Thursday, July 17, 2014

To Live is To Love

I have been hired to write a short biographical drama on the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

And although I believe she had a strong influence upon me (behind the scenes) at the Chesterton Conference in Emmitsburg, Maryland four years ago, it has taken her a while to grow upon me.  But the more I read of her, the more I like her.  She was, among other things, a woman who valued Friendship most highly among all earthly blessings.

And this insight of hers in particular strikes me.  She wrote it as a note to herself on the back flyleaf of a book she was reading, The Following of Christ.


To live according to the Spirit, is to love according to the Spirit.  To live according to the flesh, is to love according to the flesh.  Love is the life of the soul - as the soul is the life of the body ... To live according to the Spirit is to act, to speak, to think in the manner the Spirit of God requires of us ... To live then according to the Spirit is to do what faith, hope, and charity teach - either in spiritual or temporal things.

Let me unpack this a bit for you.

First, she is playing around with Flesh vs. Spirit, which is not body vs. spirit, but the ways of the selfish  soul vs. the ways of the enlightened soul.  She is using "flesh" here at St. Paul does (Greek: sarx), meaning all that mean, nasty self-centered lust for power that emanates from that narcissistic little petty tyrant that is inside of every fallen human being; while Spirit means Holy Spirit, the work of God within you.

And St. Elizabeth compares the unfolding of love lived according to either principle.  Compare what St. Paul tells us in Galatians (my emphasis and commentary) ...

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh ... The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
[Clearly, Paul is not using the word "flesh" to talk only about bodily urges, for "idolatry", "hatred", "jealousy", "ambition", etc. are spiritual things - but darkly spiritual things.  The acts of the flesh are the things we do when we are motivated by nothing beyond our basest desires - whether those desires are physical or spiritual.  However ...]
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:14-22)

And Mother Seton points out that one can live according to the selfish old man within or, or one can live according to the redeemed new man within; that is, according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.

 But to live is to love.  "Love is the life of the soul - as the soul is the life of the body".  What a great insight!

***

So what is the difference between loving according to the flesh - the sarx - and loving according to the Spirit?

I think we can see the difference in something as simple as Friendship.

***

My son Colin, who's a film buff, insisted that I watch the movie The Master the other night.  It's a Paul Thomas Anderson film that's kind of about a Scientology type cult, but is really about love and friendship.



The main character, Freddie Quell (played with amazing skill by Joaquin Phoenix) is a psychologically disturbed drifter whose life is Disconnected.  Without any real relationships in his life, he floats from job to job and from psychotic episode to psychotic episode, until he is befriended by the Cult Leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman - and theirs is indeed a friendship, despite the fact that they both make a habit of using other people.

"Use is the opposite of love," as St. John Paul used to say.  And, although Freddie Quell in The Master is willing to use, by means of sex, any woman who moves (or who doesn't move), he harbors one true love - a girl whose innocence he would never dream of offending.  And The Master himself, though he's making a career out of using others in a way that is typical of the Great American Scam Artist, is drawn to Freddie with a simple kind of loyalty.

The climactic scene of the movie (spoiler here) is when The Master describes his love by singing a romantic song to Freddie - but somehow it's far from a homosexual moment.  Freddie breaks down in tears, not so much because he has the sense that The Master is trying to seduce him as he seduces everyone else, but because the song somehow communicates a real love between the two that has nothing to do with romance, homosexual or otherwise.  Or at least that's how I saw it, though the scene (and the whole movie) is very hard to pin down.

At any rate, the opposite of love is not hatred.  The opposite of love is use.

***

Sometimes friendships die when one or the other party moves on to other interests, when the air goes out of the tire and nothing can be done to patch it and inflate it back up.

But quite often, it seems, friendships die when one party betrays the other, or when an undercurrent of use and even abuse rises to the surface.

When we are used by others to fulfill their selfish needs - which can include sex, attention, affection, money - when this happens and we wise up to it we feel incredibly, terribly, horribly abused, as well we should.

We feel victimized by someone who was loving according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit.

***

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gave her life to educating young women at a time in America when this was simply not being done - at least not being done for women outside of a wealthy social class.  But Mother Seton took in the poor, the destitute, the desperate; she founded an order that helped orphans, that ministered to the needs of the simple common people, of the poorest of the poor.

Hers was a life lived - and loved - according to the Spirit, and it therefore bore the fruits of the Spirit (as St. Paul describes above).

If all of us began to love in that way, our friendships would flourish, and we would find that instead of behaving with "knavish imbecility" (as our bishops do), the Church would revive and the world would begin to heal.  Suffering would certainly be our lot, as to love is to suffer - but this is, after all, our great and only call.




Hear No Evil, See No Evil ...

Jennifer Haselberger
Anonymous comments on my post The Nature of the Problem ...

Now it was a grave sin what those priests and Bishops did decades ago, but it is time to stop acting like what happened then is still happening now. The Church has taken many steps to prevent sexual abuse from happening.

 But these are steps that are not being followed, at least in St. Paul, Kansas City and St. Louis.  The enabling of sexual abuse by bishops is still going on.  The sexual abuse is still happening.

Read the recent affidavit by Jennifer Haselberger.  You can tell yourself that she's a flaming liberal in it for the money - but at one point she says she had high hopes for Archbishop Nienstedt because he was "doctrinally pure".  So that won't wash.

And most of what she describes is backed up by documentary evidence, and it rings very true.

A friend of mine says the bishops have been behaving with "knavish imbecility".  It's a great phrase, and it comes from Hilaire Belloc, who speaks of the Church as ...

... an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Angry about that Catholic Ghetto

Here's a shortened version of a post from a year-and-a-half ago.

I don't necessarily write better when I'm mad, but I write more honestly.

***

What is the Catholic Ghetto?

It is producers producing bad art for consumers who won't pay for good art.  It's hard to say which came first.  But the effect is bad Catholic novels, bad Catholic drama, bad Catholic audio CDs, bad Catholic videos ...



... My contention is the Catholic Ghetto exists only because of Unreality.

Yes, Unreality, that odd little thing that is really just Idolatry applied to lifestyle.

You see, I've tried hard to explain the Catholic Ghetto before and I've tried hard to explain Unreality before. It's only now that I assert clearly that the two are related to one another.  They spring from the same root.  And that root is lack of faith; or at least lack of courage when it comes to applying the faith; lack of Incarnational faith.

We don't really believe God will get us there.  We can't imagine He's real enough to deal with real people and real sins.  "God-with-us", Immanuel?  No way.  God up there, maybe, but not down here.  No way.

God may be many things, but He's not real enough to be en-fleshed, in-carnate.  He's not real enough to be real.

***

A young evangelical actress once said to me, "I don't think dating a lot of guys before marriage is important.  God will send me the man He wants me to marry."

And I (an atheist at the time) replied, "What?  Just like that?  Down a heavenly water slide?  Out of the blue?  Without you trying?  Without you dating enough guys to be able to spot a loser from a player?  Without you getting your heart broken once or twice? Without the muss and the fuss of breaking up and making up and all the ups and downs of interpersonal relations?"

"Yes," she replied, "Just like that."

O ye of little faith!

We all think we're Pilate.  We all think we're washing our hands of the mess that's all around us.  What we don't realize is that Christ is in the mess.  And we renounce Him - and His reality - as we wipe the unseemly grit from our mitts.

***

When something stops seeming to be related to real life and the way real people live, it becomes artificial.  It becomes contrived.  It begins to attract dilettantes and "gays".  Dilettantes and "gays" devote their lives to the artificial.  It's safe and it's fun.  But so do old ladies watching Hallmark movies and sensitive teenagers anxious about dating and so do all of us when the stress is mounting.  Make-believe worlds of our own choosing are more comfortable than the real world because we can control the house of cards we build ourselves - though we may have some anxiety when it begins to totter.  Our Father's house, which has many mansions, is a bit overwhelming by comparison.

And when we're not sure if our Father's house is really there ... well, then let's make church-going a game.  Let's make the music fruit, the architecture boring, the homilies bland and inoffensive and insipid.  Let's get that religious feeling without that Old Time Religion.  

  • Let's not read Catholic novels like Flannery O'Connor's, which are disturbing and are about the reality of sin.  Let's read novels where everyone goes to church and prays devotions, regardless of how poorly written these novels are.

  • Let's fund raise for Ed's Catholic "ministry", which consists of making a really bad movie that no one will ever see, but he'll never make money at it, so he needs us to sponsor him.

  • Let's indulge this Unreality and pretend as if everything's just fine in here, while the heathens out there are not our worry - after all, they're so much more spirited than we are, something must be wrong with them.

In short ... 


Let's idolize the great Unreal.
Reality we must evade.
Let's focus now on how we feel.
Let's idolize the great Unreal,
Let us pray and let us kneel
Before the Falsehood, so man-made.
Let's idolize the great Unreal.
Reality we must evade.

***

And this, my friends, is simply a denial of the Incarnation, of Christ coming in the flesh.  Which, as St. John tells us, is nothing other than the spirit of the antichrist at work.




The Ghetto of the Soul

A friend will be interviewing me tomorrow for a class he's teaching on Beauty and Justice.  One of the topics he's willing to let me rant about is the lack of Beauty in our current Catholic culture: i.e, the Catholic Ghetto.

With that in mind, I'm looking over a few old posts, including this one from last fall ...

***




A Theater of the Word supporter, who has been trying to drum up business for us, writes to me (emphasis mine) ...

... the folks up this way completely balk at the price [of your shows], and this is unlikely to change if I try the pitch ten more times.  The youth / young adults ministry chap, though already familiar with you and your work, which he likes, said that $2500 is a youth ministry position for a year.  Indeed even if you were to halve the asking price for the show itself, then adding in the travel expenses, I have seen no indication that there would be any takers.  

What he's referring to is that if a parish in his neck of the woods booked us to perform one of our four-person touring shows, we would charge $1900 for the show plus travel.  Travel is our biggest expense.  To get four actors to his location (if we're not already on tour) would cost us at least $2,000.  But if we're on tour, the travel can be much less - and I often sell shows for whatever the parish or school can pay, if we can afford to do so on our end.

Out of the base price of the show (not including travel), we pay for actors, costumes, lights, a sound system, and the hundreds of hours it takes to research, write, cast, rehearse, market and schedule our performances.  Since my actors and I are all human beings, we need food, shelter and transportation, which means we must be paid money for the time we put in - not big money, but subsistence money, poverty-level money.  One of my actors has a good day job and can rarely afford to travel with us, for he loses money while on a Theater of the Word tour.

So I responded to my supporter ...

I'd love to lower the price of our shows.  The problem is, if I tried to get four actors to [your location] and have them perform one or more shows for less than $2500 including travel, I'd be more broke than I am.  It's just not possible to pay travel and also eat for less than what we charge.  ...  So it's a sad situation.
The sadder thing here is that $2500 will pay for a Youth Minister.  

I mean, really.

$2500 is the annual Youth Minister budget?  I know that's part-time money, and I understand a parish not giving a damn about Theater of the Word "evangelizing through drama".

But Youth Ministry?  The future of the Church?  Youth Ministry is this unimportant?

How does $2500 for a Youth Minister compare to the average parish budget?

Emergingmodels.org reports

In the average American parish, the total operating revenue of about $695,000 exceeds expenses of $626,500. The average surplus is 4.3 percent of revenue.  [or about $70,000 left over at the end of the year].

The report goes on to stress than 30% of American parishes have a shortfall.  But of the 70% that have revenues exceeding expenses, is it too much to ask that more than a token of good will (which $2500 represents) be offered to someone as important as a Youth Minister?  I'm not saying any of us are in this to make money, but I am saying we all have to eat, and perpetuating the Catholic Ghetto is no way to run a Church.  Are our parishes run by pastors or slumlords?

But the problem here goes deeper than money.  Money is just a way to measure the problem, to talk about it.  The problem is more than financial.

***

During the Year of St. Paul, we offered performances of our show The Journey of St. Paul free of charge to parishes in my home archdiocese of St. Louis.  Fifty or so St. Louis parishes booked this free show, and audiences loved it.  We were able to do this because of generous financial support from Ignatius Press.

But that's one out of four parishes - willing to take a free show.  About a seminal apostle in the Church in the midst of a year devoted to him and his life.

The following year (which was the Year of Nothing), we called back every parish that had a good turnout during the Year of St. Paul and that had audiences raving about our show and building shrines to Kevin O'Brien in their back yards - and offered another show at a token price, $300 (which would not have covered actors and gas; in other words almost-free-of-charge) and we got two takers - perhaps because it was the Year of Nothing, and so there was no reason to book any of our dozen other shows - or perhaps because nobody really gives a damn - about Theater of the Word or Youth Ministry or much of anything.

Meanwhile, this year the affluent parish up the road from us (in the neighborhood where Joyce Meyer lives) recently had a capital campaign to raise $350,000 to re-pave their parking lot.  

And they raised it.

Of course "plant maintenance" is a real world legitimate expense.  And a church must have a parking lot.  But this parish is about two miles from my front door.  Ask me if they've ever booked a Theater of the Word show - even a free one.

Um.  No.

I don't think they have a paid Youth Minister.  I know the teachers in their Catholic grade school are paid, but not paid well.  Their Director of Religious Education is probably a volunteer position (many of them are in this archdiocese).

But they have a really nice parking lot.  A really nice damn parking lot.

And I'd venture to guess that 90% of the kids who attend the parish school there have no idea who Jesus really is or what He asks of us.  And I'm certain that they will grow up to have as much extramarital sex and as many abortions as the public school kids surrounding them.

This is an affluent parish, all right.  But a very poor one, too, it seems.

Because we are living in a Ghetto of the Soul.

***

But life in the Ghetto ain't so bad for some.  One can make money off of all this, if you tell the people what they want to hear.  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism sells, even if Christ and Christ crucified doesn't.

Following the adverse publicity about [Joyce Meyer's] lifestyle and Ministry Watch's request for an IRS probe, Meyer announced in 2004 plans to take a salary reduction from the $900,000 per year she had been receiving from Joyce Meyer Ministries (in addition to the $450,000 her husband received)[11] and instead personally keep more of the royalties from her outside book sales which Meyer had previously donated back to Joyce Meyer Ministries. She now retains royalties on books sold outside the ministry through retail outlets such as WalmartAmazon.com, and bookstores, while continuing to donate to her ministry royalties from books sold through her conferences, catalogues, website, and television program.[12] "The net effect of all of this," notes Ministry Watch,[10] "was most likely a sizable increase in the personal compensation of Joyce Meyer and reduced revenues for [her ministry]." In an article in the St. Louis Business Journal, Meyer's public relations director, Mark Sutherland, confirmed that her new income would be "way above" her previous levels.[13] Joyce Meyer Ministries says it has made a commitment to maintain transparency in financial dealings,[14] publish their annual reports,[14] have a Board majority who are not Meyer relatives[15] and submit to a voluntary annual audit.[14][16] On December 18, 2008, this ministry received a "C" grade (71–80 score) for financial transparency from Ministry Watch.[17]

I just wonder where the middle ground lies, that place between a televangelist who (apparently)


  • Does it all for money

and 

  • a Christian with an apostolate who is expected to feed the 5,000 without the original few loaves and fishes even being paid for.

It is a frustrating situation.  





Futility Conquered



Today's Mass Readings were on a similar theme, a theme I've written about in the past, a theme that is close to my heart.

The first reading was a powerful passage from Isaiah ...

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.  (Is. 55:10-11)

I have always taken consolation from this, as it has so often seemed that much of my effort in life, with friends, and with the Theater of the Word Incorporated has been for naught.  When your neighboring parish raises and spends $300,000 to repave their parking lot, but won't take a free show for the spiritual health of their parishioners, it's a tad disheartening.  When parishes in Massachusetts book several performances of our pro-life show, but then cancel for fear that we might disturb the pro-abortion Kennedy Catholics in the audience, it's a tad disheartening.  When the whole town shows up and responds enthusiastically to a performance in the middle of nowhere, but then the priest tells you he won't be able to book you again for "maybe another five years", it's a tad disheartening.  (My response, "Just call me in ten years and book two shows.")

Indeed, the priest at Mass today said in his homily ...

When I was a student, I was given an assignment.  Write a philosophical synthesis that answers all the major problems in philosophy.  Of course this is impossible to do.  It's a doomed enterprise.  
But how many of us are involved in doomed enterprises?  Are there any parents here today?  How many of you have striven for years to raise perfect, happy, well-behaved children, only to find out that such a goal is impossible to achieve?
But we keep trying all the same ...  

In fact the earthly ministry of Jesus seemed to be an utterly doomed enterprise - especially the way it ended.

But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.  (Luke 24:20-21)

... but He wasn't.  At least not in the way they expected.

The cross, then, is the ultimate symbol for futility.  (And the conquest of futility.  More on that in a minute.)

And in our second Mass reading today, St. Paul speaks about futility ...

for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rom. 8:20-21)

Paul here is talking not just about frustrations in our families or careers; not just about doomed enterprises or impossible goals; he's talking about the universe itself.  Everything about us is "subject to futility", including death and entropy.  There is a growing disorder and confusion in human nature and in physical nature.

And yet ...

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:22-23)

Futility, then, is not the order of the day.  Not any more.  All of creation groans in travail, but those are labor pains, pains of the first fruits of a new creation, for even death itself has been overcome, and God's word will not return to Him "void".

"Vanity!  Vanity!  All is vanity!" says the Preacher (Eccl. 1:2), which is to say "All is meaningless!  All is emptiness!  All is futility!"

We live in a world where people actually believe that life is meaningless, empty, futile - and is filled only by the arbitrary meaning we throw upon it (though, if you notice, that meaning always seems to spring from our groins).  This is the religion of the 21st Century - the Cult of Sterility.  People love "free contraception" and "gay marriage" and all forms of sodomy and perversion because these things are deliberately futile.  They are rote sacrifices made by the casteratti, the self-made eunuchs of the smart set - sacrifices made to their God of Nothingness and Pointlessness, the idol of the Cult of the Absurd.

***

However ... our Gospel reading is the Parable of the Sower (Mat. 13:1-23), in which Our Lord shows us that indeed while much of what we do will be futile and pointless, not all of it will.  For there remains in all creation not merely the principle of decay and death, but from that very thing (mysteriously) emerges, supernaturally, a new life.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27

And it is important to note that we are not obligated to cultivate a field of unresponsive soil.  We are to "shake the dust off of our feet" and move on when we are rejected.  (Mat. 10:14)  Shake the dust off your feet, don't bang your head against the wall.  Part of the Stewardship of Love is prudential investment of time, treasure and talent - setting boundaries and sticking to them, having a backbone, unlike so many artists and creative types who give heedlessly and are taken advantage of because of that.

This is because life is not futile, the word will not return to Him void, and the nature of soil is fertility.  We say amen to the Spirit in our hearts, and He bears forth His fruit by virtue of our fiat.  

And all creation groans for us to bring forth this Kingdom by accepting His seed and saying yes.




The Nature of the Problem

Pope Francis has recently stated that he's been informed that 2% of Catholic clergy - 1 in 50 - are pedophiles.

But the number is certainly higher than that.

SNAP quotes BishopAccountability.org ...

“U.S. bishops have reported receiving allegations of abuse by 6,427 priests in 1950-2013, or 5.9% of the 109,694 U.S. priests active 1950-2002, according to the John Jay report. Including the 5,356 priests ordained since 2002 brings the total to 115,050, of whom 5.6% have been accused of abuse,” according to BishopAccountability.org.

I have elsewhere read parts of the John Jay Report that indicate a figure closer to 4%.

There is apparently no telling how these rates compare with the prevalence of pedophiles in the general population, as that number is not known, though Time Magazine says ...

Dr. John Bradford, a University of Ottawa psychiatrist who has spent 23 years studying pedophilia--which is listed as an illness in the manual psychiatrists use to make diagnoses--estimates its prevalence at maybe 4% of the population. (Those attracted to teenagers are sometimes said to suffer "ephebophilia," but perhaps because so many youth-obsessed Americans would qualify, psychiatrists don't classify ephebophilia as an illness.)

The point, however, is not the statistical presence of pedophiles among Catholic clergy.  As SNAP points out ...

There have always been, and will always be, predators in the priesthood. Decreasing their numbers will be harder to do.
There needn't be, however, “enablers” in the church hierarchy. Decreasing their numbers could not be more easier. They should be fired, period. And fired now, not years from now when the latest in a seemingly-endless string of church abuse panels proposes some superfluous protocols. And dozens of them must be fired, not one or two scapegoats.

It is, sadly, hard to imagine that happening.



 

When People Become Things, God Becomes a Thing

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has interviewed Annie Lobert, the founder of Hookers for Jesus, an organization that helps women break free of the sex industry.

Lobert's point is that prostitution is simply the extension of the basic principle of a radically capitalist culture: everything can be bought and sold, including people, including the most intimate parts of a person's body, including the most intimate parts of a person's soul.  Lobert is a former hooker, who has managed to discover that sex exists only in a much larger and more profound context (my emphasis) ...

“I love sex now, because I’m with my husband. But does it fulfill me? No. My husband’s relationship with me does, his care for me, his concern,” Annie says. Sex is a part of all that, she adds, but only when it’s sex that can’t be dislocated and commodified.

And while I'd guess that most of you out there have had nothing to do with the sex industry (beyond pornography, which victimizes addicts every day), all of us can understand what it feels like to be made a thing.

Taking the human being out of context, out of the larger mystery that he is; removing him from the purpose for which he is made, is common.  Employers do it, selfish drivers who cut off other drivers do it, fair weather friends do it.

And (pay attention) anything we do to another person is something we're willing to do to God.  We commodify God; we buy Him and sell Him, for thirty pieces of silver or more if we can get it.  We don't want the great mystery, power and awe of God, we want a god-thing that we can put in our back pocket, a god-club we can hit others with, a god-doll that we can play with, a god-mirror on the wall that tells us that we're the fairest of them all.

We use God and we use others, and we ourselves are used and abused in return.

Love breaks free of this.  And the sign of Love is an ugly public humiliation, a man on a cross, bleeding and dying for our sake.

The world buys and sells.  The world objectifies.  The world is filled with false friends, flattering and betraying.  The world is filled with hookers, pimps and johns.

But take heart.  For the crucified one tells us, "I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)






Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fidelity

Can  we be true to the still, small voice?

We can distract ourselves with noise, but ultimately we know if we've been faithful.  In our quiet moments, when the din has died down, when the lights are off and it's silent and we hear Him, we sense Him, in the room with us, in our hearts with us ... can we know if we've been true?

We all have mixed motives.  We all act out of fear, power, control, lust, greed - even when we convince ourselves we don't.  But as bad as I've been (and I've been pretty rotten at times), I've tried to be true to that voice, that still small voice, that call - to Him.  It has been my one great grace, or my fatal tragic flaw - the world and my friends are not sure which.

And you find that when you manage (somehow) to be faithful, even if that faithfulness is not letting go of that one tiny thread of truth, that one lifeline of fidelity, a thread that has been woven through all the selfishness and knotted through all the sin; when you find that you've miraculously clung to that (by God's grace), that often people hate you for it.

For we know much more of the truth about one another than we care to admit.  And when we witness, we witness at a level that goes deep.  We ultimately see how we betray one another, betray ourselves, betray Him.  That registers.  We're not fooling anybody.

But so does the fidelity; the fidelity registers, and our neighbors find that more disturbing.  Even one streak of unalloyed goodness in a bad man stands as a silent rebuke against his fellow sinners who have sold out on that score.

But be faithful.  Be loyal.  Even if they hate you for it.  Because in doing so, your fidelity is joined to the whisper of that still, small voice.




Murder Mystery Fun

Two shots from this weekend's shows.

We had a special guest come to see our performance tonight at Willow Ridge Winery in Westervelt, IL.



Meanwhile, before the show at Belvoir Winery in Liberty, MO on Friday, I came up with a new hairstyle.  The double comb over!

Hey, fellow balding middle-aged men!  I'm talking to you!  Don't just come one side over to cover your bald spot!  Come both sides over!  Add a fake moustache and a fancy dinner jacket, and you're good to go!





Sub-Cultures and Sub-Catholics

[This is a re-run of a post from last fall.]

***


(Above: The "major structural alterations" of Pruitt-Igoe here in St. Louis.  I remember this well.  Such is the fate of all inauthentic culture.)



A Facebook friend writes (and I gloss a bit on what he writes) ...

What we want is authentic Catholic culture. This means three priorities: that it be authentic, that it be Catholic, that it be culture.
Now, because we happen to live in Babylon (cf. Vincent McNabb), this culture is de facto (but not ipso facto) a sub-culture; but it is not intentionally sub-cultural as any kind of motivation.

[In other words, authentic Catholic culture is not necessarily a "sub-culture"; it wasn't that for over a thousand years; on the contrary all of Western civilization, including science, since ancient times, was produced by a Catholic worldview.  The Catholic Thing and what it gives rise to is, however, in fact - de facto - a sub-culture now, since our dominant culture is now anti-christian.]

This is the problem with "Slumming Catholicism" and with "Hipster Catholicism" and "Traditional Catholicism" - not only that they try to set up a kind of sub-culture within Catholicism (which "Progressive Catholicism" also tries to do), but that they value primarily the [separatist state they find themselves in]. 

Now many of you will say, "Why put any adjectives in front of Catholic at all?  Why must we see each other as Slum Catholics or Hipster Catholics or Traddie Catholics or Liberalist Catholics - or even "Roman" Catholics.  Why can't we just be Catholics - in other words, fully conformed to Christ?"

And I say amen.

But what my Facebook friend is saying is that some groups in the Church adopt attitudes that deliberately separate them from the Body of Christ at large, and that separate them from the dominant culture in such a way that they will never effectively engage it.

Frank Weathers keeps quoting to me Pope Francis ...

“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message ... to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death.” 

The goal of the St. Austin Review, Theater of the Word, the American Chesterton Society, and even Grunky is precisely this transformation of culture through the arts - in the forms of writing, drama, video - a goal that ultimately delivers (by the grace of God) redemption to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death.

Another Facebook friend remarks, in a comment about the ineffectiveness of contrived "ministries" that deliver no authentic culture ...

All the bonfires and street evangelization sessions in the world will not teach your kids joy or help them to think and to love the faith and the defend holy mother Church. Only good literature will do that, starting with Chesterton and Tolkien and Belloc.  ... Because I still maintain that the best youth ministry for my own two sons has been all the Chesterton conferences I've brought them to all these years. 

May we first and foremost then, do good work - as writers, actors, artists, teachers, parents.  May we do work that honors God and grows from our faith in Jesus Christ.  And from all that an authentic culture will follow.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When Things Get Real



Fr. Dwight Longenecker gives three reasons why the thinks there will soon be an end to the vocations crisis.

First, cultural Catholicism in America is dying. People aren’t Catholic now because they’re Irish or Italian or Polish. They’re Catholic because they believe the Catholic faith. While cultural Catholicism continues to die out committed Catholicism will continue to rise. Cultural catholicism doesn’t produce vocations. Committed Catholicism does.
Second, faith is always stronger under fire. At this time American Catholicism is in too many places fat, lazy and complacent. The American culture, however, is moving very rapidly to an aggressively atheistic stance. The Catholic Church will increasingly be in the firing line over a whole range of moral, political and financial issues. As it becomes difficult and dangerous to be Catholic the complacent and comfortable Catholics will quietly slip away. They are doing so already.
Third, as it becomes difficult and dangerous to be Catholic more young men will stand up to be counted. Men like the militant aspect of being a priests. They want to stand up for what they believe in without compromise. They want to fight the good fight with all their might. The Church militant will make a come back and an increasing number of men will step forward to be engaged in the spiritual battle.

In other words, things will start to get more Real.

And what does this post have to do with the one I put up earlier today, in which I expressed frustration with two very cheesy faith-based videos on YouTube?

Simple.

Stuff like that is simply fruit - which is to say: unreal, contrived, artificial, self-indulgent.

The Church in America has been all of these things for a long time.  The Church in America has long been Unreal.

When things get Real, more real men will discover they have real vocations to the priesthood.



Sometimes Murder and Torture is OK

Some friends shared this on Facebook.  It's a Mormon music video encouraging modesty in dress.  It's called "Virtue Makes You Beautiful".  Watch on an empty stomach.





I know I shouldn't say this, but I want to torture and kill every young Mormon in this video.

Is that so terribly wrong???

I decided that my daughter Kerry needed to be punished.  So I showed her this video.  She decided to get even.  She showed me this video ...




My friend Brian Lester notes ...

From the YouTube comments: "I'm going to give them the Atheist Side Slap." Thank you Atheists, this is where you can be helpful on the internet.