflect, don’t miss out on what’s possible.

Hudson, Deal (2003) An American Conversion: One Man’s Discovery of Beauty and Truth in Times of Crisis. N Y A Crossword Book

Who has not read The Life of Dr. Johnson (Boswell, James, 1791)?

Who has not read The Life of Dr. Johnson (1791)? Or read in literature about the deep friendship shared by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, his biographer?

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), historian and essayist wrote of Samuel Johnson. “Through long generations we point to him, and say, ‘Here also was a man; let the world once more have assurance of a man!’” Carlyle admired Johnson’s show of morality, “For as the highest Gospel was a Biography, so is the life of every good man still an indubitable Gospel; and preaches to the eye and heart and whole man, so that Devils even must believe and tremble at these gladdest tidings: Man is heaven-born; not the thrall of Circumstances, of Necessity, but the victorious subduer thereof.”

In his (2000) Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, the Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson, Adam Sisman has added to this enduring literature of friendship by writing another book about Dr. Johnson under observation by his friend, James Boswell who’s sole purpose of shadowing the well-known doctor is to document the family man’s history for posterity.  It was tantamount to living in a glass house, the closest friendship reality show available to the 18th Century general public. The masses craved to read attributes of the man, they devoured the juicy details, and not unlike readers of  today, demanded more.

The Four Loves

“Where father or mother treat their offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply terminate the acquaintance, dogmatic assertions on matters which children understand and their elders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously – sometimes of their religion – insulting references to their friends, all provide easy answers to the question of why their children never come home…Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?’” (Lewis, C.S., 1960, The Four Loves).

            Again from C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves), “To say that every Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false…It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual…Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” And “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets…as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves’… Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are calling ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ one to another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

            Aristotle classified Philia as a virtue and Cicero wrote a timeless book on Amicitia. Friendship used to be the happiest and most human of all loves. Now it is not counted as love because few people allow themselves to experience the deep, mutual love of Friendship before they drown it in the idolatry of an all-pervasive, human sex drive.

            I interviewed a priest who started up a ministry for Catholics attracted to same sex partners. The one thing he said that I still remember is that people should feel blessed to experience a deep, close friendship with another person of the same sex. And the blessing of such friendship seems to be extolled by both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, writers who also mourn the passing of acceptance for such deep friendships as they experienced in their lifetimes.

Kill the pain, not the patient (RespectLife.org)

There will be Agony in Serving the Aged

We were a group of three to four Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, taking the Eucharist to Catholic residents in two or three nursing homes during any given week. Neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor dark of blizzard winds kept us from our appointed rounds. The only thing that stopped us was the semi-annual bouts of influenza that would shut down whole wards.

  Most of our Catholic clients were aged well into their 8th or 9th decades. Most of them requested to be served communion and visits from a priest or Catholic laity members. Most of them expected a weekly visit from us. Most of them could recite the ‘Our Father’ from memory. Most of them were physically able to gnaw, then to swallow the Precious Body of Christ. Some of them were not able.

            Wednesday mornings we attended Mass and collected enough Hosts to serve approximately twenty-one to thirty people. Some times but not often enough, we had to break the hosts in half to accommodate occasional family visitors. In rare instances, we would have to return one or two excess Hosts.

            On more than one occasion, we made the rounds to discover a patient missing. I would inquire as to that person’s whereabouts only to be told that the patient had died over the weekend. I’d have to cry it out in an empty closet before rejoining my companions waiting in the reception area with a donut and coffee.

            Somehow I never expected anyone to die. No one bothered to cushion the shock of delivery for such news, and tears would come unbidden to my eyes. While the staff seemed inured to an individual’s inevitable passing from this life to the next, I wasn’t. My prayers were for their souls to pass quickly thru Purgatory to more heavenly realms.

            My name is Laura. I was the one who got called when new clients arrived. My fellow ExM’s left it up to me to keep track of all our clients by room and floor. I knew each person by name. It was up to me to cross a name off the list. That list had to be updated for our team members every month, sometimes every week.

            Kevin is a white-haired man of Irish descent who proudly proclaims his Brooklyn NY heritage. The clients call him ‘Father Flynn’, as do members of the staff. Kevin is a fast talker – it took some time for him to learn he must repeat the Our Father sl-o-o-w-ly, but he is a jolly good listener. People open up to him, especially those who spent time and money in pursuit of similar pastimes, the camaraderie of book stores, libraries and Irish taverns in historic Colorado Springs. I learned more about the city from them than is promoted by official city historians. When a male client preferred being served by a male Catholic, Kevin was their first choice.

            Pat is a rather strict, conservative ExM. He has a luxuriant head of white hair, and usually dresses in an old-fashioned shirt and tie, with a dark business suit jacket. When a client refuses to take the Host from either Kevin or me, we send in ‘Monsignor Dowling.’ Works every time. Pat is finally at the point where he doesn’t deny being a priest. He establishes a good rapport with residents who confess every week to having just eaten breakfast. He grants them special dispensation to take the Eucharist anyway. Pat came up with the blessing that we give after communion.

            Chuck, the fourth member of our team, is a snowbird who divides his time between Colorado and Arizona. He is the one who taught me how to take their hands in mine and pray with the clients. A big man, he kneels down beside every client, gently places one hand upon a frail shoulder, and prays the Memorare.

            “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided…” The residents love him.

            With my clients, I learn to smile, to ask how they were doing, and to listen patiently to their replies. If they need something in particular, I would convey that message to a staff member or request a visit from a priest. The biggest joy I got was in hearing them recite with me a mystery and prayers of the Rosary. This could only be done by a few who were willing to wrench their attention away from television sets, intentionally left on by staff members who preferred they stay put.

            One blind woman could recite the all the mysteries by rote. The staff supplied her with a radio and headphones in an effort to keep her in bed. She was allowed to sit in the dining room to eat, but could not move anywhere without being pushed about in a wheel chair. One day, I came upon her when she had slipped out of the wheelchair. That was the last time I saw her out of bed.

            Two women fell sick and were given medication that muddled their brains to the point where they didn’t even recognize me, nor were they able receive the Host. I honestly braced myself against the fact that they were both about to die. Two weeks passed by, and the first one recovered. I was delighted, and recited a thanksgiving prayer with her that she was back to normal and taking communion again. The next week, they told me she had died. The second one did not fully recover her senses, but neither did she die. She no longer took communion.

            We saw people of all ages with injuries come and go after going thru therapy. Some suffered major heart problems, or underwent surgery. Some had experienced strokes. One bright-eyed youngish woman had a stroke that left her with tremors in hand and leg on one side. We prayed for a smooth, and swift recovery for those patients. Whenever one of them relocated to a room on an upper floor, we knew those patients were there to stay, and switched to prayers of peace for them.

            Every one of our clients has a history, and I ask them to share it with us – although Pat is not so much interested in their history. I try to explain the value of getting clients to talk, and he complains that I sound just like his wife. Kevin roars with laughter, but later adds conversational sessions for men at the nursing homes because he takes delight in history. And every man, every one of them has a story.

            Pat arranged with Father Michael to come give mass at the nursing home once a month for clients able to attend. He admits that not only does Kevin take communion to the clients as usual on Wednesday morning, but then the clients file in for mass where they again receive communion from the priest. Another priest told us it was okay for them to receive the host twice in one day.

            The coffee and donuts and stories shared between us after serving the weak and the infirm, warmed our hearts, and provided us with entertaining testimonies on behalf of our ministry. We parted company each week resolved to return the next week to serve them again. For me it was a ministry of joy and sorrow, and a time for making long-lasting friendships in the service of the aged. I highly recommend serving the aged if you can stand up to experiencing great sorrow, and greater joy.