Hey Gen-X: Be Rebels…Slow Down…Have Kids…Stick it to the Man

It’s the Catholic thing to do. Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing, as the survey below reports, and continue on the treadmill to oblivion.

Study Finds Gen-X Overlooked in the Workplace

A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy finds that despite being the smallest generation (46 million), Generation X might be “the most critical generation of all” for employers.

Gen Xers are of an age (33 to 46 years old) that should put them at the prime of their lives and careers, stepping into leadership roles and starting families. However, a recent study, titled “The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation,” reveals that due to challenges and circumstances out of their control, Gen Xers are taking a different life path.

That’s it…we’ll get them to plead “it’s out of my control” and before they realize it, their “prime years” will be gone ( and be all ours). Bawahahahahahahahahahahaha!

The study found a large number of Gen Xers are choosing not to have children. Their extreme work schedules (nearly a third of high earning Gen Xers work 60+ hours a week), strong career ambition, the current economic challenges, as well as changing mores, and life choices are all factors that contribute to their high level of childlessness compared to other generations.

Looks like we got ‘em right where we want ‘em. Keep working harder kids…that’s the answer! Besides, no babies and no diapers equals no little league games, no soccer, no ballet recitals to attend. This way, you can just keep grinding away for Mammon and the man. 60 hour work weeks can become 70 hour work weeks.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1978, might be called the “wrong place, wrong time” generation, says the Center for Work-Life Policy. They were hit by an economic triple whammy: college-related debt, multiple boom and bust cycles (including the 1987 stock market crash, occurring just as Gen X entered the work force), and the housing slump. As a result, Gen X is the first generation not to match their parents’ living standards.

And they just might not ever…if they stick to our evil plan. Snicker, snicker.

While these economic woes have impacted most generations, they have hit Gen X the hardest in their work lives, the study found. Due to their own financial concerns, Boomers (grrrrrrr) are not retiring and are choosing instead to work an average of nine years longer than anticipated. This delays Gen X’s career progression, resulting in their feeling stalled in their careers and dissatisfied with their rate of advancement.

Heh. And perhaps we can convince them that it is more important to save for retirement, and worship at the altar of the almighty $$$ than it is to tend to their souls. Cackle, cackle.

Go read the rest here. Like I say in the title, continue to play the game to the world’s music and Gen-X will go down in flames (and so will the “Millenials” and all of us). Go the other way, dare I say it, the Catholic way, and you won’t. And even if you still crash, you’ll have at least lived your life to the fullest.

For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?

Exactly! The girls can tell you,

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And the boys too,

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All together now,

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For Your Holiday Friday Night at the Movies: Soul Surfer

Are you ready for Summer to be over and for the kids to head back to school? Well guess what. My kids have been back in school since 3 weeks ago. Ugh! But just like the kids who don’t start school until after Labor Day, their consolation is a long weekend now.

So my daughter (I can’t believe she’s taller than my wife now!) asked if we could watch the following movie: Soul Surfer. We missed it when it was in the theaters, and I remember that the reviews for it were decent, though not smashing (“we’ll wait for the DVD”), so my wife jumped on it.

The true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith.

What a great story that helps to put things in perspective for us. Starring Dennis Quaid (Remember The Rookie and The Right Stuff? I love that guy!) and Helen Hunt (Twister!).

Check out the trailer,

The bonus for waiting on the DVD? The 30 minute documentary The Heart of a Soul Surfer. Here’s a taste,

My kids have all finished their homework and are ready for 3 glorious days off, one last long weekend before the long haul to Thanksgiving. Who’s making the popcorn?!

For Thoughts on Our Adversary by Fray Francisco de Osuna

No, this isn’t about Uncle Sam, patriotism, or anything like that. This is part two of a series on the work of on-going personal conversion that I started yesterday. Milk drinkers beware, because meat and potatoes are coming your way.  Bring your knives and forks and spoons. Napkins are optional.

Last December, I wrote of a minor miracle regarding me and Fray Francisco de Osuna. Come to think of it, St. Anthony of Padua probably had something to do with it too, as I thought a book was lost, and it was found. Francisco, see, was a Franciscan, and he wrote the book I misplaced, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, that had a huge impact on St. Teresa of Avila. Information like that gets my attention, pronto.

For me, Fray Francisco became a mentor of sorts. Sure, he’s dead and gone, and not an official saint, but if reading his book helped out the Carmelite superstar mentioned above, then I figured he could help me out too. I didn’t know too much about Franciscans at the time, except that they were founded by the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. But for a guy that was cloistered, Fray Francisco sure seemed an expert on human nature. And his command of the scriptures, as you’ll soon see, put this RCIA attending “soon to be former” Protestant “Bible-expert” at ease.

As for his “peace-loving” Franciscan side? Well, don’t you dare try and stereotype my mentor. Besides, the combat he refers too is spiritual, though it involves the physical as well. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as Sir Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a Spanish accent. However, instead of spouting modernist, Manichean, New Age, Star Warsian psycho-babble from under his brown wool habit, he’s teaching Catholic orthodoxy. The kind that, with me anyway, never goes out of style.

Take for instance the following passage from the seventh letter of “the Alphabet.” What’s this section all about? “How We Are To Cast Out Evil Thoughts, Saying: Thoughts Start War if the Gate is not Closed.” What follows is from the first chapter of this treatise. Remember my affinity for the military genius from ancient China, named Sun Tzu? My mentor Fray Francisco could teach him a thing, or two.

Chapter 1: The Devil’s Army

Astute captains always keep soldiers in reserve so that when they rush into a losing battle, the soldiers who thought themselves overwhelmed will take heart at the support, and their joy and renewed efforts will discourage the enemy. This is exemplified in the valiant, gentle captain Joshua who in the fight against the city of Hai placed five thousand men in ambush on one side of the city and thirty thousand on the other side, while he with the main body of soldiers stood openly against the city. He pretended to flee before the citizens, who ran out in pursuit, while the thirty thousand came and took the city, and the five thousand resisted those who returned to defend it; thus, with some helping others, they all enjoyed total victory. (Joshua, Chapter 8)

Just a quick note from your Marine Corps trained editor. See what I mean? Fray Francisco speaks the lingo that resonated with the recently retired Leatherneck. And now, we meet the adversary.

This strategy of clever warriors is no less known by that skilled soldier, the devil, to whom the words of the Maccabeans are applicable: “He fought many battles and took the fortresses of all, and killed the kings of the earth. He went through even to the ends of the earth and took spoils of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him. And he gathered great power and a very strong army, and his heart was exalted and lifted up. And he subdued the countries and nations, and princes became tributaries to him.” (1 Maccabees 1:2-5)

This passage describes the unjust, exceedingly prideful Alexander (Ed: Alexander the Great), who through great force became lord of what was in no justifiable sense his. He represents the devil, not only in deed but in name, for his name means the very strong, and so it can be said of him that he was a very strong and warring man, the son of a whore (Judges 11:1) His evil guilt and sin are expressed by his wicked mother whose son he became when he obeyed her and heeded the counsel of iniquity.

This devilish and most strong Lucifer, like the other Alexander, fought and fights each day many unjust battles; he took the fortresses of all when he conquered our first parents, leaving us vanquished like the subjects of a captured king. He killed the kings of the earth, who were our first parents, whom God created to rule all inferior things, when he caused them to offend God Your Majesty and be sentenced to death. He killed them, as it were, because he said they would not die for their offense, but that in itself was the reason they perished.

And it says he passed through to the end of the earth, which is human flesh corrupted by iniquity, and God says that this end has come before him in lament (Genesis 6:11-13). This passing through the earth is original sin, which goes from one to another like a perpetual burden, as slavery is handed down from mother to child, or corrupton spreads from the roots of the tree, or force of yeast affect the entire dough, or the poison of the salamander invades the tree’s fruit, for Pliny says that if the salamander touches the roots of the tree, its entire fruit and all the tree will be infected.

See Isaiah 14:12

Thus the devil passes by to take possession of mortals and steals immense wealth when he leads into sin many who previously were rich in grace. And if they do not resist, the earth becomes quiet before him, which in itself suffices to make them his. The devil gathers a great army from among the defeated, forcing them to fight against those as yet unconquered, and he protects them and arms them with cleverness like his own so that they constitute a crowd of sinners whose hearts burst with deviltry and who are more skillful than the devil himself.

He can muster such an army because there is no earthly power to equal his (Job 41:24). He took countries of nations, especially because the Gentiles worshipped him (as Alexander probably did), and as Christ explains, the tyrants became his tributaries when he named himself prince of this world (John 12:31). The tyrants are lesser devils who serve him continually, albeit against their will, for if they do not consent to honor God in heaven, even less do they wish to be subjects of Lucifer.

This extraordinarily strong warrior who, like Goliath, is trained for battle since youth (1 Samuel 17:33), fights in the style I began to describe: that is, he keeps soldiers in reserve and divides his army into three groups for a more clever attack. He orders one squadron after another into the skirmish so that if his enemy succeeds against the first, the second will defeat him, and the third, as seen in the image from the book of Kings: Three companies went out from the camps of the Philistines to fight (1 Samuel 13:17).These Philistines, who are demons, pitch their tents in the field of malice and assemble their trops in three battalions.

Luxury is the first battalion and it marches forth heavily armed and provided with everything necessary to win. St. Bernard says this battle engages every rank or class of people: all ages, the ugly, the beautiful, the great and small, the healthy and the sick –in short, the entire human race.

Many manage to escape from their ferocious opponent, but then the battalion of Pride rushes in, armed with offices, riches, honor, and such things, and those who did not wish to sully themselves in what they considered the obscenity of the first vice now fall victim to the second precisely because it seems so clean in contrast with the first and less blameworthy for the reason that so many people commit it.

If they overcome the second battalion, the third surely defeats them, for these soldiers are more ferocious and cunning, being the demons themselves who have come to battle men by thrusting into their imaginations a whole throng of spiritual vices, as expressed by the image of Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18), who launched his entire army and power against Jerusalem.

St. Paul advised the faithful about this: “Take comfort, brothers, in the Lord and the strength of his power. Put on the armor of God to counter the devil’s tricks. For now we do not contend just with flesh and blood, but with princes and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits over heavenly things (Ephesians 6: 10-12).”

The apostle’s words prove the seriousness of the battle in that first he warns us that the battle will be strenuous and we will need the armor of God’s favor and effort, since our own is inadequate against such infamy, and second, he refers to trickery, which implies malice as well as strength. Third, he emphasizes the grievousness of the battle by stating that it is no mere contest of flesh and blood and by naming the demons with lofty titles so as to evoke their tremendous power to battle spiritual opponents for what he calls heavenly things, those which the commentary explains are the virtues and souls of the faithful against whom the third assault is launched.

The first two attacks are physical, clear to see, and involve the body rather than the spirit. But the third hurls a host of evil thoughts to irritate and wear us down, and our letters says concerning these: “Thoughts start war if the gate is not closed.”

It seems that in the first two battles the devil leaves the fighting to his soldiers, those who take his side: that is, the flesh, which is the first vice to plague man, and the world, which supports the devil against Christ. But when the devil sees that his companions and vassals, who are other demons, are defeated and that person has withstood successfully the siege of these two vices and lives chastely and totally devoted to God, then it can be said of him: “He sent against them the heat of indignation, anger, and fury, and tribulation, a multitude of agents of misfortune; he opened a way for his anger and he did not save them from death.” (Psalm 77:49-50)

Is your milk getting curdled yet? Perhaps it is fitting to recall that Blessed Pope John Paul II recommend the following to the flock,

“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

A Reply to a Scold from a Priest Regarding the Corapi Kerfuffle

I hadn’t intended to write another word about John Corapi. In fact, I even closed off the comments in my recent post and left readers links to follow the story so I could just enjoy my Father’s Day in peace. That was the plan, anyway.

But I received an e-mail this morning from a Catholic priest upset over my “Mr. Corpai Goes. I Stay” post. As you will find in the sidebar, I subscribe to the well known Welborn Protocol when it comes to correspondence. So here is the note in it’s entirety followed by my reply.

Frank,

Your comments regarding Fr. Corapi are remarkably cruel. Once an accusation is made, the priest is automatically suspended period. The suspension is indefinite. It is not the priest’s choice in any way. He may not wear clerical garb, use any honorific titles, preach or engage in any sort of sacramental ministry. The priest is at a disadvantage from the get-go and rarely if ever is vindicated. Thank the good Lord Corapi is a religious in that he can return to his community so he has a place to live and food. Diocesan priests in his situation do not have that to fall back on.

The magnitude of the injustice is hard to fathom. Everyone has a right to his reputation and his good name.

Whether or not Fr. Corapi’s message, style, and ministry appealed to you is beside the point. Yes, life will indeed go on whether or not he is preaching, etc. But to write in such a cavalier fashion about a priest’s life and ministry that is now thoroughly destroyed is really mean spirited.

You do no service to the Faith by writing as you did regarding Fr. Corapi.

In His Name,

Fr. B

Dear Father B,

I appreciate your note, though I am at a loss to see how I was as “cruel” with Corapi as you feel I was. Actually, I didn’t even get warmed up. Indeed, the post that I believe you are referring to is only the second time I have ever even written about the Corapi kurfuffle.

Help a brother out!

In the first instance, I wrote a lay pastoral note, if there is such a thing, to those who followed him, giving them suggestions on how to spend their time strengthening their life of faith. I hope you do not find fault with that. Surely brothers and sisters in the faith must encourage one another when the going get’s rocky.

And in Corapi’s case, he knows who his accuser is. He’s said so repeatedly, and even said in his latest announcement that she is “the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life.” Honesty, after all, is the best policy. As for the investigation process, I look to others for guidance. I humbly know my limitations.

I’m just a simple man, Fr. B, and a relatively new Catholic. One of the many things that impresses me about Catholic priests and religious is that they take vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. They sacrifice much for the reward of leading people in the faith. The priests bring us the Sacraments, so that our travail in this valley of tears through life on earth are made bearable. Thanks be to God for this.

Later on, I learned that not all priests take the vow of poverty. Though most Diocesan priests aren’t exactly wealthy, some are. Either way, the same safety net that is extended to every citizen of this country is extended to priests and religious as well. Unemployment compensation, Social Security, etc. All are covered, including unemployed priests. I’m not sure if Mr. Corapi qualifies for unemployment now that he has resigned from the priesthood though. I think you actually have to lose your job for a different reason than quitting it in order to collect unemployment compensation. I could be wrong on this.

Anyhow, as the Corapi kerfuffle continued to unfold, I ran into other stories about how not only did Corapi not take a vow of poverty, but that he set up a “for-profit” media empire instead. That he lived in a sumptuous mansion and estate out West. Owning multiple homes and, for all I know, maybe he has a private helicopter too. Granted, I don’t know whether these stories are all true or not (I hope the truth all comes to light somehow), but I understand that the order he was affiliated with, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, basically didn’t make a single penny from all of the books, tapes, and speaking engagements that he sold over the course of his career as a Catholic priest.

Feed me $$$, sheep.

As a rookie lay Catholic, I’m not sure why anyone in the Church heirarchy would give any priest carte blanch to make a ton of money off the flock, you know, Elmer Gantry style, that didn’t somehow wind up helping the poor in Mother Teresa’s mission field, or in some other way that helped spread the Good News to the world. This raises serious questions in my mind. Questions that I hope those who are better versed, and who have deeper knowledge in these matters than I, pursue and bring to resolution. I’m just Joe Six-Pack, USMC. At best, all I can do is handle ridiculous pseudo-dramas like this in a cavalier manner.

As the drama continued to spin, frequently from late Friday afternoon Scud missiles launched from Corapi’s lair at Santa Cruz Media, there were other things I heard as time went on. Like when someone in the past had busted Corapi’s chops when he had claimed to have enlisted in the Army with a guarantee for Special Forces training. But, as the Corapi version of the story goes, due to a training accident (an unlikely one involving a helicopter) he wound up as a clerk-typist in Germany instead, making outstanding clerk-typists, who serve in the military with honor the world over, look bad in the bargain. If this episode, claiming Special Forces training and black-belt fighting skills, etc. is true Father, then it is just plain wrong.

News flash: No one enlists with guarantees for Special Forces training. Not in my military experience anyway. No, first you endure all the regular training, spend some time in your specialty, and only then can you apply for, and appear before selection boards for, special duties like I did when I became a Marine Security Guard. Anyone who claims that they were guaranteed the Green Beret in the local Army recruiters office definitely does not pass the “smell test.” That is unless you’re looking for the “Stinky Cheese Man.” I am not.

So now, a short three months later, the world learns that Corapi is giving up his vocation as a Catholic priest, and instead is launching a new, and I reckon “improved,” venture with a new name and a creepy photograph of a (dyed?) black canine eyeing sheep and wolves with equally malevolent stares. So I said what you perceived as a cruel thing:

As for me and my house, we won’t be waiting for salvation via Pirate Radio broadcasts from Mr. John Corapi anytime soon. We’ve better things to do. And better speeches to read.

Happy Fathers Day!

Guess what else we won’t be doing? Buying his books and tapes to hear his side of the story. You know how the Dark Lord monologue will go. On and on about how he has been unjustly treated by the evil bishops who felt threatened by his zeal for all the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty™ (registered trademark by BlackDogUp! Enterprises) that he was bringing to the flock. Time for a reprise of my other cruel remark:

“Yawn.”

Have a listen to this classic by Nick Lowe before moving on to the next segment of my reply, if you please.

Yes indeed, I reckon sometimes we must be cruel to be kind, in the right measure. Get angry a bit, because it is no sin to get angry. Christ was angered when the temple was being used as a marketplace. As the scriptures note, He broke out a whip and scrambled that egg with a wrath that cleaned house rather dramatically. Would have made a big impression on me, if I would have witnessed it. That’s for sure.

Eyes like these

No Father B., I was not cruel. I was not even angered by what John Corapi did. I didn’t sit around expectantly on the edge of my seat for these past three months waiting to see what the “last hope for our Church” would do next. Why? To quote a speech I heard recently,

It’s that dead look in my eyes, from all the horrors that I have seen, so I’m sort of immune to it. Gentlemen to bed! Gentlemen to bed, for we leave at first light. Tomorrow we battle. We may lose our lives, but remember…Death is but a moment; cowardice is a lifetime affliction.

Yeah, that is a made up speech from a silly movie, but rousing nonetheless. But St. Paul’s words from a few days back are the ones that stand us in good stead and last forever. I shared those too, in my alleged cruelty as you may recall,

dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;

Is John Corapi a false brother? I don’t know. He’s not a member of the priesthood any longer, that is for sure. Is he still a Catholic, loyal to the Magisterium? I don’t know that either. He’s kind of vague on that in his announcement. All that is known for sure points to him not being loyal to anyone but himself. Not to his (former) office as a priest (while you soldier on, my brother!), not to his superiors, nor to his order, and not even to his flock of followers, who at last count on his Facebook fan page, stand at 52,800+ souls.

I wear my gray hair proudly

In fact, to my simple mind and simple ways, the cruelest cut of all came from the blow Mr. Corapi’s announcement made to his large and loyal flock of followers. Simple folk, such as myself, who believed in this man. Now what is in store for them Father B? Should they stay loyal to Mother Church? Or follow the Black Sheep Dog, who for all we know will hit them next with a message such as this,

He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up! Prepare to alter course!
—Khan Noonien Singh, in Star Trek II, riffing off Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

No. I won’t be following any comic book characters anywhere Father. Not Darth Vader, not Dr. Evil, Not Kahn nor Captain Ahab. I follow Jesus Christ and His Church. I’m loyal to Him and to Her. I’ll continue to study His Word, and His message. That way, see, when somebody goes off-message, I’ll be able to recite with clarity and authority, these words of an immortal soldier,

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.

As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:14-15.

Thank you again for your note. Have a happy Fathers Day and a blessed Holy Trinity Sunday. Please pray for me and for all who have been affected by this unfortunate incident. I am,

His Obedient Servant,

Frank

Update:  Following the Black Sheep Dog Down the Rabbit Hole

Breaking News: Corapi’s superior: “We wanted him to come back to the community…

Because These Words Paul Wrote Are Worthy of Shakespeare

Especially compared to the “weak tea” of the speech heard ’round the world yesterday.

Of course, this passage from his second letter to the Corinthians isn’t just some dramatic idea that the Apostle Paul dreamed up. They are after all an account of his personal experience witnessing for Christ.

But they are more than that too. They are the words of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Long time readers know of my favorite speech from Shakespeare’s play Henry V. I love how Kenneth Branagh delivers the St. Crispins Day speech so realistically. Just the other day in a post about friendship, I shared a video scene between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they imagine dialogue from a costume drama set in the hills of Northern England.

I’ve probably watched that scene two dozen times now. I’ve been driving my kids crazy with it too as I improvise more things to say after the rousing “Gentlemen to bed!” introduction.

So with the flair for the dramatic still reverberating through my brain, I turned to the Daily Readings and came upon what follows. Interestingly, I had shared them with you before just a fortnight ago. But as I read them today, I hear a classically trained actor delivering them with verve and dripping with pathos. Maybe it’s just the newly revised edition of the New American Bible.

Reading 1
2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

Richard Burton

Brothers and sisters:
Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
To my shame I say that we were too weak!

But what anyone dares to boast of
(I am speaking in foolishness)
I also dare.
Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they children of Israel? So am I.
Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ?
(I am talking like an insane person).
I am still more, with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, far worse beatings,
and numerous brushes with death.

Five times at the hands of the Jews
I received forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked,
I passed a night and a day on the deep;
on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers,
dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race,
dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;
in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights,
through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings,
through cold and exposure.

And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me
of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

And the saga continues on into the next day.

Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.

About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.

Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

How can the scriptures not come to life when such inspired words as these are read as if they were spoken directly to a blood brother? Read the Bible!

To Run Against the Wind -UPDATED

What do you seek? I mean once you come to grips with your mortality. Especially when your best laid plans fall apart in an instant via illness, an accident, or perhaps a death in the family. There you were sailing along majestically, deluded by your own good fortune to the point that you actually thought you were controlling your destiny.

Perhaps you felt you had figured out the game of life. You believed you could will your way to an earthly heaven. Yes, you are a winner, and winners never quit. And then everything you had mapped out for yourself slipped away from you.

Your dreams slipped past you like a stranger in a crowd. Or just when thought you knew what would make you happy, and when your idea of what you would spend your life doing was coming to fruition, it became unobtainable through no fault of your own, either for the reasons outlined above or because the economy takes a dive.

The gifts given to you are not yours, see, but they are on loan to you. Besides that, your gifts span various disciplines, while the world forces you to specialize in one discipline to the exclusion of the others. Surely you’ve noticed that. The jack-of-all-trades is lampooned as a “master of none.” “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” And so it goes.

Suppose, for example, that the occupation you think will bring you the most personal satisfaction becomes impossible for you to do. Or perhaps there is no market for that pursuit which brings you the most personal fulfillment or happiness. Or it’s likely that many share the same calling you love, but the competition is so cut-throat that only a few actually succeed. Ideas of “follow your bliss” ring hollow then. Folks who are disabled due to an accident encounter this moment of truth in a rude awakening every day.

Or suppose the person you love reneges on their promise to love you back. Often that is how you come face to face with the supposed virtue of selfishness. Which brings me to this scene from the movie Forrest Gump. Remember it? Forrest’s mother has died, the love of his life is gone, so he goes running back and forth across the country. Why?

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There you are running back and forth through this life for no apparent reason. And then it dawns on you that the winds of the world are going every which way. They are blowing you hither and yon. At some point you realize that you need to stop. Time to head home.

Did you here that last song in the clip? That’s from Bob Seger’s eleventh album. It came out a few month’s after Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In a way, it is a song-story exactly like what I’m writing about here, only better. The album went to number one on the charts because it resonants with our experiences in this world. This could be a theme song for YIMCatholic.

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G.K. Chesteron, in his biography of Charles Dickens, weighs in with some thoughts to conclude this post with.

“If we are to save the oppressed, we must have two apparently antagonistic emotions in us at the same time. We must think the oppressed man intensely miserable, and at the same time intensely attractive and important. We must insist with violence upon his degradation; we must insist with the same violence upon his dignity. For if we relax by one inch the one assertion, men will say he does not need saving. And if we relax by one inch the other assertion men will say he is not worth saving. The optimists will say that reform is needless. The pessimists will say that reform is hopeless. We must apply both simultaneously to the same oppressed man; we must say that he is a worm and a god; and we must thus lay ourselves open to the accusation (or the compliment) of transcendentalism.”

And that is about all I have to say about that.

Because of the Way This Desert Father Handled a Calumny

—Feast of St. Joseph  

There are scandals, and rumors of scandals and there always will be. To be tainted by scandal, whether you are wrongly accused or guilty, is really a no-win situation. How does one take on the burden of this situation?

Christ was wrongly accused and He barely said a word to defend himself. But others have been wrongly accused and have borne their accusations in a similar manner.

One of my favorite examples of this is from an episode in the life of my patron, St. Macarius the Great. I can’t even begin to fathom the depth of this Desert Father’s humility, renunciation, and faith. Accused of sexual misconduct, Sister Benedicta Ward translates this episode in the saints life in her book Selections From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Abba Macarius said this about himself:

‘When I was young and was living in a cell in Egypt, they took me as a cleric in the village. Because I did not wish to receive this dignity, I fled to another place. Then a devout layman joined me; he sold my manual work for me and served me.

Now it happened that a virgin in the village, under weight of temptation, committed sin. When she became pregnant, they asked her who was to blame. She said, “the anchorite.”

Then they came to seize me, led me to the village and hung pots black with soot and various other things around my neck and led me through the village in all directions, beating me and saying, “This monk has defiled our virgin, catch him, catch him” and they beat me almost to death.

Then one of the old men came and said: “What are you doing, how long will you go on beating this strange monk?” The man who served me was walking behind me, full of shame, for they covered him with insults too, saying, “Look at this anchorite, for whom you stood surety; what has he done?”

The girl’s parents said, “Do not let him go till he has given pledge that he will keep her.” I spoke to my servant and he vouched for me. Going to my cell, I gave him all the baskets I had, saying, “Sell them, and give my wife something to eat.”

Then I said to myself, “Macarius, you have found yourself a wife; you must work a little more in order to keep her.” So I worked night and day and sent my work to her. But when the time came for the wretch to give birth, she remained in labor many days without bringing forth, and they said to her, “What is the matter?”

She said, “I know what it is, it is because I slandered the anchorite, and accused him unjustly; it is not he who is to blame, but such and such young man.” Then the man who served me was full of joy saying, “The virgin could not give birth until she said ‘The anchorite had nothing to do with it, but I have lied about him.’ The whole village wants to come here solemnly and do penance before you.”

But when I heard this, for fear people would disturb me, I got up and fled here to Scetis. That is the original reason why I came here.’

See what I mean? Is that not the most amazing, most Christ-like lowering of oneself that you have read, short of the trial of Our Lord? Short of the prophet’s words in Psalm 22?

But I am a worm, hardly human,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer;
they shake their heads at me

Sun Tzu

Who accepts blame like this when wrongly accused nowadays? With humility? With quiet reserve and with faith that the truth will come to light and set them free? This reminds me of something that Sun Tzu, in his Art of War wrote, five centuries before Christ was crucified, and eight centuries before Abba Macarius endured this calumny,

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

That is the truth. May it ever be so. And as for the example of Abba Macarius, Sister Benedicta shares this anecdote in Paradise of the Desert Fathers,

They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.

Another very Christ-like character trait. Abba Macarius, Pray for us.

You will find Sister Benedicta Ward’s book on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Update: For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies

I had this idea last year to feature movies on Friday nights during Lent. I wrote posts as if I were the co-pilot of a plane flying passengers for YIMCatholic airlines. Remember those?

Well this year I’m not the co-pilot any more. But I still want to share movies with you during Lent. I’ve got a neat collection of films for us this season starting with one of my all-time favorites (as long time readers know well). Kenneth Branagh’s version of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.

A long time ago, when England was still Catholic, there was a great king. The Hundred Years War lasted, ahem, a long time. The Battle of Agincourt was a miracle (for the British). And simply the “Best. Speech. Ever.” is right here too!

What’s for dinner tonight? Pescado el Horno, of course. And after dinner,  if you haven’t given up popcorn for Lent, you can enjoy that along with the movie. Here is a taste,

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By order of the king, get thee to the video store, a library, or Netflix!

For Cults of Personality, Not! (Or My Brush with Fr. Thomas Euteneuer)

 

Late yesterday evening, after I asked for your prayers for Egypt, I clicked over to New Advent to see what was posted there on the situation on the ground. Many of you know that besides being the electronic host of the Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent also posts links to other Catholic websites and blogs for noteworthy news stories or posts. New Advent has graciously posted our blog posts from time to time as well.

But a different sort of story caught my eye instead. [Read more...]

Because These Catholic Chaplains Were Awarded the Medal of Honor

This photograph is for all of you who get really persnickety about the altar, vestments, and such ancillary things like that. This is Major Charles Watters, U.S. Army, celebrating Mass out in the field for the troops. The altar is a couple of ammo boxes sitting on top of two water cans.

Though there are no relics of saints embedded in this altar, what matters most, Our Lord and Savior, will be there with His men soon. I attended services just like this one, even when I wasn’t a Catholic. Because beggars can’t be choosers, see? [Read more...]


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