Quote of the Week: Christian Bale

On being roughed up while attempting to visit the blind, imprisoned, pro-life activist named Chen Guangcheng, [Read more...]

When New Media Users Meet the Christ…

They will actually have to do more than just “friend” Him. The poster above says that in a nutshell, doesn’t it? An encounter with Christ doesn’t demand that you do more…you just want to do more. H/T Brandon Vogt (whose book review will be posted this evening…promise!).

Update: Remember this? Seems like 10 years ago!

Because the Church is Paradoxically Intolerant and Tolerant

This isn’t the first post I’ve written on paradoxes of the Catholic faith, nor will it be the last. Remember the one on the Church being paradoxically consistent (and vice versa)? Or how about the one on the “Master of Paradoxes,” St. John of the Cross? Like a bull through a china shop, I’ve again let the cat out of the bag with a title that says everything that I’m about to share with you on the modern “virtue” of tolerance. [Read more...]

Because Words Matter…

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects. —Blaise Pascal

Yesterday, I shared a post about catechizing the world. That “c” word is one I had never heard of before I was Catholic. It’s a complicated sounding word that I probably could never get right during a spelling bee. But it doesn’t have to be that fancy sounding,  because all it means is “sharing the Good News” and “teaching the Faith.”

What is the power of the words we choose when trying to bring others to Christ and his Church? Do they matter? Of course they do. Especially if they are puffed up so much that they wind up blocking the Son.

H/T to Terry Fenwick for posting this on her Facebook wall.

Thoughts on the Vicissitudes of Michael Voris & Co. UPDATED

Actually, I have none. Really. I mean stuff like this happens all the time to me. I’m a father of three children and they are all the time doing stuff that a) I don’t know about; b) I don’t approve of; and c) that I didn’t teach them to do. Guess what? I love them anyway.

Is it scandalous? Only if he lets pride lead him by the nose. Is it embarrassing? You betcha. A dad knows, and a mom does too. I mean, if I had a nickel for every time my kids did something to disappoint me, I’d be a rich man. Of course, I’d be a lonely, Silas Marner, scrooge of a misanthropic man, no doubt. You know, the kind who never wanted children in the first place. But I’d probably think I was well off materially, of course. But spiritually? I’d be a wreck without them in my life.

Nope. You can’t run from the Cross, neither as parents nor as presidents of your own non-profit/for-profit, gig. You have to weather the vicissitudes of life, because ready or not, here they come. I suspect that things will get tightened up in the departments that have been lax, and I’m just as sure that eventually something new will rise up to take their place to harry him. I mean, I know this: it’s non-stop for me.

That’s why the saints teach us to be humble and to pray. It’s also why humility is the virtue that has the most telling effect on those with whom we interact with in our life as Christians. It very much explains why the “pitchfork and torches” or “drawn swords” modus operandi is generally a non-starter in the work of winning souls to Christ.

Deacon Greg Kandra, Elizabeth Scalia , and Mark Shea all have something to say on this news anyway (or will soon). I’ll just go back to trying to figure out what kind of bird this is. Help me out if you can.

UPDATE: The bird has been identified! Thanks Ramona.

UPDATE II:  Mark Shea’s charitable post today.

UPDATE III: From Madrid, Michael Voris responds.

UPDATE IV: What Should Michael Voris learn from this?

Thoughts On New Media And Evangelization

I’m not a “new media” expert.
But to me,
“New Media” is old media
without editors,
without barriers,
without bosses.
At least not in its initial form.

Through this medium,
I can risk looking silly
by writing thoughts
in a strange style
with no fear of damaging
“the brand,” you see.

But “new media”
is quickly being co-opted,
if not dominated,
by old media companies.
Repackaging their messages,
paying people to share them,
and you wouldn’t even know that
if you weren’t careful.
Then, of course,
there are the revolutionaries.

The “new media” and “new evangelization”
are the old ways, actually.
But with direct access
to connecting people
globally,
electronically
instead of personally.
You know,
face to face,
working alongside them,
witnessing to them
by our daily
observable habits.
Sharing our stories
and struggles with them.
Falling down,
and picking each other up
As people naturally do.

New Media can fool you
into thinking you know the person
who is sharing that message with you today
this recommendation,
that hint or thought.

Again, I’m no expert
but I think these new ways
are very good,
but easily manipulated.
Orson Wells caused a panic
with a mere radio show
and we laugh
at the people’s naïveté
from our lofty perch.

How different are we
from them?
I suspect not very.
As Qoheleth said so
long, long ago:

Nothing under the sun
is new,
neither is any man able to say,
“Behold this is new!”
For it hath already
gone before
in the ages
that were before us.

Of course, Qoheleth could not
send his message
at the speed of light
from where he sat
to where it would be found
by someone
in a remote village
in Bhutan.
Today.
Right now.

That is the promise
of the New Media and
the hope of the
New Evangelization.
The peril
is that the message
of Christ’s love,
for the whole world,
is forgotten
in our awe of
the Medium.

Just a reminder
(If only for myself).

The Corapi Kerfuffle and Agape (In Reply to a Reader)

A reader writes,

Wow, hey Frank are you really a Christian? Do you actually receive communion with a clear conscience? Do you enjoy stomping on a priest when he’s down? That goes for the the other un-Christian commentors above too.

Jasper

Dear Jasper,

My Christian brother, you are a few posts behind (see this and this)but let me just say that if St. Nicholas could punch Arias in the face at the Council of Nicea, and still be a Christian, then yes…I can say I am really a Christian too.

Unfortunately, you don’t seem to recognize that our brother is in direct violation of the orders of his superior. In other words there are two options here: a)rally behind the mutineer,or b) rally behind the Church.

I choose b).

Agape your neighbor as yourself. I have children and when they disobey me, I don’t just “let it go” or “pray for them,” but out of love and duty, I set them straight too. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it is necessary. I did the same thing in the Marine Corps with juniors, peers, and even superior officers. It’s called providing counsel, even when it isn’t asked for. That too is agape.

From your comment, it seems that you believe that Catholic priests are above reproach, and that Holy Orders is a sort of “get out of Jail Free” card. Surely, after all the the scandals that have roiled the Church since 2002, you don’t believe this. And yet now that the fellow you thought was the best thing since sliced bread has gone and been exposed to have fallen, he is now attempting to lure away the faithful. All while being ordered to return to the fold. He needs to be held accountable for his actions, yet he refuses to do so. So, in your estimation(?) I should just assault heaven with prayers for him and let it be.

Christian love is many splendored and multi-faceted. In all charity, the only charitable thing to say to John Corapi now is what I said in my previous post,

Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial.

If I was foundering in the same way, I would hope that others, such as yourself, would agape me enough to say what I needed to hear to get my head screwed on straight. Not just egg me on towards the abyss with brave words and “you can do it!” And “We stand behind you!” Thanks, but no thanks.

I’d prefer you had enough agape for me to say what this reader on the Corapi’s site said,

“John, you need to rethink your approach. You sound like a dry drunk, full of self-righteousness and blame. That you fell—who cares? You’re just a guy. That you’ve behaved this way after you got caught? That’s another thing. Cling to the misguided support of some of these folks posting, if you must. But there are plenty of recovering men out here who know stinking thinking when we hear it. We love you, and want you to repent, but we aren’t falling for any of this posturing. May God be with you, and may you listen to Him before it’s too late.”

That is the kind of counseling that John Corapi needs to hear now.

Pax Christi,

Frank

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…

Love, the Blues, & Forgiveness (Music for Mondays)

In light of recent events, I am bringing this post back up to the top. Got the blues? First, may I suggest a 3-minute retreat? Then, dip into these waters…

  

We are called to love one another. A cursory look at the New Testament will show this time after time. But guess what? Love hurts too, and we all know it. Betrayal, denial, loss. These are the pathogens  of our brokenness.

The songs in today’s MfM set list move through the stages of Love that we all encounter. But we’ll be skipping the puppy love sweetness and head straight to the hard stuff.

Because love and forgiveness go together like peas and carrots, wrapped up in the to-go box called the blues.

Soft Cell, Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go. Whatever happened to these guys? Search me. But this hit was epic among the denizens of One Hit Wonderland. Their original song melding into the hit by the Supremes struck cords with many regarding a truth about the “double-edged” nature of love.

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The Smithereens, Blues Before and After. OK…you’ve never felt like this after being run through by Love, the double-edged sword? Come on now, be truthful with yourself. Confession time: I love this band, the groove of this song, and this is just a WAY COOL video too. It’s silent for the first few seconds and then…!!!

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Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scar Tissue. What happens when the double-edged sword of love wounds us? Scar tissue develops as part of the healing process.

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David Bowie, Changes. Do you know what happens if scar tissue is allowed to form naturally, with no further intervention? Rigidity, stiffness, inflexibility of the underlying intersitial tissues. I know a thing or two about this from experience. To regain suppleness, deep massaging of the affected area is needed. Changes…

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Wham!, Freedom. We move on to the forgiveness portion of our program now. Betcha didn’t see this one coming. Listen to the words though and I think you’ll see that it fits into this particular set nicely.

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The Corrs Forgiven, Not Forgotten. And you thought the Jackson 5 were talented? Get a load of the Corrs. They’re from Ireland, and make a point with this tune that we need to remember. Wounded? Yep. Got scars? Yep. Forgiven? Absolutely. Forgotten? Never!

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Don Henley, The Heart of the Matter I have no idea if Don Henley is a Christian or a Catholic. But he isn’t wrong when he notes that forgiveness is the heart of the matter. For as Our Lord said after he taught us how to pray, “But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.(Matt 6:15).”

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Pearl Jam, Just Breathe. Because, when all is said and done, “did I say I need you?” Eddie Vetter and the gang at Pearl Jam remind us here…

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Have a good day folks. See you here on Monday.

For Faith in Action: Thomas Merton’s Letter to a 6th Grader

I don’t exactly remember where I found what follows, so forgive me for not providing footnotes. I was reading Jesuit Fr. Jim Martin’s, recent blog post reflecting on today’s gospel reading. The reading from Sirach applies as well.

The message is simple, yet paradoxically difficult, like most of the tenets of our faith. As Father Jim notes, it is simply “be kind.” Simple, but my kids (and I) are still working on doing this so it is not easy!

While pondering this message,  the memory of this kind letter written by Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton) to a school child popped into my head. 

I mention this also because someone sent me an e-mail yesterday looking for a book recommendation, and in my haste I must have deleted it, because I can’t find it anywhere. So whoever you are, please e-mail me again because I’m not being unkind in not replying to you. I just blew it, is all. Just another plank in my eye (he thought sheepishly).

And now, Father Louis has the floor,

Thomas Merton’s Letter to a 6th Grader named Susan

In 1967, Susan Chapulis, a sixth grader studying monasticism, wrote to Thomas Merton asking for “any information whatsoever” that she could share with her class. Merton replied:

Thanks for your nice letter. You want “any information whatsoever” to help the sixth grade in the study of monasticism. Well, I’ll see if I can get the brothers down in the store to send you a little book about the monastery here. That ought to help.

The monastic life goes back a long way. Monks are people who seek to devote all their time to knowing God better and loving Him more. For that reason they leave the cities and go out into lonely places where it is quiet and they can think. As they go on in life they want to find lonelier and lonelier places so they can think even more.

In the end people think these monks are really crazy going off by themselves and of course sometimes they are. On the other hand when you are quiet and when you are free from a lot of cares, when you don’t make enough money to pay taxes, and don’t have a wife to fight with, and when your heart is quiet, you suddenly realize that everything is extremely beautiful and that just by being quiet you can almost sense that God is right there not only with you but even in you. Then you realize that it is worth the trouble of going away where you don’t have to talk and mess around and make a darn fool of yourself in the middle of a lot of people who are running around in circles to no purpose.

I suppose that is why monks go off and live in lonely places. Like me now. I live alone in the woods with squirrels and rabbits and deer and foxes and a huge owl that comes down by my cabin and makes a spooky noise in the night, but we are friends and it is all ok. A monk who lives all by himself in the woods is called a hermit. There is a Rock ’n’ Roll outfit called Herman and his Hermits but they are not the same thing.

I do not suppose for a moment that you wish to become a hermit (though now I understand there are some girl hermits in England and they are sort of friends of mine because they are hermits, so I send them stuff about how to be a hermit). But anyway, I suggest that you sometimes be quiet and think about how good a thing it is that you are loved by God who is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy and who in fact is going to make you supremely happy. Isn’t that something? It is, my dear, and let us keep praying that it will work out like that for everybody.

Good bye now.

Which reminds me of the old Shaker hymn,



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