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.”

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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

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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.”

The Heresy of Politicized Christianity

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Deacon Greg Kandra published a post today describing a “study” that says that “Christian Progressives” are on the cultural ascendancy. 

I put the word study in quotes because all this study amounts to is some yo-yo with letters after his name who went out and tabulated Google searches, dividing them between “conservative Christian” and “progressive Christian.” His criteria: Google searches for “Christian right” vs google searches for “Christian left.” 

Based on this handy-dandy spreadsheet workout, this person has extrapolated to all sorts of predictions and prophecies about the direction of Christianity in the future USA. 

Aside from the fact that this is about as scientific as predicting the future by studying the entrails of a goat, it does reveal quite a lot about the researcher and the way that Christianity is discussed today. 

After I converted to Catholicism, I encountered a lot of talk about which Catholics were “orthodox” or not. I remember wondering what the tar-heel an “orthodox” Catholic might be. I had some idea about what an Orthodox Jew was. But an “orthodox” Catholic seemed to be one of those vague, do-it-yourself monikers that people hang on themselves in order to chastise other people. To this day, I’ve never heard a useful definition of what an “orthodox” Catholic might be, even though I still read about folks who claim to be one and seem to think they know. 

Now that I’ve dipped my toe in the blogging waters, I find myself repeatedly encountering verbiage that attempts to define Christians and Christianity along political groupings. Even here at Patheos we have a portal for “progressive” Christians. I don’t fault Patheos for this. The moniker is out there everywhere and the Progressive Christians themselves seem to think they are members of some clearly demarcated understanding of Christianity that groups them together and separates them from the rest of us who stand at the foot of the cross. 

Not that I’m saying they don’t stand at the foot of the cross. But I guess they would place themselves in a separate group of before-the-cross-standers that distinguishes them from other, non-progressive Christians. Of course, we also have the “conservative” Christians there before the cross, as well. In this Americanized/politicized version of Christianity I guess the rest of us who don’t want to be “conservative” or “progressive” Christians just wander around aimlessly, or maybe circulate back and forth between the two groups.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this imaginary portrait I just painted. We have the cross, with the crucified Savior of the World hanging on it. And we have His so-called followers standing there in front of it, looking not at Him, but at each other. The “conservative” Christians are standing as far away from the “progressive” Christians as they can get, and vice versa. They are not thinking about or concerned with the God who died for them on Calvary. They are not grieved by what their sins have wrought. They are not caught in wonder at the love God has for them. 

Nope. They are both like the Pharisee who went to pray and spent his whole time thanking God that he wasn’t like that sinful tax collector over there. 

Pharisee

Does anyone remember what Jesus had to say about the Pharisee? If you don’t, you can find it in Luke 8: 9-14.

I wrote a post yesterday, encouraging Christians to engage with the political structure. After reading the comments it garnered, I repented of that post. We aren’t ready. 

Before Christians can engage the larger culture they’ve first got to be all-in for Jesus. That appears to be a major stumbling block for a lot of people. These ridiculous designations of “conservative” and “progressive” Christians are a symptom and an expression of just how far away we are from actually following Christ, or even taking Him seriously at all.

In today’s America, “conservative” and “progressive” are political terms. If we were being honest, we’d just dispense with those terms and say what we mean. On the one side we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following right wing politics instead of following Jesus, and on the other side, we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following left wing politics instead of following Jesus. 

They are, both of them, following the world instead of following Jesus. And they are claiming that Jesus not only supports them in this, but He is following them. 

I’m not a theologian. I’m just a pew-sitting Catholic who is grateful that, after the things I’ve done, they let me inside the Church at all. But I love Jesus. 

This disregard of Him, this crude claim of ownership of Him, by people who carry His name hurts me. It stings and bites at me when I think about it. What is wrong that so many people can look at the living God and see a self-justifying reflection of themselves?

I repeat: I am not a theologian. But I think that this twisting of the Gospels to suit fashionable politics and political power is heretical. It is also, evidently, deeply embedded in people’s hearts. 

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If you look at the cross and feel smirky holier than thou self-justification for you and your politics, then I would wager that you are not looking at the cross at all. You are considering a piece of jewelry you’ve hung around your neck that is made of cold metal and, without the real cross that it symbolizes, can not save you. 

Conservative/Progressive/Right/Left Christianity is a human invention. It gives us what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” which is to say self-approval. It makes us self-righteous and mean. 

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If you are interpreting the Gospels in the light of your politics, then you are not following Christ. This business of co-opting the Gospels to fit the world has eternal consequences. 

There is one Jesus; one narrow way; one means of salvation; one cross. 

Our job as American Christians is to believe that one Jesus, walk that narrow way, and to conform our lives, including our politics, to Christ and Him crucified.

I want to follow Christ. I do not want to follow conservative Christ or progressive Christ or right or left or middle of the road Christ. I want to follow and I pray for the grace to follow, Christ and Him crucified by conservatives and progressives and rightists and leftists and all the rest of the crowd who will not follow Him without reframing Him to suit themselves. 

That is why I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. Not because they are easy or politically correct. But because I’ve tried making God in my own image. I know that I can’t judge, can’t decide, can’t know. Left to my own devices I will do horrible things, just as my heretical brothers and sisters on the left and the right are doing horrible things. 

Standing before the real cross means that you know you are not worthy to be there. You know that your own understanding put Him there. You know yourself for what you are and you realize that without Him you are doomed to the hell you have created and earned; to the hell you deserve.

“Lean not on your own understanding” the scriptures tell us. 

It’s good advice. 

Mother Teresa: How to Love God

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American Youth Explain Why They’re Going to WYD


This video reveals a lot, both about the weaknesses in America’s Catholic culture, and the hunger those weaknesses create in our young people.

I remember the first church I went to after my conversion experience. It was a fine church, part of a mainline denomination. But I wanted more Jesus than it gave me.

No one should ever feel that way in a Catholic Church, but evidently some of these young people do. I pray they will find what they are yearning for at WYD. Maybe they can bring it back home to share with those of their elders who are in need of conversion.

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Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ


In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.


I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.


American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.


The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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Are Americans as Trashy as Our Media Believes?

Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.

This is the latest cover of Time Magazine in Europe, Asia and South America:

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This the latest cover of Time Magazine here in the good old USA:

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I guess it makes sense. You know us Americans; we do love our lynch mobs. We’d rather glue our well-rounded rear ends to the sofa and drool over the misery of others before taking to the streets to yell for more blood than anything else.

We don’t want to hear about how our government has all of us under surveillance or that we are playing footsie with another war that has nothing to do with us or, or, or …. certainly and for sure we don’t want to hear anything good, like say, about the Pope. 

After all, we’re Americans and our interests revolve around Friday night wrestling, “reality” tv shows that depict maladjusted people with gross obsessions and fetishes and talking heads on “news” shows yelling at one another. 

Are we really this stupid?

Are we truly this trashy?

And if we are, who do you think made us this way?

As I said in another post, it’s time we turn off our televisions and go outside in the sunlight and fresh air. We need to spend some time talking to real people and doing real things that involve our own lives. 

Get your head out of the trash bin, America. Before you make yourself as mentally, morally and socially ill as the people you watch for your entertainment. 

Televised Trials: The For-Real Hunger Games

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I did not watch the Zimmerman murder trial. I did not watch the OJ trial. I haven’t watched any of the televised trials that obsess the public.

I also didn’t follow the Timothy McVeigh trial, even though I had a personal interest in its outcome.

From the way that Americans seem to react to these trials, I think perhaps a lot of other people should consider skipping them, too. Trials that put people’s lives and freedom to the test are not some sort of call-in entertainment where the audience picks the winner. 

The people who are tasked with the terrible decisions these trials require are the citizens who sit on the jury. I leave it to them, and when I do it, I am grateful that I am not one of them. 

Even with Timothy McVeigh, I did not want to sit on the jury that tried him. I did not want to watch his execution. I didn’t want any part of it. However, with McVeigh, I was so trapped in the horrible web of near victim obsession with this particular crime and criminal that I could not stop thinking about it. I oppose the death penalty, but it was a relief when he finally shut up and I knew I would not have to hear about him anymore. 

I cannot imagine how I would have felt if the jury had turned him lose. However, I do know two things: My job would have been to go on from there and live, and watching the trial would not have helped me deal with an unwanted verdict. 

I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through trials where people I know are involved. Believe me, you don’t want that to be you. 

These trials are about horrible events that shatter people’s lives. They are usually about twisted situations that have been brewing and stewing; distilling their malice and meanness for years. There is nothing pretty or edifying about them. The people involved, on both sides, are at the extremities of grief, terror and desperation. This is not a fictional movie or television show in which actors pretend to be in anguish. These are real people, and they are suffering agonies. 

Obsession

These televised trials are becoming a sort of Hunger Games gone real, with vast audiences entertained by watching people suffer horribly. There are no winners in trials like this. The person who has been murdered has already lost their life. In a very real way, the person who is on trial has lost their life, as well. They are suffering extremities of fear that are unimaginable for those of us who haven’t been in the judicial barrel. The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will usually end up with tarnished reputations and, due to the massive television audience, the full grief of public notoriety. 

The public, in many ways, is the biggest loser, for the simple reason that they have the most to lose. They aren’t dead. Their loved ones haven’t been murdered. They are not on trial for their lives. They don’t have to make the agonizing decision as to guilt and innocence. They are safe, free, unburdened by the responsibility of holding another person’s life in their hands.

But by watching this trial hour after hour, day after day, they become enmeshed in the terrors and miseries of other people’s tragedies to the point that they start feeling as if it did happen to them, and it is about them. This is empathy turned self-destructive. It is obsession that removes the person watching from the simple reality that none of this is about them and none of it happened to them. 

These viewers let this trial eat up their days and consume their emotions and thoughts. They take on the responsibility of the jury and sit there in front of their tvs, allowing a cheap obsession to take over their thinking and their lives. 

When the verdict comes down and they don’t agree with it, they go into paroxysms of rage and outrage, demanding a re-trial, another charge, another dose of vengeance. Or, if they like the verdict, they feel sated and smug, released of the tension-producing competitiveness that their understanding of the evidence might not prevail.

Obsession

There is a word for this. The word is obsession. The so-called “news” stations who run these trials are not even vaguely trying to report news. They are going for inexpensive ratings. They are ignoring serious news stories that the public needs to know about to put these trials on the air. 

I didn’t watch it, but I gather that the President of the United States had to make a speech about this latest public trial. I see photos of protesting mobs, and grief stricken people, including little children, who are enraged, bereft and emotionally scarred by this verdict. 

Make no mistake about it: The events that set this trail in motion are tragic. It was and is a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing tragedy that should not have happened. The people who are close to it will never be the same. But it didn’t happen to that vast television audience or those enraged mobs or even to the President and his Attorney General.

The people it did happen to will suffer for it all their days. But the rest of us will forget it and move on to the next new televised tragedy. In a matter of weeks, we’ll be wringing our hands over something else. Because, you see, it didn’t happen to us. It’s not our lives that are torn apart. It is our cheap entertainment, our obsession that blocks out the pain of whatever really is happening to us. It is our hunger games. 

From my I-didn’t-watch-it perspective, all this obsessive rage over this trial looks crazy. I can not fathom it, and that, my friends, is the fruit of not watching. I’m not enraged and distraught. I have not spent my days suffering through a tragedy I can’t change. I am clear of all this craziness and pain. 

I know I’m going to get thrashed for saying this. But people need to turn off their televisions and go outside. They need to take a walk or go to a movie about a fictional trial where nobody really dies and nobody really suffers. 

Spend time with your families. Pay your bills. Read a book. Play some golf. Go swimming, kiss your babies, say your prayers. 

And realize: This didn’t happen to you. 

 

Obsession

Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

 

Hobby lobby zps8425ff5aI’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond. 

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month. 

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual. 

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate. 

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What has happened to change his mind? 

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War. 

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them. 

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing. 

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear. 

Imprisoned for Christ: Cardinal Van Thuan

I once worked with a woman who had lived through the fall of Viet Nam and then stayed in the country after the communist takeover.

She told me that where she lived, the officials would call someone in for questioning. She said that this person was never seen again. They simply vanished.

When they called her to come in for questioning, she and her large family stayed up all night discussing what to do. They decided to walk out of Viet Nam under darkness and take their chances on the open sea as stateless refugees. They did this as an entire family group.

She cried when she told me of the terrible things that happened in the boats with the other refugees.

Long story short, she and her family ended up in Oklahoma, where, when I knew her, they were working together to build a new life.

This lady was not a Christian. She was a Buddhist. They were rural people who had never had contact with the Americans during the war. Her crime was that her family was a well-to-do family who owned a granary in her small town. She was also an attorney.

Cardinal Van Thuan committed a much worse crime, one that continues to be punished in Viet Nam today. He was a Christian. Not only that, he was a leader in the Catholic Church.


The result was that Cardinal Van Thuan spent 13 years in solitary confinement inside a Viet Nam prison. He was so completely shut off from the world that most of his friends and followers thought he was dead. I would guess that what happened to him was somewhat like what happened to the people my friend knew: He went in, and was never heard from again.

I’ve read The Miracle of Hope by Andre Nguyen and Van Chau and also The Testimony of Hope which is a retreat Cardinal van Thuan gave for Pope John Paul II. I recommend both books to those who want to learn more about this great man of Christ.

My archbishop, Archbishop Paul Coakley, ordained our newest priest on June 29. Here is what he said:

We are living in an age of increasing indifference or even hostility toward faith and toward the Church. The generation of priests ordained today will, I suspect, witness increasing persecution and perhaps even a new age of martyrdom. It is already happening in other parts of the world.

Given certain signs of our times today, it is naive to believe it could not happen here. It is important, therefore, to be clear. The priesthood is not a career; it is not a path for those seeking a comfortable life. The priesthood is a vocation of radical commitment and radical dependence on Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.

I’m glad my archbishop realizes this and has the courage to say it publicly. Far too many priests are either unaware of it, or indifferent to it. As a Public Catholic in the political realm, and more specifically as a Catholic Democratic elected official, I’ve been on the tip of the sword for a long time now. I can tell you without reservation that I saw this coming way back for the simple reason that I was the object of so much excoriation and social/verbal abuse in my office because of my faith.

I had the advantage of perspective, since I had been in office in the 1980s, then left to raise my kids and was later re-elected to the same position. The changes in attitude and behavior toward Christians by non-believers was stark. However, most Christians were reacting by either allowing themselves and their faith to be co-opted so they’d feel comfortable with this new world, or by withdrawing into their Christian friendships and refusing to see it.

I knew it was a matter of time before it started expanding to other Christians who try to follow the Gospels but who were not in the hot spot of being Democratic elected Catholics. I found then, as I do now, that not many people want to hear the truth of what is happening. This attitude further isolates the Christian who is being attacked for Christ and also encourages the attackers to continue. At the very least, we need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are attacked for the faith we hold.

These head-in-sand Christians compare themselves to people like Cardinal van Thuan and say, I’m not afraid of being arrested in the middle of the night and put in solitary confinement for 13 years, so there is no problem here.

My answer to them is the same one alcoholics anonymous says to its adherents who claim they aren’t so sick since they’ve never done what that other drunk next to them has done: Not yet.

If you consider where we are now compared to where we were even 10 years ago, I don’t believe you can honestly say that this country, and indeed the whole Western world is not on a trajectory of overt hostility and verbal abuse and lately legal discrimination against Christians. If this trajectory is not reversed, it will inevitably end up at active persecution.

This video about Cardinal van Thuan describes a priest who was Christ’s man first. May his tribe increase.

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The Secret’s Out: Devout Catholic Husbands and Wives Have the Best Sex

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If you want great sex, trying marrying for love and committing yourself this person for life. It also helps if you worship the God Who made you in a Catholic Church every week. 

That’s the upshot of a spate of articles floating around the internet, including this one that mentions Patheos blogger Dr Gregory Popcak. It turns out that devout Catholic husbands and wives have the most satisfying sexual relationships of any group. 

Why?

Based on what we see on HBO, it would appear that the most satisfying sex must occur between people who don’t give a flip about one another. According to the media great sex is found in quickie relationships where one of person may even be paying the other to participate. Greatest sex probably occurs between groups of people or people who’ve slept with everybody in the telephone book before arriving at their latest coupling. Tossing in drugs to “heighten” the experience is also depicted as a useful way to get great sex. 

Of course, that’s not real life. The hook-up culture is as empty of emotional sustenance as a steady diet of styrofoam would be of nutrition. Eat enough styrofoam and you will die physically. Engage in enough meaningless sex and you will lose the ability to connect with the people you are “sexing,” and the sex itself will become more about sweat and release than satisfaction and happiness. 

This little lesson in human nature applies to just about everything in life. Is it more satisfying to eat in a crowded diner with strangers, or to spend the evening with someone you enjoy and who engages you? Is a movie more fun sitting in a theater full of strangers or alongside someone who shares your life and viewpoint and laughs and cries right along with you?

“It is not good for man to be alone,” the Lord God said after He created Adam. Adam was surrounded by all of creation, including the many creatures who populated it. But he was alone. When God made woman, Adam knew that this person was not just another creature, but “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He recognized her as his partner; another living soul made in the image and likeness of God. 

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Men and women are made for one another, in the best and most beautiful way. We are not insects who reproduce in a soulless exchange of genes. We are human beings who create life out of our mutual love and self-giving. Anything less always ends up dehumanizing us. 

Sex is a great gift to humankind, a gift with a purpose. We create life with it, and we also bind ourselves man to woman for life by the tenderness and trust of life-long fidelity and sharing that is true marriage. True marriage between a man and a woman is the simplest and best way to have a satisfying and productive life. Satisfying sex is not the purpose of marrying for love, for life and within the Church. It is a free gift and a natural by-product of this free commitment of two lives to one another. 

It doesn’t surprise me that devout Catholic wives and husbands who are living together in the sacrament of holy matrimony are also blessed with fulfilling sex lives. What does surprise me is that anyone ever doubted it. 


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