Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
As I mentioned in my last post, I've been pondering what it means to be a good citizen lately. Obviously, we belong--precendently and ultimately, as Neuhaus says--to the heavenly city. Eternity is a very long, um, NON-time; all our earthly joys and duties are nothing in that final perspective. No matter his country, his loyalites, his failures, every citizen of an earthly kingdom will in the end leave and be relieved of that kingdom.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
What does it mean to be a good citizen while still being a "stranger and sojourner"? Here's Richard John Neuhaus's formulation:
"A good citizen does more than abide by the laws. A good citizen is able to give an account, a morally compelling account, of the regime of which he is a part--and to do so in continuity with the constituting moment and subsequent history of that regime. He is able to justify its defense against its enemies, and to convincingly recommend its virtues to citizens of the next generation so that they, in turn, can transmit the order of government to citizens yet unborn..."
Then he turns to we Christians who happen to live now, in present-day America:
"This regime [our regime] of liberal democracy, of republican self-governance, is not self-evidently good and just. An account must be given. Reasons must be given. They must be reasons that draw authority from that which is higher than ourselves, from that which transcends us, from that to which we are precedently, ultimately, obliged."
More thoughts on that later.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Few men capture my imagination like Thomas More, the happiest martyr of the Reformation. In More's Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, the condemned "Anthony" speaks his author's wit:
It is good that we are here.
There can be few gifts sweeter in life than a family home to which we can return. There are certainly few joys that prophesy more keenly the joy of heaven, our final home. I can hardly grasp the enormity of this gift: to be with those who have known you from your first breath, to be at one in heart and mind concerning the Final Things, to laugh at the same jokes, and to enjoy peace and prosperity while knowing they are not ends in themselves. Many families, I know, plan and long for this to be theirs without ever seeing it come to pass. I will take these days to be grateful and to pray for them.
We are resting and recovering from the storms now, readying our hearts for whatever the divine will has for us in the coming months. It is good.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
holy (hallowed be thy name)
the just man (thy kingdom come)
submissive to God's will (thy will be done)
generous (give us this day...)
forgiving (and forgive us our trespasses)
a moral teacher
(as we forgive those who trespass against us)
gentle (lead us not into temptation)
a spiritual warrior (but deliver us from evil)...
He has been all of these things to me.
Joy and peace to all fathers--spiritual and otherwise--today.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
"Back in the 1970s, when there was a lot of liturgical innovation going on, Dorothy Day invited a young priest to celebrate mass at the Catholic Worker. He decided to do something that he thought was relevant and hip. He asked Dorothy if she had a coffee cup he could borrow. She found one in the kitchen and brought it to him. And, he took that cup and used it as the chalice to celebrate mass.
When it was over, Dorothy picked up the cup, found a small gardening tool, and went to the backyard. She knelt down, dug a hole, kissed the coffee cup, and buried it in the earth.
With that simple gesture, Dorothy Day showed that she understood something that so many of us today don’t: she knew that Christ was truly present in something as ordinary as a ceramic cup. And that it could never be just a coffee cup again."
Friday, June 12, 2009
Melinda Selmys (you may have caught her 3-part series at NCR, Part II here, and Part III here) opens her newest book, Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism, with an apology. It is an apology in two senses. First, she explains her goals: to help Christians understand homosexuals, to explain Catholic thought on sexuality without alienating homosexuals, and to understand the whole issue herself. Second, she wants to ask forgiveness for not perfectly attaining these goals.
But she comes pretty darn close.
She divides her work into five parts, exploring homosexuality through the world (media, politics, and history), theory (psychology, statistics, and theology), the human person (body, family, and children), God (the theological virtues), and identity (gender, vocation, and beauty). This is not a "proof" for the evils of homosexuality nor is it a rant against the failures of Christians to manifest Christ's own charity. It is a series of meditations and essays that attempts to unveil--with greater and lesser degrees of success--the inner workings of the human heart, its desires, attractions, and final end.
I have to say, I loved this book. Loved it. I have never seen anything quite so penetrating and brutally honest. Selmys pins everyone to the wall--she is ruthlessly fair in her estimation of various "gay movements" throughout history as well as Christian struggles with sexuality and the body. Anyone who loves to cite Keats, Shakespeare, Plato, Augustine, Tolkien, or any true poet as an expert on human nature will love her style. If you peddled in goth mysticism at any point in your life, you will love it.
But you will have to remember that Selmys is telling the story from the inside as much as from the outside. Once a self-convicted, passsionately atheist lesbian, today she is Catholic, the mother of five, and happily married. She did not bulldoze through these lifechanges through therapy, group prayer, or suppressing her sexuality: She was inspired by beauty. And so she writes for us all--heterosexual and homosexual--in the language of beauty, not science.
Her discussion of what homosexuality is was extraordinary, and must be read in full: "What is homosexuality? What causes it? I don't know. Frankly, I don't think anyone else does, either. I do know this: that what we speak of as homosexuality is profoundly individual. It is a point where many factors meet: self-determination, identity, psychology, genetics. Any one of these things might be sufficient, in an individual heart, to add up to homosexuality; and any one of them might be radically insiffucient in the heart of another." Any change in orientation, therefore, must be a reorienting of the heart--that is, of the will. Selmys vehemently resists media tendencies to treat homosexual behavior as compulsive--although she leaves room for that possibility in any given individual. Freedom and sexuality are a big part of the meditation.
Which, of course, means that she spends some serious time with the theology of the body as articulated by John Paul II. Her chapter on the body is truly one of the strongest (from a Philosopher Mom's point of view, of course!). She explains the idea of the body as gift, love as the entirely free self-gift to another, and sex as the physical manifestation of that gift.
Another shining chapter is her essay on children and the suffering they endure as a result of our sexual escapades: "Surrogate motherhood, sperm donation, and the deliberate decision to become pregnant with the intention of raising the child yourself all involve purposely creating a child who will never know at least one of its natural parents. This is not, and cannot be, in the best interests of the child--only in the best interests of the parent. But parenthood cannot proceed from these principles... Of course, a child conceived for the stupidest and pettiest of reasons can grow to be truly loved; human beings are capable of repentance, of growing beyond themselves. But it is sheer lunacy for a society to sanction and condone the practice of putting parental desires ahead of the needs of children in the vague hope that everything will be okay in the end."
She ends with an incredibly moving meditation on heaven (always the quickest way to my heart) as communion in beauty. Artists will swoon just a bit. Only a true conviction of eternity with the Author, the Artist Who Is, can be sufficient to move the human heart beyond itself to purity, charity, and a life of grace.
p.s. Oh, and she has a great sense of humor: "I am not a prophet thundering from my mountain; I'm Balaam's ass, saying, 'Uh, Master, I think maybe we ought not to go down that road. What's that? Oh, you don't see the angel with the flaming sword. Well, it plans to cut your head off. I thought you should know.'"
This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Sexual Authenticity.
The other frustrating thing was the inevitable lack of nuance. For example, I know it pushed me leftish when I said that unions were indispensable to the middle class. That's just a historical fact; it didn't ask me what I thought of the teacher's unions now. And then, I went farther right when I said that intelligent design should be "taught" (what does that mean?) in public schools. The quiz didn't ask whether I thought evolution should also be proffered as an option.
It reminded me of when Todd and I took the FOCUS marriage prep test. We failed one section because we both said we hoped to see "change" in our partners over the course of our marriage. We both assumed (wrongly) that this meant we hoped to see growth in holiness. Oops! Wrong answer: You're supposed to love your fiance without hope of "changing him"!
Ah, the limitations of statistics.
My Political Views
I am a center-right social moderate
Right: 1.74, Libertarian: 0.71
Political Spectrum Quiz
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
"In countries where torture is habitual, unexceptionable and embedded in everyday life, it is foolish to imagine that our armed forces might conduct successful operations without employing torture as a matter of normal practice."
Let you think he's condoning torture as policy, note his exhortation:
"We must leave the Muslim world to its own destiny rather than to attempt to engineer a happy ending. "
Fascinating stuff, leaving plenty of room for rumination and debate.
*solecistic: benighted, catachrestic, inerudite, unable to read well
Thursday, June 4, 2009
"Most people have not read Paul VI's short, prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, but everyone has an opinion on it. But all who identify themselves as pro-life should read it. It demonstrates with startling clarity the way in which small ideas that some may call "unpleasant but necessary," grow ever larger. Once you read it you can see how the seeds of the culture of death can reside in the tiniest tools doing what some would call the least damage. A pill grows to an IUD, an IUD grows to a suction or curette, that grows to a row of ever-larger forceps, all to deliver death, death, death-death with which we have quickly become so comfortable that we don't even realize the tools of destruction have grown so large or become so light in our hands.
We are all currently watching the inexorable creep from the largest of forceps to the next step: large human beings who will be refusing medical treatments to the expensive-to-keep-alive elderly, or injecting "compassionate" needles to the terminally ill or the children whose quality of life they deem insufficiently productive, or to people with an extra chromosome.
Slippery slope is a useful cliché, particularly on this issue. The same slippery slopes that call for the manufacture of those ever-increasing-in-size forceps exist in the idea that Bonhoeffer or Tiller's murderer, Scott Roeder, should be emulated. They should not. George Tiller's life may not have been a life any of us would have wanted, or admired, but it was the life he had, and he was entitled to it."
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The right reasons, of course, are that (1) only a just authority has the right to take a human life and that (2) no individual has that authority in cold blood (self-defense is a horse of a different color). Here is Reno:
"The emphasis on "unlawful use of violence," the evocation of "vigilantism," and the description of Tiller's killer as a "vigilante killer" are all exactly right. We are all sinners, but it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life. Killing him did not violate the principle of innocence. Moreover, he gave no evidence of stopping. As a result, perhaps something like the principle of necessity can be satisfied. But it is certainly obvious that his killer was acting as the law unto himself. He arrogated to himself the roles of jury, judge, and executioner. He violated the principle of legitimate authority."
The news made me literally sick to my stomach, and I still can't write too much about it, so I'll use Reno's conclusion:
"I have always loathed revolutionary vanguards, terrorists, and assassins. I have never felt any attraction to John Brown. On the contrary, he strikes me as a dangerous man who was capable of horrible crimes. The same holds for Che Guevara and others. They have imagined that the noble truth of their cause justifies their disregard for the laws of society. But law transcended is law destroyed, and law destroyed invites barbarism, as the history of the twentieth century so sadly illustrates.
Pro-life leaders rightly condemn vigilante violence. It is a principled stand, not a public relations maneuver. Legitimate authority restrains the grossest forms of evil. The existence of a civil society allows us to exercise our consciences on behalf of the unborn rather than being absorbed by the cruel need to fight for our own survival. The rule of law provides the fundamental condition for any right-to-life movement that seeks to protect real lives rather than to congratulate itself on its moral purity."
From yesterday's Magnificat meditation:
"It is better to advance towards God and virtue by the sentiments of the heart than by the thoughts of the mind, and it is important to feed the heart and starve the mind: i.e., to desire God, to sigh after him and aspire to his holy love, to an intimate union with him without the diversion of so many thoughts and mental reflections which often dry up the heart and become a sort of dissipation, a pure amusement of the intelligence, a series of vain complacencies in our own thoughts and speculations. It is far better to be occupied with the care to belong to God without reserve, with the desire of the interior life, of a profound humility, of fervor, of the gift of prayer, of the love of God, of the true spirit of Jesus Christ, and of the practice of the virtues that he taught by his virtues and his divine example, etc., than to make a thousand useless reflections on these very subjects. When one feels none of these desires, the sole desire to possess them, the affection of the heart alone suffices to keep a soul recollected and united to God.
"Once more: the simple tendency of the heart towards God, or towards certain virtues, in order to please him, causes us to advance more than all our grand thoughts and reflections."
~Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ
One of my favorite spiritual guides, Father Caussade has more on this in his sweet, little book, The Sacrament of the Present Moment. It's a very easy, but profound, read--perfect for the busy life that leaves little room for ponderous, "grand" thoughts.