U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)

Marry for Life by Marrying Right

To join the discussion about The Sacred Search, or for a link to buy it, go here.

Gary Thomas is a Southern Baptist pastor, a husband and the father of three children. This gives him a tri-fold source of insight into what it takes to make a marriage work. He uses this wisdom well in The Sacred Search. 

The book gives specific parameters about what to look for in a future spouse. It also outlines some of the reasons why and ideas about how to break up a relationship with the wrong person before it goes on too long.

Thomas sees a healthy marriage as a life-long commitment that will provide an environment for raising healthy children and build up the community of faith in which it subsists.

I agree with him about this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the many divorces, fatherless children and serial marriages that we endure in this country contribute greatly to the increasing social and moral chaos we are experiencing as a nation and a culture.

Seen that way, the advice that Reverend Thomas gives in this book takes on a crucial quality. He believes that the purpose of each human life is to glorify the Lord and that the decision of whether or not to marry, or who to marry should be made in light of this one thing.

However, he does not support the idea that young people should just “wait for the Lord” to bring them the proper spouse and deliver him or her to their front door. He feels that the search for a spouse is an important activity that people should enter into in an intentional and intelligent way. While he acknowledges the power of infatuation, he dismisses it as a reason for marrying.

According to Reverend Thomas, a young Christian should consider a prospective spouse seriously by looking for character, a strong Christian faith and general compatibility in terms of temperament and interests.

I agree with all this. Where I part company with Reverend Thomas somewhat is in the lengthy laundry list of things he suggests that people look for in a prospective spouse. He advises just about everything except hooking them up to a lie detector to check them out. I just don’t think that this level of thinking it through is practical.

I also don’t think it’s necessary. Based on my experience of a long marriage, I think that people can and do change for one another (something that Rev Thomas dismisses out of hand) and that if the marriage is to work, they will have to. It isn’t necessary or even possible to marry someone who shares all your interests or who has the same temperament as you.

It’s more important that you are able to accept these differences and make space for your individuality in the marriage. I think it is also necessary that both of you be willing to change for the other. You can’t marry someone who is going to fit with you in every aspect. Any marriage that requires one person to do all the changing and the other person to do none of it is almost certainly bound to fail.

Sometimes, you have to do things that aren’t your ideal preference just for the simple reason that it makes your spouse happy. Both of you have to do this from time to time. I have no quarrel with what Reverend Thomas says in this book, except that I think he doesn’t give enough emphasis to the need to give to one another. Marriage is a mutual self-giving. You have to love your spouse so much that their happiness makes you happy; and both of you must feel that way about the other.

The Sacred Search is a good book. It’s full of wisdom and good ideas. I plan to give it to my sons to read. However, I also want them to know that, while it’s full of good ideas, it isn’t an iron-clad rule book.

New Congressional Motto: Country Last

The Senate passed the Biden/McConnell compromise bill last night. Now, it has to go to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill delays some of the decisions that have been holding things up for two months. In other words, our elected leaders plan to put themselves and this country through this again in two months. All because they couldn’t manage to do their jobs now.

Evidently, if  Vice President Biden didn’t have the personal relationships with various senators that he does, we wouldn’t even have this compromise. The message in this, so far as I’m concerned, is that maybe civility does have a place in better government. This hate-filled what’s-in-it-for-me brinksmanship certainly isn’t doing us much good.

An ABC News article that explains the real issues behind this fight surprisingly well says in part:

Going over the “fiscal cliff” may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it’s a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.

They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that anybipartisan compromise must include. Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.

That’s why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation’s economic recovery.

A breach of the fiscal cliff’s midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn’t keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way. The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it’s painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America’s leaders, at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon. That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government’s borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt …

… The vast majority of congressional Republicans have vowed never to approve higher tax rates. It’s no idle promise. Many of them preferred to let the fiscal cliff deadline pass, causing tax rates to rise on nearly all American workers, at least for a time. Then, presumably this week, they can vote to cut taxes for around 98 percent of Americans, rather than vote in December to raise rates on the richest 2 percent and avoid the cliff. (Read more here.)

What that last paragraph means is that the House Republicans have deliberately left the country go past the fiscal cliff. The reason is that, since the effect of doing this is an automatic raise in taxes on ordinary Americans, they will be voting for a tax cut when they pass the Senate compromise bill.

It’s all a shell game designed to let them say that they voted to cut taxes on their campaign pieces. That’s why they’re putting this country through this.

A CNN article describing the compromise bill and the legislative process it faces says in part:

(CNN) – If a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff becomes law, all but a sliver of the U.S. population will avoid higher tax rates, some key issues will be put off for two months, and all sides in the battle will emerge with a mixed record: winning key points, while ceding ground on others.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

It would raise tax rates for those over those levels — marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. GOP members planned to meet at 1 p.m., two aides told CNN.

“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” one GOP leadership aide said. (Read more here.)

And away we go …

 

We’re going over the cliff folks, courtesy of the United States House of Representatives.

And please, don’t give me the partisan arguments about who is naughty and nice in this deal. It’s not the Republican’s fault. It’s not the Democrat’s fault.

It’s our fault.

We elected these bozos.

A lot of otherwise intelligent people are out there spinning up excuses for “their” political team like hamsters in a road race. Their story — and I’m sure they’re going to stick with it no matter what — is that their guys are white as new snow in this debacle. They’ll claim this in the face of the obvious realty that you can’t make a mess this big without everybody involved pitching in. That means both the Republicans and the Democrats and you and me  as well for letting them get away with it.

Will they vote on it tomorrow? Who knows? Whichever way it goes, they’re sure to pass something and do something that hurts people like me … and you.

I’m going to celebrate the New Year and have a fun evening. Then, tomorrow, I’m going to start my annual New Year’s diet. After I sleep in.

Somewhere in there I think we all need to think about housecleaning. And I’m not talking about the houses where we raise our families, cook our meals and mop the floors. I mean our political house.

Here, from the Washington Post, is the gist of the story. Read it and weep.

No Vote on “Fiscal Cliff” Package

Tonight: House Aides

The House will vote on other matters at 6:30 p.m.

and adjourn for 2012, House aides told NBC News

Monday, Dec 31, 2012

Members of the House of Representatives will not meet their midnight deadline to approve a “fiscal cliff” package, aides told NBC News. Instead, they will vote on a series of non-controversial “suspension bills,” before adjourning for 2012 without a new fiscal agreement.

The decision to leave “fiscal cliff” matters unsresolved came despite President Barack Obama’s earlier assessment that a deal was in sight but not yet finalized. The emerging deal he described would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

“There are still issues left to resolve, but we’re hopeful Congress can get it done,” Obama said at a campaign-style event at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

What was done, officials told NBC News, was a deal to raise the tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000. Also, estates would be taxed at 40 percent after the first $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, up from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Unemployment benefits would be extended for one year. Without the extension, 2 million people would lose benefits beginning in early January. (Read more here.)

What is you number 1 resolution?

 

What is your number one resolution for the New Year?

Besides losing weight. Everybody resolves to lose weight — except for those who are planning to try to gain weight.

What, other than getting prettier, do you plan to do for the New Year?

Me? I’m going to write a book.

What’s on your resolutions list?

Joe Biden to the Rescue: Who Woulda Thought?

The president has announced that there may be a compromise on the “fiscal cliff.” Everyone is quick to point out that nothing is official yet, but the hopeful statement alone was enough to jump-start the stock market.

The white horse riders who saved the day? It appears that Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden are able to stomach one another enough to actually sit down and do the business of the people.

If we dodge this bullet, we may have Joe Biden’s niceness to thank for it.

Who woulda thought?

(Oh by the way; I left that joke on the photo on purpose. Seemed fitting, somehow.)

Progress seen in last-minute ‘fiscal cliff’ talks
By ALAN FRAM and JULIE PACE | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Working against a midnight deadline, negotiators for the White House and congressional Republicansnarrowed their differences Monday on legislation to avert across-the-board tax increases.

Congressional officials familiar with talks between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said one major remaining sticking point was whether to postpone spending cuts that are scheduled to begin on Jan 1.

Republicans want to replace across-the-board reductions with targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget, while the White House and Democrats want to offset at least some of the so-called sequester with the revenue from tax increases. Senate Democrats were pushing hard against a GOP proposal for just a three-month delay in the across-the-board cuts.

At the same time, Democrats said the two sides were closing in on an agreement over taxes. They said the White House had proposed blocking an increase for most Americans, while letting rates rise for individuals with incomes of $400,000 a year and $450,000 for couples, a concession from President Barack Obama’s campaign call to set the levels at $200,000 and $250,000.

Any overall deal was also likely to include a provision to prevent a spike in milk prices with the new year, extend unemployment benefits due to expire and protect doctors who treat Medicare patients from a 27 percent cut in fees.

Despite the movement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that differences remained without spelling out what they were and said cooperation would be needed by both sides.

“Negotiations are continuing as I speak,” said Reid, D-Nev., as the Senate began an unusual New Year’s Eve session. “But we really are running out of time. Americans are still threatened with a tax hike in just a few hours.”(Read more here.)

The Fiscal Cliff: America’s First Self-Inflicted Recession??

Experts Forecast the

Cost of Failure to

Compromise

New York Times

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ | New York Times  

Even if President Obama and Republicans in Congress can reach a last-minute compromise that averts some tax increases before Monday’s midnight deadline, experts still foresee a significant drag on the economy in the first half of 2013 from the fiscal impasse in Washington.

While negotiators in the capital focus on keeping Bush-era tax rates in place for all but the wealthiest Americans, other tax increases are expected to go into effect regardless of what happens in the coming days. For example, a two percentage point jump in payroll taxes for Social Security is all but certain after Jan. 1, a change that will equal an additional $2,000 from the paycheck of a worker earning $100,000 a year.

Many observers initially expected the lower payroll-tax deduction rate of 4.2 percent to be preserved. But in recent weeks, as it became clear that political leaders were prepared to let that rate rise to 6.2 percent, economists reduced their predictions for growth in the first quarter accordingly.

Largely because of this jump in payroll taxes, Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, is halving his prediction for economic growth in the first quarter to 1 percent from an earlier estimate of just over 2 percent. That represents a significant slowdown in economic growth from the third quarter of 2012, when the economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

Mr. Obama has pushed to preserve Bush-era tax rates on income below $250,000 a year but Republicans have held out for a higher threshold, perhaps in the neighborhood of $400,000 a year. Republicans also favor deeper spending cuts to curb long-term budget deficits — a move many Democrats oppose.

While hopes dimmed Sunday afternoon that a deal could be reached before Jan. 1, most observers said they did not expect the full impact from more than $600 billion in potential tax increases and spending cuts to swamp the economy right away. Indeed, a compromise could be struck in the coming weeks that heads off the worst of the fallout.

In the event no compromise is found, however, the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. (Read more here.)

Bishops Issue a call to prayer for life, marriage and religious liberty

Our bishops are calling us to incorporate their call for penance, prayer and sacrifice for life, marriage and religious liberty into our activities for the Year of Faith.

I have already been praying about these things. I’ve prayed every day for a long time about abortion. I plan to add one of the bishop’s ideas. My focus for this will be religious liberty.

I don’t think most Catholics realize the gravity of the threat to our liberties that the HHS Mandate represents. This threat is not just to Catholics, or even to religious people. If the government can attack the First Amendment so easily, then none of the freedoms Americans hold dear are safe.

I am going to publish the bishops’ full message concerning this call for penance, prayer and sacrifice to make it easy for you to read it. You can find a wealth of additional ideas, prayers and more detailed information at the USCCB website. I haven’t decided yet which of their suggestions I’m going to take. Which one of them will you do?

Here’s the statement from the USCCB website:

Call To Prayer For Life, Marriage, And

Religious Liberty

 The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice - it’s meant to be simple. … Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society. - Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, from the news releaseabout the Call to Prayer

Join the Movement

  • What: The U.S. bishops have approved a pastoral strategy to advance a Movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. It is essentially a call to prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country. Click here for a one-page handout about the Call to Prayer that is suitable for use as a bulletin insert or flyer.

Unprecedented challenges call for increased awareness and formation, as well as spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful.

  • Why: The well-being of society requires that life, marriage, and religious liberty are promoted and protected. Serious threats to each of these goods, however, have raised unprecedented challenges to the Church and to the nation. Two immediate flashpoints are the following:First is the HHS Mandate, which requires almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to pay for employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs regardless of conscientious objections. This is a clear affront to America’s first freedom, religious liberty, as well as to the inherent dignity of every human person.Second, current trends in both government and culture are moving towardredefining marriage as the union of any two persons, ignoring marriage’s fundamental meaning and purpose as the universal institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with the children born from their union. These challenges call for increased awareness and formation, as well asspiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful, so that we may all be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope and charity.
  • When: In this Year of Faith, starting on the feast of the Holy Family (Dec. 30, 2012) until the feast of Christ the King (Nov. 24, 2013)
  • Who: All of the Catholic faithful are encouraged to participate
  • Where: Throughout the entire country; at your local parish, cathedral, school or home

How To Participate: 5 Ways

1. Host or attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month

5 Ways to Participate:
1) Monthly Holy Hour
2) Daily Rosary
3) Prayers of the Faithful
4) Fasting & Abstinence
5) Fortnight for Freedom 2013

2. Pray a daily Rosary

3. Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses

4. Abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Fridays

  • For the intention of the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty
  • The practice of fasting: The general practice of fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal.
  • “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1438
  • For more information on fasting and abstinence, see the USCCB Fast & Abstinence page

5. Participate in the 2nd Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013)

  • Goal: A visible, vibrant reminder of the God-given nature of religious liberty, the right to bring our faith into the public square, and the rights of individuals and institutions to conduct their professional lives according to their religious convictions
  • Key issue: Potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage in June 2013
  • Key issue: The need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate
  • Key issue: Religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services

 

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.

Missing Your Blessing

I’ve refrained from answering comments about my post on liturgical abuse because I wanted to see what people would say.

It’s been a sad sort of education. Evidently, all that’s necessary for a person to be labelled self-righteous, heretical and told to leave the Church is to say that the Real Presence and healing graces of the mass are more important than liturgical irregularities.

Before I go further with this post, I want to make something clear. Those who say that I am not worthy to be a Catholic are correct. I am not worthy. And I know it. But I don’t think I’m unworthy because I refuse to boil my pastor in oil for allowing applause during the after-mass announcements for the people who put up Christmas decorations.

I am unfit for far more substantial reasons than that. In truth, I never walk into a Catholic Church that I don’t feel just how unworthy I am. Even after all these years, I am grateful — and astonished — that anybody ever let me in. So, if this debate is going to devolve down to me and my sinful, unworthy-to-be-Catholic state, I will short-circuit it by telling you right up front that you are right. I have no business standing in the presence of God. None.

I can only do it because of the Catholic Church and its forgiveness. I am here by the grace of God working through the totally unwarranted kindness that a priest extended to me once upon a time. He just opened the doors and let me in, something I’m sure the liturgy cops would want him punished or censured for doing.

I understand that the Church (not you; not me; but the Church) is responsible for keeping the liturgy whole and handing it forward intact to future generations. I know that conformity to the rubrics is part of this. I’m not arguing with that. I just don’t think it’s the laity’s job to police the liturgy.

I also think that some of the articles I’ve read about this are mean-spirited and hateful (as were a couple of the comments on this blog) and that our priests do not deserve this kind of treatment. I don’t look for mistakes in how my priest says the mass, just as I don’t ask to stay awake during surgery so I can birddog my surgeon.

The mass as it is actually said in parishes all over the world is bound to be imperfect because human beings are imperfect. That is how things are, and how they will continue to be until we share in the banquet of the Great High Priest in Heaven. There is no amount of criticism or angry denouncing that can change this.

People who stand before the miracle of the love of Christ and only see the faults and failings of the priest who has given his life to bring Christ to them in the sacraments confound me. They are blinding themselves to the miracle.

The mass is a living re-enactment of Calvary. It is heaven come down to earth, so that we can be in communion with heaven while we are still here on earth and experience the healing power of the living Christ in the Eucharist. In my opinion, standing before the throne of God and engaging in a petty snipe-fest about this or that “abuse” is itself an abuse.

We cannot experience the miracle of Christ in front of us and indulge our angry obsessions over the faults we see in the liturgy both at the same time. Our brains just aren’t made that way. We will do one. Or we will do the other. Worship Christ, or critique the priest: That is the choice. Those who critique the priest are missing their blessing.

I don’t honestly know if this over-concern with the real and imagined faults of our priests is a genuine concern for the liturgy and a miss-placed attempt at devotion or if it’s an expression of anger over other things. What I do know is that we can trust the Church to do this job of defending the liturgy. The Holy Spirit is going to protect the Church from failing in this regard.

I also know that this is not my job, and it’s not yours. Our job as laity is to worship Christ at the mass; to let the love that is there heal us, and then to go out from there to change the world. We are God’s great change agents for a suffering world. When we indulge these obsessions with what we think the priest is doing wrong, we block ourselves from receiving the graces that are there for us in the mass and unfit ourselves for the battle we were made to fight.

If you walk out of mass seething and angry rather than loved and healed, then you’ve done something wrong while you were there.

I’ve often said that if people were the ones who decided who would go to heaven, then none of us would go. We would all judge one another and send each other to hell. I’m going to amend that to say that if the liturgy cops were the ones who determined who goes to heaven, the rest of us wouldn’t want to go there. These people remind me of the Puritans who first settled this country and who, I’ve read, used to walk up and down during church services with sticks so they could jab anyone who dozed off.

I am not fit to stand before God under any circumstance. And yet I do stand before Him and receive Him in the Eucharist as a free and totally undeserved gift of grace. The Catholic Church makes that possible; the real Catholic Church that is full of imperfect priests who sometimes commit errors while ministering to the confused and imperfect people who sit in the pews.

We are all of us standing before the cross in the solidarity of our sins and lostness. If that isn’t true, then why do we even need the Eucharist? Perfect people have no need of the sacraments or a Church to preserve those sacraments. Perfect people don’t need any Savior but themselves.

If you spend your time in mass looking for faults and picking things apart, then you’re impoverishing yourself with a second rate experience. You’re like a child who refuses to open his present because the bow is crooked.

Do you have any idea what is happening in the world? Do you understand that Christianity is under attack, that the world is a butcher shop, and that these priests bring us the only hope there is? Priests are human beings. I’ve sometimes gotten exasperated with one or another of them, as, I assure you, they have with me. I’ve had disagreements, and rather heated ones, with priests I know. But not over their advice to me about spiritual things.

I have never felt anything but awe when one of these very human men looks down at that wafer and says “This is My body,” and by saying that, makes it so. They bring us Christ in the Eucharist, and, my experience has been, when you’re in trouble and you call them, they come.

When I talk about the people who were at the Christmas Eve mass, I am talking about living miracles of grace. The pillars of the community, illegal immigrants, the gay man, the transsexual, the gabbling ladies, the cop who was supposed to never walk again, and, yes, incredible as it is to say, me. We are all miracles.

The only reason I can say that I am Catholic is because of the love of Christ and the kindness of a priest who helped me when I needed it badly.

This dear priest is also one of the most quick-tempered, sometimes difficult people that I know a big part of the time. But he is God’s man and he, like most of his other brother priests, does his best. I’ve seen God reach right through these men and into suffering people, have experienced it myself, again and again.

They are my brothers in Christ. We, all of us, owe them a debt of gratitude.

 

 

Support Hobby Lobby Day

Support Hobby Lobby: Send a Thank You Note to the Green Family

Support Hobby Lobby in The Fight for Religious Liberty.

The Green family isn’t only fighting for its right to religious liberty, but ours, too. Send a thank you note to the Greens letting them know you’re standing by their side.

Government forced Hobby Lobby to choose:
Violate your conscience and stay in business or remain faithful to your conscience and be penalized up to 1.3 million dollars per day. Hobby Lobby chose to sue the government for their right – and ours – to operate their business in full accord with their faith. Read more about the case here.

 

The Hobby Lobby success story is a true example of the American dream.  Now the Greens want to live another American dream–to be free to do business according to their beliefs.

Support Hobby Lobby:

Send a THANK YOU NOTE TO THE GREEN FAMILY

Jesus was There

I attended mass on Christmas Eve.

There may have been liturgical abuses, were, in fact, according to several articles I’ve read this week by prominent Catholics.

These people evidently bring a spreadsheet to mass so they can tally all the disrupting liturgical abuses they find there. I don’t know how they have time to worship during all the liturgical-abuse minding they must do. I would imagine that a priest, on seeing one of these folks enter his church, must feel the same anxiety that a young bride feels when her mother-in-law comes to call.

It would be difficult to get on the right side of parishioners like these. One of the sadnesses of these articles is that they find such a ready audience among people who evidently go to mass to carp rather than to pray.

Let my tell you what I found at my church on Christmas Eve.

I saw a church that was packed to overflowing with people of every description. There was the rail-thin gay man who almost certainly is suffering with HIV, the odd-looking transexual whose bulging forearms belie the surgeon’s work, the families with screaming babies, the elderly ladies who sat behind me and gabbled their way through the mass, the deaf man who sat next to me and watched intently but never spoke, the young man with gang insignia on his arms, the young police officer who was injured in the line of duty and was never supposed to walk again but who walked, albeit slowly, into church that night. There were pillars of the community and illegal immigrants, packed into the pews together. Last, but not least, there was me and mine.

We (shudder) held hands during the our father, (gasp) applauded the folks who’d spent hours decorating the church and (can you believe this) got up after mass and talked to one another on our way out of the sanctuary.

It was enough to make a liturgical abuse cop foam at the mouth and fall over in a dead faint.

But do you know who else was there?

Jesus was there.

He was there in the eucharist. He was there in the tired, screaming babies, the gabbling ladies, the odd-looking transsexual, the deaf man who couldn’t hear the mass but felt it anyway, the sad, tired HIV sufferer, the miraculously walking police officer and all the chitter-chattering celebrants as they exited to the Narthex. He was there in the priest whose lunch I once interrupted with a call when my mother was ill, and who came immediately to the hospital.

He was there when we held hands during the Our Father, during the applause and the Christmas carols. He was there in the faith and trust of people who don’t give a care about liturgical abuses but who left their homes on a blustery Christmas Eve to go be together before the Lord because they know He is real, He is present and when they enter that sanctuary, He is there.

These are people who have followed Jesus across the rocky landscapes of their rocky lives. They’ve walked with Him through death, life and everything in between. Some of them had walked right over drug addiction, sexual disorders, terrible injuries, loneliness and fear to be there with Him. We are all riddled with sins, failings, weaknesses and shame. That is our condition. And that is why when we walk into a Catholic Church, we are not searching for liturgical abuses and laundry lists of petty crimes and misdemeanors to assure ourselves of our righteousness. We know that our righteousness resides behind that altar, in the tabernacle, because He is there.

I went to mass Christmas Eve. I didn’t go in search of liturgical perfection. I also didn’t go in search of abuses that I could call out and feel self-righteous about. I went because Jesus is there, and He alone has the words that lead to eternal life. I went to be with my Lord.

And I found Him. Because He was there.

Be a Dad

It never occurred to me to put a wish for a Daddy on my Christmas list when I was little.

I already had one of those; a big, boisterous, Daddy who shared a bed with my mother, went to work, came home and would have flat-out killed anyone who tried to hurt me.

Evidently, there are a lot of kids who wish they had something like that. According to an article from the Telegraph, British children’s number ten wish on their list to Santa was for “a Dad.”

This is the time for New Year’s resolutions. My suggestion for the men out there is that if you have children, resolve to be “a Dad” to them.

The Telegraph article reads in part:

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.

But a survey of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.

Despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”. (Read more here.)

Calling Catholics Home

Katrina Fernandez, who blogs at The Crescat posted a great video featuring football coach Lou Holtz encouraging Catholics to “come home” to weekly mass and the sacraments.

I’m reposting it here.

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Illegal Immigrants, Puppet Kings, Mass Murder and Peace Wrapped in Thorns

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents.

It commemorates the terrible slaughter of little boys under two years of age by King Herod. Herod was trying to kill the newborn King of the Jews, the Messiah, because he mistakenly thought that this baby king would one day try to overtake his throne.

Herod was a puppet king, put in place by the Romans to hold things together in what was a little corner of their empire. But even though Israel was small, it held an important place along the trade routes linking Egypt and Rome. Egypt at that time was the breadbasket of the world.

So, uprisings and troubles in this area could not be ignored. They had to be put down.

Much of the history of the New Testament, including the eventual crucifixion of Our Lord, turns on this fact.

Herod was a placeholder. His purpose in the Roman scheme of things was to keep the order in that tiny kingdom of his. He was charged with keeping things calm, collecting taxes and making sure that the trade routes stayed open. If he needed to kill people to accomplish this, he was free to do so.

Herod sat on a wobbly throne. He was subject to the Romans above and threatened by the religious zealots and restless populace below. Since he had Jewish inclinations of his own, he understood the power of the prophesied Messiah on the popular imagination. People were waiting for a warrior king who would free Israel and restore it to glory. Tales of the Maccabean revolts still resonated. It all seemed possible to a puppet king.

When three men from the East dropped by, asking directions to the new born king, that gave what was probably Herod’s always-ready paranoia a new target. Somewhere out there in the little town of Bethlehem his future nemesis was growing up.

After the men who were searching for the baby failed to return to Herod and tell him where this child was, Herod moved to a simpler, more expedient method of eliminating the risk. He ordered the murder of every baby boy under the age of two.

Jesus was wholly human as well as wholly God. Like us, he was born to die. But not then. His time was years in the future. So, God sent an angel to Jesus’ step-father in a dream to tell him to take Mary and the baby Jesus away from there.

I’ve always found it significant that the angel did not come to Mary. Joseph was the protector of that little family. The angel came to him.

And, like good fathers everywhere, he accepted the responsibility of taking care of his family.

Joseph took his wife and baby into exile in Egypt where they stayed for what sounds like a few years. The little boy Jesus and His mother and father learned what it means to be strangers in a strange land. They were refugees, illegal immigrants, alone in a land that did not share their heritage or their faith.

This is a sad tale, a hard beginning to the life that would change the world forever. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were a family facing hardship, hard times, and a struggle for survival just like families have always faced these things: Together.

“My peace I give you,” Jesus would later say. “Peace of Christ,” we say to one another. “The peace that passes all understanding,” Paul described it to us.

Peace.

But like everything thing else about this story, this peace comes wrapped in a crown of thorns.

Hundreds of Utah Teachers Show Up for Weapons Training

Dec. 27, 2012: Clark Aposhian, President of Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun during concealed-weapons training for 200 Utah teachers. (AP)
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/28/teachers-in-utah-ohio-get-free-gun-training/#ixzz2GMPfmSzP

SALT LAKE CITY – Gun-rights advocates in Utah offered six hours of training Thursday in handling concealed weapons for hundreds of Utah teachers in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

The latest effort to arm teachers to confront school assailants was organized by the Utah Shooting Sports Council, which hosted the training session to help educators become eligible for concealed firearm permits, FOX 13 News reported.

More than 200 teachers flocked to the training class in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City. Raye Ann Blauer, a kindergarten teacher, told FOX 13 she is considering using her permit to carry a firearm at school.

“[A]fter everything that happened in Connecticut, I want to be aware of how I can help in the classroom and protect my kids and whatnot. Be aware,” Blauer said. “I think it’s really smart. Especially with everything that’s happened lately.”

English teacher Kevin Leatherbarrow holds a license to carry a concealed weapon and doesn’t see anything wrong with arming teachers in the aftermath of the deadly Connecticut school shooting.

“We’re sitting ducks,” said Leatherbarrow, who works at a Utah charter school. “You don’t have a chance in hell. You’re dead — no ifs, ands or buts.”

In Ohio, a firearms group said it was launching a test program in tactical firearms training for 24 teachers. The Arizona attorney general is proposing a change to state law to allow an educator in each school to carry a gun. (Read more here.)

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/28/teachers-in-utah-ohio-get-free-gun-training/#ixzz2GMPPg8JU

HHS Mandate: Hobby Lobby Will Not Comply Despite Higher Court Ruling

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Attorneys representing Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit against the HHS Mandate announced that the company will not comply with government demands that it pay for insurance for the morning after pill.

This announcement comes despite a ruling by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor that Hobby Lobby will not receive injunctive relief from the Mandate and must begin paying a $1.3 million dollar a day fine if it does not provide insurance coverage for the morning after pill to its employees. Hobby Lobby also announced that it will continue its long-standing practice of providing health insurance coverage for other contraceptives for its employees.

It is incredible to me that abortion advocates are so aggressive in their efforts to force people who do not agree with them to actually participate in abortions. This extends from attempts to force doctors and nurses to participate in performing abortions to the HHS Mandate which seeks to coerce religious organizations and businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, to pay for abortifacients.

The morning after pill can be dangerous to women’s health, especially if it is taken repeatedly. Despite this, it appears that there is a concerted effort to push this high-dose hormone as a contraceptive replacement to be used casually and often.

In addition to the obvious moral and religious objections to an abortifacient drug like this, I think there are other moral objections to it on the basis of women’s health.

Hobby Lobby’s statement says in full:

tatement Regarding Sotomayor Opinion

“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.” — Kyle Duncan, General Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Mor information concerning the case can be found on The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty website.

Reid Says We’re Going Over the Cliff

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid essentially told the Senate that he expects Congress and the President to push the country over the “fiscal cliff.”

I don’t think that Senator Reid was talking to the people of this country, or even the members of the Senate. I believe that the real audience he had in mind for this speech was House Speaker Boehner. This dramatic speech was the Democrats, throwing down with the Republicans. Senator Reid was essentially making a public statement to Boehner, saying, in effect, I see your refusal to negotiate and raise you one massive financial debacle.

These comments of Senator Reid’s are remarkably personal, calling Speaker Boehner a “dictator,” etc.

I doubt if this stand-off is about the “fiscal cliff” or taxes or any other question of policy; at least not now. It has devolved down to which guy is the manliest man.

What does this mean to you and me? It means that the buffalo are fighting in the swamps and we are the frogs who, if things really fall apart, are bound to lose. What is most likely to happen is that, even if these fools push this country over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” they will turn right around and retroactively undo their action with legislation rescinding what they just did.

That, of course, can take weeks, probably until at least half-way through January. What will happen to the markets during those weeks? What will happen to America’s credit rating? For a debtor nation like ours, credit rating is not a small thing.

The question is how far will this who’s-the-manliest-man-around-here claptrap stall and starve our already shaky economy? What will it take to get it going again after they’re all finished with this fight and ready to start on the next one?

The point for me is that these people we’ve elected don’t care nearly so much about this country as they do their partisan loyalties and chest-thumping grandiosity. We have placed our country and our future in their hands. Need I say more?

The NBC News article about Senator Reid’s speech reads in part:

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R) (D-NV) hugs Speaker of the House John Boehner

NBC News Updated 2:48 p.m. – The Senate’s top Democrat said Thursday that he was pessimistic that Washington could avoid the impending fiscal cliff, accusing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of running the lower chamber as a “dictatorship.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was unsure there was enough time between now and the end of the year to reach a deal to avoid the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect on Jan. 1. Reid said “the only viable escape route” was for the GOP-controlled House to give its approval to a Senate bill that would preserve existing tax rates on income under $250,000.
“Everyone knows that if they had brought up the Senate-passed bill, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the speaker says, no we can’t do that,” Reid said on the Senate floor this morning. “It’s [the House] being operated by a dictatorship of the speaker.”
In response, a spokesman for Boehner said in a statement, “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”

Reid’s remarks suggest there has been no thaw in the stalemate that has plagued Washington for weeks, as consensus continues to elude Republicans and Democrats on averting the fiscal cliff. Amid the standoff, President Barack Obama called Reid and Boehner (along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell) late Wednesday from Hawaii. The president traveled back to the White House on Thursday following his brief family vacation. (Read more here.)


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