Because Catholics Really Can Take a Joke (Especially on Laetare Sunday)

Guest post by Allison 
Today, the fourth in Lent, our Church celebrates Laetare Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday. This means we are halfway through our Lenten journeys. The Church in her wisdom, understands that we may need to pause during this pentitential season. One of my parish friends seggests we think of Laetare Sunday as “halftime for Lent.” Among the signs of joy you might have seen this morning at Mass was your parish priest in rose-colored vestments. You might have seen flowers on the altar and you might have the organ at Mass and Vespers.

To keep with the joyful tone of the day, we thought it might be fun to offer our readers a few Catholic jokes, that is the kind of jokes we Catholics tell on ourselves. I had the fun task of compiling them.

These jokes seem to fall into a few categories: jokes about religious orders, jokes about ways we don’t quite comply with Church expectations, and jokes about what happens at the Pearly Gates. (I decided not to include jokes in a fourth category of Catholic humor: those that poke fun at Our Savior, no matter how mildly, or at His  parents, or His relationship with them. I think it’s too easy to slip from fun to disrespect.)

Let’s start with a joke from reader Michelle, who inspired this post when she emailed a very funny one to Webster. Here it is.

Until a child tells you what they are thinking, we can’t even begin to imagine how their mind is working. Little Zachary was doing very badly in math. His parents had tried everything: tutors, mentors, flash cards, special learning centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math. Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him in the local Catholic school. After the first day, the boy came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn’t even kiss his mother hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying. Books and papers were spread out all over the room and Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner. To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. 

This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference. Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room, and hit the books. With great trepidation, His mom looked at it and to her great surprise, Zachary had an A in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity. She went to his room and said, “Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?” Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no. “Well, then,” she replied, “Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? WHAT WAS IT?”
Little Zachary looked at her and said, “On the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren’t fooling around.”

Yes, teaching children the faith can be a challenge. They can so easily be befuddled. I felt  pleased as punch with myself for teaching both our boys the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” early in life. One bedtime when our little one was about four, I felt he was ready to recite the Our Father without prompting from me. And so he began:

Our Father, who are in heaven, Howard be thy name . . .

Reader Dave, who sings tenor alongside Webster in their church choir,  was the very first person to email me a joke. He heard it from Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley in his 2010 Boston Catholic Appeal  last Sunday:

Two US currency bills were ready to be retired after a number of years of service. One was a $20 bill and the other was a $1 bill. The $20 bill said, “It has been a great run. Over the years I have been passed from a number of wonderful things and events. I have paid for meals in some of the best restaurants. I have traveled the world and have paid for things in Europe and all over different parts of the United States. I have been used to pay for tickets to some of the best sporting events and some of the best concerts money could buy. It truly was a great run.” The $20 bill asked the $1 bill, “What about you?” Said the $1 bill, “I have not had as good a run as you. I have spent all of my time being passed form one Catholic offertory collection basket to the next.”

Reader Penny from Louisiana sent in this gem:

A Catholic boy and a Protestant boy were talking and the Catholic boy said, “My priest knows more than your minister.” The Protestant boy said, “Of course he does, you tell him everything.”

Here in New Jersey, my dear friend Judy shared this joke, which the priest told during her elder son’s Confirmation Mass:

A priest was having a terrible time with mice in his church. He’d tried everything—all kinds of traps and poisons. Finally, he called an exterminator. He told the exterminator all the various efforts he had made to get rid of the mice. The man shook his head. “Father, there is really a very simple technique you could use to get rid of the mice. Just confirm them.”

Reader Michael from Virginia emailed me these jokes. He said he heard a lot of jokes about religious orders while a student at Catholic University, mulling a vocation. Here’s the first—

There are three questions that not even God, in all wisdom and knowledge, can answer: 1. Who has more brains, the Jesuits or the Dominicans? 2. How many orders of nuns are there in the world? 3. How much money do the Franciscans have?

And the second—

A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Trappist were marooned on a desert island. They found a magic lamp, and after some discussion decided to rub it. Lo and behold, a genie appeared and offered them three wishes. They decided it was only fair that they could each have one wish. The Jesuit said he wanted to teach at the world’s most famous university, and poof, he was gone! The Dominican wished to preach in the world’s largest church, and poof, he was gone! Then the Trappist said, “Gee, I already got my wish!”

And the third—

Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. “What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?” the one asked.

The second replied, “Well, they were both founded by Spaniards—St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy—the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants.”

“What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?”

“Met any Albigensians lately?”

Jokes about what happens at the Pearly Gates are popular, too. An anonymous reader sent me this joke:

Pope John XXIII arrived at the Pearly Gates and was greeted by Saint Peter, who showed him around and described all the various accommodations in Heaven. The Pope said he would like to meet the Holy Spirit. “In my 2,000 years of greeting arrivals, I’ve never heard this request,” Saint Peter told him. He strolled over to the Sancta Sanctorum, where the Holy Spirit dwells. “Who wants to meet me, Pope John?” “Yes,” said Saint Peter. “Wasn’t he the one who convened the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican ?” “Yes, he was,” Saint Peter said. “I didn’t meet him then,” the Holy Spirit said, “ because I wasn’t there.”

My husband, Greg,  told me this one:

Hall of Fame baseball manager Joe McCarthy [left] arrived at the Pearly Gates and was greeted with great enthusiasm. Saint Peter was thrilled to have the man who had won nine Major League Baseball titles overall and seven World Series championships coach Heaven’s team. What a lineup he would have to work with, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Christy Mathewson!

Practices were going beautifully, until Satan gave McCarthy a call. “You’re never going to win,” Satan told McCarthy. “What are you talking about?” McCarthy asked. “I’ve got the best players in the world.” “Sure you do,” Satan said. “But I’ve got the umpires.”

This last joke is also from my long-suffering Greg.

The Apocalypse came and  a billion men were lined up at the Pearly Gates, awaiting their final dispensation. Saint Peter came out and said, “Those of you whose wives were submissive to you, stand to the left. The rest of you, go over there.” Every single man—except one—moved over into the line indicating their wives had not been submissive. God ambled out and approached the man who stood alone in the line for men with submissive wives. God put his arm around him and with a big smile said, “I am so proud of you for following my guidance. Tell me why you’re standing here.” “My wife told me to,” the man replied.

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 4)

Precisely today, with the Church and even my Pope under attack for scandal in Germany, a cause of great sadness, we’ve never needed St. Joseph more. He is the patron saint of dozens of people and places, including carpenters, fathers, married people, unborn children, and the dying. Since 1847, by decree of Pope Pius IX, he is also the patron of the Universal Catholic Church. Today, our Church needs his intercession.

Since Thursday, I have been tracing just how St. Joseph came into focus after being largely overlooked for the first 1300 years after Christ. Yesterday, it was St. Bonaventure and Jean Gerson who shined a light on the husband of Mary and earthly father of Our Lord. Today, I will look briefly at St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582). As before I am drawing from an essay by Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, in St. Joseph and the Third Millennium, edited by Michael D. Griffin, OCD.

My daughter is being received into the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil, and I have commended St. Teresa to her as a possible patron. I told my daughter that St. Teresa is, for my money, the greatest female saint after Mary. She too is a patron for today: a perfect melding of contemplation (those visions! those voices!) and action. She traveled around Spain in a covered wagon, founding seventeen convents of the reformed Discalced Carmelite order, listening to God while driving a hard bargain, a perfect patroness for my daughter the businesswoman to be.

And who was St. Teresa’s own special patron? St. Joseph, for whom she had a supreme devotion. She believed it was his intercession that saved her from dire illness as a young woman, and she adopted him as her father when she was well again, just as she had adopted Mary after her own mother’s early death. Chorpenning writes that this relationship with St. Joseph “was unprecedented in Christian history and was the foundation for the pivotal role that Teresa would play in disseminating St. Joseph’s cult in the period after the Council of Trent.”

Teresa’s first reformed convent, in her hometown of Avila, was named for St. Joseph. While contemplating this first foundation, St. Teresa heard the voice of God tell her that it should be a “little dwelling corner,” a “little Bethlehem.” St. Teresa would write:

His Majesty earnestly commanded me to strive for this new monastery with all my powers, and He made great promises that it would be founded and that He would be highly served in it. He said it should be called St. Joseph and that this saint would keep watch over us at one door, and our Lady at the other, that Christ would remain with us, and that it would be a star shining with great splendor.

Chorpenning concludes: “Teresa is one of those rare individuals in Christian history who has a profound consciousness of the inseparability and integrity of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

To conclude, here’s more from the homily for the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ:

The pages of the Bible tell us little about Joseph. But they tell us enough to know something of our heavenly patron. Not a single word of his has been recorded for us. He pondered, yes; that is expressly attested to. But he spoke little, so little that these words did not have to be transmitted to posterity. We know that he was a descendant of the noble lineage of David, the greatest in his nation’s history. But that was the past that the present, in its sober poverty, had yet to make perceptible. This present, however, was the hard life of one insignificant carpenter in a tiny village in one corner of the world. For the poor this present meant paying taxes and standing in line.

It was the destiny of the “displaced person,” who had to seek scanty shelter among strangers, until the political situation again permitted a return to his homeland, the homeland that he must have loved, since he renounced living in the neighborhood of the capital city and stayed in the “province” country of Galilee. He lived very inconsipicuously in his Nazaareth, so that the life of his family furnished no spectacular background for the public appearance of Jesus (Lk 4:22). However, this humble routine of the life of an insignificant man concealed something else: the silent performance of duty.

[To be continued tomorrow]

Oh, blessed St. Joseph, patron of our Church in troubled times, pray for us!

Because God is the Only Hypothesis Necessary

In my work writing the history of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, I have interviewed dozens upon dozens of leading physicians, surgeons, and biomedical researchers. Recently, I have begun asking many of them a question: Is there any room for God in your world of biomedical science? Friday I received an answer that took me aback.

Jack Szostak, PhD, is a 2009 Nobel Prize-winner for Physiology or Medicine. He has had a “bench,” lab space, at the MGH for over 25 years. He has moved on from the work for which he and two non-MGH colleagues won the coveted Nobel. Today, he and his lab are trying to create life as it might have been created 13 billion years ago. I can’t give you the technical specifics, but clearly Dr. Szostak, an engaging, mild-mannered native of Montreal, is working on the fundamental hypothesis that life resulted from random collisions of chemicals and mutations of the building-block molecules that resulted. I asked him if he thought there was a place for God in this world.

“No,” he said with a shy smile. “I’ve never been a religious person. Who was it who said that God is an unnecessary hypothesis?” He couldn’t recall, but I looked it up later. It was French scientist Pierre Laplace who said it.

My purpose in asking this question of doctors and scientists is not to launch an argument that would throw my writing project off track. It’s more of a personal inquiry, a spiritual curiosity question. I have no beef with Dr. Szostak, but I see the world differently.

God is really the only hypothesis that is necessary, and becoming a Catholic has given me day-to-day experience in trying to live that hypothesis in its fullness. In thinking about why God is necessary, I have been buoyed by the writing of Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation. Whatever the ultimate reality is, Don Giussani says, it must correspond not only with our minds (truth must be reasonable) but also with our hearts (truth must correspond to the deepest needs and stirrings of our nature). Science looks at the world with the mind alone. CL and all Catholicism look at the world with the mind and heart joined.

If you leave the heart out of the equation—and of course if you put aside fundamental questions about what made those first chemicals and the laws by which they interact and so on back to a Prime Mover—it’s quite easy to make God unnecessary for one’s mind alone.

But God didn’t make us mere brains on a stick, now did He?

An Anglican Asks: What About a Non-Catholic Spouse?

Last weekend, we posted a question from EPG, an Anglican reader of YIM Catholic. The question was, Do Catholics go overboard with Mary? Thirty of you answered, in a comment thread that is a virtual encyclopedia of Marian experience. Now here’s another question that some would-be converts might ask, and it’s not an easy one. It’s a question for those received into the Catholic Church as adults with a husband or wife who is not Catholic, not interested in Catholicism, or perhaps even hostile to Catholicism:

EPG asks: “How did you handle questions, biases, anger, misinformation, etc., in the middle of your own discernment?  Did resistance, opposition, confusion, feelings of hurt or betrayal from a husband or wife create difficulties in your process of discernment and reception?  How did you address the issues that did come up?”

Even if you aren’t in this narrow category, even if you’re a cradle Catholic married to another Catholic, I think you can shed some light on this for EPG. From my own experience, as a convert married to a cradle Catholic, I know that whenever two spouses practice their faith(s) in differing ways, it can create tensions in a marriage, sometimes simply through misunderstanding: She thinks she’s so devout! He thinks I think he’s not devout. . . .

So here’s message one for EPG: Converts discerning about Catholicism should not feel alone in this.

Your thoughts, readers?

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 3)

For the past two and a half years, I have been working on a history of the Massachusetts General Hospital, to be published in the MGH bicentennial year of 2011—if I can keep hitting the deadlines, that is. Many times I have walked between buildings at the hospital, but only yesterday did I pay attention to this statue, which stands behind the Catholic Church abutting the hospital complex. The church is St. Joseph’s.

What I find lovely and unusual about this vision of St. Joseph is that here he is not with Jesus but with a young, barefoot girl, who looks up hopefully into his eyes. I have decided to name the girl Teresa.

Devotion to St. Joseph, expressed beautifully in the statue, really got started in late medieval times, according to an essay by Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, in the book Saint Joseph and the Third Millennium. Two influences were important, according to the author.

St. Bonaventure (1221–1274) was a Franciscan theologian whose Meditations on the Passion are a sort of summary of medieval spirituality. Like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius three centuries later, the Meditations exhorted readers to meditate imaginatively on the life of Christ, beginning with the life of the Holy Family. On the flight into Egypt, the reader is told, “Accompany them and help to carry the Child and serve them in every way you can.” Chorpenning’s essay shows how devotion to St. Joseph began growing alongside a widening awareness of the Holy Family.

Jean Gerson (1363–1429), a chancellor of the University of Paris, was more direct. He “conducted an active campaign to rescue St. Joseph from the relative neglect of earlier periods, to correct mistaken notions about him found in the apocryphal gospels and often reflected in art and in literature, and to promote his cult among the faithful. Gerson systematically reworked St. Joseph’s image from that of an aged, ineffective attendant to the Virgin and Christ Child to a vigorous, youthful man who was the divinely appointed head of God’s household, . . . an industrious provider for the Holy Family, and, along with his spouse Mary, an exemplar of holy matrimony.”

But enough history for one morning! Let’s continue with the homily for the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ, in which he begins to lay out reasons why St. Joseph is a saint for our times:

Certainly every Christian and every Christian nation are charged with the entire fullness of Christian perfection as a duty that is never completed. But every nation and every human being have, so to speak, their own door, their own approach, through which they alone can come nearer to the fullness of Christianity. Not all of us will find access to the boundless vistas of God’s world through the great gate of surging rapture and burning ardor. Some must go through the small gate of quiet loyalty and the ordinary, exact performance of duty. And it is this fact, I am inclined to think, that can help us to discover a rapport between earth and heaven, between Christians today and their heavenly intercessor.

[To be continued tomorrow]

Blessed St. Joseph, who stand at the “small gate of quiet loyalty and the ordinary, exact performance of duty,” pray for us!

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies IV

This is your trusty co-pilot checking in again. We are continuing our slow descent and are currently at 17,000 feet with good visibility, but with reports of some heavy weather up ahead. So for your safety, please keep your seat belt fastened when you aren’t moving about the cabin. [Read more...]

Thanks to Christian Friends like Sue

Guest post by Allison 
In many ways, my friend Sue and I are as contrasting can be.The labels we wear? Sue: Sunny Californian. Single. Evangelical Christian. Me: Jersey Girl. Married. Practicing Catholic. Despite our asymmetry, and thanks to my sisterly friendship with Sue, I am becoming a better Catholic.

Sue grew up near me in our fancy New York suburb. Both our dads were surgeons. Her family was Evangelical and mine was Catholic. While we rode the same school bus, I didn’t know Sue and her sisters terribly well. Sue’s family moved away to Southern California in 1978, where her dad opened a plastic-surgery practice. Frankly, I had not thought of Sue or her family until her name popped up on my Facebook page, suggesting we become “friends.”

Over the past year, Sue and I have shared numerous emails about our lives and our faith journeys. As one would expect from two women with different Christian faith traditions, we disagree on some doctrinal issues. But what joins us is much more powerful than what separates us. Through our cyber-relationship (I have yet to talk with her on the phone or see her in person), I now consider Sue a spiritual sister.

Sue is a novelist and painter who works for Jews for Jesus in Westwood Village. She seems to have an unshakable faith in God. Life has handed her some heartaches, yet she always projects hope.

For example, when I had a run-in with someone in my parish and was contemplating leaving that particular ministry, I emailed Sue. I felt betrayed by this person and hurt to the core. How could someone behave this way in a church? “I don’t need this,” I wrote Sue. I was struggling. I knew Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother seventy-seven times. But did this rule really apply here? This person was toxic.

Sue offered a different perspective. “Stay with it,” she said. “I think they were just having a bad day.” Her generous heart and wise counsel enabled me to persevere. I am glad I did; we are all so flawed, aren’t we? I can learn far more as a Christian from bearing with my fellow travelers, and having them bear with me, than from walking away in anger, hurt, and condemnation.

Sue also has helped me in another difficult relationship in my life; someone with whom I once was close and who has done some terrible deeds. She regularly prays for them. She tells me God watches over all of us, even when we stumble and fall. She told me this person still is in God’s loving care.

I don’t yet have as generous a heart as Sue, or as brave and forgiving a spirit. As a Catholic Christian, I appreciate the depth of her Christian experience and the wise counsel of my spiritual sister. We encourage one another in our walk of faith.

And now, let me ask you, what friends who are not Catholic have helped deepen your Catholic faith?

God Takes Care of Little Ones with Guardian Angels

Over the past day, we’ve had a crisis in our home, a crisis of epic dimensions with which anyone with a school-aged child is familiar: our son lost his homework.

Now, this wasn’t just any piece of homework. It was a book project in 12 sections. Our 10-year-old read a biography of Hank Aaron, not a kids’ book, but  a book for adults that he found on my husband Greg’s bookshelves.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve guided him step by step through the project, setting up deadlines for this bear of an assignment to make sure he met today’s deadline. And last night, as he was going to put the finishing touches on the project, he discovered he’d lost it. I knew, I just knew, there had to be a life lesson in this one. I told him so. But it took me a while to figure out what it was.

After our son discovered the project was missing from his school folder, all four of us searched our entire home for it without success. He was apopleptic. He was so upset with himself he could not finish the remaining pieces of the project, including putting a face on his bust of Hank Aaron, and copying over a small thesaurus he had written. He was so angry he could not study for today’s history test. Off to bed he went, in tears and with our prayers following him up the stairs. Before Greg went to bed, he went into our son’s room, gave him a big hug and told him how proud we are he works so hard in school. I prayed myself to sleep.

When I awoke at 6:30 this morning, our son was already awake and downstairs, putting the face on his Hank Aaron bust. (pictured above). He called upstairs and asked me to come downstairs as soon as I could to help him redo the thesaurus. When he finished, he asked me to prep him for the history test.

As I drove our son to school I told him I understood his frustration. I had lost important work myself. I told him  rewriting the project would be easier than writing it the first  time. “There is a life lesson in this,” I told him. “What is it?’ he asked. I was going to respond that perhaps next time he would figure out a way to keep track of his work better. But then I thought, making mistakes is an inevitable part of living. Surely that cannot be the life lesson.

As I pulled up to the school, I realized what I needed to say. “The life lesson is that God will take care of you, no matter what happens.” “Okay,” he said, nodding.

I watched our son walking through the school yard, his massive backpack hanging from his small frame. I imagined an angel walking beside him. I remembered how I learned as a child that each of us has a guardian angel.. I used to pray to mine before I went to sleep each night. As our catechism teaches: “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their (the angels) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God.”

I’ve never told our son about his angel, or how to pray to him. Angel of God, my guardian dear, To whom God’s love commits me here, Ever this day, be at my side, To light and guard, Rule and guide. Amen.

I could tell you whether our son found the project at school in his desk or locker or if I found it under a sofa at home. I could tell you whether the due date he cited was the actual one, or whether the project was already overdue or not due until next week. But none of that would be the point. I have come to believe that our son lost his project so that God could introduce him to His angels.

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 2)

As a reader commented yesterday, when I began a novena in anticipation of his feast day, March 19, St. Joseph is the silent man in the Gospels. He speaks not a word, although Matthew and Luke both show him acting decisively in response to the Word of God. Much of what we “know” about St. Joseph is apocryphal; many images of him, for example, the old man holding a staff from which a lily sprouts (left), are derived from the Protoevangelium of James and other texts discredited by Church Fathers. Most modern scholars seem to agree that Joseph was in fact a young man, making his virginal marriage far more impressive.

St. Joseph was silent and pretty much unnoticed for the first 1200 years of Christian history. There is little record of devotion to him during that period. In his essay “Theological Reflections on Devotion to Saint Joseph,” Michael Griffin, OCD, writes: “Though the Church from the beginning was aware that Mary was given to be the spiritual mother of all, it is a fact that consciousness of Saint Joseph as the spiritual father and protector of every Christian was only gradually arrived at.”

As I will be telling in subsequent posts, devotion to St. Joseph and, by extension, to the Holy Family began at the time of the Franciscans (13th Century) and St. Joseph alone has been an increasingly important figure for Popes since the late 19th century. I’ll conclude this short post today with the next paragraphs in a homily for the Feast of St. Joseph written by Karl Rahner, SJ, which began yesterday. It reflects a consensus that in some way the Holy Spirit “reserved” devotion to St. Joseph for our troubled times:

The blessed men and women with whom we have fellowship in the communion of saints are not pale shadows. Rather, they have brought over into the eternal life of God the fruits of their earthly life, and thus have brought with them their own personal uniqueness.

Their God even calls them by name in the one today of eternity. They are ever the same as they were in the unique history of their own lives. We single out one individual from among them to honor him as our heavenly protector and intercessor, because his own individuality means something unique and irreplaceable to us. We mean that between him and us there exists a specific rapport that makes him a special blessing for us and assigns a special duty to us, if we are to be worthy of his protection.

From this point of view, is it possible to think that Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin and foster father of our Lord, is particularly suited to be a patron of a twentieth-century person? Is it possible to think that anyone living today will be able to see himself reflected in Joseph? Are there not people today who, if they are true to their character as willed by God, are a people of small means, of hard work, of only a few words, of loyalty of heart and simple sincerity?

[To be continued tomorrow]

Oh blessed St. Joseph, virginal husband of Mary, pray for us!

YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity” Week 8

This week we read Book IV, Chapters 6, 7, and 8.
I have a close friend who suggested to me to give you lubberly book club members questions to help motivate you to read and comment on CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity. To which I say, Phooey on that! Maybe you guys all finished the book three weeks ago and didn’t tell me about it. Jimmy-crack-corn and-I don’t-care!

Oh, what’s that? You don’t know what lubberly means? Look it up, lazy bones. Because here’s the thing: if you quit reading or you’ve gotten side-tracked, or you just don’t understand what CSL is saying, that’s not my fault. And it’s your loss too, because Jack has been saving the best for last.

Much like last week, I’ll skip the chapter by chapter grind and leave the majority of comments up to you. That didn’t work really well last time but so be it. Interestingly, Jack issues a wake-up call this week and quite frankly we all need to hear it. I wrote a post last week on the difficulties of walking The Way. Jack backs me up this week but also clarifies something. The Way is hard and easy. But before we tackle that concept, look what Jack says here:

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run.

Lots of great stuff like that from Jack this week. He discusses why we were given free will by God. Sure, it’s a two-edged sword, but it’s better than being a slave or a robot. Want to make everybody into a little you? Jack talks about why that is a bad idea, and why it isn’t Gods plan. Tempted not to give a hoot about anyone but yourself? Sure you are, but Jack sheds light on why that is no solution either. For practical application of this, see Webster’s post on Anna Deveare Smith.

Jack’s writings in these chapters force you to look deep inside at the real you. Courage, me hearties! Are you an Individualist, a Totalitarian, or somewhere in between?  And

What difference does all this theology make? It can start making a difference tonight. If you are interested enough to have read thus far you are probably interested enough to make a shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s Prayer.

The fact that Jesus taught us to pray by first saying the words Our Father should astound you from reading Mere Christianity this far, if it didn’t amaze you already. You may or may not know that this alone, calling God Father, is impossible for Muslims, for example.

Have you ever heard the expression fake it until you make it? Jack endorses this as a way to begin the process of transforming ourselves into the new person we must become to be Christians. Now we are getting to the hard and the easy I alluded to earlier. Jack even flips this on its head by claiming that maybe God is the one doing the pretending:

The Three-Personal God, so to speak, sees before Him in fact a self-centered, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human animal. But He says, “Let us pretend that this is not a mere creature, but our Son. It is like Christ in so far as it is a Man, for He became Man. Let us pretend that it is also like Him in Spirit. Let us treat it as if it were what in fact it is not. Let us pretend in order to make the pretence into a reality.”

Golly, looking in the mirror like that makes me wince. How’s that for shaking up your world view? I was bantering with Webster via e-mail the other day about an upcoming post, and I said something that prompted him to respond that he is glad he isn’t married to a Marine. I sent him back this from Jack with the reply of “Yeah, look what you’ve married into now”—

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

I think I’ve said before that, for me anyway, the Marine Corps was a cake-walk compared to being a Christian. Jack summed it up nicely here, don’t you think? You really can’t continue on as you were before. And in case you think you can, I’ll leave you to ponder how Our Lord considers the lukewarm.

Your thoughts on this week’s readings (and even the previous weeks’—sheesh!) in the comment box are appreciated.

Next week, we finish by reading Book IV, Chapters 9, 10, and 11.