Tuesday, August 30, 2005

For All Those Who Have Someone Missing

Please keep a collegue (Chiara) of mine in your prayers. Her son (D'Ondre), sister (Marilyn) and her family tried to escape the path of the hurricane hitting New Orleans but unfortunately their town has been submerged in more than 22 feet of water. Chiara has been unable to contact any of her family members and is waiting for news from the Red Cross about their wherabouts.

I ask that you please keep Chiara and her family in her prayers and that everyone be kept safe during this time.
I got this prayer request from a friend today. And, of course, there are other people who are frantically worried about loved ones who they can't locate. I hope and pray that all will turn up safe, sound, and sorry that they caused any anxiety. Lord, hear our prayer.

Purgatory 101

The Litany for Souls in Purgatory raised some questions via email and comments boxes about just what purgatory is and where it can be found in the Bible. I definitely am no theologian but will do my best to explain.

It is true that purgatory, like the Trinity, is a doctrine that is not mentioned by name is Scripture.

My extremely basic explanation:
  • In Heaven we must be perfect to be in the presence of God.
  • When we die we are not perfect. We still have our various imperfections that we are "working on."
  • To make us perfect, we must "finish up" our work. That is Purgatory. Purgatory is for sins that don't deserve absolute punishment.

Purgatory is sometimes described as being a place of great pain (in our souls because we see how far we are from perfection and therefore from God) but also a place of great joy (because we see that we will achieve our goal of Heaven).

Peter Kreeft offers a much more logical explanation:
Purgatory exists because God is both just and merciful.

Purgatory is "like a refiner's fire" (Mal 3:2). It refines and purifies those who at the moment of death are neither good enough for an immediate heaven nor bad enough for hell. "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030). "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031)...

The existence of purgatory logically follows from two facts: our imperfection on earth and our perfection in heaven.
  1. At the moment of death, most of us are not completely sanctified (purified, made holy), even though we are justified, or saved by having been baptized into Christ's Body and having thereby received God's supernatural life into our souls, having accepted him by faith and not having rejected him by unrepented mortal sin.
  2. But in heaven, we will be perfectly sanctified, with no lingering bad habits or imperfections in our souls.
  3. Therefore, for most of us, there must be some additional change, some purification, between death and heaven. This is purgatory.
... Unlike heaven or hell, purgatory is only temporary. Purgatory takes away the temporal punishment still due for our sins after our Baptism, faith, and repentance have already saved us from the eternal punishment due to our sin, that is hell.

Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs
Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
I like this down to earth analogy of purgatory.
Consider the following analogy about the experience of being a member of the human family. We go out and "play" in the neighborhood. In our adventures we fall down and "muddy" ourselves and have to return home for a good bath. After a thorough scrubbing, the beloved child is once again a sweet-smelling member of the family. If the muddy kid tried to slip on some clean clothes and come to supper without washing up his mother or father would quickly usher him off to get properly cleaned up. Sacramentally, we Catholics "wash as we go" in the blood of Christ.
Paul uses the analogy of "fire" in speaking about the purification to emphasize that it is God's fiery love burning away any remaining impurities in our souls.

However, God completes this process, it happens outside of time which is mind boggling enough in itself. When purification is completed the soul enters into God's presence. This process can be speeded along by the prayers of the living. It can be hard to understand how our prayers can help those in purgatory who have already lived their lives and made their decisions. Again, an analogy is helpful.
... Suppose you have a friend who goes to join the army and is in bootcamp. Now (theoretically) everyone who enters the army must be brought up to a certain level of physical excellence, which is the purpose of bootcamp. It doesn't matter where you start from, bootcamp's purpose is to bring you up to that level of physical excellence.

This is what purgatory does. Purgatory is the bootcamp of heaven. The purpose of purgatory is to bring you up the level of spiritual excellence needed to experience the full-force presence of God. It doesn't matter where you start from, there will be no sinning in heaven, and you have to be brought up to that level during final sanctification, before you are glorified with God in heaven.

Now when you have a friend in bootcamp, whether a physical bootcamp here on earth or the spiritual bootcamp in the afterlife, you can pray for him that bootcamp will go easier on him, that he will brought up to the level of excellence he needs in the most painless way possible. It may or may not shorten his time in bootcamp (in fact, in the U.S. Army bootcamp is of a fixed length), but you can still pray that it will go easier on him as he is brought to where he needs to be.
My favorite view of what Heaven might be like also helps wrap our minds around the concept of purgatory.
... First we review our past life with divine understanding and appreciation of our past life with divine understanding and appreciation of every single experience, good and evil: we milk all our meaning dry. Then we do the same to others' lives from within. We know them more intimately and completely than we could ever know our most intimate friend on earth because we share God's knowledge of each one. When these two preliminary lessons are complete - when we know, love, understand, and appreciate completely by inner experience everything we and everyone else have ever experienced - only then we are spiritually mature enough to begin the endless and endlessly fascinating task of exploring, learning, and loving the facets of infinity, the inexhaustible nature of God.

The idea is not new, for it corresponds to three traditional doctrines: Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, and the Beatific Vision. But each is given new life by being related to the others in this sequence. Purgatory turns out be part of Heaven rather than a distinct place, and consists of moral reeducation rather than mere punishment, rehabilitation rather than retribution. The communion of Saints is rescued from a vague, philanthropic goodwill and made as interesting as human love and communion on earth; getting to know people is in one way or another the only thing we find inexhaustible here as well as there. Finally, the contemplation of God is not boring because it is done with souls matured by the first two tasks. The difference this maturing makes is as great as the difference between a dying saint and a newborn baby...

These are some of the scriptural references used in the Catholic teachings on purgatory.

We must be spotless and pure in God's presence.
Rev 21:27
Matt 5:8

Christ promised there was punishment that exacted what was due but wasn't endless. (And Paul supported this teaching.)
Matt 5: 20-26
Matt 12:32
Matt 18:21-35
Matt 25:31-46
Luke 12:58-59
Heb 9:27
Psalm 99:8

This punishment isn't in Hell because you can't be saved through hellfire. Also, there's no punishment in Heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:10-16
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
Hebrews 12:6, 11

Those who are alive can pray for those who are dead (and vice versa).
1 John 5:16-17
Luke 16:19-31
2 Maccabees 12:38-46
Sirach 7:33

Again I am no theologian and hope that this doesn't raise more questions than it answers. I am happy to answer what I can in the comments boxes as long as we all adhere to the blog's rules about commenting.

Special thanks to my friend L for assistance with this.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Friday's Shindig

No kidding. A shindig is actually what Hannah and her friends call their get togethers which seem to happen every 3 weeks or so.

Friday's shindig was more impromptu than most but I rallied enough to make Mexican food for everyone which seemed to be much appreciated. It was a floating crowd as usual with about 8 boys and 4 girls.

Highlights of the evening included Addison serenading everyone with "The Ballad of Jayne" from Firefly (with William singing along on the chorus). They plan to go to the midnight opening of Serenity and see how many of the fans in line they can get to sing along. I bet everyone there knows all the verses. Those nuts! But very likeable nuts!

The main event was watching About a Boy which no one but Hannah had seen (have these kids been living under a rock?) but The Three Musketeers (Richard Lester version) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead also crept into the evening's repetoire.

All this was varied with breaks for food, food, and ... food. Also there were intervals of music on the guitar, flute and tin whistle while others played Boggle and Scrabble. This went on into early morning when those who were left (5 boys and Hannah) collapsed in various (gender-segregated!) parts of the house.

Buttermilk pancakes in the morning and everyone had wandered out by about 11:00.

It is chaotic but a lot of fun even when one is mainly a supplier of comestibles and sleeping bags ... and a willing audience for the occasional conversation (I hope that William remembers his promise to send Flashman home with Hannah for me).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Miracles Still Do Happen

Remember Kobayashi Maru's brother? The guy whose leukemia was back for the third time and whose doctors gave him a 5% chance of living? News spread quickly over the internet and people were storming heaven for this man and his family. The results?
I am happily awestruck to report that our prayers have been answered!!!!! Late last week we got news that a key test showed no leukemia cells in my brother's spinal fluid or peripheral blood. None. My brother is back at home with his family, full of energy, responding well just two weeks into a four week course of treatment.

This wasn't supposed to happen.
Read the whole glorious story.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mmmmmmm, meaty

The high school has a lot of clubs run by students. One such is The Vegetarian Club, new this year. As an opposing force, Hannah's English teacher started The Meat Eater's Club. They probably had the cheapest club presentation ever seen at the recent Club Day. A huge bone and a tabletop grill ... and Hannah (Vice President) and her good friend, Katie (President), as recruiters.

I never realized this but evidently people who have never seen Hannah dig into hamburgers and hot dogs just assume she is a vegetarian. Thanks to her synesthesia, she is a very picky eater, so her usual lunch of almonds, an apple, baby carrots and chips might seem to be because she is vegetarian. Also, she is an ardent animal lover, to the point of holding a big grudge when I decreed that Mother Nature could take care of the wounded grackle we passed one day on a walk.

The most-heard exchange at The Meat Eater's display.
Student: You're the vice president? I thought you were a vegetarian. I mean you love animals so much...
Hannah: But they taste so good.

Litany for Souls in Purgatory

Via Knit and Pray.

Memorial Prayer For the Suffering Souls in Purgatory

Almighty God, Father of goodness and love, have mercy on the poor suffering souls, and grant Thine aid:
To my dear parents and ancestors;
Jesus, Mary, Joseph! My Jesus, mercy.
To my brothers and sisters and other near relatives;
Jesus, Mary, Joseph! My Jesus, mercy.
To my benefactors, spiritual and temporal; etc.
To my former friends and subjects;
To all for whom love or duty bids me pray;
To those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me;
To those who have offended me;
To all those who are especially beloved by Thee;
To those whose release is at hand;
To those who desire most to be united with Thee;
To those who endure the greatest suffering;
To those whose release is most remote;
To those who are least remembered;
To those who are most deserving on account of their services to the Church;
To the rich, who now are the most destitute;
To the mighty, who now are as lowly servants;
To the blind, who now see their folly;
To the frivolous, who spent their time in idleness;
To the poor, who did not seek the treasures of Heaven;
To the tepid, who devoted little time to prayer;
To the indolent(lazy), who were negligent in performing good works;
To those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments;
To the habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace;
To parents who failed to watch over their children;
To superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them;
To the souls of those who strove for hardly anything but riches and pleasures;
To the worldly-minded, who failed to use their wealth and talents in the service of God;
To those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own;
To those who did not provide for the great journey beyond, and the days of tribulation;
To those whose judgment is so severe because of the great things entrusted to them;
To the popes, rulers, kings and princes;
To the bishops and their counselors;
To my teachers and spiritual advisors;
To the deceased priests of this diocese;
To all the priests and religious of the whole Catholic Church;
To the defenders of the Holy Faith;
To those who died on the battlefield;
To those who are buried in the sea;
To those who died of stroke or heart attack;
To those who died without the last rites of the Church;
To those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours;
To my own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat;

V. O Lord, grant eternal rest to all the souls of the faithful departed,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Maybe Thank God With A Little Less Feeling

Hannah was complaining again about a girl who doesn't like her, talks about her behind her back, etc.

I said, "You know what you have to do, right?"

She said resignedly, "I know. Pray for her."

"Also, you have to say 'thank you' for this."

Hannah looked heavenward and barked out, "Thank you, Sir! May I have another!"

Dissolve to laughter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Of Hair Dye, "The Man," and God's Plan

Remember when I felt "Jack Black-ish" last week? Here's the story.

Hair of all students must be clean and well-groomed. A hair style that is a distraction will not be accepted. Bleached or frosted hair will not be allowed. All boys' hair must be combed neatly, with a "gentleman's haircut", which does not extend below the top of the shirt collar in the back, and not below the bottom of the lobe of the ears on the side. The hair length must not extend over the eyes in the front. Curly hair must be short and neat. All boys must be clean-shaven. There will be no mustaches, beards or sideburns below the earlobe, or tails of any kind.
(Bishop Lynch 2005-2006 Handbook)
The boys' guidelines are so specific that they must have been "tested" a lot. But the girls'? It doesn't look like it, does it? Therein hangs a tale of hair dye, authority, conflict, family culture and solidarity, friendship, and ... God's much bigger vision.

Homer: Is that Lisa? Oooo, I gotta call heaven. There's an angel missing!
The Simpsons
My daughter, Rose, got the ends of her hair dyed red before school began. She's a sophomore this year. This was the equivalent of getting a nose ring or a big tattoo ... pretty big stuff on the "self expression" front. I checked the handbook. "Distracting" ... a pretty loose standard but, ok, I'd go with it. As a color was "natural" it was ok (part of those verbal rules that "everyone knows"). When the deed was done, Rose looked pretty darned good.

She ran the gamut of some of the strictest teachers in the school who took no notice at all. When the head of the school was asked by the photographer if her hair was ok, he gave approval without blinking an eye.

Then, Rose went to geometry where a new teacher (to both the school and teaching) called her over and told her to "get her hair fixed" before Monday.

We reread the manual. Nope. Nothing there. Rose went to the Dean of Students the next day for final approval. She was going to have to have this to give to her geometry teacher and avoid a detention.

Francis: We might consider trying to reach a compromise.

Otto: Do I look French to you?
Malcolm in the Middle
The Dean of Students (let's just call her DS from now on) is a favorite among all the kids at the school. She's always had good buzz at our house for her fairness and understanding of how things work.

"Two different colors of hair are not acceptable." No, it wasn't documented anywhere but that was the rule. (Where does this leave the girls with highlighted hair ... and, believe me, they have plenty.) DS was as kind as possible but intransigent on this point.

Rose was crushed. As any parent knows, that is when the mother tiger emerges ... and my mother tiger is especially ferocious when there is no documentation in the handbook to support said crushing of one's child.

Dewey: Rock ain't about doing things perfect. Who can tell me what it's really about? Frankie?

Frankie: Uh? Scoring chicks?

Dewey: No. See? No. Eleni?

Eleni: Getting wasted.

Dewey: No. Come on. No. Leonard?

Leonard: Sticking it to The Man?

Dewey: Yes!
School of Rock
I stick it to The Man with letters, memos, or emails ... and I wrote a doozy to the head of the school. It was perfectly innocuous as Rose hovered nervously behind me, telling me not to make a fuss. (After all, she's gotta live there.)

This email simply was about updating the handbook so that otherwise law abiding offenders didn't suffer the same fate of crushed feelings, large expenses, and rearranging schedules to remedy the offense.

Right. And if they read between the lines about Rose ... well, then good. My account exec training hadn't been in vain.

Did I ever remember that prayer (Lord have mercy on me and bless DS)? Did I offer this bad situation up to God to use for anything? Did I ask to see the good come from the bad? Pffft! It should have. Too bad it never entered my mind. I was in jungle mode. I was still infuriated but calming down, calming more, and then ....

Homer: Marge, don't discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.
The Simpsons

DS responded and made a fatal error ... fatal anyway for responding to anyone as angry as I was.

It is my belief she panicked. At any rate, she started making excuses for the teachers who didn't "catch" Rose's hair at the photo session. I remembered the excuses she made to Rose about the teachers who didn't catch it during class uniform checks.

You know what? Don't.

We're all adults here. We all know that the code isn't defined. We all can see that it clearly is not well communicated to the teachers. I'm pretty sure that this two-toned hair directive is new because the style is fairly new.

A simple, "I am so sorry that you're the victim of our carelessness," goes a long, long way. It's true. They made a mistake and Rose was the victim. They will be specific in the code for next year. No problem. We might not be happy but it's hard to kick about a candid admission of error.

Dewey Finn: Those kids have a rare blood disease: "Stick-it-to-da-man-neosis".

Battle of the Bands director: What's that? I've never heard of it.

Dewey Finn: You're lucky. Because it's hell.
School of Rock
By this time I had a practically terminal case of "Stick-it-to-da-man-neosis." Quizzing Rose on what "everyone knows" are the hair policies, I was struck by a thought. "Hey, if the only objection is that your hair is two colors, let's just dye it all!"

Poor Rose. She suddenly looked like a deer in the headlights. I told her, "Sorry. I'm just talking because I am dying to stick it to The Man."

She cringed and said, "But I don't want to stick it to The Man."

Oh, right. This is about Rose, not me. Important point to remember.

I made a call to Joanette, our hairstylist, who also is a dear friend. However, she only cuts hair on Saturday and usually is booked solid by the Friday before. I had very low hopes of getting Rose in to see her the next day. After leaving a message I started considering options.

Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.

Dr. Peter Venkman: What?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?

Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.

Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad?"

Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
Our options were so fuzzy I had no clue what they really were.

What if we couldn't get this fixed before Monday? Could hair be worn up with dye as concealed as possible? If Joanette could fit Rose in, we still had no further guidelines about hair and dye. The one thing that could still reduce Rose to tears by that time was talking about cutting her hair shorter (hey, emotions were rather raw right then...normally a hair cut is not that big a deal, but you know how it goes).
Homer [making a wish with the cursed monkey's paw]: I wish for a turkey sandwich on rye bread with lettuce and mustard. And -- and I don't want any zombie turkeys, I don't want to turn into a turkey myself, and I don't want any other weird surprises -- you got it?
The Simpsons
The last thing we needed was to think we had solved the problem only to take another wrong step and find out she suddenly had turned into a turkey sandwich. Off went more emails asking for further instructions. (By the way, I want to emphasize that DS is a very nice person who was concerned for Rose's feelings over this ... I have nothing bad to say about her ... at least when I'm out of mother tiger mode.)

So, yeah, you can tell our household doesn't have a lot of problems ... big problems anyway. But for Rose, this was huge, and that made it huge for us.

I did like seeing how our family rallied round the person under seige. All the quotes in this post are things that someone was quoting at some time or other to help Rose smile and take it on the chin a little better. Big or small, it's good to see our family closing ranks to protect one of our own.

I also was struck by the fact that no matter what, quoting funny lines is a part of our family culture. Usually we do it just for fun. But now it was happening to give some context, some perspective, show solidarity. Not earthshaking but interesting.

Homer: Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.
The Simpsons
Furthermore I realized that our family culture turns to TV instead of ice cream for soothing.

I wasn't sure how DS's ruling was going to go but when I dropped by the video rental place before picking the girls up at school it was all about Rose. Either for a celebration or a consolation we had Ladder 49 which she had been wanting to see since it came out and the first DVD of Angel's second season. Once the emails had been fired off we went and lost ourselves in the world of demons and a vampire with soul until Tom came home and we had our usual Friday movie night.

I got a call from Joanette at 7:30 the next morning as she was driving in to her shop. She was going to fit Rose in if it killed both her and her other clients. No one was going to put her Rose in trouble with the school. (See why I love that gal?)

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Before going to Joanette's, I actually did remember that even though I was upset, I was supposed to be thankful. So I said, "Thanks for this," to God. (Sweet, huh?) I remember thinking that whenever I remembered to give thanks for something bad I always learned about something else good coming from it. I figured I had already been reflecting on what was good in our family so I really didn't have anything new to learn this time. (What a know-it-all. Hear that? It's God guffawing.)

Re-dying Rose's hair didn't work so cutting was all that was left to us. Joanette made it look fantastic. By the time we got done plotting silly revenges ("How about a blonde wig? Shoulder length?"), Rose was giggling too.

Faith: Bad day. One of the girls in the yard tried to build a rep by throwing down with me. She had low self-esteem and...a homemade knife, so...

Angel: Is she, you know, alive?

Faith: She lives to tell the tale. Took the knife away, and I can't say much for the wrist it came in. And then the beating by the guards...

Angel: I had to sing Barry Manilow.

Faith: You're kidding.

Angel: In front of people.

Faith: And here I am talking about my petty little problems.

Angel: Just wanted to give you a little perspective.

Faith: Copacobana?

Angel: Mandy. I don't want to dwell on it.
Then suddenly Joanette turned to me and said, "Julie, now pay attention. I need to talk to you about something serious."

She said, "I never check my messages on the way into the shop on Saturday. Usually you would have had to wait until next week. It was a strange thing for me to do. But as soon as I heard your voice I knew why I checked them."

Then she told me a story about her dear friend, having her fifth child, who had just had that child diagnosed in utero with a fatal genetic disease. The parents were given the choice of having an abortion or carrying their baby girl to term knowing that she most probably would be stillborn or die within a few hours of being born. This brave couple chose life. They want their four children to have the chance to see their baby sister. They want to do “the right thing.” They are afraid and they are worried. However, they chose life despite all that.

Joanette had found out only a day or two before our "hair crisis."

"As soon as I got off the phone I started thinking that I needed to tell someone; someone who would be sure to pray and pray. But I couldn't think of who," Joanette said. "When I heard your voice I knew that God sent you to me that day. You were the one I needed. I never would have called you. I had to see you in person for this request. And here you are. God sent you to me."


And I thought this was all about hair.

Here we were whining about having to sing Mandy and someone was coming at this couple with a homemade knife.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
God always has that bigger picture in mind. I am grateful that he gave Joanette, Rose, and me a glimpse of it on that Saturday. It is that reminder I need to always keep my eyes open, to be thankful in all things. And to pray before Jesus has to tap me on the shoulder, "Lord have mercy on me and bless DS." Because I do not know everything and can surely use His mercy.

Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God shows Himself everywhere, in everything -- in people and in things and in nature and in events ... we cannot be without Him. It's impossible. The only thing is, we don't see it.
Thomas Merton

Now, let us all remember the big picture ... and go storm heaven.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fun With Synesthesia

Last night, at the Chinese restaurant, Hannah suddenly started talking about how boring she thought it must be not to have synesthesia. (A brief reminder here: when Hannah hears words most of them also are accompanied by a texture and possibly also taste of a food in her mouth...although it isn't always food. Check the link for more info.)

Suddenly she started running through everyone's full names and their associations. For those who are as easily amused as we are:
  • Hannah's full name
    Banana - ear wax - ear wax (how much of a bummer would that be?)

  • Rose's full name
    Pink rose petals - watermelon - ear wax

  • Tom's full name
    Peas - watermelon - ear wax

  • My full maiden name (due to the whole "ear wax" issue I was NOT going to use the "D." last name for this!)
    Pecan pie - grape jelly - chocolate ice cream (sweet all round, just as it should be - ha!)

  • My sister's full name
    Ravioli - banana - winterfresh gum (evidently this last name is so very, very minty on the tongue)

  • My brother's full name
    Jawbreaker - sweet candy canes - chocolate ice cream
Then she went on to other aunts, uncles and cousins. So appropriate that aunt Jackie is caramel corn or that cousin Marilena is fancy ribbon (with eyelets on the sides). It's hours of fun for those who like parlor tricks. All you have to do is find a synesthete who will cop to it.

Complete Blog Commenting Guidelines

These guidelines, commissioned by Dawn Eden from twin bloggers Alex and Brett, are much needed and a good reminder for us all. I am going to take them up on their offer and reproduce them in whole here as I think they are so good. Thanks for such a great blogging resource guys!

Via Rebecca who needs no such reminders.

You Read It Right: Complete Blog Commenting Guidelines

Commissioned by the lovely Dawn Eden of 'The Dawn Patrol' to write comment guidelines for the purpose of facilitating logical and respectful discussion and argumentation for commenting bloggers, we (Alex and I) are pleased to present:

Commenting for "Newbies"
(A "Reminder" for the Rest of Us)
About the Authors: Alex & Brett Harris have competed for four years in high school speech & debate, including policy and value debate, persuasive platform speaking, limited preparation categories, and even interpretative events. Over the past two years they have combined for 5 national titles, making it into final rounds over 18 times. They have been contributing authors to several debate sourcebooks and have coached high school speech and debate clubs in Oregon, Washington, and Maryland. They currently author the blogs ‘Conscientious Contemplation’ (Alex) and 'The Rebelution’ (Brett).
You Have Entered “The Comment Zone”
It is crucial to a vibrant and healthy comment section for participants to understand the purpose of discussion, and to possess a proper respect for their fellow contributors. Whether you maintain your own blog, comment on other blogger’s posts, or both, you have most likely been frustrated by the lack of proper argumentation and the seeming epidemic of disrespect, primarily among your opponents (Insight #1: They feel the same way towards you).

The truth is that we all can use a helpful reminder every so often as to how we should conduct ourselves in the high-intensity role of “the commentator’s commenter.”

For that reason we present, “Commenting For ‘Newbies’ (A ‘Reminder’ For The Rest of Us),” as an invaluable resource for bloggers and their readers; an aide-mémoire, if you will. Yes, logic, evidence, and respect still exist and can be realized—even in your comment section.

The Purpose of Argumentation
Critical to proper argumentation is an understanding of why we argue; we argue in hopes of persuading dissenting opinions to conform to our own. If we disagree, it is because we think we are right and others are wrong. We take the time to discuss our disagreements in hopes of proving the validity of our views. It is frustrating, therefore, when we find ourselves perpetually clashing with our opponents, while making seemingly no headway towards our goal of changing their minds.

In fact, at times it can feel as if, were we to publicly claim that rabbits exist, our opponents would deny it; even if one hopped up, said, “What’s up, Doc?” and starting burrowing into their heads. How do we get past these confounding doldrums and arrive at a place from which the discussion can progress in an intelligent manner?

Here are three steps to improve your skills of argumentation:
Step One: Remember that your opponents have come to their conclusions using more or less the same rational process you have. The difference is not necessarily their intellect, but rather the information they had at their disposal and the values they hold.

Step Two: Understand that this means your opponent feels just as confident about the accuracy of his or her position as you do about yours, and will only be persuaded otherwise if you prove that their information or values are out of line.

Step Three: Realize that successful argumentation will only take place when you make it your goal to inform and persuade, by supplying additional bits (or chunks) of information and by addressing the values behind your opponent’s conclusions.

8 Principles For Logical & Respectful Discussion

The key to respectful, profitable argumentation is to respect others and to be respected. You respect others by acting civilly and arguing reasonably. You cause others to respect you by not acting like a fool in your manner or in your argumentation. Here are eight principles that allow you to do both:

NUMBER ONE: Understand the ‘classical’ view of tolerance.
The classical view of tolerance lends itself much more readily to intelligent argumentation than does the modern view. It teaches that, while we may strongly disagree with dissenting opinions, we still treat the person behind those opinions with respect.
    DO feel free to disagree, even strongly, with other people, and say so!
    DO feel free to permanently demolish opposing viewpoints. (Good luck!)
    DO NOT attempt to demolish opposing “people.”
NUMBER TWO: “No ‘ad hominen’ attacks, you moron!”
Nothing more quickly degenerates a discussion than when people start attacking those making the arguments rather than refuting the arguments themselves. Remember that the character, circumstances, or political ideology of the person has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the proposition being defended.
    DO NOT stoop to name-calling (moron, idiot, etc.)
    DO NOT imply negative monikers onto people simply because they disagree. (i.e. “Anyone who’s even slightly intelligent will believe that cows are people too.”)
NUMBER THREE: Eschew Obscenity & Prohibit Profanity
The use of inappropriate language and shocking statements is a sure sign that the author lacks the ability to communicate their position in a calm and reasonable manner. It shows tremendous disdain for others and will not be allowed on respectable blogs.
    DO NOT be upset when your comment is deleted for inappropriate language.
    DO NOT be upset when you IP address is banned for multiple offenses.
NUMBER FOUR: He who asserts must prove.
This is one of the most critical aspects of proper argumentation and requires that you carefully guard yourself from making groundless statements. Every proposition should be supported by either logic or evidence.

Logic includes everything from complex syllogisms to plain ol’ cause-and-effect. Evidence can take the form of examples, statistics, and/or quotations from authorities in the field. Supported arguments stand until refuted. Unsupported arguments do not deserve a response and might as well not exist.
    DO feel free to confirm other people’s points without provided additional support.
    DO NOT make additional arguments or publicize your disagreement with someone else’s position without providing adequate support.
NUMBER FIVE: Respond to the argument, not to the spelling.
There is no surer sign of inadequacy on the part of a debater than when they take issue with some small “error” on the part of their opponent, while ignoring the main point/s their adversary is trying to make.

If you are unable to refute your opponent’s position, don’t insult his or her spelling, grammar, or insignificant deviations from fact. Your opponent is most likely correct, and their small errors have nothing to do with the overall truth or falsity of the proposition they defend. Don’t make a fool of yourself by being a sore loser.
    DO feel free to point out significant errors that impact the validity of a claim.
    DO NOT point out errors solely for the purpose of embarrassing your opponent.
NUMBER SIX: Debating When Less Is More.
A common tactic adopted by inexperienced debaters is to ask a long series of questions that place an enormous burden on their opposition, without actually making any particular point. Such an approach is not only unfair to your opponent, but it really isn’t argumentation at all. These kinds of “question avalanches” can hardly be responded to in the confines of a comment section, but will often foster animosity.

The same is true of those with too much time on their hands (or a gift for speed writing) who present far too many arguments at one time in hopes of “burying” their opponent under the supposed “empirical” weight. Both of these abuses inhibit true argumentation and inevitably degrade the quality of a discussion. Respect yourself and your opponents at all times by using moderation in your argumentation and questioning.
    DO feel free to ask pertinent and probing questions about your opponent’s position.
    DO NOT expect answers for loaded questions.
    DO NOT ask loaded questions.
    DO feel free to make powerful and relevant arguments against your opponent’s position.
    DO NOT expect answers to your 5 page tome.
    DO NOT write 5 page tomes.
NUMBER SEVEN: Do your own research.
Remember that your opponents are busy people who are taking time out of their day to discuss relevant issues with you. Do not place an excessive burden on them by requiring them to go “off-site” to read lengthy articles or study ancient philosophers, scientists, etc. If Aristotle makes “your” point then “you” should be able to make the argument. Your opponent certainly will not (and shouldn’t have to) make it for you.
    DO feel free to provide links to outside sources for your opponent’s consideration.
    DO NOT expect your opponent to read them unless you make them want to. (i.e. “If you go read Maxwell’s five-foot bookshelf, then you’d agree with me!” never works)
    DO feel free to support your arguments with outside resources. Just make sure you summarize what the resource says. Otherwise your opponents will consider your argument unsupported until they go read/see the support. Which they most likely never will.
NUMBER EIGHT: The fallacy of the majority.
When the majority of participants in a discussion hold your position, it is common to start acting as if the last seven principles no longer apply to you. You feel you can destroy the dissenter, along with their position, since you have so many like-minded chums. However, the majority has no more right to silence the opinion of a minority through disrespectful, improper argumentation, than the minority would have, if it were able, to silence the opinion of the majority using the same methods. Victory by means of respectful, logical argumentation is true victory. Victory by any other means is no victory at all.
    DO feel free to destroy dissenting opinions using respectful, logical argumentation.
    DO NOT silence dissenting opinions by majority “piranha attacks.”

What Is Providence?

You often use the word "providence." What meaning does it have for you?

I am quite firmly convinced that God really sees us and that he leaves us freedom -- and nevertheless leads us. I can often see that things which at first seemed irksome, dangerous, unpleasant, somehow at some point come together. Suddenly one realizes that it was good thus, that this was the right way. For me this means in a very practical way that my life is not made up of chance occurrences but that someone foresees and also, so to speak, precedes me, whose thinking precedes mine and who prepares my life. I can refuse this, but I can also accept it, and then I realize that I am really guided by a providential light.

Now this does not mean that man is completely determined but rather that what is preordained calls forth precisely man's freedom. Just as we hear in the story of the talents. Five are given; and the one who receives them has a definite task, but he can do it in this way or that. At any rate, he has his mission, his particular gift. No one is superfluous, no one is in vain, everyone must try to recognize what his life's call is and how he can best live up to the call that is waiting for him.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
in an interview with Pete Seewalt,

The Salt of the Earth

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Love Letter to Firemen

This movie is a love letter to firemen in general. Specifically it shows the life of a fireman (Joaquin Phoenix) from the time he is a rookie and meeting the girl who he will marry and with whom he will make a family. This is shown through flashbacks and although there are plenty of fire fighting scenes I found it strangely passionless, which is how Tom felt also. Not that I didn't sniffle a few times over poignant scenes. Also, I feel, now more than ever, what a hero anyone who is a fire fighter must be to take on such a job. However, as an effective movie ... ho hum.

If you want a great movie about firemen with an interesting plot, rent Backdraft.


Hannah always requests a Doboschtorte for her birthday. The one I made does not look exactly like this as I don't do the caramel for the top layer but just frost it with the chocolate that is used between the layers. This is how my dad always made it and, frankly, by the time I get done making the seven cake layers and boiling sugar syrup, etc. for the chocolate frosting, I am done.

Her restaurant of choice is Tong's House, a little "mom and pop" Chinese restaurant where we will be among the few "round eyes" there. Hannah will get Tong's special duck which is her favorite. Then back to the house for presents and cake.

How different our lives would be if Hannah was not in them. How blessed we are that God sent her to us. We will celebrate indeed! Happy birthday, Hannah! Love you.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Some Saint Stuff

First of all, let me give a big shout out to St. Paul the Hermit who careful readers may recall that I was petitioning on behalf of Hannah's missing uniform shirts. I am starting to think that unbeknownst to the Church, he also may be the patron of speedy deliveries because we had five packages delivered yesterday (FIVE!). Two of them were Hannah's shirts, one was Rose's chemistry textbook which wasn't due until later but was much needed last night, and two were birthday gifts which I was worried wouldn't show up until after Monday's deadline. Talk about going above and beyond the request at hand. Thank you, St. Paul the Hermit!

Secondly, Yurodivi brought to my attention The Fourteen Holy Helpers. I'd never heard of them before but this group of saints, who are also venerated separately, began being venerated collectively during the Black Plague. I especially like the litany to the Holy Fourteen which I am reproducing below. Be sure to go to the link to read about each of these saints.

The Litany of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

LORD, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs,
pray for us.
Saint Joseph, helper in all needs, etc.
Fourteen Holy Helpers,
Saint George, valiant Martyr of Christ,
Saint Blase, zealous bishop and benefactor of the poor,
Saint Erasmus, mighty protector of the oppressed,
Saint Pantaleon, miraculous exemplar of charity,
Saint Vitus, special protector of chastity,
Saint Christophorus, mighty intercessor in dangers,
Saint Dionysius, shining mirror of faith and confidence,
Saint Cyriacus, terror of Hell,
Saint Achatius, helpful advocate in death,
Saint Eustachius, exemplar of patience in adversity,
Saint Giles, despiser of the world,
Saint Margaret, valiant champion of the Faith,
Saint Catherine, victorious defender of the Faith and of purity,
Saint Barbara, mighty patroness of the dying,

All ye Holy Helpers, etc.
All ye Saints of God,
In temptations against faith,
In adversity and trials,
In anxiety and want,
In every combat,
In every temptation,
In sickness,
In all needs,
In fear and terror,
In dangers of salvation,
In dangers of honor,
In dangers of reputation,
In dangers of property,
In dangers by fire and water,
Be merciful, spare us, O Lord!
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord!

From all sin,
deliver us, O Lord.
From Thy wrath, etc.
From the scourge of earthquake,
From plague, famine, and war,
From lightning and storms,
From a sudden and unprovided death,
From eternal damnation,

Through the mystery of Thy holy incarnation, etc.
Through Thy birth and Thy life,
Through Thy Cross and Passion,
Through Thy death and burial,
Through the merits of Thy blessed Mother Mary,
Through the merits of the Fourteen Holy Helpers,
On the Day of Judgment, deliver us, O Lord!

We sinners, beseech Thee hear us.
That Thou spare us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou pardon us, etc.
That Thou convert us to true penance,
That Thou give and preserve the fruits of the earth,
That Thou protect and propagate Thy holy Church,
That Thou preserve peace and concord among the nations,
That Thou give eternal rest to the souls of the departed,
That Thou come to our aid through the intercession of the Holy Helpers,
That through the intercession of Saint George Thou preserve us in the Faith,
That through the intercession of Saint Blase Thou confirm us in hope,
That through the intercession of Saint Erasmus Thou enkindle in us Thy holy love,
That through the intercession of Saint Pantaleon Thou give us charity for our neighbor,
That through the intercession of Saint Vitus Thou teach us the value of our soul,
That through the intercession of Saint Christophorus Thou preserve us from sin,
That through the intercession of Saint Dionysius Thou give us tranquillity of conscience,
That through the intercession of Saint Cyriacus Thou grant us resignation to Thy holy will,
That through the intercession of Saint Eustachius Thou give us patience in adversity,
That through the intercession of Saint Achatius Thou grant us a happy death,
That through the intercession of Saint Giles Thou grant us a merciful judgment,
That through the intercession of Saint Margaret Thou preserve us from Hell,
That through the intercession of Saint Catherine Thou shorten our Purgatory,
That through the intercession of Saint Barbara Thou receive us in Heaven,
That through the intercession of all the Holy Helpers Thou wilt grant our prayers,

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us, O Lord.

V. Pray for us, ye Fourteen Holy Helpers.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.

Let us Pray.

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast bestowed extraordinary graces and gifts on Thy saints George, Blase, Erasmus, Pantaleon, Vitus, Christophorus, Dionysius, Cyriacus, Eustachius, Achatius, Giles, Margaret, Catherine, and Barbara, and hast illustrated them by miracles; we beseech Thee to graciously hear the petitions of all who invoke their intercession. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, who didst miraculously fortify the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the confession of the Faith; grant us, we beseech Thee, to imitate their fortitude in overcoming all temptations against it, and protect us through their irttercession in all dangers of soul and body, so that we may serve Thee in purity of heart and chastity of body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Art as God's Gift to Man

... art is elemental. Reason alone as it's expressed in the sciences can't be man's complete answer to reality, and it can't express everything that man can, wants to, and has to express. I think God built this into man. Art along with science is the highest gift God has given him.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
in an interview with Pete Seewalt,

The Salt of the Earth

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All the Customer Service of Being in France ... Without the Food

Bishop Lynch High School changed uniform providers for this year. I can only assume that the new provider offered them a bigger cut. I certainly hope they're getting plenty because I haven't experienced customer service this bad since ... well, for a long, long time.

My order made over the internet never came. My email receipt gave a handy-dandy customer service email address and phone number for questions. My emails are never answered. In fact, I just got my most recent back with the message that their server is full. Gee, there's a surprise.

The phone numbers (both toll-free and otherwise) feature either a busy signal or pre-recorded message that ends with the promise of response in 24-hours (ha!) and invites one to leave a message.

I am four days into this. Emailing the school with feedback brought the promise to take it into consideration for next year but, of course, they can do nothing actually.

Luckily, we are not actually without essential garments but as Hannah has only one blue shirt (seniors get to wear either yellow or blue instead of the standard white) we are washing it every night.

So, now, what to offer all this annoyance up for? Certainly, I must put this toward something more fruitful. (Lord have mercy on me and bless Campus Outfitters.) Hmmm ... and is there a saint for terrible customer service?

St. Paul the Hermit, patron of the clothing industry, we petition you to intercede that my child may not have to live for a year "wearing leaves or nothing" as you did. Amen.

Internal Division and Faith

Most people in our time cannot believe what they know and do not know what they should believe. Now you yourself combine a unity and integration of thought and faith that is no longer familiar to us skeptical and errant moderns. How does it feel to live like that?

I don't dare judge here whether all modern men in general really lack this inner unity, or whether they don't in fact find unity in many ways. Every man is inwardly pulled between many poles, and this is, of course, true for me and for any priest and bishop. For one's interests, talents and handicaps, knowledge and ignorance, the faith of the Church as a whole, do not coincide automatically. In this sense, there is in every man, including me, an inner tension. Believing with the Church and knowing that I may entrust myself to this knowledge and knowing that the other things I know receive light from it and, conversely, can deepen it -- that does hold me together. Above all, the foundational faith act of faith in Christ, and the attempt to bring one's life into unity in terms of that faith, unifies the tensions, so that they do not become a fissure, a fracture.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
in an interview with Pete Seewalt,

The Salt of the Earth

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Ways to God

How many ways are there to God?

As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man's way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ's word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
in an interview with Pete Seewalt,

The Salt of the Earth

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Best Jesus Movie Ever?

I've heard for a long time that this miniseries by Franco Zeffirelli tops all others. I'm a sucker for anything that comes fairly close to conveying the feeling of the Gospels, as witness my fondness for Godspell (yes, you heard me right). So when a dear friend found out I had never seen Zeffirelli's classic she bought it for me (so thoughtful and sweet!).

It has taken me quite a while to get the time to begin working my way through it but we're probably about halfway through now. The thing that truly amazes me is that this probably is the best Jesus movie I've ever seen, however, so far, this is just about the worst portrayal of Jesus ever. He is like an otherworldly statue floating through the scenes. Only occasionally will he seem to have the humanity that must have been there. When Robert Powell really lets loose and gives an actual full smile (instead a twitch of one side of his mouth) or gets down telling a good parable then he is believable. In fact, the way he did the "Get thee behind me, Satan" scene was truly insightful in how Jesus might have been addressing Satan and his own temptations rather than poor Peter (once again, as our deacon likes to say, a "duh"sciple). The rest of the time, though, we wonder how anyone could relate to him.

The beauty of this movie comes from all the fabulous portrayals of everyone else, from Herod and his wife, Michael York's wild-eyed John the Baptist, Peter's depth of feelings, Mary Magdalene's deep and passionate sorrow for her sins, and more. Adding a bit of back story to most of these helps to understand their motivations and in several instances has given me a different view of the gospels that has helped clarify the human logic behind things. And the fact that everything else is so well done makes me able to take the less than glorious portray of Jesus in his humanity ... to the point where so far I am willing to agree this might be the best Jesus movie to date.

Now, if only we could have had a Jesus with Jim Caviezel's portray combined with this movie ... what an unbelievable masterpiece that would have been!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Catching Up

(spoilers for the two people beside me who haven't read this book yet)
I finished it in two days but forgot to say anything other than to complain about the Hermione/Ron and Harry/Ginny romance dance. When you've seen it coming since book 2 (or so) it is not as if any of this was a surprise or especially cleverly written.

However, I loved the Fleur/Bill romance and the way every female bristled at Fleur's presence. As for Snape killing Dumbledore, I feel that he may have promised Dumbledore to do so. It was the only time that Dumbledore pled for anything and when Harry told Prof. M. later that his promises to Dumbledore carried on after death, I thought of Snape. So we shall see ... in several years, after I have no doubt forgotten all about the plot of this book.

Everyone else has covered this pretty well. My personal reaction is that I liked Johnny Depp's performance much better than I thought I would, especially the way he never knew the kids' names ("Oh, Little Girl...") and would snap at them ("MUMBLER! I can't understand a word you're saying, Little Boy.").

I didn't mind the back story especially as they carried it out much the way that I think Dahl would have. It was a great touch when Willie Wonka came back home and the house was literally ripped from the row of houses.

The musical numbers stink, stank, stunk. What were they thinking?

Overall, pretty good though I'd have liked to see more of Willie Wonka's factory than we did.

I rented this expecting a little, light comedy. It was good as well as amusing. However, it also was one of the most forceful statements I've seen from Hollywood about culture clash, maintaining fidelity to a marriage, and honorable behavior. Great performances from everyone, especially Tea Leoni as the unlikable wife who becomes entirely sympathetic only in a very few moments of the movie. I also didn't know what would happen and that kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering, "Surely they won't have an affair, will they? PLEASE don't ... though who could blame them?" I won't say what happens here ... rent it and find out for yourself.

WARNING: This movie is rated PG-13 but shows a sex scene complete with the wife having an orgasm. I suppose the fact that any private "bits" were covered was supposed to make it ok but we couldn't believe our eyes ... to say nothing of the fact that we were watching with Rose which was less than comfortable to say the least. I am positive they could have made the point about the wife being totally selfish and self-involved without this little scene. In fact, they had done it already. Whoever rates movies obviously has lost any perspective on what is normal for 13-year-olds to view.
Ok, I've got two words for that. In. Sane.
Tom Arnold in True Lies

Will the Real Mary Ann Collins Please Stand Up?

My latest article, critically examining the existance of ex-nun Mary Ann Collins, is up at Spero News. (Thanks to Bene Diction, Clint, and Robert for letting me work on something so far afield from my usual experience. It was really interesting and an unusual challenge.)

I fully realize the irony of an article examining a distributor of anti-Catholic materials being published on the celebration of the Assumption of Mary. Kinda fun, huh? Mary Ann Collins definitely would not like that.

On the other hand, this year our bishops declared that this day is not a holy day of obligation (aaaargh!). I believe that would make Mary Ann Collins happy. So I suppose you could say this is a win-win situation.

Be sure to hop over there and see what else is going on at Spero News. They have all kinds of fascinating news that covers angles you won't see anywhere else.

Lunch With Jordan

What a pleasure it was to meet Jordan from Contemplating the Laundry in actual real life! We just started in chatting a mile a minute as if we had known each other forever and just seen each other the previous day. She is beautiful for one thing (inside and out). She's also a great and interesting conversationalist (maybe that's because she's such a good listener. ha!). Of course, it helps that we both "live" in the same neighborhood. We have so many blogging friends in common that between talking about them (in a good way, y'all!) and sharing common experiences in blogging we just couldn't quit talking. We could hardly tear ourselves away long enough to get to our cars and leave.

Here's hoping that she visits her in-laws often! (just selfish, that's me!)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pumping Gas and Seeing Stars

Little John's ongoing story of seeing celebrities while pumping gas in Malibu (circa 1984). Somehow this one doesn't surprise me a bit.
Late one rainy night a big, black BMW drives up and the passenger window lowers. It's Danny DiVito. He asks if I can replace the wiper blades. It's after 10:00 pm and after that hour the crew at the station would usually have an altered mental state. Plus putting in replacement blades can be a real hassle. So I said, "No I don't think we can help." Man, you would have thought they just cancelled "Taxi"! Mr. DiVito got super mad, insulted me and then announced that he would get his gas elsewhere. Man was I upset that he didn't buy 20 dollars of gas at the station where I made $3.50 per hour (or whatever the minimum wage was in 1983 or 84). He really knew how to hurt a guy!
This is the end of this series unless Little John drops any more stories my way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due ... Bill Clinton Did This Right

Bill Clinton might have vetoed the GOP written welfare reform several times before finally, in an election year - signing the legislation. But he signed it. Amid all of the predictions of gloom and doom, the certainty of the left that the world would end should welfare-as-we-then-knew-it be updated and reformed, Clinton signed.

The world did not end. What ended was the seeming-entrenchment of a whole group of people, of all ethnic backgrounds, into a hopeless dependence upon the government which led nowhere, gave no promise, encouraged no future, thwarted dreams and individual potential, and perpetuated the whole idea of dependence, of inability, of needing a caretaker.
Read the whole thing at Stones Cry Out. I never would have thought of it that way so this was an eye opening article. And now I can give Bill Clinton a little bit of credit. Even though I detest him, I detest even more the idea of never giving him any credit for doing the right thing ... after all, he must have done something right! Right?

How Blogging Has Prepared Me for the Real World ...

... Or, How Not to Fight With Friends About Your Faith

I have watched so many "discussions" between traditional and progressive Catholics in the blogging world. In practically every case they have led to nothing except extended arguing and quite often bad feelings. As far as I can tell it is because each has their ideas already set and is trying to convince the other to change their mind. It rarely is simply setting out the reasons for one's beliefs so the other can understand where you are coming from. And, those arguments make me tired, so very tired.

So, last night, when a friend surprised me by suddenly declaring, "I'm a big time liberal Catholic" and wanting to "discuss" why there should be no altar rails in any Catholic churches, I was more than wary. I was determined not to get dragged into something that would ruin our friendship, to say nothing of making it difficult to work on a possible project that we might be doing together.

Actually, his reasons were very enlightening. I didn't mind hearing why he had those views although I wasn't getting the idea that my own were necessarily being heard ... and I didn't have the desire to even attempt swaying him to my POV (to say nothing of the fact that the venue wasn't appropriate for that particular discussion). So once both of us had gone over the same ground a couple of times, I refused to talk about it any more.

Cop out? Maybe. But why turn a friend into an adversary over an altar rail? That is just plain nuts. On the way home I told Tom, "Thank you for being a cradle Catholic who is still traditional." After a second, he said, "Well, thank you for being a traditional Catholic too." That made me realize, crazy convert that I am, what torture it would have been for both of us to be continually in disagreement over this or unable to discuss the Church at all. A new realization and a little something extra to be thankful for.
In what is necessary, unity;
in what is not necessary, liberty
and in all things charity.

St. Augustine
The discussion also made me go back and reread this post which quotes John Allen about why Vatican II divided the Church. It is one of the best reasons for the two varying attitudes I've ever come across and one that keeps me in charity with both sides.

Human Nature is the Basis for Morality

There are two very different ideas in the world today about the basis for morality. The typically modern idea is that moral laws are man-made rules like the rules of a game such as tennis, created by human will and therefore changeable by human will. The traditional idea, on the other hand, which is taught not only by the Catholic Church but by all the world's major religions and nearly all pre-modern philosophies, is that the laws of morality are not rules that we make but principles that we discover, like the laws of a science such as anatomy. They are based on human nature, and human nature is essentially unchanging; and therefore the laws of morality are also essentially unchanging, like the laws of anatomy... There are universal principles, based on human nature, for bodily health and for mental health -- and also for moral health.

Because our human nature is composed of body and soul, with powers of intellect, will, and feelings, and because it is our nature to love the good but also to be tempted by evil, it is necessary for us to cultivate such virtues as self-control, wisdom, courage, and honesty. Catholic morality follows the classic Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in deriving the essential principles of morality from unchanging human nature and its real, objective needs rather than from the changing subjective feelings and desires of individuals or societies. Thus its essential principles are universal (the same for everyone), objective (discovered, not invented), and unchangeable.

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

All the Ways God Gets Our Attention

As saintos at luminous miseries prepares to convert to Catholicism we are being shown the gamut of ways God calls us. When the family is being shown around the grand old Catholic church that will be their new "church home" we see God calling through the sheer beauty of the art.
For our eldest daughter it really have been straight up doctrine, I mean how much more core can one get than being convinced of the truth of the Eucharist, body, blood and divinity of our Lord Jesus in the bread and the wine? For our youngest it is the witness of the work God is doing in her sister and in me and a fascination with the rosary, no doubt. For Mrs. Saintos it is her thriving spirit, her will to see us do life as a family and her own commitment to me as the spiritual head of the family. I know this sounds frightfully old fashioned but it comes as it is her own will to live this way and not some onerous obligation on my part it seems to me the act of a very strong person who happens to be a woman. For our son God seems to be reaching out to him through the relational and esthetic. Our son was much moved by the artwork that was so visible in the church, cancels, beautiful not kitschy sculptures, the Blessed Mother and Child, Joseph the Worker, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Holy Mary and the like. I know a moment of impact for us all was in seeing the Tabernacle. Father explained it and then opened it to show us the blessed host. I am telling you, I cannot speak for the others but I felt the tinglies! A moment that impacted our son was when Father showed us the one item that survived the fire that brought the building to ash in the nineteen seventies, it was the original Chalice.
Think of how many modern Catholic churches that saintos' son could visit today and not receive the same message because there is no beauty there to call him. I remember visiting the Basilica of Notre Dame in Montreal and watching a young woman ask her husband what was wrong. The church was incredibly beautiful and he had been brought to tears just by being there. He told her he was "having a moment" and we knew what he meant ... he had been feeling God's glory communicated through the beauty created to honor Him. I get that feeling from nature but I think it is a special calling to get it from man's works made to honor God.

Romance 1001

Ham-scented notes aside, neither Tom or I are very creative about romance ... or romantic at all, truth be told. Neither of us are the most spontaneous in the world. Yet, it turns out we would both enjoy a little romance in our lives. (Hmmmm, wonder why that marriage retreat was such a good idea?)

Before we even left San Antonio on Sunday we hit a Borders and bought the only book we saw with a lot of ideas listed. 1001 Ways to Be Romantic by Gregory Godeck. We almost didn't pick it up when we saw it had been recommended by Oprah, but overcame our Oprah-phobia. I particularly liked the part I saw when flipping through it that was like a point-by-point checklist of how to come up with romantic ideas. Yes! Instructions! Corny? Maybe. But it is a place to begin.

Still thinking of this as primarily a book of lists to flip through, however, I was astonished to see Tom start at the beginning and reading it just like a regular book. Which is how we wound up having a long conversation about it this morning. (Talk about it? Analyze it? Oh yeah, now that's our style!)

Interestingly enough, amidst the lists is a primer on romance itself: how to think about romance, how not to become paralyzed by requiring the "perfect" idea, how to appreciate the romantic gesture that is made to you, etc. Ok, based on other conversations with couples (we are not alone), I begin to see why this book is so popular. We can get a lot of books of lists (based on interesting samples from the retreat), but a "how-to" book? That's right down our alley.

If You Can Start the Day

From my inbox. Thanks Marcia!
If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can get going without pep pills,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him,

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

... Then you are probably the family dog!

Monday, August 8, 2005

Beyond Cana

Is there a more perfect name for a marriage retreat ... especially one that focuses on marriage enrichment? No. There isn't. It is pure genius.

However, that shouldn't surprise me, as I consider the man who came up with the original idea for this retreat to be a genius. In fact, on the way home (a 5-hour drive from San Antonio to Dallas), I said to Tom, "Ken is a genius, a GENIUS!" He said, "Yes, you've mentioned that before." Oooops.

It is a very interesting concept, first of all, that this is for enriching marriages. We didn't fully grasp that when we signed up but it was just what we were aiming for ... helping us celebrate what is already working and do the hard and necessary work of talking about what isn't working ... while getting both of us to listen to the other. Incorporated through this is the spiritual element that is so essential to any successful undertaking. There was an overarching theme of marriage as a sacrament and as a place where we reflect God's glory. Wow!

Giving the details would make no sense as anyone who has ever gone on a retreat knows full well. Part of the retreat process is progressing as things unfold around you rather than seeing the whole thing laid out ahead of time or divorced from the overall atmosphere.

I can say that the retreat gave us the tools we needed to communicate our love, our frustrations, our needs, our fears ... everything ... in a safe and undemanding environment. I am not saying it was easy. There were times when we were praying and very afraid to bring things up. But God was there with us (corny? yes. but it is true). Also we were committed to each other and to this process. In fact, the item that turned out to be the main issue between us is one that only God had in mind as we both had pushed it so far back, so long ago, that we couldn't even really define it at first.

Naturally, it didn't hurt that there were two mandatory "date" nights in the charming town of Boerne at the edge of Texas' hill country. It all combined so well to remind us of what made us fall in love in the first place and how deeply we have grown to love each other in the meantime.

Tom's reaction is stated a bit differently but the end result was the same for both of us:
This program is good for a couple like us because it is not at all a "crisis" oriented concept. In fact it is rooted in business situation assessment and planning wrapped in a "marriage as a sacrament" context. Better than just taking a weekend off together, it is really helps break down the little personal barriers people tend to develop over time. Then to plan on how to minimize the negative and emphasize the positive.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who said a little prayer for the retreat. We discovered that the retreat team had a monastery full of nuns praying for us. I know also that my CRHP team was praying for us. And, then there is anyone who dropped by here and saw that request. So it is no wonder that we had a fabulous experience.

The next challenge is really the big one. We must make changes to our routines on a day to day basis. I realized that routine sucks all those great new plans right out of your head when we got home and dropped right back into the regular needs of daily life with the girls. That is, until that wonderful moment, when my dear Tom (having realized the same thing I found out later), suddenly started implementing a little change that very evening. And the change was in the very area I had been most terrified about approaching him. How I love that man o' mine!

That was such a surprise and such a delight ... and such a warning about the need to be vigilant about putting our plans into effect. His motion touched me so that I was warming myself at the memory of it while making lunch the next morning. The perfect time to slip a note into his sandwich wrapper some might mention? Ah yes. And so it was done. He has the note in his shirt pocket as we speak ... now I just have to remember that a ham sandwich will give a note an unmistakable fragrance throughout the day ... and figure out a way around that!

And the very best part? If the routine overcomes us again, if we forget part of what we vowed to change, if new problems surface ... and we all know that this is reality speaking, not pessimism ... this retreat is designed so that we can pick our own weekend, retreat from the world, and do it ourselves annually or whenever we want. How cool is that? You know the answer already. Very cool.

Both Flattering and Mystifying

I am not sure what language this is, much less what the blogger's nationality is, but thank you for the link Martti Savijoki. Obviously, you are better educated than I am as you definitely are reading Happy Catholic in a second language.

I think I'm gonna add a foreign language section to the sidebar ...

The Personalism of Catholic Morality

What is the image of "Catholic morality" propogated by today's secular world, especially the media establishment, which forms modern minds through TV, movies, journalism, and public education? It is that of a joyless, repressive, dehumanizing, impersonal, and irrational system, something alien and inhuman and often simply stupid.

How totally different Catholic morality looks from the inside, from the viewpoint of those who live it, especially the saints! When the media meet a saint, like Mother Teresa, their stereotypes dissolve and die. Nothing looks more different from inside than from outside than Catholic morality -- except people in love. Nothing appears more foolish to non-lovers, or more wise and wonderful to lovers.

For Catholic morality is a love affair with Christ and his people, though not "romantic" love. It has its laws and rules, as a city has its streets. Streets are essential to a city, but they are not the very essence of a city... Streets are a means to the end of getting home. Home is where the real living takes place. Similarly, moral rules are the street map to the good life, but they are not the thing itself. The thing itself is a relationship of love, like a marriage. The marriage covenant has laws, like God's covenant with us. But husband and wife are faithful to each other first of all, not to the laws. The laws define and command their fidelity to each other. Principles are for persons, not persons for principles. Catholic morality is personalistic -- it is person-centric because it is Christocentric, and Christ is a person, not a principle.

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Giving Thanks

Gratitude, someone once said, is the heart of prayer. And I think that person was right. Gratitude for a meal is really just an extension of the gratitude we're called to live in all day long.

There are times when my life is not what I want or think it should be. It might be a small aggravation or a huge worry, but the bottom line is, I don't like it and I'm not happy with it. A while back, I decided that anger, frustration, and wishful thinking got me nowhere. Forget where that could be, I decided, and concentrate on what is and where God is in all of it. Instead of thinking "I wish" or "If only" or something more profane, I started forcing myself to simply think (or pray), "Thank you."

You'd be amazed at what that does to change your perspective instantly.
Exactly right. The trick is remembering to be thankful always. Hard to believe how easily I can forget that ... St. Albert the Great, help my memory.

Isn't LIfe Strange?

Tony Hendra (who plays manager Ian Faith) writes in his memoir "Father Joe" that he attempted suicide the night before the first day of filming. He credits the joy he experienced in making the film with bringing him back from his depression.
Well that's a shocker. Looking up trivia from This is Spinal Tap I was stunned to see both the effect that making the movie had on Hendra and also that he wrote Father Joe. It's also funny what inspires you. I was never that interested in reading Father Joe but now it's going on my book list.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Where's the Story?

Get Religion is wondering why no major media source has picked up on a major Vatican story mentioned by John Allen.
Sources indicate that the long-awaited Vatican document on the admission of homosexuals to seminaries is now in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI. The document, which has been condensed from earlier versions, reasserts the response given by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2002, in response to a dubium submitted by a bishop on whether a homosexual could be ordained: “A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency, is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

That reply was published in the November-December 2002 issue of Notitiae, the official publication of the congregation.

It is up to Benedict XVI to decide whether to issue the new document as it stands, to send it back for revision, or to shelve it on the basis that for now such a document is “inopportune.”
No kidding. Not only is that story a hot button for all kinds of secular groups but, naturally, it will be of great interest to Catholics. Get Religion puts it so very well.
So did I miss the story somewhere else?... You see, people tend to forget that sexuality issues in the Catholic world are not strictly a left vs. right affair. It is also a matter of public vs. private... It is hard to overemphasize how important this story is among Catholic politicos.
No word from MSM so far...

Pumping Gas and Seeing Stars

Little John's ongoing story of seeing celebrities while pumping gas in Malibu (circa 1984).
I worked with a 60's burnout who lived in a van with his Bassett hound. He loved the folk music of the 60's and in particular Joni Mitchell. She would come in from time to time and he finally got up the nerve to say something to her. He told her that her music had really touched him and her response was, "Shut up and pump the gas". So much for peace and love!

The Only Interesting Thing

[The Prioress] said, next, as to you and this story you have told me: you have been cruelly treated and betrayed, your childhood has been stolen. The world is oftentimes une patisse emerdee, a shit pie, but this is known, this is boring. The only interesting thing is how we use the suffering that is inevitable in life.
Valley of the Bones by Michael Gruber

Monday, August 1, 2005

"Why are people so proud of being half assed about their religion?"

This was Rose's question after we'd been talking about various progressive Catholic opinions seen around St. Blogs in the last few days.

Good point.
Saint Thomas Aquinas ... says if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error.
Further thoughts about that subject can be found here.

A Heartwarming, True Story

MORRISON - Mark Hickethier knew he was going to have to dig deep for this celebration dinner. "We were out to kill the fatted calf," he said, talking about his big plans...

But no expense was too much for his only son, who's about to ship off to Iraq for his first tour of duty. Matt Hickethier has almost completed training, and has this week to say farewell to his family for about a year.

The young Marine decided to wear his dress blues to the fancy restaurant. His mother and sister wore their finest dresses...

Perhaps it was the dress blues; maybe it was the general revelry and good vibes emanating from the Hickethier table. The truth may never be revealed, but the Hickethiers had certainly drawn attention. A couple at a neighboring table summoned Jason Barba, their server, and made a most unusual request.

"He gave me his credit card and requested I keep the tab open," said Barba. "'Anything that they order is on me.'"

Stephanie Amador, who was waiting on the Hickethier table, said the gentleman who picked up the tab insisted on doing it and also insisted on anonymity. The gesture was not even to be announced until he had finished and departed.

While the servers were impressed by this generous move, the Hickethiers were floored.

"I don't know the motivation, but I do know that it was mind-blowing," said Mark.

... The gesture at The Fort reminded him of the many Americans that support young men like his son.
Read the whole thing here.
Via Always Jason.