Friday Short Takes on President Biden

Joe Biden Signing Executive Orders January 20,2021

Well that didn’t last long. President Biden called for unity in his inauguration speech.

Excerpt:

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity. Unity. In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.” My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation.

I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Every new president deserves a chance. But he really blew it by signing this executive order on day one:

Many women see this as a War on Women, and an end to women’s sports. Amy Welborn has some insight on the issue here (she includes a link to a radical feminist group) and here .

Rod Dreher has addressed the issue here.

Then there is this (Hat Tip Rod Dreher) :

President Biden wants to unite the people of this country? Really?

On a more positive note the Us Bishops have issued a statement on the inauguration of President Biden. It is a much stronger statement than I anticipated.

Excerpt:

At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.

Do read the whole statement here.

Have a blessed weekend. Please pray for Bishops, priests and deacons. Things are going to get pretty turbulent on the Barque of Peter.

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Politically Stuck in the Middle on the Knife’s Edge

Knife Edge Capital Peak Colorado

Rod Dreher, over at The American Conservative, received a letter from a reader that feels that they are stuck in the middle of the political spectrum. A friend told Rod that “The problem is that you are in the middle, but the middle has shrunk to the size of a knife’s edge, which is why it’s so painful.”

Yes! That is exactly how it is! I am not a liberal (old school or progressive). I am not a political conservative. There are some policies where I am more aligned with Democrats, and some where I am aligned with the Republicans. But the Democrats radical stance on abortion and their often hostile rhetoric on religious freedom makes it impossible for me to vote for them.

Too often I end up voting third party or writing in a candidate. The problem is that there is a growing mentality in this country that if you aren’t on one side you must be on the other side.

Perhaps that is one reason, in addition to the summer riots and the even worse 1/6 assault on the Capital, that there is some concern that a civil war is brewing.

Not sure. But we the people are more divided than ever. It came a little too close too home for me recently. I was talking to a very dear family member who seems to have accepted all of the hashtags, slogans, and axioms of the woke crowd. It is not insignificant that this person also has rejected Christianity (especially orthodox beliefs). The more I tried to explain that I am Catholic and vote accordingly, the angrier they became.

This person seemed to think that I and my favorite deacon are to the far right of Q Anon. I think it is because of the you are either with me or against me mentality that is becoming more prevalent.

It. Is. Frustrating. And very sad.

Until recently we Americans could agree to disagree. There was an understanding that you could love a friend, parent, adult child fiercely and still have very different viewpoints. But few seem to understand the concept of unconditional love, i.e “I love you no matter what” anymore.

Now in order to prove our love, we must approve. This has baffled me for quite some time. Then I discovered–through Rod Dreher– Carl R. Trueman’s book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.

I am just stating to read it, but I think that it is a very important book for orthodox Christians of all stripes to read in order to understand the culture we are living in. We have a traditional understanding of self and of what it means to be human that is going the way of the Dodo bird.

Carl Tureman has a two part essay over on Public Discourse which is a good introduction to his thinking. Part one is here. Part two is here.

I will be addressing this issue in future posts.

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Prayer for Inauguration Day

Prayer For Our Government by Bishop Carroll 1791 (Excerpt):

“We pray O God of might, wisdom and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.

 Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.”

Amen.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Love your enemies

I am late posting today. Its a combination of attending a funeral and MS fatigue striking. But I have been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King lately. While I have read many of his talks, sermons and speeches over the years, I came across one today that I had not encountered.

It is a sermon that he gave on Matthew 5: 43-45 that is profound and timely. Do read the whole text here .

An excerpt:

“The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than erosAgape is more than philiaAgape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen. 7

And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”

Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights.8 And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

Wow. Let us pray that someone in our country has sense to dim the lights and cut off the hate that seems to be gathering into a great destructive force.

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Act Like a Christian Sealed by the Spirit

It is said that there are no coincidences with God. Given what I wrote about in my last post, I was a bit taken back by todays reading for Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours):

Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ. Ephesians 4:29-32

St. Paul does have a way of getting to the heart of the manner; Doesn’t he? I for one am going to read the above passage everyday for awhile. While I am, by nature, quick to forgive, I also quick to anger. Blame it on the fact that I am half Irish half Italian. But I am working on it, as I see how anger has caused our culture to become so toxic.

Acting like a Christian is not easy. Archbishop Aquila has an answer:

So, what is a Catholic to do in this situation? How should we respond to the constant attacks on our national and religious values and the widespread erosion of good will toward our fellow man?  

The only solution that will repair the weakened moral fabric of society is to seek Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am reminded of the line from the Psalmist that says, “Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, he utters his voice and the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob” (Ps. 46:7-8). He is the only one who can pierce through our posturing and rhetoric and scatter the fog of confusion. Jesus, the Word of God, reveals us to ourselves and shows us the way to true happiness, both as individuals and as a society. 

To allow God to do this, we need to rediscover the value of silence and spend time with him in the Word and sacraments. We need to break away from the constant flow of information. As God showed Elijah on Mt. Horeb, he was not in the great wind, the earthquake or the fire; he was in a “light, silent sound” (cf. 1 Kings 19:9-12).  This means placing our trust in Christ for salvation and seeking his wisdom for how to live, rather than turning to commentators, politicians or political parties. They may promote legislation or give speeches that contain truth, and that is praiseworthy and should be supported when it happens. But we should not forget that we are made for heaven and are called to build up the kingdom of God, not a utopia on earth. Jesus reminds us to seek first “the Kingdom of God” and “the will of the Father.” St. Paul reminded the Romans and reminds us today, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  

Read the whole article here.

Well my favorite deacon is off work a bit early. Such a long commute from his office in the basement.

Signing off for today,

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Discipleship in a Fractured America

There is no denying that the American experiment is in deep trouble. We are a deeply divided people. The chasm between us has widened caused by a trifecta of pandemic, BLM protests, and insurrection. President elect Biden says he is committed to facilitating healing and unity.

I just don’t know if, at this late stage, it is possible. Not if we depend on politicians and ideologues on either the left or right. Too many are filled with anger and hatred of anyone who disagrees. There is no mercy for dissidents in this brave new world we are inhabiting.

So what is an orthodox Christian to do? Well first we have to step way back from politics. I began the process years ago when I left the Republican party; I left the Democratic party decades before that.

We have a savior and He isn’t a president, senator, or representative. Politics and ideologies can not bring forth peace and justice. Certainly Christians are called to strive for those things, but we can’t do it without Jesus Christ.

Yes I vote, but I end up writing in a candidate or choosing the least bad among the candidates. My favorite deacon and I still discuss politics, but we no longer are passionate about any agenda.

Our votes are informed by our Catholic faith–all of it–social justice, immigration, understanding of the human person, abortion, death penalty etc. Not just some of it. All of it.

So what’s a committed Christian to do? Our baptism is a call to evangelize. But how do we do this in a culture that no longer understands our language.

First we need to strive everyday–always and everywhere–to become saints. Heaven, after all, is our true home. This means that we have to do the hard work of praying, reading scripture, and receiving the sacraments. We need the Eucharist to sustain us and give us strength when the going gets tough. We need confession when we sin and are in need of healing and mercy.

We need to live our faith with passion! We can’t bring Christ to anyone if he doesn’t dwell within us. As the old saying goes, you can’t pass on what you don’t possess yourself.

In addition, we need to let go of anger. All of it. I see anger destroying people everyday. We will never change hearts with anger. Anger just destroys the person in its grip.

Only love conquers hate and anger. Not the sentimental wishy-washy kind of love. No. We need the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. That is what we are called to do. There even a commandment: “love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus even went further:

But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:27-28

It is unlikely that people will be persuaded by Christian arguments or reasoning. It is impossible to argue with slogans and hashtags, and Critical Race Theory, because there is seldom any cogent reasoning behind them.  But if we truly live our faith people will want to know why we have love, hope, and joy.

In conclusion we need to live as the 1st Christians did. They were persecuted and marginalized. They were seen as a threat to the pagan world. Yet they persevered. People saw what they had. The early Christians simply loved and took care of each other. They were filled with a joy and peace. Their lives had meaning that pointed to something greater than themselves.

And the pagans took notice and wanted what the Christians had.

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The Best of Times Amidst the Worst

Yesterday I wrote about the pandemic and the summer protests being an unveiling that has for some been a blessing.

What blessings?

When Mass was suspended for a time, I saw families pull together and truly become a domestic church. It has given me hope for the Church at a time when the institutional Church has, in general, failed the Body of Christ. As Joseph Ratzinger predicted, before he became Pope Benedict, the future of the Church would depend on a small remnant of the faithful.

Families were also forced to slow down. The absence of extra curricular activities caused them to spend much more time together. There families became stronger. Yes I know this was not a plus for many families. But I am focusing on the good right now–what went right.

The summer protests brought to light the deep divide between people in this country. Perhaps those on the left and right will finally see that politics and/or ideology can not unite us. Politics can not heal the hate on both sides. Only authentic Christian love, not anger and hate, can bring unity. The solution is to truly love others especially our enemies and those we disagree with.

If the summer of protests didn’t, perhaps the shameful riots and breaching the Capital building of Epiphany 2021 will. There have been some sane voices from leaders on both sides of the divide. It is possible to hope, at least a little, that reason will eventually prevail.

I know it isn’t easy, but Jesus never said it would be.

Well that is all for now. I am not back into the rhythm or discipline of writing a blog.

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2020: It Was the Best of times and the Worst of Times.

2020 was, to put it mildly, a horrible year. You could almost hear the planet sighing in relief as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. It has also been a year of blessings for me, and in some ways, for this country.

The first few lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” (see above image) keeps rattling around in my head.

It was an insane year! Yet–from my perspective–it was a year of blessings. My favorite deacon turned seventy in June. That was a milestone that a year before we did not think that he would make as he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) the year before. While we were not able, ( due to Covid-19) to have the big celebration that we had planned, we did have a small party with close friends.

I am so very grateful to my friends.

Why do I think it has also been the best of times in general–a time of pandemic and social upheaval? Well I haven’t fleshed out my thoughts on this yet, and I don’t have much time. This new WordPress editor is not exactly intuitive.

But it has been an odd sort of blessing for us as a society. The protests and riots have unveiled–revealed–what has been simmering among people for a long time.

To be continued. Gotta go. I’ll be back tomorrow. At least that is my intention…

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The Age of Chaos

calvin-cartoonThe one thing that the

presidential election confirmed is that we Americans are a very divided people.  Certainly, this is nothing new. There has never been a national consensus shared by all citizens.

The problem is that each side of the divide demonizes and hates the other.  Reasonable and respectful discourse is gone. Each side has retreated into their opaque and soundproof bubbles.  Attempts at peaceful compromise have given way to ideological war.

There is no sense of governing for the common good.

That is one of many reasons I refused to vote for either Clinton or Trump. I voted for a third-party candidate.  People who I respect tried to convince me that I was throwing away my vote. I get that. But I just could not in good conscience go along. If there had been a none of the above box, I would have checked it.

How did we get to this wretched state of affairs?  Not over night. It has come from a slow but steady loss of a shared values—especially moral ones.

The result is that we no longer have a common language to explain our positions. To have a reasonable and profitable debate, there must be an agreement of terms.

This is no longer possible, because Judeo Christian values and morality are no longer foundational to our culture.  Further we no longer have a common understanding of Natural Law Philosophy, as referred to in the Declaration of Independence statement:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Truth is no longer self-evident or shared.  Instead each individual person determines what is true.  Each person is a master of their own soul. God has no say in the matter. This leads to chaos.

    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity. (The Second Coming.William Butler Yates)

A post Christian world without God is a world without order. It is a world of chaos. We orthodox Christians have lost the culture war.  In addition, our religious liberty is in danger. It is going to get harder to be a professed Christian who tries to live in obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

It is going to be difficult for parents to teach their children, for example, that same sex marriage is wrong, and that being male or female is not a social construct.  We will need strategies to survive in an age when Christians will be marginalized—if not persecuted.Rod Dreher has been promoting the idea of a Benedict Option. It is not a retreat from the world. It is a way to be in the world but not of it. He writes:

The Benedict Option is the term I use to describe this rising movement for a new Middle Age, a spiritual revolution in a time of spiritual and cultural darkness. The monk was the ideal personality type of the Middle Ages. Few of us will be called to the monastery, but all of us who profess orthodox Christianity are called to rediscover a monastic temperament, putting the service of God before all things, and ordering our lives — our prayer and our work, and our communal existence — to that end. We are going to have to recover a sense of monastic asceticism, and do so in hope and joy, together.

He has written a book, The Benedict Option.  It will be out in March. Pre-order here.

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The Hollowing of Grief

Dad died suddenly just after 2 am on July 4th. Grief, I am learning, is an odd emotional state to be in. The moment thatgrieving-angel

I saw Dad on the floor, I knew that he was gone. In that moment my life changed.
It is not that I was consumed by grief. What does that even mean?

Since that moment, I feel hollow. Empty. In the first few weeks, I had panic attacks. C.S Lewis said, after his wife’s death, No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  Until I experienced it, I had no idea what he was trying to convey.

But that is the thing. It is impossible to really understand grief until you experience it. To be honest, I didn’t expect to really grieve. Dad was eighty-eight and frail. It was not really unexpected. Grief came as a complete surprise.

One of the first thoughts that came to my mind was that grief is hollowing. Strange thought that. Strange feeling.  My faith, I always thought, was too much in my head and not enough in my heart. I prayed desperately for that to change. But if my faith had not been so grounded in my intellect, I would be experiencing a major crisis of faith.

God it seems has a strange way of answering prayers. It seems that all these years of studying, have prepared me for this particular time in my life.

I have not been able to feel God’s presence at all. Not in prayer. Not in Church. Not even in the Eucharist.  But I am not experiencing a dark night of the soul. Weird. There is no wrenching doubt. There has not been one second of wondering if God exists.

I can not explain it. I can only be thankful.

Taking care of my Mom is hard. Without faith–without God–it would be impossible. She is not an easy woman in the best of times. Now she has lost her love of 64 years.

Oh and did I mention that when he dropped dead, he slammed into my mother and broke her shoulder?  It was a nightmare for the first four months. But then it is when I am at my weakest that God gives me the grace to deal with the situation.

Although I can not feel his presence, He is there after all.

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