The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Eucharist, Abortion, and Politics

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this book before -- The Habit of Being, a collection of letters by Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964). If I haven't mentioned it, I certainly should have, because it's among my favorites, one of those books I return to occasionally, just to sample the wisdom of this remarkable woman who left us far too early.

Anyway, included among the letters are many O'Connor wrote to a friend, Betty Hester. (As the letters were being compiled for publication in 1979, Hester asked the editor not to reveal her name. Referred to as "A" in the book, her identity has since been revealed.) In one of these letters, written on 16 December 1955, O'Connor described a dinner she attended at the New York home of the novelist, Mary McCarthy. The guests included Robert Lowell and other literary luminaries. O'Connor, only about 25 at the time, had just been published and was considered a new, up-and-coming writer and storyteller with a future. Of course, this girl from Georgia felt more like a fish out of water in the presence of these big-city notables. But as the conversation continued into the early morning hours, it got serious, at least for this faithful, young Catholic. Here's an excerpt from the letter, written perhaps five or six years after the events described:

"Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater [i.e., Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity, now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, it it's a symbol, then to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me, all the rest of life is expendable." [The Habit of Being, p. 125]

Yes, indeed, if the Eucharist is just a symbol, why bother? And yet, how many Catholics today believe what Mary McCarthy believed, that the Eucharist is no more than a symbol, although "a pretty good one?" I can't say for certain, but I suspect those 60 pro-abortion, Catholic, Democrat representatives who accused the U. S. Bishops of "weaponizing" the Eucharist consider the Sacrament little more than a symbol. Like Flannery O'Connor, do they accept the Eucharist as "the center of existence," and like the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, do they understand the Eucharist "the source and summit of the Christian life?" If so, they are sending the rest of us a very confusing message, since they certainly don't worry about approaching the Sacrament unworthily. How did St. Paul put it?

"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" [1 Cor 11:27-29].

To deny the explicit teachings of the Church -- and believe me the Church has been consistently explicit in declaring abortion an "inherent evil" that must be rejected by all Catholics -- and to then receive the Eucharist is to do so "unworthily."

The U. S. Bishops have stated that when it comes to permitting or promoting abortion or euthanasia, Catholic politicians may not "promote such laws or vote for them." One can only hope their upcoming document on the reception of the Eucharist will clear up this issue for Catholics who are confused by the statements of politicians and by the resulting silence of too many bishops, priests, and deacons. In 2003 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that capacity he issued a very clear teaching on this subject. You can access it here: Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. It's certainly worth a read by anyone confused about recent statements made by some of our Catholic politicians.

For example, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U. S. House of Representations, when asked for her reaction to the U. S. Bishops' condemnation of abortion, simply stated, "I think I can use my own judgment on that." By these words, Pelosi, a self-declared "devout Catholic," confirms that she considers her judgment superior to that of God's Church. This, of course, simply echoes her denial of a number of truths proclaimed by the Church, including the inherent evil of abortion and that Sacramental marriage exists solely between a man and a woman. Such denials are really nothing less than heresy, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith" [CCC #2089].

For more on this, read Deacon Keith Fournier's article on the subject of Ms. Pelosi's heresy: Nancy Pelosi, Heretic. Sadly, President Biden is really no different.

And just now, I discovered I'm not the only one who thought of Flannery O'Connor's statement on the Eucharist in the midst of today's political chaos. Ken Craycraft, writing for the UK's Catholic Herald, also referred to O'Connor in a recent article: If the Eucharist Isn't Political, To Hell with It.  Read it (although you might need a subscription to the Catholic Herald to access this particular article), since Craycroft is certainly a far better writer than yours truly.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Joe Biden…Slouching Towards Murder

In 1919, in the confused and disillusioned world immediately following the First World War, the poet W. B. Yeats wrote a poem (“
The Second Coming”), in which he offered a vision of that world. It was a vision that foresaw the chaos that would envelop Europe, indeed, the entire world, with the rise of anarchy and the worst kind of "passionate intensity" that would soon manifest itself in national and international socialism; i.e., in fascism and communism. He saw a world awaiting the Second Coming…a few verses:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The poem ends with these two lines…

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

In 1996, borrowing and modifying this thought from Yeats, Judge Robert H. Bork wrote a book entitled, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, in which he addressed the appearance of a new kind of leftism in the 1960s, a leftism he believed would wreak havoc on our nation and on civil society throughout the world. He accurately predicted it would plague us with several generations of leftist intellectuals who would do all in their power to destroy Western Civilization. His prediction has, of course, been fulfilled. One need only look at the entirety of our educational establishment, from kindergarten through graduate school, and the products of their indoctrination, men and women who now populate all levels of government as well as our 
corporate board rooms.

Because these new leftists are strident to the point of violence, and viciously attack anyone who disagrees with their evolving, amoral, and totalitarian ideas, politicians too fall under their evil spell. One of these ideas, a cultural, moral, and religious issue with which the left maintains near unanimous agreement, is abortion. And among the many politicians who have succumbed to their attacks is our current president. Joe Biden, from the time he first entered the senate — coincidentally, he was seated in January 1973, the same month the U.S. Supreme Court issued it’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion — until 1987, could boast a largely pro-life voting record. The first sign of real change occurred when he became chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and, along with Ted Kennedy, led the attack on Supreme Court nominee Judge Bork. Senator Biden later said:
“That’s why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be lots of changes that I don’t like and the American people wouldn’t like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.”
During the 90s and the early years of this century, his positions began to waffle. Although he voted several times against partial birth abortion, his views had apparently softened. And in 2007, a new Joe Biden openly appeared, when he chastised the Supreme Court for its “paternalistic” attitude exemplified when it upheld the ban on partial birth abortion. From that moment to the present, he has been among the most avid pro-abortion politicians at the national level. From openly pro-life to a view that supports abortion “under any circumstance,” Joe Biden has displayed his disregard for human life, all for the sake of political gain. Joe, too, has slouched along on a death march, leaving behind him a long trail of bodies, more than 66,000,000 innocent little ones.

Pray for our president, and for our nation.

P.S. - To see a list of Joe Biden’s changing political stance on abortion, go to this Catholic League page:  Biden’s Evolving Views on Abortion.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Archbishop Cordileone Responds

Obviously upset about the U. S. Bishops’ decision to address the issue of Eucharistic coherence — i.e., the reception of the Eucharist by those who publicly reject Church teaching on major issues like abortion — 60 Catholic, Democrat members of Congress published what they called their “Statement of Principles.” The statement defended their public support for abortion, the murder of unborn children. 

Archbishop Salvatore. J. Cordileone of San Francisco is a fervent pro-life bishop who understands that support for abortion is totally incompatible with Catholic teaching. He therefore published a wonderful response to these members of Congress, a response all Catholics should read and take seriously. In his essay Archbishop Cordileone addresses every element of the statement made by these presumably Catholic legislators and refutes each with the truth of Catholic teaching.

Published in my favorite journal, First Things, you can access the archbishop’s essay here: A Response to the Statement of PrinciplesPlease read what the Archbishop has to say, and if your representative supports abortion, be kind and send him or her a copy.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

New Bible Study Guide: Zephaniah

First, a brief note on the resumption of our Bible Study sessions:

God willing, we should be able (I hope) to resume our weekly Bible Study sessions at the parish, and soon...As I finished writing the previous sentence, the phone rang and the parish just informed me that we will likely begin in early August. Talk about good timing! Praise God! 

We are not yet certain of the days and times for each of our three weekly sessions, but I will let you now once the parish decides. I expect some more details within a few days.


I've just completed another of our Bible Study Guides; this one focuses on one of the minor prophets: Zephaniah. A few folks might recall that last summer I gave one of my COVID reflections on this prophet. If you actually watched the video, Zephaniah shouldn't be a complete stranger. Zephaniah was related to the royal family of Judah and prophesied early in the reign of King Josiah, before the king instituted his reforms. His book is brief, only three chapters, but well worth reading and, not surprisingly, applies to our day as well. I wrote the guide rather quickly yesterday, since I was able to pull a lot of material from my earlier reflection, and trust there aren't too many typos or other errors.

Here's a link to the Documents page of our Bible Study website. Just scroll down to Study Guide #45 and you can access the PDF file:

Please offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the resumption of our sessions.

God's peace...

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Major Astronomical Disappointment

Man, am I bummed! Betelgeuse isn’t going to explode…at least not real soon. If, like me, you’re an avid fan of things astronomical, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If not, let me explain what’s going on in the nearby (relatively speaking) heavens.

Betelgeuse is a star, a very large star, located in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Called a red super-giant, it’s a bright star, the 10th brightest star in the sky, and can be found in the constellation of Orion the Hunter. As a red super-giant, it’s both very red and very big. Betelgeuse is so big, if it replaced our sun it would probably extend to the orbit of Jupiter. In other words, the earth would be smack dab in the middle of it, not a good place to be. 

The below image depicts Orion the Hunter, showing the location of Betelgeuse in the constellation. In Orion only Rigel is brighter, but the red color of Betelgeuse makes it easy to spot. Betelgeuse is the reddish star, upper left, while Rigel is the bright star, lower right. In the center are the three stars that make up "Orion's Belt."

Betelgeuse’s distance from us has been estimated at 400-800 light years. The wide range of estimates results from the fact that Betelgeuse is a variable star, meaning it’s brightness can fluctuate significantly over time making it difficult to establish its distance with any accuracy. Some new (2017) technologies, however, using information from a number of ground-based radio telescopes, have concluded Betelgeuse is 724 light years from earth. This conclusion is based on a weighted average of a range between 613 and 881 light years. Using the 724 light years figure, the light we see when we observe Betelgeuse actually left the star in the year 1297 A.D. 

(Just to put things into perspective, on September 11 of that year, an army of Scots, led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray, defeated the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge — a very different kind of 9/11. The 1995 movie “Braveheart” offered an historically inaccurate, but thrilling version of the battle .)

Because Betelgeuse is a red super-giant it’s also a relatively short-lived star. It’s already about 10 million years old, and is expected to live just an additional 100,000 years or so. That’s not long at all when it comes to the life of heavenly bodies. And when red super-giants die, they don’t just fade away quietly. They go out with a bang called a supernova. Indeed, when Betelgeuse finally explodes, the resulting blast will probably be brighter than the full moon. It should be quite a sight.

About two years ago, astronomers noticed a change in Betelgeuse’s brightness that didn’t coincide with its usual variance. Many astronomers thought this change might be a prelude to its ultimate collapse and subsequent supernova blast. Reading about this got me all excited, astronomically speaking, since I’ve long hoped to witness Betelgeuse’s departure. But then a team of astronomers, using the Hubble Space Telescope determined that the dimming of Betelgeuse was caused by an huge amount of hot material ejected into space by the star. It formed a dust cloud that blocked about 25% of the light from the star. The event, which began in late 2019, ceased by April 2020 and Betelgeuse returned to its usual brightness.

From the series of Hubble photos shown below you can observe the effects of the dust cloud. In the middle two photos the star’s brightness has clearly dimmed. The first and fourth photos were taken before the cloud formed and after it dissipated or moved on.
It seems, then, that the star’s temporary dimming had nothing to do with its ultimate demise. Although Dr. Andrea Dupree, who led the Hubble team of researchers, stated that “No one knows what a star does right before it goes supernova, because it’s never been observed. Astronomers have sampled stars maybe a year ahead of them going supernova, but not within days or weeks before it happened.” She then added, “But the chance of the star going supernova anytime soon is pretty small.” 

As I said, “Bummer!” I think I was about 10 years old when I first learned of the possibility of a Betelgeuse supernova, and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since. And the weird thing is, because the light from Betelgeuse takes about 700 years to reach us, it might already have happened. Just my luck, if it does happen during the few remaining years of my lifetime, it'll be in the winter months when Orion is less visible.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Bye, Bye Intercollegiate Sports

For years I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness, unheard by anyone who really cares. What have I been crying about? Intercollegiate athletics. I’ve long believed its time has passed. And it’s all because of one thing: MONEY…and lots of it. Because billions of dollars drive college sports — money that fills the coffers of our colleges and universities, the NCAA, and big media — the entire system of American higher education has been corrupted. Too many so-called student athletes, particularly those involved in the major, cash-generating sports, never graduate, and probably should never have been admitted by their respective schools. But the money’s good, and if the athlete is really talented, but academically challenged, they’ll find a way to ensure he remains a “student” until his eligibility ends. (NCAA vs. Federal graduation rate statistics are quite different. See this article for more info: NCAA Graduation Rates Low.)

Another pile of money comes from alumni who want their football or basketball or whatever teams to win, and are willing to pay for those wins through season tickets, booster clubs, and under the table gifts. But for schools with the most competitive teams, perhaps the real windfall comes from the media who spend the real big bucks to air all those games on TV and the Internet. Yes, indeed, lots of people are throwing lots of money around to keep intercollegiate sports going strong. Of course, the NFL and NBA just love the idea of colleges functioning as free minor leagues. Such a deal! And none of this even considers the billions involved in another principled, incorruptible industry: sports betting.

Now, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, has opened the door for athletes to receive limited compensation. The next case, which relates to compensation from endorsements, will probably result in a similar decision. Eventually, and probably quite soon, I expect further decisions that will enable athletes to be paid salaries, just as professionals are paid. This seems to be a court that, despite its internal philosophical differences, really dislikes monopolies and antitrust violations. 

Yes, the door has been opened, but for the NCAA it just might be the exit door. If athletes can receive endorsements and even be paid, they’ll also have agents, sparking growth in another sleazy industry. Once schools have to pay football and basketball players, do you really think the cross-country runners or the members of the swim team won’t demand equal treatment? I can hear it how: “Equity, equity, equity…” That should prove to be an interesting court case. And what constitutes a fair salary? If a particularly good senior quarterback can expect annual compensation and signing bonuses in the tens of millions from an NFL team even before he leaves school, what do you think he’ll want from his college or university? I don’t think a $15/hour minimum wage will satisfy him.

It will be interesting to see how many small, and perhaps some not so small, colleges will abandon intercollegiate athletics because of increased costs. Maybe it’s time for institutions of higher education to devote all their energy to actually educating people. Oh, wait…they stopped doing that years ago.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Summer Reading

Thanks to the malleable, easily manipulated science of the “experts,” we’ve all spent more than a year imprisoned in our homes by COVID. Okay, I exaggerate. If we donned an approved mask and kept our distance from friends and strangers, we were free to make brief trips to the supermarket in search of toilet paper. But for months churches were off limits, as were local eateries, since such places were seen as COVID petri dishes. Participating in such activities was not only perceived as dangerous, it was also illegal. The result? All of us, especially those of us who are retired, had far too much empty time on our hands.

How did you use all that free time? Like many folks, did you spend countless hours playing mind-numbing online games? Maybe instead you decided to subscribe to Netflix so you could watch all their politically correct series and movies. Or like some people I know, did you search YouTube for nutty animal videos and send them to your friends? Of course, you might actually have done some reading. You don’t have to answer, and I won’t confess my sins of excess leisure. But whether or not your reading list has changed, I thought it might be fun to recommend a few books to keep you busy during these long summer days.

I’ll preface my list by saying that I never pay a lot of attention to reading lists generated by others, even by those I respect. But that’s just because I have so many unread books piled up in my den that adding others would just add to my guilt. So…if, like me, you already have a long list of unread books, stop reading this post right now and jump over to YouTube. That said, here’s my list…

The Possessed (or Devils) by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). I first read this book almost 60 years ago when I was a freshman at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. I spent only one year at Georgetown — for which I thank God daily — before receiving an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Like my change in educational institutions, reading this book had a major influence on how I viewed the world, particularly the world of politics and government. Dostoevsky was, of course, one of Russia’s great novelists and most literate folks have read either Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov, his two most famous and widely read books. The Possessed, although not as well known, might actually be the most relevant to our times. Like Russia in the 1870s, radical, revolutionary ideas are gaining traction today, particularly among our poorly educated youth and young adults. I decided to reread this book some weeks ago and, based on recent events in our own country, found it even more relevant.

Let me offer a rather long quote from the book — a scene in which one radical speaks with another, describing those whom they recruit, the folks Lenin named the “useful idiots” who could be called on to do the busy and nasty work of the revolution:
“It will amuse you: the first thing which has a tremendous effect is giving them titles. Nothing has more influence than a title. I invent ranks and duties on purpose; I have secretaries, secret spies, treasurers, presidents, registrars, their assistants — they like it awfully, it's taken capitally. Then, the next force is sentimentalism, of course. You know, amongst us socialism spreads principally through sentimentalism. But the trouble is these lieutenants who bite; sometimes you put your foot in it. Then come the out-and-out rogues; well, they are a good sort, if you like, and sometimes very useful; but they waste a lot of one's time, they want incessant looking after. And the most important force of all — the cement that holds everything together — is their being ashamed of having an opinion of their own. That is a force! And whose work is it, whose precious achievement is it, that not one idea of their own is left in their heads! They think originality a disgrace…All that business of titles and sentimentalism is a very good cement, but there is something better; persuade four members of the circle to do for a fifth on the pretense that he is a traitor [that is, to kill him], and you'll tie them all together with the blood they've shed as though it were a knot. They'll be your slaves, they won't dare to rebel or call you to account…And another thing….the essence of our creed is the negation of honor, and that by the open advocacy of a right to be dishonorable a Russian can be won over more easily than by anything…The right to dishonor — why, they'd all flock to us for that, not one would stay behind!”
These words, written 150 years ago, 50 years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, still apply. Socialism, although it always fails when put into practice, sounds so good to those who ignore its history. The only way, then, to recruit the hard-core believer is through pure sentimentalism. Later, once the socialist state is created, every aspect of life must be controlled or a counter-revolution will follow. The “leaders” of Antifa and Black Lives Matter, not to mention the dozens of overt terrorist organizations throughout the world, apply these same rules of recruitment as they fill their ranks with the mindless who do their evil bidding. Yes, indeed, give them a title to make them feel better about themselves, while at the same time crushing independent thought by demanding complete acceptance of the “party line.” Those who resist by thinking and expressing unacceptable ideas are shamed or even cancelled, sometimes in the most permanent way. Demanding the application of violence against those who stray “ties them all together with the blood they’ve shed.” Honor, morality, the distinction between good and evil all disappear.

The Possessed is well worth reading.

The Wise Man from the West, by Vincent Cronin (1924-2011). In the late 17th century, a second-generation Jesuit, Fr. Matteo Ricci, inspired by Francis Xavier, left the West and went to China as a missionary, where he spent the final 28 years of his life. Ricci loved the Chinese and their ancient civilization and developed the means to introduce Christianity in ways to which the Chinese would respond. He became a great scholar who could communicate with both Chinese scholars and the common people. Convinced that Christianity could coexist with Chinese culture and customs, his attempts to merge the two failed in the short term. As the late, great Fr. James V. Schall, S. J. wrote in the book’s Forward:
“…it was not the Chinese who rejected this possibility but the West in the judgment at the time of the Pope (Clement XI, 1704) himself. Though later popes, as Cronin indicated, have come to regret this choice, the damage was done.”
This is a wonderful book, a fitting companion to another book about this remarkable Jesuit, which I read many years ago. If you read Cronin’s book and want to know more about Ricci and his genius, pick up a copy of The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, by Jonathan D. Spence (b. 1936).

The Unbroken Thread, by Sohrab Amhari (b. 1985). What a wonderful book! It can best be described by its subtitle: “Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos.” Amhari is an immigrant, born and brought up in Iran, who came to this country, immersed himself in Western materialism, but then experienced a dramatic change in his life and became a Roman Catholic. His book is a book of questions that need to be answered by any American who desires to live the kind of life that God desires of us. To provide meaningful answers, the author calls on many of the great minds of Western Civilization. The book is a true page-turner and one you might want to share with children and grandchildren.

The Soul of the World, by Roger Scruton (1944-2020). Although Roger Scruton, to me one of the greatest of modern philosophers, died last year, he left us with many wonderful books. This is perhaps my favorite. It’s not easy reading for those not used to making their way through the language of the philosophers, but for those who keep their dictionary handy, it reaps great rewards. Scruton takes on the atheism of the elites and the blind scientism that attacks the sacred. In his defense of the sacred he turns to art, literature, music, and all forms of human achievement. Scruton wrote over forty books but this book sums up much of his thought and does it beautifully. Although it’s not a long book, it kept that aging mind of mine occupied for more than a few days. This is a book well worth reading. 

Selected Poems, by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001). Okay, for a change of pace, I thought you might enjoy some of this woman’s poetry, steeped as it is in religious values and full of the wisdom of one who suffered much in her personal life. English-born, Jennings spent almost her entire life in Oxford. Her poems, marked by a unique simplicity and lyric mastery, move readers to contemplate their own views of the central themes of human life. Love, death, faith, relationships…Jennings touched on them all, colored by her own deep Catholic faith. I first read her only a few years ago, not long after her death, but became an instant fan, believing her to be among the greatest of modern poets. As the late Peter Levi, Jesuit priest and Professor of Poetry at Oxford, wrote of Jennings before her death, “She is one of the few living poets we could not do without.”

Jennings, who had suffered from mental illness, wrote the poem I've included below, apparently while recovering. It's certainly not the most cheerful of her many poems, but it moved me deeply as I considered my own ministry as a hospital chaplain. It begins with the recognition of a painting hanging on the wall, one by the French artist, Maurice Utrillo. I’ve included a photo of the painting below:

A Mental Hospital Sitting Room

Utrillo on the wall. A nun is climbing
Steps in Montmartre. We patients sit below.
It does not seem a time for lucid rhyming;
Too much disturbs. It does not seem a time
When anything could fertilize or grow.

It is as if a scream were opened wide,
A mouth demanding everyone listen.
Too many people cry, too many hide
And stare into themselves. I am afraid
There are no life-belts here on which to fasten.

The nun is climbing up those steps. The room
Shifts till the dust flies in between our eyes.
The only hope is visitors will come
And talk of other things than our disease…
So much is stagnant and yet nothing dies.

Well, those are a few recommendations for your summer reading. A bit heavy, perhaps, except for Jennings' poetry, but we live in rather heavy times.

God's peace...

Monday, June 14, 2021

More thoughts…

Just some more spontaneous thoughts that come to me as I sit for four hours in a very uncomfortable chair waiting for dentists to finish their work on Dear Diane. These dentists at the University of Florida are a wonderful, competent team of professionals, and the long sessions have taught me how to deal with what promises to be hours of near fatal boredom. Interestingly — and why it’s interesting will become evident shortly — Diane’s dentists earned their undergraduate degrees abroad.

My subject today probably came about because I’m sitting in a building in Gainesville, Florida surrounded by other buildings of this major university. Perhaps these thoughts penetrated my aging brain through a kind of osmosis. Anyway, here goes…

Parents today, who pay huge amounts of money for their child to attend an Ivy League college, or really almost any college or university, are throwing their money away. Our colleges and universities, sadly with only a few exceptions, have completely abandoned their role as institutions of higher education. Not too many years ago colleges and universities actually educated their undergraduate students, providing them with a firm foundation in the “liberal arts.” Students learned to express themselves orally and in writing, to understand our place in the history of humanity, to become acquainted with the philosophies that formed that history, to recognize the greatness and the weakness in the lives and work of those who came before, to grasp the fundamentals of mathematics and science, and to appreciate the world’s great literature and art. This liberal education provided students with the knowledge and skills needed to live productive lives in a free society and prepared them for further professional education or specialized training in a variety of fields. In other words, they learned to think and to reason, and to do so with discernment.

Russell Kirk (1918-1994), the great conservative thinker, wrote that liberal education “defends order against disorder…works for order in the soul and order in the republic. Liberal learning enables those who benefit from its discipline to achieve some degree of harmony within themselves.” And St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) stated that through a liberal intellectual discipline “a habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom, of what…I have ventured to call the philosophical habit of mind.” 

But today, many of our colleges and universities have completely abandoned liberal education and instead have devolved into mere indoctrination centers where young minds, already preconditioned by the ideological garbage they’ve been force fed in many high schools, become thoroughly radicalized. Lacking a real education, college students instead become Lenin’s “useful idiots” who can easily be led and controlled by those who seek power. With breathless adoration too many of today’s students unquestioningly accept whatever their radical professors tell them, and zombie-like they follow their handlers into the streets. By the time they graduate, useless degrees in hand, they despise the civilization that allows them to express the hatred they’ve been taught. 

Most parents, however, don’t have a clue and will continue to fund this first phase of societal suicide. Their children may be “woke,” but parents are the ones who need to wake up. Unfortunately too many have been willing to abdicate their responsibility for the education of their children and willingly allow others to teach their children to hate not only their nation and Western Civilization, but also the parents who foot the bill for all this.

What other options do parents and their children have? Maybe I’ll offer a few off-the-wall ideas about this soon in a future post…assuming I remember to do so.

Disconnected Thoughts

First, I’ve neglected the blog for a week or so because our elder daughter and her five children have been visiting. One, the eldest of the five, had to leave us to return to his job in Charleston, but the others remain to delight our lives. After they flew in from Boston, we spent several days in Orlando and then headed for our home in The Villages. Unfortunately, one of the family also brought us a gift: a bug that left the rest of us, including Diane and me, with rather nasty head colds. It’s left Diane and me very tired, with runny noses and mildly sore throats, but thanks to meds from Walgreens we’re on the mend…slowly. We hope to be all healed and soon up to our usual slow speed.

Second, I’ve also neglected my dear Bible Study regulars, now numbering almost 100 parishioners, and it’s been nearly a month (perhaps longer) since I’ve written one of my study guides. Diane and I went off on a few little trips during April and May, followed by the arrival of daughter and grandchildren, so I suppose I have an excuse. I hope to get busy on a new one next week. In the meantime, you can always reread one of the existing study guides posted on our Bible Study Website.

Anyway, as I recover from this pesky common cold, I’ve been thinking about lots of odd things, mostly about our world and how its rational inhabitants largely ignore the God who created them. At the risk of boring you all, especially those few stalwarts who occasionally read a post or two, I decided to share some of these thoughts.

A few years ago I read The Christians as the Romans Saw Them,  a wonderful little book by Robert Louis Wilkin, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. Surprisingly, although the Romans had quite a lot to say about Christians, they had very little to say about Jesus. Most of the Romans who mentioned Christians despised them and their teachings. And because Christians refused to worship the Roman gods, but instead worshiped a man who was crucified as a criminal, they were thought to be atheists. Reading what the Romans had to say, one would think Christianity just sprang up out of nowhere and it’s founder, a nobody from a minor province, wasn’t worth mentioning. Of course, from the world’s perspective, that’s exactly who Jesus is: a nobody. I suppose most educated Romans considered Jesus Himself simply unworthy of much mention. This really shouldn’t surprise us, since Jesus is the very font of the humility He preached to His disciples. How did St. Paul put it?
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross [Phil 2:6-8].
The Son of Man lived in the world, and lived in the deepest humility. The world, in which Satan thrives, cannot comprehend humility and will always try to ignore Jesus or, failing that, attack and belittle Him. We see this today among the self-proclaimed elite and especially among the politicians who endlessly proclaim their Christianity while openly ignoring Jesus and the Magisterial teachings of His Church. We who claim to be Christians ignore Jesus at our peril. As St. Paul continued in his hymn-like teaching to the Philippians, Jesus, the Son of Man, is far more than a humble, itinerant preacher, for He is also Son of God:
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father [Phil 2:9-11].
Yes, indeed, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but many tongues do not yet confess this truth. As Paul reminds us, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bend.” Every knee should, but so few do. 

Not long ago, a parishioner and Bible Study regular told me she was sure Jesus would convert the world before He returned. I told her I hoped she was right but didn’t believe that would happen. I referred her to something Jesus asked, a series of questions that has always caused me to question the depth of my own faith:
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? [Lk 18:7-8]
It’s that final question that gives me pause, and leads me to what Jesus had to say about those final days:
Many false prophets will arise and deceive many, and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to  all nations, and then the end will come [Mt 24:11-14].
I suppose we haven’t yet preached the gospel to everyone throughout the world, but we’re getting close. There’s certainly been an “increase in evildoing” while the love of many, sadly even many Christians, has grown very, very cold. 

Will the entire world experience a mass conversion in a big kumbaya hug with the returning Jesus? Jesus doesn’t tell us that. He tells us to “persevereand then the end will come.

Because I have no idea when that end will come, I refuse to be consumed by worry or fear. But in the meantime you and I should certainly pray for our nation and our world, and pray for the conversion of all. But we must also realize that the end days will be preceded by some very difficult times that call for our perseverance.