It’s a Rule

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You can’t make everybody happy.

It’s a rule.

I’m not sure where this rule is codified. Maybe in the back pages of the textbook for the school of hard knocks.

But it’s true. You can not make everybody happy. So, in my humble opinion, you should not try. It appears that Pope Francis is of a similar opinion, at least about the not trying part.

He has, from the moment when the announcement “Habemus Papem!” sounded and he walked out onto that balcony, been indisputably and absolutely himself.

That is an incredible accomplishment for someone who sits on a throne that is placed above the grave of Peter. Every move the Pope makes, from the things he wears, to the gestures he makes, are supposedly choreographed by centuries of other Popes who did it this way first. However, Pope Francis seems to have understood from the beginning just how much power the Papacy holds, including and especially the power to communicate by word and action.

He knew that he didn’t have to do these things. He could choose. And chose he has.

By the choices he’s made, he has focused on a Papacy of the Word, accompanied by a visual simplicity that symbolizes his message of concern for the least of these. This is a heartfelt pain for those who are what education professionals call “visual learners.” In Catholicism, we tend to call them “traditionalists.” But I think they are, for the most part, simply visual learners gone to Church.

These people groove on the same lace that I think looks like my great-grandmother’s doilies. They feel lifted up to heaven by the incense that sets off my asthma and raises worries of fire hazards. They love the sound of Latin and find awe and grandeur in pre-Vatican II liturgy, all of which I see as unnecessary barriers between the people and Jesus.

Some folk like pcs; some folk like macs. We are individuals who, due to His superior democracy, can come to God through whatever path opens in front of us. The same God who honors one person’s incense and Gregorian chant, will rock along with another person’s rap. What He wants is our love and obedience. How we get there is all good to Him.

There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave nor free, male nor female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus.

There is also neither lace nor non-lace, neither red shoe nor black shoe, neither miter nor non-miter. For we are all Catholic, united under the one Vicar of Christ, who is our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

World Youth Day Flash Mob

I learned about this a while back. These young people have been rehearsing for weeks for this and it was a success!

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Data Omniscience Hubris and the Bible

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I remember reading a few years ago that archeologists had found a shard of pottery with mention of King David on it.

Evidently, this was the first material evidence of King David’s existence. According to the articles I read, lots of learned folk had, up until then, been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, was a myth, a legend, a made-up fictional character from a preliterate era.

I remember reading that, and thinking, Huh? Then shaking my head.

What these so-called learned folk had fallen into was the hubris of believing that what they knew was all there was to know. It happens all the time with learned folk, and much misery for us less learned folks ensues.

Here’s a small example: I have rheumatoid arthritis. It first reared its head when I was 16. I once had a doc tell me that I had the highest ra titer in my blood she’d ever seen. Despite that, it’s well controlled. I know how to handle it, and God has been generous with me about it. I never go a day without aches and pains, but I’m not debilitated and my joints aren’t deformed.

However, one thing I can count on is knowing when bad weather is in the offing. The day of the May 20 tornado, I woke up aching literally from head to toe. The foot I broke last fall, my leg, and every other joint I had including the little ones, ached from the moment I got out of bed with that oh-no-something’s-coming indescribable ache. My husband says he’ll trust my joints over the weather man, every time.

How this applies to the discussion at hand is simply that for years scientists and other learned folk insisted that this aching before a storm stuff was, in their scientific opinion, “all in your head.” They may have changed their pointy little minds about this by now. I haven’t kept up. But that is for sure what I read back in the day when I first noticed that my body was a powerfully accurate weather vane.

My point?

Just this: Learned folk think more of their data than they do reality. In fact, they believe that their data is reality, and that reality is a figment of everybody else’s imagination. To top it off (and this is where King David comes in) they believe that if they can’t prove something, then it doesn’t exist. This is kinda like me deciding that, if I can’t find my car keys, that I just imagined I ever had car keys and they don’t really exist.

I understand that scientists can’t and shouldn’t corroborate claims that they can’t prove. What I don’t understand is this mighty leap off the side of the hubris cliff to bold assertions that everything they can’t prove is either a myth, a confabulation, or some sort of delusion. They carry this, especially in questions of religious faith, to the point that, if you believe them, you’ve also got to believe that everybody on the planet is hallucinating about something.

I used the words “teaching and preaching” advisedly when I said that they had been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, because what they were claiming was not science. It was a matter of faith. The faith was their addlepated and totally unscientific belief that their data was omniscient.

What they should have been saying is We don’t have any proof that King David ever existed. That would have been a fact. But bold assertions that he, in fact, actually never existed, were just — dare I say it? — myth.

I am not writing this to make you doubt science or to encourage you to start believing that everything that cannot be proven must, by derivation, be true. Not at all. What I am saying is that you should look at the claims that learned folk make by asking yourself how solid the basis is for what they are saying. Sometimes people falsify data. But it is far more common for them to come up with bogus applications of the data they have. Data omniscience hubris is a common and widespread learned person error when dealing with anything that appends to matters of faith, in particular and specifically, Christianity.

What I am saying is that they are biased. And they allow their bias to interpret their data for them.

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The good thing — and it is a very good thing — is that when the data changed, they didn’t deny it. They didn’t toss that pottery shard into the sea and pretend they hadn’t seen it. This was not a Doctor Zaius from The Planet of the Apes moment.

They not only acknowledged the pottery shard, they also acknowledged its implications, which were that there probably was a historical King David.

Now, archeologists have uncovered what they think may have been a palace that belonged to King David. And they’re talking about it and filing it away in their data trove.

Davids palace

When they found something material that conflicted with their earlier interpretation of their data, they changed the interpretation. That says one simple thing: They aren’t liars.

So we have a scientific community, some members of which seem to be suffering from data omniscience hubris. But they are essentially honest folk who will change their too far-reaching conclusions when the data changes. They’re arrogant, but they’re not liars.

This is important for us to know when dealing with their conclusions. Unfortunately, it puts us in the position of often having to interpret their data for ourselves, since their interpretations are subject to their biases.

What they are leaving out of their considerations is that while the data may not be human, they are. And they are subject to all the vagaries and venalities of humankind, including, and especially, since they are intelligent, gifted people who get a lot of respect, hubris. Anybody can make a mistake. But data interpretation according to hubris will be mistaken as often as not.

As for me, I’d forgo this dubious gift of being able to predict the weather if it would get me out of the pain that goes with it. However, time has shown that, despite the claims of those suffering from data omniscience hubris, my husband is right: My arthritis is just about as accurate as the weather man.

 

Dancing Down in Rio

So, you think Catholics Can’t Dance????

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Conversion Story: Hell and Oyster Crackers

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Sam Rocha and Katrina Fernandez, aka, The Crescat, got together for a Facebook interview.

When those two get together, you just know the result is going to be interesting.

And it was.

There’s lots to read, and you can find it here. I want to focus on one aspect of that free-ranging discussion: Katrina’s conversion story.

Kat came to Jesus by way of art. Imagine this: A seven-year-old who spends a lot of time in museums (already it’s getting unusual) spies Memling’s painting, The Last judgement. She’s small enough that her eye-view is of the bottom of the painting. She’s nose to canvas with the lost souls in hell. The prospect convinced her that hell was real.

Sam’s response, “You found God in hell?”

That sounds like a reasonable question to those of us who’ve never been converted by art. I mean, how does that track?

Here, according to Kat herself is how:

If Hell is real then it stands to reason that God was real. Simple as that.
Why do atheist struggle so? Their arrogance to dismiss their first instinct… that child voice plainly stating a fact as fact. There’s nothing intellectual about “well, duh!” which is what happened when I saw Hell. Well, duh! God is real.

She goes on to add, “Landscapes showed me God is kind.”

Weyden Beaune Last Judgment Altarpiece opened

Katrina is not the only person I know of who was converted by art. Peter Hitchens related an almost identical conversion experience in his book The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (which I recommend) and then later in this interview. Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, found God by studying Rogier van der Weyden’s The Last Judgement.  

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Hitchens was an adult at the time of his conversion. He described it this way: 

… I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of hell.  These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation … They were me, and people I knew. 

Do you recognize the Power at work in both these stories?  Hint: It’s not the power of great art, although the power of great art is certainly real. 

This is the Holy Spirit, at work in two souls, calling them to Jesus.  These stories illustrate the single most powerful truth of conversion that I know: God meets us where we are. He is not too proud to accept us through any route to Him we find. In the Person of the Holy Spirit, He will call to us and reach out to us along any path that we will walk to Him. 

The fact that God meets us where we are has other facets to it besides His willingness to come to us through a painting or a sermon or the guilt we feel for our sins.

One of these facets is that He does not ask us to get perfect first. Too many times, people who are trying to bring people to God focus on the other person’s need to change. 

The truth is, you don’t need to change to come to God.   All you need to do is say “yes” to Him. The changing part comes later, and it will be through a changed heart and converted spirit. As I’ve said, God doesn’t change what you do. He changes what you want to do. 

But at the beginning, all you have to do is open your heart — or in the case of Katrina Fernandez and Peter Hitchens and others like them, their eyes — and say yes to what is right in front of you.  There is no one right way to come to Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Right way. 

Kat and I both experienced another, second, conversion. This one was to the Catholic Church. In the usual Kat fashion, her experience was sudden, a bit defiant and absolute. Mine was gentle and insistent. But despite the differences, it was the same for both of us. 

Kat attended a communion service in a church where they offered communion, which I would wager they regarded as a “symbol,” in the form of grape juice and oyster crackers. Kat, being Kat, rebelled. She knew. Knew right then without any dissembling that this was not the real deal. She also knew that there was a real deal out there somewhere and that she wanted it. Here’s how she describes it:

It was Easter Sunday 
and the pastor wanted to “do communion” and wanted to try something a little different 
so he had us all line up to come to the “altar” and receive a shot glass containing grape juice and a packet of oyster crackers.









 And God said “NO!” I immediately knew this aping display was not the real thing. I grabbed my son under my arm and got up and left.

She was, in short, called to the Church by the Eucharist. 

Welcome home Kat, so was I. Only for me it was an almost constant call from Christ in the Eucharist. He called me for years to Himself in the Eucharist. When I finally found Him there, I experienced the healing of the woman who reached out and touched His garment.

That same healing is there for anyone, anytime, in all the Catholic Churches of all the world.  Conversion, real conversion, is a one-way street. Once you’ve found it, you know it’s real and you can never walk away from it. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is real. Life in Christ is a living reality. 

I love conversion stories when they’re told by people with authentic hearts. Every single one of them exposes a truth of God’s love for us and His simplicity in dealing with us. 

Conversion stories are always elemental stories of birth. They relate the dynamics of how a soul is born from eternal death into eternal life. And just like that first biological birth, they happen to each one of us individually. Because we are each unique and wonderful enough that the God Who made everything, everywhere, accepts us as the old hymn says, Just as We Are.   


Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

If the Church is Dying …

… It’s Got a Way to Go

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Why I am Useless for Anything Real Today

Mac Pro Tower

Not my Mac, but looks like it. 

I’m having a sleep-debt, ambition free, don’t wanna — ain’t gonna — do nothin’ day. 

I am tired and semi-functional because I pulled a late night last night and I feel like somebody shot a big dose of Novocain into my brain. 

I’d like to tell you that I missed my zzzzzs because I was working on something really important, earth shattering, or at least, urgent. 

But that would be a lie. What I did was stay up well past my sleep time to put a new boot drive in my Mac Pro and switch the old boot drive into the drive 3 bay and take the old drive 3 drive and put it in an enclosure and then back up the data from the enclosed drive onto the new/old drive bay drive. 

And a partridge and a pear tree.

Or something like that.

I also, (a) had the drive sitting on my desk for three weeks before I decided to do this, and (b) waited all day to start it — at just  a hair past 11. That’s one hour before midnight. On a week night. 

My Mac Pro is aging. In fact, you could say it’s aged. I’ve had it for years and it is, no contest, the best computer I’ve ever owned.

I once had a pc go belly up right in the middle of one of my do-it-yourself campaigns for election. I don’t hire consultants to do my campaigns for me. I do it all myself. That means I don’t have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign for election, which means that I can tell special interests to take a hike pretty much any time I want to, which means that I get to represent the district that elected me by what they want and not what outside interests want, which means I get to sleep nights. 

Usually. 

I usually get to sleep nights. 

Some nights I play musical chairs with the hard drives in my honking big desktop computer. 

But I digress. I do my own campaigns; my own databases, my own literature, my own everything. I do it all on my home computer. A few years ago, I got caught in the nightmare of having my computer go belly up right in the middle of a campaign. 

Now campaigns are 24/7 insanity that leave you feeling like you’ve been drug for several months across open prairie by a runaway horse. There is no tired short of childbirth or chemotherapy like the tired of a political campaign. When this computer went ditzy, it took all the things I needed to get across the finish line of this particular campaign down the drain with it.

I worked like a crazy woman, reformatting the hard disk and then inputting data from various disorganized hard copies to try to reconstruct what I needed. It took time away from campaigning at a critical point and made me almost sick with overwork and anxiety. If it had been in a close election instead of a walkaway, it could have gotten me beat. 

That experience made me a devout backer-upper. But, as I experienced a few days ago when I deleted a post on this blog, even the best back-up strategy is less than absolute protection from an unfocused mind. However, I do back up. And I stopped using old computers in my work.

For a while after that, I tried to protect myself from old computer disease by replacing my computers every two years. The last time I did that, I got one that went bonkers on me just a few weeks after I took it out of the box. I tossed that nearly new pc and bought a Mac, and I haven’t looked back. 

When I got my hands on my Mac Pro, it was love at first boot-up. It never runs out of steam, no matter how big the database I put through it. It doesn’t crash. And in seven years of ownership it has never once eaten a single byte of data. Even though it’s an expensive machine, the cost evens out over seven years of carefree usage and no need to buy another one, especially when you stack it up against the hair pulling, near death experiences of a big crash at a critical time in a campaign. 

No matter what I ask of it, this baby never hiccups.

But it is 7 years old now, and the ssd hard drives on my laptops make it seem stodgy. Not the processor or ram; the Mac Pro still has plenty of horses under the hood. But the hard drives themselves are just slower than the newer ssd technology. 

I looked at buying an ssd drive for it, but the cost of the itty bitty drives in my laptops is a dollop of what it would cost me to replace the really big hard drives in the Mac Pro. It would be take-out-a-loan time, and I don’t do that. So …. I considered and bought what they call a hybrid drive, which is a conventional drive with a good-sized flash cache.

That meant cloning and replacing my boot drive. And, since I’m nothing if not kinda ocd, I decided it also meant moving the other drives in the computer (it has bays for four of them, all full) and pulling the extra out to use as a portable drive.

I bought the stuff, cloned the boot drive. Put the new drive on my desk. And ignored it. 

I just couldn’t find the time to dive into the innards of that computer. And when I had the time, I didn’t wanna.

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My Mac has more ram than this one. See the 4 drive bays? Changing drives is idiot proof. (Almost.) 

For some reason, last night seemed like the The Time Had Arrived. I got home about 9 and decided that I wanted to take photos of the full moon. I sprayed myself with insect repellent and went out and played with that for a couple of hours. (All this while knowing that I was going to change out that hard drive.) Then, and only then, I came back in, and cracked open the Mac Pro.

It would have been ez pz except the drive bays are for 3.5″ drives and the new drive is a 2.5″. So I had to do some creative stuff and that took longer than it should have because the first time I tried it, I put the drive on the adapter backwards and had to do it over. (Amateur, working on computer.) That plus the enclosure for the old bay three drive turned out to be a piece of junk that the computer wouldn’t even recognize and I had to take apart an old enclosure for a small drive that I don’t use anymore and cannibalize it for parts and re-rig the dumb thing. (Cheap amateur who bought a substandard enclosure, working on computer.) 

Two hours later, the hard drives were in, and the computer was humming. The new drive jazzed the old computer and it accesses data faster now. I’ve read it gets better as the drive learns my ways.

But I not only jazzed my computer, I jazzed myself. Sleep time was past, and between the sweat from being out in the heat shooting the moon and the bug spray, I felt like I’d been dipped in syrup. The last thing I wanted to do was go to bed. Time for a shower and a movie. 

And that is why I am useless for anything real today. 

50 Reasons Why Teens Pray with Mary, the Mother of God

World Youth Day is this week. Why do our youth turn to Our Mother? Here are 50 reasons.

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Pope Francis: Making Disciples of All Nations at WYD


Adoring crowds greeted Pope Francis in Rio.

The first video below shows his arrival, the first formal remarks at WYD. The second video discusses the impromptu remarks he made to the press on the flight from Rome.

Pray for our Holy Father, that God will give him the stamina to get through this week. I often think of the sacrifice he is making to take on this great responsibility at his age. Every day must be an act of love for our Savior. God bless this good and holy man.

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Pope Francis Talks to Journalists on His Way to Rio

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Pope Francis engaged in a brief chat with journalists while in flight from Rome to Rio.

The Holy Father was en route to World Youth Day 2013, which is being held in Rio de Janeiro this week. 

He brought up several things in his conversation. One of them is that the economic problems around the world leave many young people without the opportunity to find jobs.

This is at a period in their lives when their energies and passions are highest. That they can’t use them to make a living for themselves is both a waste for society as a whole and a danger to it. 

My grandmother used to say “idle hands are the devil’s playground.” I apply that saying to this problem of global unemployment of such a great number of vigorous young people with the realization that all this energy and passion can become explosive and destructive if it’s not channeled properly.

That makes the job of families and the Church even more important. Our basic values are what drive our actions. Hopefully, there are enough young people in today’s world with the right values to make something positive and productive of this enforced idleness due to unemployment. 

Another comment that the Holy Father made that resonates with me is that he balanced statement that the young are the future with a statement that the elderly are also the future as they are the repository of the accumulated wisdom of having experienced life and living. I am so glad the Holy Father said this. It is a truth that we often lose in our focus on the next new thing, 

Every person, at every stage of life, not only has intrinsic value from God, they have gifts that are specific to their stage of life to give to society at large. Those who fail in this, such as destructive or violent people, are failing to be what God intended them to be when He created them. 

When we fail to honor and value the wisdom of our elderly people, we are depriving ourselves of needful help and stability in our lives and our society. 

From New.Va:

Young people, the Holy Father said, “belong to a family, to a country, to a culture and a faith.” They represent the future of a people “because they have the energy;” but Pope Francis added, “the future is also the elderly because they are the custodians of the ‘wisdom of life’, the history, the home and the family.” A people has no future – he continued – if it goes ahead without the strength of its youth and the elderly.
The Pope reflected on the global economic crisis and the possibility that young people may find themselves out of work. “We have the risk of having a generation that did not have work” said the Pope. And from work he noted, one derives “the dignity of the person” – “from earning his bread.”
“Young people today are in crisis,” he said, “and we are used to this disposable culture: it happens all too often to the elderly.” But young jobless people are also getting caught up in this disposable culture. What we need today he said, is a “culture of inclusion, a culture of encounter.” And this invitation to reporters: “I ask you to help me”- concluded the Pope – and work for the good of the society of young people and the elderly.”


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