Winning the Lottery

What would you do if you won the lottery?

My husband and I had a dinner conversation about this last night. The lottery had gotten up to some stupendous number and he’d gone all in and bought a $5.00 ticket. Or maybe he bought five $1 tickets. I’m not sure.

All I know is that he came home and told me that this was our one chance to have a happy life. After we finished laughing, we slipped into the what if? talk that surrounds things like this.

What if we won?

Here’s the interesting part. I couldn’t think of anything I would want for myself. We’re not rich, and I have all sorts of things I am hoping to save up for and buy eventually. But, the wanting and saving are part of the fun. I think that if I couldn’t want things and if I wasn’t forced to save and plan in order to be able to get them, the acquisition itself would become a bore.

Here’s a for-instance. I would love to buy a piano with a prettier sound than the one I have. The one I have is plenty of piano for me and my talents. But I just want a piano with more possibilities built into it. Just in case, I suppose, I ever get to the point in my playing that I can tease those possibilities out of it and create the music I long to create.

If I won the lottery, I could buy just about any piano out there. But the whole idea seems flat. I’d honestly much rather save up and buy a nice used piano in a year or two — after I’ve mooned over them and longed for it the whole time — than just do it like getting ice out of the refrigerator. I enjoy the process of earning things. It makes them mine in a fuller sense when I eventually get them.

The camera I bought is a case in point. I’ve looked at that camera for two years now. I waited and saved and then, when it came down in price, I finally got it. Now, I am sooooo thrilled with it. I can’t keep my hands off it. I don’t even want to sleep. I just want to play with it.

If I’d been able to just go get it when it first came out, how much fun would that have been?

There were three things I came up as my husband and I mused our way through this what if conversation.

1. I would give a whole pile of money to All Things New, which is an organization that rescues trafficked women.

2. I would donate the money to build a new Catholic Church in deep South Oklahoma City.

3. I would donate the money to build a new Catholic Church in inner South Oklahoma City.

The Catholic population is growing rapidly in my part of town and, even while the numbers at parishes climb, quite a few people are leaving the Church because they feel crowded out. We simply need facilities to create and preserve Catholic communities here.

Other than these things, the only thing I could come up with would be to use the money to fund a foundation and then decide later. In all honesty, I delay things until I have the money, but I eventually get around to doing most of the things I want. I am having a blessed life, and I know it.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Would you quit your job the next day?

Would you move to a new house?

Would you take your family on a cruise?

The amount of money that was on the line in the lottery yesterday — hundreds of millions of dollars — was beyond my comprehension. My husband told me that if we won it, we’d have to move and go incognito for our own safety.

My reaction to that was thank you, but no. That doesn’t sound like a gift. It sounds like a sentence.

My home/family/community give my life structure. This is my place, my spot in the world. What could money possibly give me to compensate for losing that?

What-would-I-do-if-I-won the lottery is a great dinner conversation game to play. It also can have a certain value to it. I had no idea that I am so content with my home/family/life until I tried to think of ways that a lot of money could improve it.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Would it be a gift to your life, or a sentence?

 

 

Planned Parenthood Received $453,000,000 in Government Funding in 2013

Forty-five percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2013 budget, or $453,000,000, came from direct government funding.

In addition, another 25%, or $305,000,o00, came from “non-government health services revenue.” I can’t say definitively, but based on my years of dealing with government budgets, I imagine that a good bit of this “health services revenue” is actually indirect government funding in the form of pass through monies.

Does that make it clear why the head of Planned Parenthood campaigned so assiduously for President Obama?

Planned Parenthood has become a quasi government agency. Anybody who takes $453,000,000 in government funding in a single year is not a private organization. I would include a fair number of corporations in this same boat.

The government trough has become big business for a lot of big businesses, and the enterprise of trading on “women’s health” is no exception. That is why this organization pushes dangerous chemical birth control, like depo provera and the morning after pill, on unsuspecting women. Unlike the completely safe barrier methods of birth control, women have to keep coming back to Planned Parenthood to get their dose of hormones.

These hormones are powerful. They bathe every cell in a woman’s body in a bath of artificial hormones. In the case of the morning after pill, this is a high dosage, which, if the woman uses it repeatedly, must have a multiplier effect. With birth control, the constant exposure of women’s entire bodies to dosages of artificial hormones can go on for decades.

In the meantime, women have to go back and get their scripts. Every visit is a Ka-Ching! for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood lobbies aggressively all over the country to allow abortions to be performed by personnel other than doctors. They are fanatic about blocking requirements that abortion clinics conform to the same regulations that are applied to all other surgical centers. I don’t think this is because they are supporting “women’s health.” I think it’s a better, more profitable, business model for them.

It is not an indictment of the regulations that so many abortion clinics in Texas had to close because they could not comply with the legal requirement that they function as normal surgical centers. It is an indictment of the clinics.

Planned Parenthood has made the practice of prescribing the most dangerous forms of birth control and selling abortion into a big, government-funded enterprise. They’ve managed to spin this with their claims that “women’s health” equals dosing women with these dangerous forms of chemical birth control and allowing any abortion at any time for any reason.

Four hundred, fifty-three million tax payer dollars say that this is government policy, right up there with roads, national defense and education.

It’s your money. Is this how you want it spent?

From the Susan B Anthony List:

 

 

Blasphemy for Breakfast: God our Father

Scott Hahn describes a conversation he had with a Muslim scholar. The point for me in this conversation is the great beauty of what Jesus did for us.

Jesus is God made Human. He gave up His deity to become one of us in order to redeem us. By doing this, He became the Way by which we can enter into genuine communion with Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

No other faith has an empty tomb. No other faith has a Brother God Who has suffered as we suffer, been tempted as we are tempted and who understands with the knowing of personal experience what it is to be human.

There is no other Way except Jesus. We are the children of God, and He tells us to call Him our Father. Think about that, and rejoice.

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Sony a77: My New Keeper Camera

Oh me. Oh my.

I gifted myself a with a Sony a77 — that’s a whopping big slt camera, for those not in the know — as they’d finally come down from the stratosphere in price. I’ve been using an a55.

I got the camera Saturday. As soon as the battery was charged, I fired it up and took a few shots. Oh wow. I used the same lens I’d been using on the a55 — a 17-50 f2.8. It was supposed to be a good lens, but it had always underwhelmed me on the a55.

On the a77, it’s like … I can’t even describe the difference. People have been underselling this camera. Either that, or the a55 is a point and shoot in disguise. I hated to put it down to go to mass. In fact, I thought about taking it to mass and annoying my pastor by snapping him during the homily. He’s a good sort and could probably surf through the annoyance. He is also already accustomed to my weirdnesses.

I have a plan that I’m going to record a year of a legislative session from the inside with this camera; that and take a full set of the people of District 89 as they go about their business.

I think these are worthwhile projects because not many people have the vantage that I do for recording either of these things.

I love cameras. It’s more than the gear, more even than the photos. It’s the ability to look through a viewfinder and, by changing a few things here and there, capture something more than is there. The camera can, once in a while, when you get lucky, capture the meaning of things.

My camera obsession goes all the way back to a Brownie I bought with my allowance when I was a little girl. When I got my first real job, I bought a 35mm film camera with 3 prime lenses (35mm, 50mm and 100mm) and a teleconverter that I used for decades. I was stubborn about not going to digital. I liked the plain and simple methods of setting the aperture and shutter by turning the dials. I even thought I liked using a light meter.

Then, on a trip to Hawaii, I watched as others used their new-fangled cameras, and converted in one afternoon to the its-all-in-the-box complicated simplicity of digital. I’ve been looking for a berth in the digital world that really fits me ever since.

My first jump into digital was a point and shoot Leica D-Lux2. I did good, buying that camera. It’s ten years old and I have no quarrels with it whatsoever. I’ve taken it all over the world and shot tens of thousands of photos with it. It will shoot raw or jpeg and offers fully manual control all the way through to fully automatic, all alongside a lot of pre-sets that I’ve never bothered to use. It has a fast lens that gives a lot of shooting leeway and tends toward a soft clarity that flatters both people and art. I love what it does with light.

I have no desire to replace the Leica. I may never replace the Leica.

But I had a lot harder time replacing my 35 mm. I really hated the digital dslrs I tried. They felt wrong in my hand, for starters. And they seemed limiting in a way that the film camera with its stark simplicity just didn’t. The Sony a55 was my first turn to the digital dslr (or, as purists like to point out, slt) world.

I bought it because — you guessed it — it felt right in my hand. Also, it could use my old lenses. Even though I liked the a55, I couldn’t seem to get the alive quality in my photos that I got with film. Then, I unboxed the a77 and that changed in one snap.

The a77 isn’t a perfect camera. But it’s pretty close. It’s water sealed, which may mean no more wrapping it in plastic on gnarly days. But the main thing is the detail and the aliveness of the photos.

With the Leica and the a77, I may just have found two cameras that I will never want to replace.

Oh me. Oh my.

Forgiveness

Forgive.

It sounds easy. People often claim that they have forgiven, when, in fact, they are a long way out from anything that approaches actual forgiveness.

To forgive when there is no love is a practical impossibility. To forgive when the person or people who have harmed you refuse to admit that they’ve done anything wrong can seem as if you are agreeing with them. To forgive when they are actively continuing to harm either you or other people feels as if you are cooperating with your own abuse.

The greatest challenge of forgiveness in the face of truly horrific harms against you as a person such as rape, battering, murder and prolonged, vicious slander is that it raises the specter in your mind that you are in fact acquiescing to the thing that was done.

Too often, people say they have forgiven when what they are doing is becoming passive in the face of crimes against their own person. Forgiveness of horrific crimes against your humanity has to count the cost and know the full measure of the crime which is being forgiven.

People oftentimes push forgiveness on a victim of great violence and trauma far too soon. Everyone deserves the dignity of their anger. Anger can cleanse and heal. It can be an assertion of your humanity in the face of actions and people who have denied by what they have done to you that you are human. Anger is a necessary claim to your own worth and to the fact that those who hurt you were and are deeply wrong to do this to you.

It harms people to try to deny them their anger and push them into a faux forgiveness. When this happens, the forgiveness is not real, and the anger festers and turns inward.

Forgiveness comes after anger, not before it. Anger comes after numbness and shame and denial. Anger is the first step out of the darkness, and it is, at this point, a righteous assertion of your right as a child of God not to be treated this way.

But anger, if it takes on a life of its own, can become pernicious. Anger, if you stay there in it and just wind and rewind yourself around the shame and bitterness of what happened, becomes a cancer, eating at your soul. It can separate you from God. It, and the denial it feeds, the shame it covers, can isolate you in a small room with what happened to you. Either that, or it can push you into little enclaves of fellow sufferers who seem to be the only people who “get” you, who understand what you’re about.

The antidote for this illness — and at this point, your anger and shame have become a spiritual and emotional illness — is to face what happened to you in its full, hideously painful ugliness, and forgive.

But how to forgive without implying that what was done to you was nothing? Many times, victims of violence, in particular such things as rape, are faced with a world that belittles both them and what happened to them. They are sometimes called liars, or told that it was their fault. People back away from them and treat them as if they are not the same as they were before.

Rage is the only defense they feel they have. The humiliated rage of the victim is a shield against the claims that what happened was nothing and that they are nothing.

How do they lay down this shield of rage, which has been for many of them their only defense? When anger and resentment are the slender shards of broken self-respect that you hold onto in the face of what feels like public disregard, it can be more than you can face to lay them down and forgive.

That is the point where the grace of God is your only friend. The human portrait of that grace is Jesus, your fellow sufferer of injustice, shame and pain, hanging on the cross. The grace you need to forgive is found in the memory of God, almost bled out from a savage beating, staggering under the weight of the cross on which He was going to be murdered while the crowds jeered and the soldiers beat Him more.

You don’t need a circle of fellow sufferers to understand you and what you are going through.

He understands.

And because He forgave those who murdered Him, because He forgives you now of everything, including your anger and the hurtful things it’s made you do, you can forgive too.

Forgiveness, at this level, isn’t an act of will. It is an act of trust.

That trust is in Jesus Who tells you that even the hairs on your head are numbered, that there are many mansions in His Father’s kingdom, and He has prepared one for you.

You are a child of God, and this brutality you have suffered is an offense to God.

The world needs forgiveness. Without it, we will eventually destroy everything we love, including our civilization.

On an individual scale, you need forgiveness. We need to forgive one another and lay these heavy burdens of shame and bitterness down. We need to forgive. And we need to be forgiven.

This is Advent. Emmanuel is coming.

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Book Review: Things That Go Bump

To join the discussion about The Angel Affect We are Never Alone,  or to order a copy, go here.

My husband and I have knocked on a lot of doors.

I can drive up and down the streets in the district I represent and tell you who lives behind most of the doors. I know their faces and thoughts. They’ve told me their fears, shared their joys and come to me for help, sometimes when they were at the extremities of life.

This is a deep privilege, knowing these people in such depth. Their trust is a gift.

I don’t spend a lot of money on my political campaigns. I substitute knowing them and letting them know me for the piles of cash that other candidates use to get elected. Every time I have a campaign, I go to each and every door and ask them if they will vote for me again. That’s a lot of doors. It takes time and effort and the expenditure of calories.

My husband has knocked on almost as many doors as I have, a lot of them for me. He comes from a political family. He cut his teeth on campaigns.

We got into a discussion a few weeks ago about the phenomena almost every politician who has done this knows. When you walk up to a house, you know if there is someone inside it. They can be asleep or watching tv, but you know if there is someone inside that house. By the same token, if they’ve gone to the grocery store, you know that no one is home.

The question is, how do we know that? Why does a house without a person in it give off such different and identifiable vibes than one where somebody is home?

I don’t have any idea how we know. I don’t even have any idea if this is something that is peculiar to people like politicians who knock a lot of doors and are deeply attuned to observing and understanding people on an unspoken level, or if it’s something that happens to most people.

I only know that we know. And that this knowing has been confirmed time and time again when we knock on the door.

This phenomena fits my personal belief that there is far more to us than you can find in an autopsy lab. In fact, there is far more to us than science will admit.

The Angel Effect is about this simple fact. Scientists have a tendency to dismiss a whole side of human potential as delusion, or worse, confabulation.

There are things we can see and do that simply do not line up with the limited, one-dimensional understanding of who we are that science tries to project onto us. The Angel Effect is about one small aspect of that great sea of human dimension that scientists have tried to either ignore or bully into silence.

The author called this the Third Man in an earlier book he wrote about the same phenomena. In The Angel Effect, he describes his own experience with the third man, and then goes on to share with us what are the beginnings and somewhat tortured “explanations” of various people of science concerning this phenomena.

I, for one, am gratified that scientists are at least moving off their ludicrous contention that this is all either delusion or lie. The idea — which I’ve heard proclaimed as fact all my life — that literally billions of people throughout history from all over the globe who do not know one another are telling the same stories because they are having delusions or making up the same lie is preposterous. It’s hubris, not explanation.

The Third Man the author talks about is one isolated phenomena in a whole range of human experiences that fall outside conventional explanation. The Third Man is when a helpful other, a person or being, appears without explanation to offer assistance in times of stress.

The author lumps all sorts of experiences of the other in this category, things which I think are discreet and different from one another. For instance, I don’t think Marian apparitions such as what happened in Fatima are the same as the Third Man. For that matter, I don’t think the experiences people sometimes have of seeing their dead loved ones are the same as the Third Man.

Here’s a for instance. Loretta Lynn wrote in her book, The Coal Miner’s Daughter, that she heard her father for a moment. She was on the west coast, while her father was all the way across the country. She learned later that her father had died at the same time she heard him. In another instance, Sebastian Junger wrote in The Perfect Storm that one of the small children of one of the fishermen who died in the storm saw their father at about the time he died.

Something a little bit like that happened to me when my father was dying. I woke from a deep sleep when I heard my father’s voice say “Becky!” I called my parents, and my mother told me that Daddy had suddenly become desperately ill.

Loretta Lynn, the fisherman’s child and I weren’t in distress when these things happened. We didn’t seek them. They came to us.

How does this happen? Is it our brains, reaching out across the miles at the time of our deaths or, as in the case of my Daddy, when we are in great distress, to communicate to the ones we love? Or, in the case of those who have died, is it our immortal selves, making a stop on the way to that next place to say good-bye?

We’ll all know the answers to these questions in good time. But in the meantime, it’s enough to say that there are too many of these occurrences for them to be delusions or confabulation.

The point I’m making is that there is a lot more to us than our current understanding of who we are will admit. An admission that the Third Man phenomena actually happens is a baby step in the right direction of understanding ourselves for real.

I could go on for a long time, describing things that people have seen and heard. After all, I am the mother confessor for tens of thousands of people. But that would violate their confidence.

What I will say is that these things I’ve described are just the tip of it. We are immortal beings with an eternal lifespan. There is in us the transcendent. God has given us brains to match that. Not only can we conceive of eternity, we have within us the equipment, both spiritual and — I am convinced — physical, to reach out to it.

I look forward to the day when science begins to understand how our finite brains can do these things. But I also know that scientific explanation will never touch the essential knowing of the transcendent that our experiences reflect.

The Angel Affect is one man’s attempt to explain his own brush with transcendence. He looks at the nascent attempts by a few scientists — mostly medical people — to explain the Third Man experience. He also seems to find a lot of people who are not religious who these experiences have happened to. I wouldn’t be able to do that in my community, since almost everyone is religious, whether they go to church or not.

However, the fact that this happens to all people, whatever their beliefs, is just a reflection that this is a human and not a dogmatic experience. We are all made of the same earth and the same breath of God. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we are endowed by our Creator with certain abilities and ways of knowing that reflect that.

I have put the author’s first book on hold at the library so I can read it, too. The Angel Effect is a thought-provoking book that raises more questions than it gives answers. If you ever wonder why and how you know the things that you don’t have any way of knowing, or if you’ve ever felt the presence of a helpful Other when you were in trouble, then it’s definitely worth your time to read it.

Do You Believe Jesus is Alive?

Never forget that we are resurrection people.

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Making a Holy Advent: Allow Christ to Enter into Our Lives

Don’t waste Advent. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, as well as look forward to His coming again.

The words for Advent are: Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.

Don’t waste Advent. Live it and allow Jesus to be born again in your heart.

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Pope Francis Trades Caps with Boston College Students

I have got to go to Rome. I just want to see my Papa, even if it’s from a distance and I have to stand on tiptoes to get a glance.

Boston College students Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, got a lot more than that. They actually traded caps with the Holy Father.

From The Boston Globe:

Two Boston College juniors walked away from the Vatican with a treasured memento Wednesday, after Pope Francis gave them his white papal skullcap.

Philosophy majors Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, who are studying in Rome this semester, waited along the barricades with a skullcap, called a zucchetto, and a note attached that read, “Boston College loves our Jesuit pope,” the students of the Jesuit-run university said Thursday in e-mail messages from Rome.

“We thought he wouldn’t see us, but we both yelled, ‘Papa!’ and at that second he turned around, saw us, and asked the driver to stop,” said Rich, 20, a native of Minnetonka, Minn.

They extended the zucchetto, bought for 50 euros, or about $68, the night before near St. Peter’s Square, and the pope sent over a guard who carried it to him, they said.

Pope Francis exchanged white papal skullcaps with two Boston College juniors on Wednesday.

KATHERINE RICH

Francis smiled at the note and donned the cap after making sure it was the right size, they said, then handed his own zucchetto to the guard.

“The pope then gave a nod and smiled right at us,” said Mack, 21, who is from Portland, Maine. “He took off with the one I bought, and the guard gave us his original one.”

Send a Christmas Card to Mary Wagner, Jailed Pro Life Activist

Send a Christmas card to imprisoned pro-life activist, Mary Wagner. Mary has been in and out of prison for quite some time, and has been in a Canadian jail for the past two and a half years. Her crime? She entered abortion clinics to hand out roses and ask the women not to abort their babies.

In other contexts, we pin medals on people who risk themselves to save the lives of children. Mary Wagner is a symbol of how upside down our thinking has become.

According to the Christmas Card Campaign for Mary Wagner, here is how you can do it:

Mary Wagner
Vanier Centre for Women
P.O Box 1040
655 Martin St.
Milton, ON
L9T 5E6

Please use the following guidelines to make sure it passes all prison requirements and Mary is able to receive the letter from behind bars:

1. Do not use any plastic cards, medals, stickers in your card
2. Put your return address on the card as well as on the outside of the envelope
3. Do not discuss the internal workings of the prison
4. Remember that the mail scrutinizing guards will read everything and anything confidential

 

If You Want to Convert People, Don’t Throw Dirt in Their Eggs

Eagle’s Nest, New Mexico, before it was trendy.

Long before New Mexico was a playground for the rich and famous, it was a playground for my family.

My Daddy’s family hailed from there, going back to before statehood, when it was a dangerous and unsettled wilderness. Edward Arlington Robinson’s line “We count our past backwards by the gravestones and the apple trees” fits my feelings about New Mexico perfectly. All I have to do is change “apple trees” to cacti.

My Daddy’s family liked to go camping, again long before camping was an in thing to do. It was a time when the mountain roads were not paved and the winter air was so pure and cold you could see all the way to tomorrow.

The whole bunch of us — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — went on one of these camping trips when I was a toddler. I have no memory of this event, but I’ve been told they cooked breakfast. I have experienced a lot of these campfire breakfasts, eating scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, all cooked over a propane stove. The taste of food like that, when you’re shaking with the bone-numbing morning cold and your family is all about you, surpasses any other gastronomic delight I have ever experienced.

Even though I have no memory of what happened that day, I’ve heard about it often enough to feel as if I remember it. Right in the middle of the cooking and laughing and sleepy-morning good times, I picked up a handful of gravel and tossed it onto the cooking eggs.

Fortunately for me, my family wasn’t prone to spank children. The adult consensus was that I had gotten tired of not being the center of attention and made a move to focus attention on myself. So, they picked me up and laughed about it, tossed the eggs and had a breakfast of hash browns and bacon, instead.

That was also the camping trip in which my cousin, who was six months older than me, fell into the ice-encrusted mountain stream and had to be rescued and cuddled for warmth. There was evidently a lot of baby cuddling and laughter on that trip and it was the beginning of glorious memories of the mountains before they were trendy for both my cousin and I.

I’m telling you this story, not to confirm your suspicions that I was an indulged and adored child (I was) but to point out that two-year-olds behave a certain way, and when they behave that way, it’s ok … for two-year-olds. Anyone with half a brain knows that baby people act out the primitive cravings for attention that never leave any of us in primitive, baby people, ways.

Anyone with half a brain also knows that certain maladjusted people, who maybe didn’t get their fair share of cuddling and adoration when they were babies, don’t grow out of this. Back before the internet, these jerks (there is no better word) visited their boorish behavior on those long suffering souls who had to work with them or have them over for Thanksgiving dinner. In short, the same families who’d messed them up in the first place had to pay the price of putting up with them for life.

But family fracturing and social isolation has deprived these folks of their traditional outlet. At the same time, the internet has given them another one. Far from being isolated on line, they’ve formed themselves into virtual clubs for the socially inept. They hang self-congratulatory monikers on themselves and spend a lot of time telling each other how special they are and how totally second-rate the rest of the world is.

But this constant verbal back-slapping and repetitive proclaiming of their own superiority to one another doesn’t give them enough attention from the larger world. Staying in their own little clubhouse and high-fiving one another until their palms bleed doesn’t — nothing can — satisfy their hunger for attention. They need more.

They sally forth from their little enclaves to toss verbal sand into everyone else’s eggs. Then they go hopping home to brag about their exploits.

One of their members recently wrote an accidental confession of sorts, based on his astounding discovery that you can’t get people to dine with you if you throw sand in their eggs. What worked for me when I was two, just doesn’t get the same loving tolerance from people who aren’t your adoring family and who are operating under the (evidently inaccurate) assumption that you are an adult.

This little essay, titled “Why I’m quitting the online atheism community,” is one atheist’s discussion about how he has learned that he can’t “convert” those “morons” who believe in God to his way of thinking by dashing onto our blogs and inserting himself into our conversations and calling us, well, morons.

I don’t know exactly what led this young man to this flash of astounding social enlightenment, but, to be honest, I am more than a little amused by his belief that he’s had some sort of interpersonal epiphany. I keep wanting to ask: Who raised you fella?

This atheist’s essay interested me for a couple of reasons, other than the fact that it’s accidentally funny.

First, it is a frank admission of what I think most of us already know. These clumsy trolls are trying to convert us to their way of thinking.

Second, these clumsy trolls actually think that their insults and tiresome verbal wanderings are some sort of discussion rather than an affliction and an intrusion.

I imagine that the idiotic billboards they hang up at Christmas fall into the same kind of activity. They think billboards with insults on them are saying something to people of faith. For our part, all we see are a bunch of adult two-year-olds, running around, pulling their pants down and tossing sand in our eggs.

When they cross the line from insults and adolescent grandiosity into coercion and discrimination, the laugh track dies. But that is a discussion for another post. Right now, I’ll confine myself to the question of questionable behavior by those who are so lacking in social grace that they think yelling insults and annoying people will appeal to and “convert” them.

The moral of this story is that if you want to convert people, don’t throw dirt, including verbal dirt, in their eggs. It applies to rude Christians as well as atheist trolls.

If you didn’t get your loving as a child and feel an aching need for it that won’t fill, turn to Jesus. His love is the love you were made for. Everything else is a faint copy.

 

Pope Francis is Person of the Year and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing

Time Magazine named Pope Francis their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2013.

This honor, which is usually a signal event in the lives of most of its recipients, was probably more of a bemusement to the Holy Father.

He walks in the shoes of the fisherman.

I have always loved the power of that first call to Peter. It is an incredible story. Here it is, in all its stark simplicity.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.

Think about this story for a moment. Simon and his brother Andrew are going about their daily work as fishermen. They are casting their nets into the lake. Then this stranger comes up and says, Follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people. 

What would you do?

I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy people in my time in public office. Many of them have pulled me aside to share their delusions. I’ve always handled it as gently as I could. But I never considered dropping everything and following them off to Mars or wherever they thought they were going.

You can tell when someone is delusional. It’s not difficult at all.

But this carpenter’s son was different, and those who, as He said, had the eyes to see, picked up on it immediately. Simon and his brother dropped their nets, left their livelihood, and followed Him.

Why? What did they have the eyes to see?

I think it was more of an intuition and an instinctive response to the presence of God than knowledge and understanding. The Gospels make it clear that all the Apostles, including Peter, (who was called Simon until Jesus changed his name) slowly and often reluctantly came to an understanding of Who Jesus was and what His call meant. They were still quarreling among themselves as to their position in what they thought was going to be an earthly kingdom a few days before the crucifixion.

But the same Jesus Who others humiliated and murdered without fear for themselves or their immortal souls, was, for those who had the eyes to see, a transcendent figure from the first.

The seeds of His crucifixion were sown early in His ministry among those who were offended by His teaching. This was not a simple miracle man. He challenged the jots and tittles of the weighty interpretations of the law that the priests had layered on the people. He laid bare the priests’ pretensions while opening His arms to the displaced and despised.

They accused Him repeatedly — and accurately — of healing on the Sabbath. They “grieved and angered” Jesus with “their hardness of heart.”

Is it better to save a life or end it? he asked them, and they responded by plotting to kill him.

He could have quibbled and shuffled his feet and obfuscated His way out of the danger. He could have watered down the Gospel so that it fit the teachings of these fallen priests.

But He didn’t. Instead, He went right in their faces with his challenge to their mis-use of the law to control and weigh people down. The son of man is lord of the Sabbath He told them. The Sabbath was made for people. People were not made for the Sabbath, He said.

And they killed Him for it.

The crowds loved Him. They followed Him everywhere, even going so far as to knock a hole in the roof of Peter’s house to lower a crippled man for Him to heal. Less than a week before they yelled “Crucify Him!” the crowds shouted Hosanna! and laid palm branches in the road in front of Him.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. When he — or anyone — speaks out for the Gospels, he will be dealt with in a manner similar to what Jesus Himself experienced from human hands.

Is the servant greater than the master? Jesus asked his disciples. If they persecute me, they will persecute you. 

Today, as 2,000 years ago, high profile followers of Christ are subjected to the same push-pull of adulation that is placed on them instead of Him as well as the attacks and smears that are also placed on them instead of Him. In truth, both the love and the hate are focused on Jesus.

These high-profile followers of Christ are just the temporal targets through which people express their feelings about Jesus and their understanding of the Gospels. Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ, get this treatment, raised to powers of ten.

On the one hand, he is named Person of the Year. On the other hand, he is attacked as a heretic and compared — with absolutely no basis in fact — with the most corrupt popes of history.

Why? Because he says that Jesus came to seek the lost, that we must not walk past Lazarus, that the prostitutes and drug dealers and homosexuals will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the pharisees of our time.

He is accused of being a sell-out because known sinners are attracted to him. He is called outrageous names because he says blessed are the poor.

This honor of being named Person of the Year will almost certainly further inflame those who are so bitterly angry with him. After all, the honor — in all its temporal nothingness — comes from public sinners.

Who is Pope Francis to tell sinners that Jesus loves them? Who does he think he is, insisting that Christ the Lord meant what He said?

Maybe, he thinks he’s the Pope. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a thing or two to do with his election. It’s possible that he was put in this position because what he’s telling us is what we need to hear.

I wrote a post declaring my loyalty to this good man.

I ended up deleting a number of disturbing comments on this post. The comments came from people who wanted to rage at  the Holy Father — and at me, for standing with him.

They came from Catholics whose Catholicism has devolved down to a Gospel according to them as explicated by some false internet pope they are slavishly following. They repeatedly cited this or that cult-leader of a fallen priest or political guru to explain why the Pope is a heretic, a fool, or worse.

They chided me for following the Pope instead of their fallen priest or political guru. They explained to me why there is no responsibility for Catholics to follow the teachings of the Holy Father when it conflicts with the teachings of these internet tin gods.

Each of these rageful, bitter people appeared to be convinced — absolutely, foaming at the mouth I’d like to kill you for disagreeing with me convinced — that the teachings of their fallen priest/political guru trumped that of the Pope. They were, in a word, demented. They were, in a phrase, in the grip of a virulent form of self-deluding, self-righteous evil.

This is all First Century stuff. It is the same old story, re-told with living actors who don’t seem to know they are playing a part. I know that the chock-full-o-nuts attacks on the Holy Father for being named Man of the Year will arrive soon. I’ve read enough attacks claiming that the Pope is a heretic because public sinners are attracted to what he’s saying to know they’re coming.

For those of you who are interested, here’s my take on the Person of the Year deal: It doesn’t mean a thing.

Those same people who are so in love with Pope Francis today can turn like they were on ice and begin attacking him tomorrow.

What does matter — and is of eternal consequence — is whether or not those who hear his message will be convicted by it to turn to Jesus. The Pope is in the business of saving souls, not gathering honors.

He’s the Pope. He stands in the shoes of the fisherman. Which makes him a fisher of people.

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Virgencita Mexicano: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, the Americas and the New World.

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Anniversary: No Posts Today

I’m celebrating my anniversary today. That means no posts. I’ll be back in full form tomorrow.

Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes Part 2: The Beam in My Eye

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 

Jesus Christ

Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.

That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.

This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.

No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.

Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.

Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.

When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.

That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.

As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.

The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.

Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.

He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.

A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.

This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.

But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.

I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.

Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.

Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.

Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.

He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):

We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.

The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.

… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”

the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.

Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.

There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.

The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.

People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.

But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.

Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.

He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.

Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.

Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.

 

 

To read part one in this series, go here.

 

Pope Francis Credits Nun with Saving His Life

Like every pope before him, Pope Francis brings his own history to the Papacy.

Pope John Paul II was deeply influenced by his experiences living under the Nazis and then the Communists. Pope Benedict XVI was influenced by his academic background as well as growing up under the Nazis and then living in a country divided into slave and free. These life experiences added human understanding and dimension to the way they lived their office.

Pope Francis comes from, as he said, “the ends of the earth,” which is to say a world far removed from the Europe of the mid-twentieth century. But like these two men, he has faced unjust governments. He has also pastored people who live in abysmal poverty, in a land where children of the poor search through dumps for the means of survival while the extremely wealthy live in a separate and rarified world.

One of the most powerful formative experiences of his life must have been the illness that cost him a lung. The book I Foretti di Papa Francisco, reveals that the Holy Father credits a nun who ignored doctor’s orders and increased his dosage of antibiotics with saving his life.

It’s a powerful story that tells us a lot about this holy man.

From The Telegraph:

In a new book, I Fioretti di Papa Francesco, (The Little Flowers of Pope Francis), Andrea Tornielli, a veteran Vatican journalist, the pontiff speaks of his gratitude to the nuns who worked in the hospital where he was ill as a young man.

“I am alive thanks to one of them,” Pope Francis said. “When I had lung problems in the hospital, the doctor gave me penicillin and antibiotics in small doses.

“The nun who was on the ward tripled that because she had an intuition, she knew what to do, because she was with the ill all day long,” the pope said.

“The doctor, who was very good, spent his time in a laboratory, but the nun was living on the front line and talking with those on the front line every day.”

Immaculate Conception: The Door Opening

The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.

It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.

The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.

We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.

She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot. Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.

And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood. This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.

Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.

And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening. This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death.

God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.

She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.

The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices. Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God.

Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.

Litany of Our Lady

This litany is a wonderful way to pray today on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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