Music for Our Times Sounds Like This

Lang Lang playing the piano. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by digital cat https://www.flickr.com/photos/14646075@N03/

Lang Lang playing the piano. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by digital cat https://www.flickr.com/photos/14646075@N03/

I will never play this piece of music. It’s right up there with jumping the Grand Canyon flat-footed and breaking the sound barrier without an airplane.

In fact, I have to listen to hear it intelligently, and every time I hear it, I hear something else.

It’s Chopin’s Ballade No 1 in G Minor. I’ve taken to listening to it a lot lately, especially as it’s performed by various artists. It seems to speak of the times we are entering, at least to me.

Here is Chopin’s Ballade No 1, played in a grand manner by Rubenstein. This version includes the music so you can follow along as you listen. Be patient with it. There are a couple of written quotes at the first of it before the music begins. Notice how the Ballade changes constantly all the way through.

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Here it is, performed by Lang Lang. I love to watch him as he plays. He feels the music, is transported by it. His playing is more lush, with big emotionality.

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Here is a thoughtful interpretation by Martha Argerich. Do you hear the more introspective way she  approaches it, compared to Lang Lang, who is full-on with it? It’s also interesting to hear the difference in the pianos they use. Do you hear that?

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This incredible piece of music talks to us through each of these artists, and what it says is a bit different, depending on which of them has control of it. Their genius shows in that whichever one of them is playing, they are not just pounding out notes. They have control — although you sometimes feel as if their control is just barely there — of the music in the notes.

I change my mind a lot about which interpretation I like best. They’re all so good, each in a different way. Do you have a favorite?

It amazes me that people can do this. Chopin heard this music before he wrote it, felt it before he heard it. These pianists are able to overcome the technical difficulties and complexity of this piece of music to master it to the point that they can then take it and put pieces of themselves back into it, making it their own.

We are wondrously made. Chopin wrote this wonderful music after the partition of his beloved country. He somehow managed to pull the longing, the chaos and the clash of this disaster out of the piano. The history of the Ballade alone nominates it as music for our times. But the Ballade itself reaches across the century and speaks of today as if then was now.

It is not a marching tune. You would break your leg, marching to this. I can’t even tell for sure which key it’s in a big part of the time. The Ballade is a technical power house that only a genius like Chopin could tame into a not-quite form.

As I said, I have to listen to even really hear it.

Such is the genius of the human being.

Of us, who are fearfully and wondrously made.

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Our Vote: Choosing Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Photo Source: Pixabay, cco Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/presidential-election-usa-politics-1336480/

Photo Source: Pixabay, cco Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/presidential-election-usa-politics-1336480/

I’ve been praying almost constantly about both the election next Tuesday and its aftermath. This is the first time in my life that an election has actually scared me, but this one does.

No matter who wins next week, this election is not going to end well for this country or for We the People. That is why I’ve decided to write this post. There are things I want to say now, before the election because there will be no purpose in saying them afterwards.

I realize that anything anyone says right now leads to a lot of craziness on the part of those who read it. These two candidates are, each in his or her own way, so execrable that there is no way to talk about either issues or morality without taking on the appearance of backing or attacking one of them.

It is even impossible to speak out against heinous things like sexual assault, misogyny, racism, incest, pornography and abortion without being attacked for advocating for one of these candidates.

Think about that. These two people are so identified with amorality that a discussion of immoral behavior is not possible without people thinking you are using code to attack one or the other of them.

Christians lost this election a long time ago. We have no candidate for president on the ballot next Tuesday. The fact that so many Christians — including, sadly, Christian religious leaders — have gone as nuts as the rest of the country and jumped down into the trough to sling mud with everybody else is a deep sadness in my heart. It is a failure of discipleship at a critical time in our history.

No matter who wins this election, Christians have already lost. More to the point, We the People, have lost. This will not end well. The reason it will not and can not end well is rooted in the touchstone I used for deciding issues and votes when I was in public office, which leads me to what I want to say.

Let me lay the groundwork with a bit of reminiscence.

When I went back into office the second time, I knew that I would face votes and times when even the most compelling issues and interests would collide with the common good. I also knew that decisions would be forced on me and that I couldn’t duck them. I would not have the option of voting for a third party candidate or just not voting at all. It was my job to decide and I had to do it.

It’s easy, in the pressure-cooker of political debate and decision making, to lose sight of who you are and what you believe. No one who has not experienced it can imagine the weight of the arguments and forces that are brought to bear on individual elected officials in an effort to get them to use the power of their office in a certain way. These interests and arguments collide forcefully, and the psyche and emotions of the person who holds the office tend to get crushed in the process.

People lose themselves in public office. They get so turned around and lost that they no longer believe what they believe or think what they think.

I knew all this when I went back into office the second time. I walked in the door fully aware that I was placing myself in an emotional, spiritual and psychological blender.

It’s important, when you are faced with critical decisions, to know what you believe and why you believe it. It is a critical part of keeping your head to have core values and understandings you can anchor your decision-making on as you wend your way through the maze of deciding that is your daily lot.

I think the American people have been put through an emotional, psychological and spiritual blender these past few years that is very much like a slow-mo version of what an elected official experiences. We have been beaten half senseless with a 24-hour news cycle that focuses on the next terrible thing and actively seeks to keep us whipped up in a frenzy of panic and obsession. That’s because they make their money from obsessive viewing, which is why so much of their programming is trash. It’s why they focus on the negative and the vicious, the amoral and the corrupt. Those things grab us at the lowest level of consciousness, they fascinate precisely because they echo our atavistic disorders and fears.

It’s no accident that we are now faced with a choice between two unsavory candidates for office. It is also no accident that many of the people in the electorate are behaving like crazy loons as the election approaches. The American public has been flogged without pausing for years now. We have been ignored and manipulated, disregarded and used; all without conscience or a sense of responsibility on the part of those who are doing it to us.

I have three things I want to share with you as we approach election day and the life after.

First, I want you to know that this is the kind of public discourse and these are the kinds of candidates you get in a democracy which has turned away from God. We are seeing the dawn of our punishment, and it appears that it will be by our own hands.

Second, I want to reiterate that no matter which of these candidates wins, Christians have already lost this election. We lost it a long time ago. Neither of these candidates is fit for the Oval Office. Neither of them is worthy to lead this great nation. But one of them will. And no matter who it is, We the People are going to pay the price for what they do.

Third, I want to share with you the touchstone that I used to anchor all my decision-making when I was in office. I actually had several basic rules, if you want to call them that, which guided me. I wouldn’t use my power to kill anybody and if I had the chance to save lives, I would take it and I would do it, no matter the political cost to me.

That sounds simple — just don’t kill anybody — but it’s not. A lawmaker can kill on a vast scale for generations to come by putting a comma in the wrong place. Also, how tough is it to decide to save a life? In politics, it can be tough. It can get you reviled and attacked. There is nothing that makes people more vicious than when you tell them that somebody they’ve decided is not human enough to be treated as a human is actually a full human person.

That point is pertinent in this election for one reason. The President of the United States has the power to kill on a planetary scale. He or she can, on their own cognizance and in a matter of minutes, kill everything, everywhere. We are considering in this election whether or not we will destroy the carefully-balanced system of alliances that has kept this world out of nuclear war for over 70 years. That is a huge matter. Enormous.

Which leads me to the basic, bedrock criteria I used for deciding on votes. When I found myself in a conundrum that wouldn’t yield, I based my decision on one truth: A just and stable government is always the greater good.

There is no force in this world more capable of doing great harm or great good than government. Government is the collective power of whole nations of people. In this case, it is the collective power of United States of America and all its capabilities and potential.

Will we end up in a depression that makes the 1930s look like a walk in the park? That question will be decided to a great extent by the actions of whomever we elect next week.

Will we be looking at a world where all nations, from Japan to Saudi Arabia, have nuclear weapons at their disposal? That is a question we are voting on next week.

Will we end legal abortion through the courts, or be forced to change tactics and go for a Constitutional Amendment? That question could be decided by whomever we elect on Tuesday.

Will we be vesting the power of government in the hands of the person who is most likely to ensure that We the People live under a just and stable government that is capable of protecting us and providing for the domestic tranquility?

Insofar as governance is concerned — and that is what we are doing, my friends, We the People of these United States are choosing our government — insofar as governance is concerned, a just and stable government is always the greater good.

No other value, privilege or right can possibly be more important than that for the simple reason that all rights, and the worldly protections of all life, flow from a just and stable government.

The single most anti-life vote anyone can cast is to vote against a just and stable government.

The President of the United States has the power to end all life on this planet. He or she has the power to kill on a planetary scale. He or she also has the power to create an international political climate that predicates toward war, even and including world war, or, conversely, to pull us back from that abyss and lead us past the carnage and into peace.

Think carefully about how you vote in this election. And however you vote, pray.

Because after the votes are counted, we will find that, no matter who won, we Christians have already lost.

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King of Jordan Warns of Third World War Against Humanity

King Abdullah of Jordan Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chatham House https://www.flickr.com/photos/chathamhouse/

King Abdullah of Jordan Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chatham House https://www.flickr.com/photos/chathamhouse/

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned of a “third world war against humanity.” He described ISIS as “savage outlaws of religion.”

From Al Arabiya News:

King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Tuesday of a “third world war against humanity”, in the wake of the Paris attacks, describing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group as “savage outlaws of religion.”

During an official visit to Kosovo, Abdullah said both Europe and Islam were under attack from the “scourge” of terrorism that could strike at any time.

“We are facing a third world war against humanity and this is what brings us all together,” he told a press conference.

“This is a war, as I’ve said repeatedly, within Islam,” he said, adding: “Groups such as Daesh (ISIS) expose themselves daily as savage outlaws of religion devoid of humanity respecting no laws and no boundaries.”

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Boko Haram Suicide Bombing Kills 32, Wounds 80

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by AK Rockefeller https://www.flickr.com/photos/akrockefeller/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by AK Rockefeller https://www.flickr.com/photos/akrockefeller/

Boko Haram used a suicide bombing to kill 32 people and wound 80 others in northern Nigeria yesterday. The attack occurred at a truck stop.

Nigeria’s military has reported that it has stopped several suicide bombers recently. It has also killed and captured militants and destroyed Boko Haram camps.

If this is true, it is a huge step forward and a big change for Nigeria whose military has often seemed to be colluding with the terrorist group. However, analysts says that Nigeria’s military is not able to hold ground. It takes an area and the muslim extremists move somewhere else. Twenty thousand Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram in the last six years.

From Fox News:

A night-time suicide bombing blamed on Boko Haram extremists killed 32 people and wounded 80 Tuesday at a truck stop in northeastern Nigeria, an emergency official said.

Tuesday night’s blast breaks a three-week hiatus in bombings after a string of suicide attacks culminated in twin explosions in mosques in two northeastern cities that killed 42 people and wounded more than 100 on Oct. 23.

One of the mosques attacked was in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where the insurgents struck again. It was the third suicide bombing in as many months in a city overflowing with some of the 2.3 million refugees driven from their homes by the Islamic uprising.

At least 32 people were killed and about 80 wounded victims were evacuated to hospitals after Tuesday night’s blast, coordinator Sa’ad Bello of the National Emergency Management Agency told the AP.

 

 

 

 

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Persecution, not Divorced and Remarrieds, is the Most Serious Issue Facing Christianity Today

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

My colleague Kate O’Hare interviewed Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mar Bahai Soro about the holocaust of Christians that is taking place in the Middle East. 

To be honest, reading this interview put the hijinks of the Synod on the Family in perspective. It made the whole thing seem a little bit like an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It would have been better to hold a Synod on Christian persecution in much of the world, coupled as it is by increasing harassment, bashing and legal attacks on the rights of Christians in the so-called Christian West.

Christianity is under attack as it has not been since the Muslim wars of conquest in the Middle Ages. Today’s line of attack is even more aggressive because it has not one, not even two, but several fronts. Christians are being subjected to genocide in their ancient homelands. Christians endure violent persecution in places like North Korea and certain parts of India. Christians are subjected to government control and abuse in places such as China, and Christians are under social and legal attack in an attempt to drive them from public forums and banish their ministries in much of the West, including the United States.

That is the most serious issue facing Christianity today.

From Angelus:

Many, if not most, of the Christians will be forced to leave Iraq forever, but some are determined to stay and see that Christianity maintains a living presence in some of the places that first heard the message of the Apostles.

In America, there are those determined to help. They can’t work a miracle, but you have to start somewhere.

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mar Bawai Soro resides at the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in El Cajon, in San Diego County. It serves approximately 60,000 Catholics in several western states who are part of the Chaldean or Assyrian Rite. Many are immigrants from the Middle East, especially Iraq and Iran.

Bishop Soro was formerly a bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East. A longtime advocate of the primacy of the Apostolic See of Rome — he proudly displays thick albums of photos of the times he has met Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis — Bishop Soro was received into the Catholic Church in January 2008.

He recently joined forces with Kingdom Special Operations, a Las Vegas-based private security company. Staffed by former intelligence officers and military Special Forces members, it goes on assignments worldwide for the U.S. government and other entities.

But the CEO of Kingdom, Orange County native Roger Flores, is a Catholic and a Knight of Columbus, and he has always maintained that part of Kingdom’s mission is to help his fellow Christians.

 

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Pope Francis Visits 9/11 Memorial

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brkinhrt2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/66179962@N00/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brkinhrt2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/66179962@N00/

This is what I wrote about Pope Francis’ attendance at the prayer service at the 9/11 Memorial today.

From Catholic Vote:

I don’t like writing about man-made mass atrocity. Every time I do, I access memories and emotions of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Pope Francis stood at the monument for the Twin Towers. He spoke with and touched the families of those who died there. We, the grieving American people, have built a beautiful memorial on those hallowed grounds. I watched a service there in which clergy of many faiths prayed at this place where so many Americans died.

Pope Francis joined them in their prayers, then followed with a beautiful speech in which he pointed out that the light does indeed shine through the darkness, even the darkness of such things as what happened at the Twin Towers, or a few years before that, at Oklahoma City. He asked us to join him in prayer for the cause of peace, peace in our homes, our communities, our families, peace in all those places in which war never seems to end; peace for those who have known nothing but pain; peace throughout this world which God has given us as home for all.

9/11 began a decade of war, which has been followed by another half-decade of more war. While Pope Francis spoke, people in the Middle East and Africa are dying at the hands of those who follow the same philosophy as the men who flew the planes into the Twin Towers.

Here in America, we have the luxury of grief, of building monuments and holding beautiful interfaith services with choirs of young people singing of peace. We can dignify our grief, our loss and our suffering with memory and memorials.

But even as I type these words, people in other parts of the world … Read the rest here.

 

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Lone Vet Returns to Iraq to Fight ISIS

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by  G.obal Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by G.obal Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

60 Minutes covered the plight of Iraqi Christians Among other stories, they found an American military veteran, in Iraq, training Iraqi Christians in self defense.  He’s there because he’s a Christian who wants to help Christians defend themselves in this time of genocide.

From 60minutesovertime.com. 

Lone vet returns to Iraq to fight ISIS

|“I’m not here serving my country–I’m here serving Christians,” says former U.S. soldier Brett Felton, who returned to Iraq to train Christians how to defend themselves from ISIS

I applaud this. One of the necessary components of genocide always seem to be that the victim population can not or does not defend themselves.

Go here to see the story.

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ISIS Desecrates, Demolishes Syrian Monastery. Priest Missing.

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My colleague Tom McDonald posted a story about another atrocity against Christians at the hands of ISIS. Everywhere, all over the world including here in the USA, Satan is on the move.

From God and the Machine:

In 284 St. Elian, a physician, refused to renounce Christianity and was killed by his father. The site of his death in Homs, Syria soon became a locus of miracles and devotion, and a Church was was raised there in the late 5th century. A stone sarcophagus was built in side chapel to house his remains. A monastery grew at the location.

Some time this month, all of that history and devotion was ground into dust by barbarians. ISIS has released photos (and possibly a video, though I haven’t been able to find it) that show them destroying the site. They allegedly smashed their way into St. Elian’s tomb, then brought in heavy machinery to do the rest.

There are pictures circulating showing uncovered bones. Some are saying these are the bones of St. Elian, but I don’t think they are. It’s unclear at this moment what became of St. Elian’s remains, but from the reports I’m reading it appears that the entire site was bulldozed. That would include the tomb, the church, the remains, and the frescos uncovered during restorations:

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Don’t Go to Battle for Christ Before You Go to Spiritual Boot Camp

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Make no mistake about it: The culture wars are going to get hot and hotter.

The recent revelations about Planned Parenthood dialed up the heat. The president’s response (which I’m going to write about next week) tossed dynamite onto the burner. This is going to get ugly.

Another shooting adds a new line to the column of proof that our society is deconstructing. Wishy washy responses about the gay marriage decision from some of our religious leaders leaves those of us in the pews wondering just how authentic they are, and agitation from the atheist-backed satanists lets us know that old scratch is getting less and less afraid of showing his face.

We are the soldiers in a war, my friends. We are the Lord’s army.

How does a Christian get ready for battle?

I took a few moments from my conventioneering this week to write a prescription for would-be pro life warriors for the National Catholic Register.  Here’s a taste of what I said. Go here to read the rest.

May the meditations of my heart
and the words of my mouth
be pleasing in Your sight,
oh Lord, my God and my Redeemer.
—King David 

I was all set to write a post that would get right down to the nitty and the gritty of hardball, pro-life politics. I’m still going to do that. But not today.

I try to pray the prayer above, which is an old, old prayer from the Psalms, before every speech I make, and before I put my fingers on the keyboard to begin writing. Sometimes, I get caught up in the moment and just start writing without praying. Those are the times when I have to go back and say, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I apologize.

Because, you see, without God putting a brake on my inner jerk, I give vent to that inner jerk. Me without the Holy Spirit, is a real mess.

Which leads me to today’s post. I prayed before I sat down to write this, and when I prayed, I was reminded that the real nitty and gritty of pro-life politics begins before the tactics and the ways to fight the fight in a technical sense.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/ask-the-holy-spirit-to-put-your-through-spiritual-bootcamp/#ixzz3goSiu2Y2

 

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“A Shepherd Cannot Run Away,” Father Stanley Rother, Martyr

This is my first blog post for the National Catholic Register. It’s about Father Stanley Rother, martyr, a priest who refused to flee his post to save himself.

American Martyr Fr. Stanley Rother: “A

Shepherd Cannot Leave His Flock”

“The reality is that we are in danger.
This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm.
The shepherd cannot run away at the first sign of danger. Pray for us…”
Father Stanley Rother, 18 months before his martyrdom

In Okarche Oklahoma, the sky goes on forever and the wind never stops blowing.

Father Stanley Rother lies in an unpretentious grave in a tiny church cemetery on a road that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking carefully. His grave, which is one of many with the name “Rother” on it, is marked by a simple black headstone. The only thing that sets it apart is the necklace of stones ringing its edges.

Father Rother began his life here, on this prairie, in this town. He was confirmed and baptized in Holy Trinity Catholic Church, which is the only Catholic Church in Okarche. He offered his first Mass as a priest here.

His life ended in an isolated village in Guatemala when he fell in a hail of bullets. Last week, the Congregation of the Causes of Saints recognized Father Rother as a martyr, which puts him on the long road to official recognition as a saint of the Church.

Stanley Rother was as Oklahoman as the red dirt he tilled on his family’s farm


Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/american-martyr-fr.-stanley-rother/#ixzz3f8wTMLa8

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